How to be Mean

I was listening to a report on Twitter a social media thing I find utterly baffling but occasionally fun when I get compliments and followers. Anyway, the report said that one of the reasons Twitter is less savage than some other social media sites is because of the fact that you have to identify yourself unlike the trolls who go around saying stuff like, "You're Fat" or "I can't believe you know how to breathe" as a helpful comment after someone writes something or posts a picture on the Web. Anonymity is helpful to mean people. But why are they mean? Do they have mean parents? Are they a genetic anomaly?

Remember Slam Books? Unless you're like 50+ I'm sure you don't. Slam Books were these Notebooks that had some one's name on each page or across a double page and people wrote stuff about that person without (mostly) signing their name. This could be a good thing if you had a crush on someone but not such a good thing if you were, like me: mouthy, had an English accent, a mother who cut her bangs crooked, an enormous vocabulary, a habit of having my wrap-around skirts fall off and a default mechanism that made me face off bullies. Other girls, nice, quiet girls, would have sweet comments like "You're so cute" or "I like your hair" or "You're sweet" but my comments were a different sort. "She's so bossy, loud, stuck-up, weird, ugly." 

Although I loved my bad girls heroines-Jo from LITTLE WOMEN, Ann from ANN OF GREEN GABLES, Pippi from PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, I secretly longed to be Amy (blonde, meek), Ann's friend (brunette, sweet) or anyone else but Pippi, the Pirate Queen. But I wasn't. However, I also wasn't mean. I didn't leave hurtful, snide, snarky comments about people. When we had a weird sub I tried to be helpful. If there was a birthday party, I invited my whole class. If someone was upset I'd try to help them.
Amy stealing Laurie from Jo. Mean.

Trump is mean. He talks about weight, looks, physical attributes and disabilities. he teases and mocks and derides. Meaness is a squinty thing, it makes the people who practice meanness seem small and awful. I can be aggressive or tactless although I try not to be. Mean children are just sad. I'm pretty sure their parents hit them which always struck me as super mean because look at the size difference, the psychological power a parent wields. if a big bully hits you there is no shame in defending yourself. But if your mother spanks you, can you bite her on the leg, kick her in the stomach? Probably not.

I was a nice teacher. I may not have always been coherent or organized or even effective but I was always kind, Why? Because life is hard and really, how important is it whether a kid can write a perfect thesis sentence when you make them feel bad? I always tried to find something positive to say or tell a kid I liked their kicks or their jacket or something. Raymond Carver was rumored to be very kind. I think it shows you understand so much you don't have to belittle someone else for their lack of knowledge or talent.

As a book reviewer I always looked for a positive comment except once and I'm still slightly ashamed of that review. The author had been enormously successful but this book wasn't good and it used tons of cliches and false truths to make its point. However,  I didn't need to be quite so bitchy. Luckily I am so unfamous and unimportant it didn't really matter. The author probably didn't read it or if they did they thought, "Who's this catty nobody who didn't like my book?"

Maybe this is all about being the youngest. My oldest sister could be super mean and so could my dad. I adored them both but fear also entered into the relationship. Both of them were genuises. Possibly I'm not smart enough to find my inner meanie. I'm not sure. Still, I think we can all be a little nicer to each other especially to the old, the young, the slow, the lost and the vulnerable.


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