Sunday, October 27, 2013

Possessed of a Bitter Bile

BASSANIO
Do all men kill the things they do not love? 
SHYLOCK
Hates any man the thing he would not kill? 
BASSANIO
Every offence is not a hate at first. 
SHYLOCK
What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?
--"The Merchant of Venice," Act IV, scene 1

Being an easy-going sort of fellow, I tend to group the people I encounter into a couple of groups: at the top, the various people I love, followed by the much larger group of people I wish well. That's basically everyone, which sounds like a terrible platitude. But the truth is that I generally don't worry too much about most people - they're doing fine on their own, so all that is required of me is to give them space to do it.

But there is a group of people at the bottom of the pile. The people I hate and avoid. It is a list which is quite small. How small? I have twenty fingers and toes, but I can count the people in this category using only one appendage.



I am very careful about who I place on this list. It doesn't include politicians I don't agree with, serial killers who murder families, or even the patron saint of internet hate, Adolf Hitler. It is a list that is personal in scope, though not particularly in injury - none of the people on it have done me personal wrongs (though I'd imagine some of them might end up here, too). The person or persons who broke into my car during a child's funeral aren't here, for example.

So you can see it is a very short list. In fact, it is SO short that people don't believe me when it comes to light that an individual is on it - people who have known me for years seem surprised that I'm capable of such intense feelings. And it is a bit disconcerting to other people that - due to the personal nature of the whole business - the people on the list are basically normal. They aren't bloodthirsty stabbers or car salesmen.

The men on my list (and they are all men currently - no ex-girlfriends here!) are the people I believe to be beneath my consideration and concern. I have made them of no account. I deny to them the privilege of their own names: in conversation, I never use them unless needing an inescapable way of identifying them to others. So I never refer to them.

If asked, I simply say that I have nothing to say about them. And that is true: I do not abuse them behind their backs. I issue no praise or censure. I simply take the advice of mothers immemorial and say nothing at all.

This tends to unsettle people. Few people tolerate a mystery, and someone unwilling to give opinions in this day and age is a mystery. It is funny to think that if I just gave a couple of bland statements, people wouldn't pay any attention at all, in spite of me not communicating anything of value. But not saying anything is of special attention. I suppose that says something about the formalities of our social discourse.

When people ask why I have nothing to say, things get trickier. Typically, someone else's secrets are wrapped up in the situation, secrets which I have no right nor inclination to reveal. So even when friends find out that I really don't like someone, there is no remedy to find out why.

That is as it should be. If no one notices, fine. If people notice, they become aware.

Although I know that most people do not function like this, I don't do it to be different than other people (a charge I am forever being accused of for every part of my life). It grew out of a physical discomfort with needing to be in the presence of people I dislike and despise. Because I still need to work and socialize around these people, I stripped everything back to the thinnest veneer of social acceptability. If one asks to pass the salt, I do so, saying "Of course, here you are." And then they receive no further attention. No job offers. No dinner invites. No efforts to prevent them from putting foot in mouth. I'm sorry, I'm too busy to have a beer. I'm too late to have a conversation. I'm always on my way.

People are shocked that I can keep of this level of shunning, but it's straightforward. Avoid situations where they will be. Someone out of sight is literally out of mind. I don't sit there, teeth grinding, obsessing over them - when they are gone from my sight, they're gone from my mind. It is as though they do not exist.

And when they appear, it is only as bad as a remembrance of a bad hotel: oh yes, I remember you; how unfortunate.

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