Close Encounters of the Asshole Kind

Who would have thought that not dating would mean more encounters with assholes? I sure as hell didn't.

Early last week I knew what I'd be walking into. I was asked, as a board member of a non-profit, to be present at a protest--not on the side of the protesters, not even as a counter-protester, but as a "peaceful presence." We were going to be intentionally few in number and that made me nervous. As it turns out, there were 15 of us among 300 angry protesters. Stomach churning, I stood silently, listening to speech after speech of vitriol, wondering how if I were to meet any of those gathered to protest in another setting how things might be different. They might say with a smile, "Hello, how are you? Nice to meet you" instead of,"You're not welcome here" with dagger eyes and clenched fists. 

While I'd been prepared for Monday's frustration, I had no idea that later on in the week when I was at a holiday party for a women's organization that it'd be crashed--by men, no less. Men who were there to intimidate and condemn. Men who were there to be assholes--to scream and yell at people gathered for a fucking holiday party. I don't know where I got the strength, but I put my hand on one of their shoulders and (mostly) silently guided them out the door.

Once they left, I lost my composure. I went to the bathroom and cried. I felt disempowered, terrorized, and furious. How could anyone think that it's actually effective for any cause to yell, to intimidate, to crash a holiday party? The thing is, I think some people just want to act like assholes. They don't actually want to further their cause or convince someone to adopt their point of view. I can assure you the party crashers did nothing but make everything at the party  think they were crazy douche bags. 

But, why do people seem to enjoy being assholes? If I've been even slightly rude to someone, even if it's "called for," I feel like a jerk. So how is that some people seem to thrive being this way? 

Which brings me to my next point, online assholes. Why the hell do people spend their time trolling sites and leaving nasty comments? Seriously it would never occur to me to actively go seeking an opportunity to be a jackass. I was in a Twitter conversation with Date Me, DC! about this, and people had a lot to say. The comment that puzzled me the most was something along the lines of, "If you let mean comments get to you, then it says something about you. You need thicker skin"

Thicker skin is the solution to dealing with assholes, huh? I would argue that thick skin--or being calloused-- is exactly what allows people to act like arrogant assholes in the first place. Interesting, when I was at the party and started crying, no one there said, "Hey, get thicker skin. They're just assholes." No, people put their arms around me, listened to me fume, and stood with me. I want to hang onto my humanity, my emotions, my ability to be hurt by other people. It's in part what keeps me from being an asshole in return, even as I'm being screamed at by arrogant pricks. 

So, how about this--how about we stop tolerating asshole behavior online and in person? How about when we encounter them, we confront them instead of being silenced and blaming ourselves for feeling hurt and not having thick skin? That way, we can help stop the behavior rather than having to become callous ourselves. 


  1. As far as the online assholes, I just minimize them in my mind to the point they become nothing but shallow, insecure, no-life having individuals, and I feel sorry for them. And then they are no longer assholes, but pathetic human beings that probably need to get help.

    And many people in the real world are not assholes to me. When they are, I call them out on it. I notice when people are called out on it, particularly when they are called out within earshot of other people, they calm the fuck down rather quickly.

  2. I'm right with you, even if I'm a jerk to someone because it's justified I still end up not feeling good about myself.

    I have yet to really encounter any assholes online, which I guess makes me incredibly lucky. When I encounter assholes in the real world I try to just bite my tongue and remind myself that karma can be a total bitch.

  3. This was a really nicely-written entry. I'm totally with you on this!

  4. Well maybe we should get thicker skin (I've been told this many times) but that doesn't excuse the assholes for being assholes in the first place!

    I agree with you. Who does that? Why be an asshole to someone? I can't imagine being mean to someone or posting nasty comments on a blog just for the sake of it. WTF?

    I'm totally with you on this one. It's kind of back to that saying "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Why can't more people live by this?

  5. I have to completely agree with you on this one. Instead of us having to develop thicker skin, and accommodate their behaviour - because our silence may validate it for them and urge them forward to heap this upon more and more unsuspecting souls, we should have some mechanism of defence to protect us. I guess figuring that out is the hard part, because assholes also tend to enjoy our hurt reactions, because they feel like they accomplished the task of causing another person hurt.

    The bigger problem at times, with the online world, is anonymous posting, because it allows such jerky people to hide behind a mask, whilst partaking in nasty behaviour. It's their cowards way.

    I hope you have better encounters. :)

  6. That really sickens me, that these men crashed your party. I'm sorry you had to deal with that, but giving you a "Rock On!" for handling them.

    I don't understand Internet trolls at all. I mean, get a life. Grow up and do something meaningful with your life! Blegh!