When people ask what I do for a living, I often respond that I am a “living cliche.” This comes from the fact that I am not just a writer, but in all actuality a writer/bartender. My bartending is like my writing in that I do it with a light heart and little clothing - thus I have also dubbed myself “The Bare DRINK Slinger.”
Bartending in my underwear tends to generate a bit of attention - especially for a tiny neighborhood, gay hole-in-the-wall. Customers sometimes ask me if they can take photos, most often to post about their evening on Facebook. I don’t mind at all and appreciate the fact that they ask rather than the folks who try to take photos on the sly (yes, I see you).
Recently one of the bars favorite trans patrons asked if she could snap a shot for her Facebook. I hesitated. The underwear wasn’t the most flattering. I just liked it for it’s swanky stitching and the odd horizontal slit in the pouch (which ironically makes the pouch unfortunately saggy). Nonetheless, we had fun with it and she even gave me tips on how to push my junk forward to achieve some much needed VPL.
I didn’t particularly like the photo. My body looked too thin and my head looked too fat and maybe I was too shiny and my smile looked too fake or maybe it was too real - all of those crazy ways we analyze ourself in photos. Still though, the other patrons seemed to like it so I gave her the green light to post.
We friended on Facebook and the next day my curiosity got the best of me. I went to go see what her friends had to say about the photo. The first couple comments were flattering. Then a guy simply wrote “Shoes are ugly.”
What the fuck? I thought. I mentally defended myself. Shoes are hard to pair with underwear!
I let it go and went on to read the next nice comment. However this guy popped up again and simply wrote the word “Yuck.” I couldn’t believe it.
In all honesty, I wasn’t offended or even hurt by these comments. I’ve spent years working on liking myself so a little “yuck” wouldn’t go a long way. But if anything I felt annoyed and frustrated. I didn’t even know this guy. Why would he feel the need to write nasty things?
The answer was clear. He was a hater. Hater’s brains not only leap forth to find the negative but they also get some kind of gratification from automatically expressing it. They enjoy tearing people down rather than building them up. And like childhood bullies, this often happens as a result of not really liking themselves.
I’m the kind of person who seizes the teachable moments in life. If I have fucked up, then I try, to the best of my abilities, to own my shit so that I can learn from it. It’s not easy but it works. It helps me evolve and grow into a better me. Plus when you hold yourself accountable, you suddenly have like 98% less drama in your life.
However what I forget sometimes is that not everybody wants teachable moments. And I desperately wanted this guy to learn something. I wanted him to know that his words can affect people and that maybe he should, if nothing else, at least think twice before throwing them out there.
I had to respond to his comments somehow. Dozens of ideas were fluttering through my brain.
There was the simple and straight forward “Hey man, just so you know the guy in this photo can see what you are saying.” Maybe he’d feel embarrassed.
Or I could say something more cheeky like “Didn’t your mother ever tell you that if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Maybe he’d think of those childhood lessons of treating people well.
Then there’s the classic “Don’t forget: treat people the way you want to be treated.” It’s the way I live my life and it works really well for me. Perhaps it would click for him.
Or I could get a little aggressive and critical: “I don’t know what it is that you hate about yourself, but saying terrible things about others won’t make you feel better about it.”
However in the end, I knew it would be best to act kind and empathetic and craft it with a billion words to get my point across. I would write an example here but then this essay would be a billion words too long.
When I finally had a solid idea of what I wanted to say, I ran it by my partner so he could help me fine tune it. He has an amazing knack for dealing with volatile people.
“Don’t write anything,” he said after I laid out my soon-to-be-seemingly self righteous options. “Just let it go.”
“Well, yeah… but,” I argued. “I just want to create some awareness for this guy. I think it could be a good opportunity for him to learn that his actions may not be serving him all that well.”
“But that’s not your job,” my partnered retorted (which is apparently a real word).
“I know. But if no on ever tells him, then how will he know?”
“Scottie, if you respond to this guy then more people will pay attention to what he is saying. It’ll give him an audience. And the more you give negative people an audience, the more negative they will get.”
Check and mate. I could suddenly see the bigger picture now - which is why I can truly call this man “my better half.”
The proper way to deal with a hater is not to help create a teachable moment for them. It is to leave them the fuck alone. Ignore them. They’ll eventually tucker themselves out like a two year old throwing a tantrum.
Of course it’s necessary to fight hate when it manifests itself as a mass social trend (i.e. racism, homophobia, etc). But when it is one individual spouting off their nonsense, waging a war not only riles them up, but it makes others pay attention to what they have to say. Rather than get tuckered out, they get empowered. No napping for them.
This election was a prime example. So is the success of hateful bloggers (and why I may never have an audience of their size).
I took my partner’s advice and let it go. It was tough though. Maybe I was a little hurt by this man’s comments. Not because I cared about what he thought but because I felt embarrassed that he expressed it in front others. My desire to respond was partly self motivated in wanting to un-embarrass myself.
No matter how well of a response I crafted, his response would have most likely been a “fuck you” of sorts. It could’ve easily blown up into something that would have demanded way too much of my energy. And in a few days time, I surprisingly found that I didn’t care all that much anymore anyway. I could go on doing what I do best while this total stranger goes on to do what he does worst. It wouldn’t be any of my concern.
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