Dance of Anger

In response to my offer of a compost bin on Freecycle, I received this email from a woman presumably from Thornbury or Northcote:

Hello there, this is exactly what I need!! I can pick up asap / whenever suits you.. You will be contributing to a very beatyfull garden 🙂
Love and shining light

Her parting shot is of course hippie for “I’m going to spend the next week dicking you around, losing your address, calling you ‘sista’ and generally behaving in a completely disrespectful manner while adorning all my communications with stars, moonbeams and faeries.”

As I became more and more intolerant I paused for a small reminiscence. I was cast back to university days: toe sandals from Ishka, long lectures from born-again vegetarian friends, Greenpeace membership and Kurt Cobain’s vigil at Flinders St Station. Good times. At her fourth hippie text I composed a sharp retort, then, as the lady novellists might say, stayed my hand.

There’s been a number of…shall I say…anger-related incidents of late. Having a Network moment. A netball umpire’s copped it. My bullying boss did as well. The Blood Bank didn’t cop it, but they did receive a healthy serve for keeping me waiting for 30 minutes. And so on. I’m at the end of me rope, I’ve had a gutful, at wit’s end. I feel some day soon I’m going to wrench open a sash somewhere and bellow like an unmilked cow.

No-one seems to lose their shit these days. The whole thing’s been sanitised and HR-ed into things like 360 degree reviews and performance appraisals. In the hands of skilled professionals these can be useful tools, and in the hands of incompetent, mediocre managers are a disaster waiting to happen. Yes, car owners lose it and yell behind glass as cyclists swerve around them and George Calombaris loses it as he bawls red-faced over sweaty MasterChef contestants, but no-one actually calls anyone out on their behaviour while looking them in the eye. No-one squares off for once and for all. It seems that people find it easier to vent either online or behind someone’s back. I find that I don’t fucking like this.

I now have my hands on a book called The Dance of Anger (don’t ask), which is written for angry women everywhere. Like most self-help books – except say The Celestine Prophecy – it does contain some nuggets, and draws attention to the socially prescribed role women are supposed to play: encouraged from childhood to be nurturing relationship-builders, if we do openly vent anger we’re labeled as bitches, dismissed or rejected. This makes things even harder if you are, like me, genuinely disrespectful in the presence of arseholes, and could care less what they think. In the face of people who dissemble, manipulate and bully, my mouth tends to swing open and god knows what flies out. And you know what – feeling anger isn’t good or bad, it just is.

My Dad fired a director of his company in the ‘80s by shouting at her for half an hour then grabbing her by the back of her jacket and bundling her out of the front door of the agency. “They’d put me in jail for that now!” he cheerfully admits to this day. At the time he was heartily ashamed of himself, not particularly for the loss of temper, but for letting an intolerable situation go on for so long (thus leading to the loss of temper). Although I know it’s not the right way to react, this story gives me great pleasure. In one sense, it does seem ‘right’.

It’s obviously woven into my DNA, so what do I do? If I’d read the whole of The Dance of Anger I’m sure there would be some advice about ‘don’t get mad, get even’ and ‘success is the best revenge’ or ‘try a different tack’. Overall, I’m sure this phase, or whatever it is, will simmer down and I’ll return to my normal, slightly cranky self again. Once they’ve all been put to the sword. Kidding.

And in the end the compost bin still sits on my porch a week and a half later. Boy, does that make me angry!

Get it all out: Bret’s Angry Dance, from Flight of the Conchords:

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