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Why People Hate Me
I keep trying to predict what will piss people off, but I rarely get it right.
I may be obnoxious but unlike most obnoxious people at least I’m willing to admit it.
I’m needy, demanding, I interrupt and give unasked for advice. I have no respect for privacy and blurt out people’s secrets. Since I have no secrets and don’t believe in them, I have no idea what a secret is or why others keep secrets unless they’re cheating on their husbands. Even I know enough not to reveal infedelity—unless there’s a good gossip opportunity. Then I might just slip up. OK, I have slipped up, which resulted in expulsion from a Meetup group who were my only friends when I got to Florida. Oooops, I fucked up was not an acceptable excuse.
My friend Bob, the shrink, once defined my condition, “Erica, some people have anal retentive disorder, they don’t tell anyone anything. You have oral expulsive disorder, whatever goes through your head comes out of your mouth.”
I’m a buttinsky, I simply have to give my opinion in no uncertain terms about what you should do, how you should do it, and with whom. Since I’m a medical writer and have many ailments, I’ve become an expert on all of them and feel it’s my duty to tell friends what doctors to go to even if they already have a doctor. I lost a friend over one recommendation to an eye surgeon who made her vision worse. She angrily called me a know-it-all after that disaster. She nailed it. My mother used to introduce me as “this is my daughter Erica, the expert in practically everything.”
I do not suffer fools gladly—or at all. And I let them know it. I can’t help myself--an unfortunate trait in Florida—which is run by fools.
I used to run a writing group and I actually told people the truth, a no-no in writers’ groups where you’re supposed to look for something positive to say. One member, who had written a terrific memoir that I’d praised profusely, tried her hand at a humorous self-help book. It sucked. I’ll never forget the day we went around the table and gave feedback about it. Everyone else said stuff like, “maybe you could shorten the third chapter.” I just said, “it isn’t funny”
The writer quit the group and never spoke to me again. Other group members told me privately they agreed but didn’t have the nerve to speak up.
The combination of compulsive truth teller AND personal essayist is particularly dangerous. Many memoirists have lost friends and family to their truth-telling obsession. I almost lost my overbearing mother. I wrote a funny essay in the Village Voice back in the 80s which skewered her treatment of me during my adolescence—and rightly so. In it was this sentence: “my mom was in the throes of a midlife crisis brought on by the combination of a cheating husband and a nubile daughter feeling her sexual oats,” that did it. She stopped speaking to me for a month, which, truth be told was a relief, but eventually she relented.
My former friend Terri wasn’t so forgiving. I wrote an essay recently about visiting her in the hospital after she was unexpectedly felled by a stealthy fast-growing cancer. The point was that she was healthy one day, and at death’s door the next—a fate which could befall any of us—including me. In fact it had befallen me. I even changed her name (except in one spot where I slipped up) but she considered this an unforgivable betrayal. She said I invaded her privacy, another concept that is foreign to me. Privacy? What is that? I apologized profusely but she refused to accept my apology and a mutual friend says she’ll never speak to me again.
I feel awful about it, but not bad enough to take down the essay. It’s still up on Snarky Senior—that’s what a terrible person I am.
The mutual friend, Angela, is still pissed at me because I never thanked her for throwing me a 75th birthday party. Among my other obnoxious qualities, I am terrible at observing social graces.
So now that I’m old, do I still care that I have a radioactive personality? YES I DO. Everyone is supposed to say that now that they’re old they do what they please and don’t care what people think. They lie. It’s hard to make new friends when you’re old—and harder when you can’t help but show contempt for people who play canasta.
I feel terrible about losing Terri. She was smart, funny and a writer like me—even though she never wrote about herself. I live in terror of losing more friends because I hardly have any left, what with death, distance and inadvertent insults. I keep trying to predict what will piss people off, but I rarely get it right.
As Popeye used to say, “I Yam What I Yam.” I’m too old to change, so if you appreciate my brand of snark and are ready to hear the truth, stick around.
If not, find yourself some polite, boring friends.