I have this problem where, when someone has a pattern of behavior I don’t like, I don’t know how to call them on it.
My ex-girlfriend would interject here and say, “Of course. That’s because you’re a doormat.”
But that’s only, like, 14 percent of the story. I am only 14 percent doormat. The other part of the problem is that I have to make sure it’s a pattern before I speak up, and I like to be really, really thorough in my research.
For example, it took me three years to realize that my office landlord probably could have fixed the heating system by now if he’d really tried. That just aiming his temperature-measuring radar-gun thingy at our vents once a week wasn’t cutting it. But by this point, I’d established myself as The Nice But Shivering Girl At The End Of The Hall and it just seemed weird to get all in his face.
And when I did get in his face, which I eventually sort of did, he…well, he told me I was a “smart girl” in a way that you might tell your dog he was smart for fetching a bacon-scented stick, and then he told me I looked pretty in a way that an old man might tell his granddaughter if he hoped she would stop wearing those combat boots and meet a nice boy.
But believe it or not, that’s not actually my point. My point is that our dialogues go kind of like this:
ME: Our heat isn’t working. It hasn’t been working properly for three years.
DR. T: See, there’s a problem with the city’s Building Heat Regulation Control Department. I’ve put in a call.
ME: Right, but you’ve been making various calls for three years. Can you buy us a space heater in the meantime?
DR. T: They’re going to call me back Monday. Why don’t we wait till Monday? And why don’t you wear your hair down more often?
ME: Um, okay.
I was raised by an engineer in the Church of Logic, but logic doesn’t help in situations like these. Because the most logical thing to do is address each question as it comes, meaning I get hijacked by the specific and the pattern gets ignored.
John Kerry (timely reference, I know) needed to say, “No, I’m not going to answer your dumb questions about my time in Vietnam. Now, back to why George Bush is a crappy president.” And I needed to say, “No, I don’t care what the Building Heat Regulation Control Department, which I think you made up anyway, has to say. Now, back to the fact that it’s your job to fix this.”
But the other thing I realized—not in the case of Dr. Office Landlord, but in the case of a flaky friend—is that sometimes I feel like I should call people on their bad behavior in order to prove I’m not a doormat, but in reality I don’t care that much.
“Life’s too short to try to make yourself care about things you really don’t care about,” my boss advised me. And I think that’s going to be my mantra for the next almost-two-weeks, when I will be away from my still-cold office and in my nice warm bed.