I was going to sit down today and write about sex – and all it’s permutations. Which are basically: lots of sex, some sex, solo sex and no sex. And I have plenty of witty thoughts in that area – but today I just can’t get them onto paper. Something happened at the supermarket …
“What’s the matter with you – are you f&*$#@g slow? We’re going to be f&*$#@g late for the restaurant”. It’s Sunday morning, we’re at the cheese section: I glance up and realise that the sharp-faced young woman next to me is cursing at her mother.
“You’re so f&*$#@g stupid. I can’t believe I am being expected to shop. This is f&*$#@g ridiculous.”
I look at the mother. She’s my age … she looks exhausted. The more she tried to mollify her daughter (“It’s 11.00 – we only need to be there at 1.00”, “Would you like some brie?”) .. the worse the girl’s attack becomes. Her husband and small baby are there too. There is a silence around them that is thick and viscous. As if they’re trapped in a bubble of slow hate. With the skinny, angry girl as the membrane holding them there.
I was watching a Bully doing what she does best.
I turned away. Usually I would have said something – but I’ve been around bullies enough to know this would be a hiding to nowhere. As I walked a Bob Newheart skit slid into my head. Newheart is an American comedian who plays it straight … hilarious without sexual innuendo, without swearing or victimising. In the 70s, my Dad used to smuggle his albums back from the US. South Africa had very strict policies about what we were allowed to find amusing – but Dad loved Bob, he wanted us to hear him: so he took the risk.
In this skit a patient goes into her Psychologist’s office. He tells her she has five minutes – but she probably won’t need them because he usually solves people’s problems in the first minute. She’s amazed – but decides to continue.
She’s come because she is afraid of being buried alive in a box.
His advice … “Stop it”
She’s flummoxed … “that’s it?”
“Yes … Stop it” .
They’ve got two minutes left. She wants talks to him about her relationship with her mother: “we don’t go there”, about her boyfriend issues: “oh, we don’t do those”, about her eating disorder: “no, no, we don’t do that either”. But she persists – and he keeps repeating the same advice.
As I wandered around the vegetable aisles mulling what I had seen – I realised we all need to apply those words to our bullies more often. To the external ones – the people in our everyday lives, who get away with viscious, harmful behaviour – because they are never told to “Stop it”.
But to our internal ones, too. The bullies who live in our heads. The remorseless ones that tell us we are fat, ugly, look old, will never find another job, have done nothing with our lives, should never, ever, even dream of putting on a swimsuit again…(and those were just mine this morning).
I bumped into the foursome again at the fresh juices. The harpy had turned on her husband: “What the f&*$k are you looking at? Hey – what the f&*$k was that look for?”. He said nothing. Their baby stared out blankly across the aisle – his little body slumped in the trolley seat.
The mom looked up at me and I sent her Bob – as strongly as I could. She picked up apple juice and put it in her trolley. Then she turned to her daughter and said quietly: “Shut Up”.
Bob would have been proud.