Judgy Assholes Unite!

Smart, discerning people are judgmental. Get over it.

Dear Molly,

I wanted to ask your advice about coming to terms with my judgy assholey-ness. My friends and loved ones bug the shit out of me, a lot. I try not be mean out loud to them (and mostly succeed), but sometimes I slip and say something unduly harsh that I regret. But, come on, how are you supposed to deal with one’s nightly complaints about how hard adulting was today, how much traffic/the weather/seasonal allergies are giving another a hard time, or how a third is constantly having to deal with the fallout from a stupid, impulsive thing they did? I try to be compassionate and patient and say things like “That sucks!” “Do you need an antihistamine?” and, “Oh, no! What do you think you’ll do?” 

It doesn’t matter. Mostly they’re just talking, not asking me to fix their problems. My problem is that the voice in my head gets all pissed off and rants about it for hours and hours then feels awful about the unkind thoughts I thought. So I thought I’d like to be less of a judgey asshole. Or I’d like to accept that I’m a judgey asshole and stop having such turmoil about it. 

I was looking at your columns today and a word clicked with me: tedious. You said it about your sister. I love my people, but they’re often tedious. (I’m tedious, too, but this isn’t about how annoying I am to other people.  It’s about how annoying they are to me.  Or maybe how annoying I am to myself.) Am I supposed to be more graceful about life’s tedium? How? Or am I supposed do something to make the tedium stop? What?

Thank you for your wise/ evil/ questionable counsel,

Bitching About Bitching

Dear BAB,

Last night I was watching “Paradise Hotel” with my daughter (it was Educational Programming Night) and we were observing the various gentlemen and ladies of Paradise, bowing very low and kissing each other’s hands and extending compliments and well wishes and inquiring into each other’s business interests and estates, as they so often do. And there was a single man there who appeared to be in possession of a large fortune. As you may already know, even when the feelings or views of such a man may be little known on his first entering Paradise, most assume that he is in want of a wife. As Jane Austen once pointed out, this truth is sometimes so well fixed in the minds of onlookers that he is considered the rightful property of one or another of the ladies present.

This particular young man, Sir Hans, had been clearly claimed by Lady Brittany. They had traded confidences and sipped a steady succession of colorful cocktails there, by the Sea of Cortez, and Lady Brittany, a robust and good-humored young woman, was firmly in Sir Hans’ favor.

Nevertheless, one night Sir Hans took a gamble in describing one of his favorite parlor games (“Mafia”) to the gentlemen and ladies gathered there, and he was but a minute or two into his enthusiastic description when Lady Brittany proclaimed dismissively “I’m already lost.” Lady Brittany may have meant, “I beg your pardon, sir, but can you clarify?” or “Let’s simply play this game and learn by playing, since it is, after all, a game designed for 7-year-olds!”

But Sir Hans was enraged. He “took it personal,” in the parlance of Paradise. He lashed out at Lady Brittany in front of everyone present, revealing himself to be a man of ill temper and unquiet disposition.

“He’s very insecure,” I remarked to my daughter, for educating her about the peculiar habits and red flags surrounding landed gentry of the douche bro sub-species was very much at the forefront of my mind.

“No, he’s being a jerk!” my daughter snapped with more than a little heat.

“Yes, he is being a jerk. He’s being a jerk AND he’s very insecure,” I replied.

“That’s not true, he’s just annoying!” my daughter yelled, showing little compassion for my poor nerves.

But I understood. Just as Sir Hans, thanks to his insecurity, had come to encounter every remark by Lady Brittany and the others as a direct personal attack on his character, so, too, had my daughter come to feel that my observations of the courtesans of Paradise were designed to directly contradict her own. When I said things like “He is a self-hating ween” or “She’s a control freak,” what my daughter heard was “These people are not so bad, they are merely misunderstood.”

This reminded her of third grade, when I observed that Sir Jayden was probably just having a hard time at home or he wouldn’t topple chairs mid-lesson, and also sixth grade, when I commented that Lady Taylor might just be privy to some ugly fights between her parents, or she would not feel it appropriate to call her playmates “stupid bitches.”

No matter. The night’s educational activities had concluded. My daughter wanted to check her texts but I said it was too late, so she stormed off to bed without saying goodnight. She could’ve said, “Your insights into the courtesans of Paradise are enlightening and helpful to my developing sense of the many forces I’m up against here in the suburbs, where so many of my peers have little information and uncertain tempers.” But she didn’t. She just thought I was being a judgy asshole.

I remained unruffled. I knew my intentions were pure. The point? Almost everyone under the sun is a judgy asshole with decent intentions. Almost everyone can be whiny and defensive on occasion. Our comprehension of each other is almost always incomplete and filtered through layers of projection and misunderstandings on all sides. You can’t take a person’s personality personal, in the parlance of Paradise.

We’re judgy assholes because we are not stupid or heavily sedated, and also, our culture is intolerably boring and idiotic and a lot of people are dull and repetitive and damaged and self-involved and that’s just how it fucking is. I wrote a whole book about this, for fuck’s sake. (Yes, Polly and I share the pen name “Heather Havrilesky,” a giant mistake, and not just because it’s a silly made-up name that sounds like a cross between a porn star and a Russian princess.)

The problem is not that you judge. This is just proof that your brain works. The problem is that you disengage instead of telling people what you want from them. You’re a people pleaser on autopilot, but you resent everyone after the fact. Be more direct instead. State your needs. Disable your autopilot, and disable your post-flight performance analysis while you’re at it. Did you please everyone? Probably not. Were you disappointing? Signs point to yes. If you’re taking people’s annoying traits too personally, you’re probably taking your own annoying traits too personally, too. Just say this to yourself: Everyone is annoying, myself included. It just doesn’t matter.

You can try to think more loving thoughts, if you really want to be a fucking overachiever like my holier-than-thou sister. Go ahead. Meditate away. Say high-minded shit. You still have to learn how to enjoy who you are, even if you’re a sour little goblin at heart. Personally, I say don’t strain yourself. Savor the way your goblin brain chews up the world into mean little bite-sized pieces. Find other goblins who get it. Have some fucking fun for a change.

And if someone announces, “I don’t judge” and then calls you judgmental when you haven’t said shit to them, when you’re simply existing as your natural sour goblin self, out in the world, but you’re behaving politely and bowing and kissing hands and inquiring into the business interests and estates of your peers?

Well, that person is very insecure. It’s not personal. But you know what? Fuck them anyway. Fuck them and fuck this disingenuous “I don’t judge” country, that labels anyone with a functioning brain “judgmental” or “divisive,” all the while throwing down a steady stream of punishing, sadistic legislation designed to fuck women and black people and poor people, all the while telling us that it’s all our fault and it’s for our own good. This whole concept of being “too judgmental” is used against women and people of color the most. Fuck anyone dumb enough not to notice that.

Alas, we cannot all live in Paradise. Perhaps you, like Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, are an odd mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humor, reserve, and caprice. If so, you might love your people, but few of them will understand you. At least have the grace to understand yourself.


Eager to get judged by a sour goblin? Write to askmolly at protonmail.