When I was in the 3rd grade, I had a bully in my life. She was around a year my senior and derived a lot of pleasure from calling me names and making me feel like shit. She was also my dad's colleague's daughter so we lived in the same compound (military style), went to the same school, travelled to school in the same rikshaw, went to the same dance class, played at the same park and hung out with the same group of friends. I somehow had the good sense to not tolerate the bullying and promptly sought out an adult to talk to. So I told my parents about what was happening. One thing led to another and the parents got together to discuss this. I spoke the truth fearlessly (where did all that innocent fearlessness go?) and she cried. Finally, the parents went back to being friends like nothing had happened and I did the thing that adults do during a conflict. I blocked her. Not on Facebook like cowards do today, but in real life. I systematically cut her out of my life. I got my parents to change my mode of transportation to school, changed my dance class timings, and so on. I probably felt a little guilty about making her cry like that. It's stupid to feel that way considering how she was the bully. But I was only 8. Uncorrupted by the real world and there was probably a little bit of goodness in me at that point. Goodness that triggered the kind of unwarranted guilt that I have become so unaccustomed to over the years.
Since our parents were still in good terms, my mother once sent me over to their apartment to return a Tupperware container that she had borrowed. When I got there, her mother invited me in. I just stood there at her door and refused to enter. My excuse was that I had to return home to my homework and studies.
"But it's your summer vacation. What homework are you talking about? What studies? Come in, let me get you something to drink."
"Sorry I have to go now."
And I turned around and marched out of the building, fully aware of her shocked and hurt eyes poring into the back of my neck, making me burn in shame.
I still don't have a reasonable explanation for why I did that. She was a perfectly kind woman and I had no reason to act out like that. It could be because I was scared to face her daughter who was obviously home at the time. Scared out of a kind of guilt for having ratted her out. For telling on her. For making her cry in front of another family. No matter how many times I tried to tell myself that I was not at fault, that I did the right thing by getting my parents involved, that things could have ended very badly for me had the bullying continued, I still cringed whenever I thought about the incident. The incident being the time I turned around and walked away from a perfectly nice woman, not the time I talked about the bullying. Today, 16 years later, I still think that if I could go back in time, I would enter that house, smile at the girl, and accept the treat her mother had prepared for me. Because that would be the brave thing to do.
I try to live by that principle today. Of keeping my mental space clean and clear. Of never having to cringe again. I don't want yet another episode in my life that I will dwell on for 16 years, thinking about how I could have acted differently. The only way out is to be brave by taking the high road now, in the present, so that you don't regret it in the future. I have trained myself over the years to never lose my cool under pressure. To get the ol' brain working a tad bit extra under these circumstances, being assertive and polite at the same time, standing my own ground and getting a point across at the same time, being diplomatic with a no-nonsense policy. It's the hardest thing I do. But I do it anyway because it's rewarding. It let's me sleep at night with the satisfaction that I have avoided "The Cringe" yet again. One more bullet dodged. Because in the end, I'm never the one making loud proclamations that I will never be seen in the same room as that other person, or that I will be cutting this person out of my life for good, only to return later with an irresistible desire to find out what is happening in their lives.
I remain calm and sane even when someone is downright attacking my person or calling me names, because when you do that, your opponent will most definitely lose his/her cool. That's when they walk straight into an ad hominem:
An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attack on an argument made by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, rather than attacking the argument directly.
And once they fall prey to the trap of using an ad hominem, you win by default. Trust me, a lot of thought and research has gone into this method over the years. Research by yours truly (insert shameless plug). This has been tried and tested. And the results are more than satisfactory. I used to cringe all the time. Then one fine day, I decided that I didn't want to cringe any more. So I have gladly passed over "The Cringe" to others while I smile serenely in my sleep.
And this is my little gift to you, my dear readers, for tolerating all the ass, poop and fart stories I write on this website and for continuing to stay with me. Let me finally help you benefit from the time you have spent here with this little tip for your personal peace. Because the knowledge that you were the one who held your calm, and thought with your brain and not with your arse, is the most satisfying thing in the world. Avoiding "The Cringe" is beautiful.
Have a mind-blowing, beeeeeaauuuutiful weekend. Lots of love.