Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Self-Justifying--A Model

So, just to be perfectly clear, this post is not picking on my roommate. I'm not mad at her, nor upset by her behavior--sure I wish she would change, but mostly for the sake of the people who will live with her (I can testify from personal experience that it is not easy). If she never changes, I can still cope--in large part, admittedly, because I only have to deal with her until the end of the semester. :-D

I freely admit to mocking her though--just a little bit.

Some time ago--I think it was a Friday--we had a little altercation, which might be named To Lock or Not to Lock by someone who was a little too fond of literary allusions. Ahem. In summary, it boils down to roomie coming in after I've locked the door so I can change into pjs, complaining about how inconvenient it is that I lock the door before she comes in (despite that she, on occasion, never comes in at all), me pointing out mildly that I was going to change, her objecting that "no one is going to just walk in without knocking," and me NOT saying, "like you were just about to?" That was strategy, as my next move was to bring up that she doesn't lock the door, like ever, and I'm not comfortable with that, and her answer to that was, oh so surprisingly, that no one is going to come in. She then called me passive-aggressive for not bringing it up until then, and I countered by admitting that it was p-a, a bit, but trying to imply, or in general say more gently than blurting it out, that I was not and am not comfortable talking to her (because she does not freaking respond. At all. Really creepy to someone from a highly verbal family), and she responded with the incredibly profound cliche, "it's a two-way street."

Now, what I find fascinating about this whole thing is that we were both responding according to our conditioning--at least I was. It's an absolute in my house that no one is perfect. So I gave ground at the accusation of being passive-aggressive, expecting a similar response from her, because that's how discussions (i.e., not yet fights) work in my house--but instead, I smacked into a brick wall. Roomie, on the other hand, sort of approached things with an "I'm never wrong" attitude, and managed to very quickly self-justify out of any fault on her side. I don't know what background gave her that attitude, but the odds are rather better than even that that is how her family of origin acts during discussions.

So, fast-forward to a night the next week. I was changing clothes, but hadn't locked the door, because I'll let no one say that I'm not reasonable on issues that do not darn well matter. She walked in, while I was in an in-between stage (just pants, thank heaven), and I said, in a voice which my family would recognize as protest but not outrage, "You could knock!" I then listened, with far more patience than I would have had if I actually had been upset, to her righteous indignation about not expecting to knock to walk into her own bedroom. I thought, after the fact, that her word choice there was interesting--I would never say, "my bedroom" when referring to my dorm room, because it isn't "my bedroom," it's my home away from home. My home on campus stops at the door which she so often does not lock--but for her, this same space is chiefly a place to sleep.

She objects to me locking the door, because it's inconvenient for her, and never considers that any other perspective could be possible. She objects to my reasoning, because "no one would do that"--herself excepted. She rejects my concerns about unlocked doors because "it's passive-aggressive not to have brought them up earlier." She could be a model for the wonderful new how-to show, "How to be right in any argument, no matter how reasonable or well thought out the other side is." It's really fascinating to discover how someone's mind works--and I mean that not at all sarcastically! I probably have a better idea of my dear roomie's motivations than she does right now--it's largely academic, since even given her motivations I have no clue how to deal with her, but I do feel better knowing that I am not her real problem.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

German Practice to Life Truth

Whatever is the world coming to? Two posts in one week?--It's only because I have a score which I need to number my measures for (oh, I forgot to tell the blog since I haven't posted since the end of last semester--I'm in choir, taking it for 1 hour of credit; half the room is charming, musical women and the other half is charming, musical eyecandy I mean men), so this is basically an avoidance method. Not to mention, I had a thought which wouldn't fit into 140 characters. Amazing, ne?

So, Tuesdays and Thursdays are my fun days, with choir starting at 11:30 and running till almost 1, and then 4th semester German at 3pm. Herr S is a lot of fun, and since we have two oral exams (in which the point will be not to be grammatically correct but accurate in pronunciation and able to get the point across to a native speaker), he makes a point of making us get up and talk--always about hard questions that you can easily say a lot about. One of today's topics was, "What are your personal faults--what do you have trouble with in your relationships?"

After a little bit, I came up with, "Ich will immer, dass ich im Zentrum sein [probably should be bleiben, but I was talking]. Weil ich sehr ruhig bin, ist es nicht deutlich [again, probably not correct usage, but I didn't have a dictionary--that's sort of the point of these], aber ist's so." The rough translation of that is, "I always want to be the center of attention. It's not obvious, because I'm very quiet, but it's nevertheless so!"

So this evening I was thinking about this--things which you say tend to stick in your mind, for good or bad--and I thought, "I managed to basically sum up every human fault, or at least the root of every human fault, in two sentences and in a foreign language, no less." Joe (I feel safe putting his first name on here, since it's very common--there are even two Joes in our classroom) came up with, "I'm very stubborn, and I always want my way and never to give in"--more or less the same thing. You might have to substitute a word or two--I'm thinking chiefly of "center of attention" here--but basically it expresses the same outlook. "I am the center, the most important thing, don't mess with me, don't try to substitute your clearly inferior way/person into the space where my way/person so obviously belongs......"

Almost any conflict between humans--I don't mean rationally expressed differences of opinions, but real fights about ways things should be done--can be put into these terms, I think, of each thinking himself the most important person.

Profoundly misguided, when you consider the self-evident truth that the sun would stop shining without my existence...... ;-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Once upon a time, there was a very bad blogger, who went for, oh, about 2 and a half months without blogging at all. (This is particularly heinous because in this blog break fell Christmas, and our blogger made out like a bandit, yet didn't show any pictures of the loot.)

Now this blogger was a college student, and she cordially disliked her roommate. It was nothing personal; they just had nothing in common. The blogger was a very quiet person, keeping regular hours for bedtime and mostly sticking to her room. She also, and this is important to the story, needed quiet while sleeping--not absolute quiet, but for the room to be mostly dark and mostly quiet. ("What happens on the other side of the door can stay there, and I'll ignore it, but don't let it come in," was her general philosophy.) But the blogger's roomie, whom we shall call X in the time-honored fashion, was a social butterfly, often not coming back till the wee hours were getting quite large, especially on the weekend, and then turning on her light (admittedly necessary, as her chair tended to migrate into the middle of the walkway), go through her bedtime routine fairly quietly, and then, then, my friends, she would turn on the TV.

For you see, this X could not sleep without noise from the TV. Our blogger vainly suggested music, podcasts, perhaps even episodes on Hulu--something which could come through earbuds!--but to no avail. As humans often are, X was persuaded that only the way to which she was accustomed could possibly work. (This opened our blogger's eyes to that particular bad habit in her own life, and she thereafter tried to take advice that went against her inclination but that she knew was good for her.) At the time of this story, our blogger's college had just reconvened after Christmas break, and there had been an extra-long weekend because of a nasty storm which piled snow atop ice.

The scene was the wee-to-largeish hours of Monday morning. The blogger is quite certain of this, as she finished a particularly gripping book around 11:30, and thus wasn't in bed until midnight. She vaguely heard X come in, put on her "black-out shade eyelids," turned herself away from the light, and restarted her podcasts, so she wouldn't be drawn into the stories issuing glibly from the TV. The TV was louder than usual, the hour was later, the blogger's sleep more fragile as she had recently been on break--for any or all of these reasons, the blogger spent nearly 2 hours half-awake, until the sleep timer mercifully shut the TV off--eight or so minutes after which, her trusty Clip ran out of battery. Our blogger reflected later that the timing could not have been more perfect.

When morning broke, more than it had already, our blogger turned off her alarm and promptly fell asleep again. When she was jolted out of sleep by X's phone alarm, her words were--and I believe this is accurate, though the blogger would be unwilling to testify its truth in a court of law-- "Crap crap crap!"

She climbed hurriedly out of bed, thanking heaven she had laid out her clothes the night before, and whisked through the shower in 12 minutes flat, leaving her precisely on schedule despite the unexpected half-hour sleep-in.

Our blogger thinks, despite everything in her which tells her that the relationship was thoroughly dysfunctional, that she is grateful to have had the experience of someone who is utterly careless of anyone's comfort but their own.

"It gave me confidence that I can recognize dysfunctional relationships, steer clear of them while they aren't large commitments, and that I can cope with one if forced into it," says the blogger. "I have concrete experience now of how selfish people can be, and reason that I should not get emotionally involved with anyone with these characteristics--and reason to never let myself get there, to change while the habit is small. Furthermore, I got all of this experience without the messiness of romantic attachment or being married!"

She has a point, don't you think? How much easier to get learning experiences from a roommate, whom you aren't committed to, than even a boyfriend!