Sometimes a piece of “wise” advice backfires on you. When I was just 18, I had an unusual insecurity — a belief that certain people in my life might be upset with me. And not just slightly miffed. We’re talking thoroughly outraged or really furious. Only nobody ever voiced it. Instead they just gave me dirty looks, or treated me differently.
But was this an accurate perception or could I be imagining things?
My therapist (who was probably thrilled this was one of my more straightforward issues) had a simple cure. She told me, “Just ask them.”
Now why didn’t I think of that? Here’s how that’s worked out for me so far.
With Tiffany, My Oldest Girlfriend:
Me: Hi Tiff. I’m feeling like you’ve been treating me differently lately. Are you mad at me?
Tiffany: Are you getting neurotic again?
Me: Maybe. Would that make you mad?
Tiffany: Because last time you got weird like this, we had to do that friendship circle thingy where we joined hands and recalled boys we liked in 6th grade and frankly I’m menopausal now and can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast.
With My First Husband:
Me: Are you mad?
1st Husband: Stephanie, I am not mad. Mad means insane.
Me: Sorry. I meant are you angry?
1st Husband: I am very irritated.You call yourself a writer and haven’t learned this difference by now?
With My Mother:
Me: Hi Ma. I’ve been feeling like you could be angry with me recently. Thought I’d check. Are you?
My Mother: No. But IF I were angry with you, what might it be for?
Me: Um. Maybe I don’t call you often enough?
My Mother: Could that be true?
Me: No, I don’t think so.
My Mother: Well what other reason do you suppose there could be?
Me: Uh, last Mother’s Day, I promised we’d go to lunch and we haven’t?
My Mother: Warmer . . .
With My Daughter:
Me: Are you upset with me for something?
Daughter: Is that your way of saying I’m in big trouble?
Daughter: You know. You reverse things. You’re really the one upset with me, right? Just tell me, Mom!
With My Second Husband:
Me: We hardly talk anymore. Are you angry with me?
2nd Husband: No.
Me: Okay good, just checking.
2nd Husband: You do that a lot.
Me: I know. I’ve learned in therapy not to make assumptions. I’m glad everything is fine.
2nd Husband: Yes. But we should get a divorce.
With My Neighbor:
Me: When I saw you at the mailbox yesterday, you didn’t wave back. Are you upset with me?
Me: Well would you tell me if you were?
With My Fiancé:
Me: Hi. Are you angry with me?
Fiancé: You’d know if I were angry.
Me: I thought I did know. But I wanted to ask to confirm.
Fiancé: I’ve told you before, if I’m angry I’ll tell you directly.
Me: About how soon do you think you’d announce it?
Fiancé: Immediately. I wouldn’t conceal it.
Me: Are you insinuating that I conceal it? That I am passive aggressive?
Fiancé: What? Certainly not! Now you’re just mad.
Me: Don’t you mean angry? Because mad means a raving lunatic or crazy.
Fiancé: I know exactly what mad means.
With My Therapist:
Me: I’m so angry with you. I want my money back from 34 years ago. Your advice about asking if people are angry doesn’t ever work.
Therapist: I know, I know. But I thought you’d figure that out on your own, and at least it would give you some blogging material on a day you ran dry and your followers would get a chuckle and it might even elicit some good comments.
Me: Ohhhhh, pure genius. Thank you!
Dear Readers: So are you mad? And I mean angry, not insane. Leave me any comments below. I can take it, really I can.