Am I giving myself permission to be terrible, just by virtue of the fact that I'm admitting it?
Publish date:
April 17, 2013
self esteem, annoying, mantras

When I met Joy, I went through all of the things I used to go through when I met a boy I really liked.

Does she like me as much as I like her?

Do I gross her out?

Is this topic off limits?

Is that topic off limits?

What if she doesn't like post-mortem photography? Can we still be friends?

I had a legitimate friend crush on this woman.

For the first month we started hanging out, I was always afraid that my inner cynical weirdo would come out and ruin the affection I was cultivating with this new friend. I tried to be positive and literate and to have "normal" hobbies that didn't involve researching every little bit of information I could find on "The Body Farm" in Tennessee. Basically, I tried to be "cool."

Little did I know I had nothing to worry about.

The turning point came when we were ambushed by an acquaintance's "avant-garde porn."

One night while we were hanging out at Joy's apartment, a guy who was doing some website work for her asked her to come over to check out some of the work he was doing. After a few more glasses of wine, we toddled over to his place (he just lived downstairs).

After looking at the web design stuff he was doing, he asked us if we'd mind looking at an art piece he'd shot for a show going up that month. We said sure, he seemed cool -- hippy dippy, quirky, funny -- and as struggling artists ourselves, we were always willing to give feedback on another's piece. "Piece" being the operative word.

He gave us no warning.

He started the video and immediately we were bombarded by sex noises of the solo variety. That didn't really bother me too much, but before I could really fathom what I'd gotten myself into, the screen was filled with a very tight shot of his junk, and some sort of fruit…pleasuring each other.

Basically it was about 10 minutes of heavy breathing, laughter, fruit fucking and tweezers. All the while, he watched us, watch the art.

"What did you think? Was it sexy? How can I make it clearer?" he asked, eager for some critical feedback.

I didn't know what to say, and I didn't want to offend either Joy or her friend, so I just suggested drums (???) and said, "Wow!"

I'm no prude, sex on tape doesn't bother me, but being ambushed by someone's junk, while the owner of said junk is intently watching me watch him, just made me clench up.

"Be cool, Hung, just be cool. This is nothing to Joy, she's totally sophisticated and accepting and nothing fazes her. Just BE COOL," I remember thinking.

When we left his apartment and started walking back up to her place, it was pin-drop quiet. Finally, I had to say something.

"What was up with that?"

And then the floodgates opened. We said everything. Our conversation was punctuated by lots of "OH MY FUCKING GOD" and "WHY DID HE DO THAT?!" and "WHY WAS THERE SO MUCH LAUGHING?!"

That night was the birth of "...because I'm a terrible person." Our friendship was consummated.

Let me explain.

We got into this habit where we would say anything and everything that comes into our brains to each other -- sometimes mean, sometimes just stupid -- and then qualify it with "...because I'm a terrible person." Et voila! Responsibility for statement gone!

At first it was funny to us, and sort of cemented our bond as two loudmouth women who don't always fit in and have the uncanny ability to silence a room. We bonded over our unpopular opinions.

If it had just stayed between the two us, basically gossip and confessional type stuff, it would be one thing. But in the recent years, I've noticed BITP creeping into the rest of my life. I don't even realize I'm saying it.

Maybe I'm getting more confident, and I'm more apt to spout my opinion in the workplace or amongst less familiar company. Or maybe at my core, I really am just an asshole. But I don't like it.

It feels as if by ending a strong or potentially offensive statement with "...because I'm a terrible person" I'm relinquishing my ownership of my statement. "I'm a terrible person, so what can you expect from me? Deal with it."

And that's not cool.

I'm afraid that I'm actually becoming that terrible person. Am I giving myself permission to be horrible, just by virtue of the fact that I'm admitting it?

It really bugs me when I speak to someone and they are constantly checking in with me at the end of their statements with questions like, "Know what I mean?" or "Right?" or "Understand?" or "Is that okay?" or "Ya feel me?" Very often, unless actually asking if I understand something like astrophysics (I don't), I feel it waters down their argument (one of my favorite textbooks in college was titled "Everything is an Argument") and begs the listener to commiserate with them. "You agree with me right? Right? We're okay? Right?"

Drives me nutty bananas.

Yet, I've gone and created my very own qualifier!

In addition to BITP, I've noticed other less than charming phrases making repeat appearances in my daily conversations. Among them are:

"I don't know what I'm doing."

Often said when I in fact I DO know what I'm doing, but I'm either too chicken shit to own it, or I'm being sarcastic. Either way, LAME.

"I'm the worst."

Appearing when I've made some sort of mistake, done something stupid or I'm embarrassed. Used to cover embarrassment and often overshadowing the all-important genuine apology. (I'm embarrassed now, so I have an overwhelming urge to type "I'm the worst." Like I just did.)

"I'm sorry."

Not entirely unusual, but I'm one of those people who apologizes for everything. It's a knee-jerk reaction, and if said too much it loses all meaning.

Essentially, I need to stop letting myself off the hook. I need to say what I mean, and mean what I say. Yes, sometimes seemingly mean things need to be said to people, but I feel that I'm in a point in my life where snark is not cute, nor is it healthy.

Because I am not a terrible person. And I really don't want to become one.

Is there anything you oversay? Do you have a negative mantra you find yourself repeating? How have you stopped it?