Wednesday, January 27, 2010

wifersize wednesday: passive aggressive

In our upstairs bathroom there is a wastebasket. Well, there was. It's impossible to discern where the wastebasket once was since what once filled the wastebasket has now completely overcome and subdued it. It's a volcano of makeup pads, balled up Kleenex, empty toilet paper rolls, hair balls, and Q-tips.

No other garbage receptacle in our house is as mismanaged. It seems as if both Andrew and I are patiently, stubbornly waiting for the other one to break down and empty it.

Once, after I carefully balanced another object on the mountainous pile of waste (it's almost an art installation), I asked Andrew (who was in the bedroom):

"Question. Do you just keep using this wastebasket in hopes that I'll get fed up enough to take it out one day?"
"Uh, yeah."
"Oh. Me too."

In all honesty, Andrew (eventually) empties it about as many times as I (eventually) empty it (which, given the year that we've lived in the house, is approximately one time each), and we chuckled after learning of our bathroom-wastebasket-stalemate. But how often do we use passive aggressive behaviour to get someone to notice, affirm, pity, or perform for us?

There's a website dedicated to it, if you're interested, called Browsing it today reminded me of the episode of The Office where Pam leaves a note on the office microwave that reads:
"The microwave is a SHARED kitchen appliance.

By not cleaning it up, you are basically telling whoever follows that their time is less valuable, as they will have to scrub out your disgusting splatter.

and of the email I sent out just this morning to our all-staff email address:
Could the salt & pepper-napper please return them, unharmed, to the communal kitchen where we can all use them? If you’re looking for a personal set, check here:

Ta ta!

which, ashamedly, is not the first (nor, I suspect, will be the last) passive aggressive email I have sent from reception. I mean, how difficult is it to load a dishwasher, people? How much easier could we possibly make the process? It already WASHES YOUR DISHES FOR YOU.

Probably the best example of palatable passive aggression is public transit. The bus arrives and after waiting over 20 minutes in the freezing cold, or spitting rain, or blistering heat, the doors whoosh open and five hundred irritated commuters shove towards it. But slowly. Almost...politely. As if to say, "So help me, 80-year old woman, I am going to get on this bus and I sure as heck think you're standing well enough out here that you won't need to steal a seat from me once I'm in there, but, BY ALL MEANS GO AHEAD OF ME. I INSIST."

The Wiki definition states that passive aggressive behaviour
"can manifest itself as learned helplessness, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible. It is a defense mechanism, and usually only partly conscious"
which is only partly comforting, since it's only partly conscious. But the fact that it's recognized as a defense mechanism is much more helpful. If we spent as much time working out why we are in distress (a wise woman often reminds me: "The issue isn't the issue.") as we spent concocting passive aggressive language, habits, games, and notes we'd probably be better off. And our spouses would know exactly what they're dealing with...instead of having to guess.

I'm guilty of passive aggression on occasion (partly conscious, I assure you) but I've realized that straight forward conversation usually gets the job done faster, and with 87% less feigned smiling. When I get upset by something Andrew does or says (or doesn't do or say), the least I can do is honour him and the honesty of our marriage by telling him that I'm hurt. As an added bonus, I might work out what the issue is behind the issue.

If I'm feeling extra wiferly, I'll even empty the upstairs bathroom wastebasket.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Hard to get away from passive agression. What are Twitter, FB updates and blog post for, if not for venting thine spleen?