Under My Skin


Despite what my children might say to the contrary, over the years I have matured into a pretty easy-going person.  I can usually keep my emotions in check, I seldom raise my voice, and I try to look at every situation from all perspectives.  I know not everyone will always agree with me or do what I think should be done, but most of the time I can accept these differences, “agree to disagree,” and simply move on.  I keep a cool head and a calm demeanor.  Usually.

I haven’t always been this way.  For years I took every little injustice as a personal affront and every disagreement as an assault on my dignity and honor and intelligence.  How could he be so mean?  How could she be so stupid?  Why couldn’t they see that I was right and they were wrong?  I would be furious–but in most cases, the instigators of my fury never knew the extent of my wrath because I kept it all locked inside me.

Then I was diagnosed with severe high blood pressure, and it took over a year for my doctor to find the right combination of meds to get my blood pressure back into the normal range.  Suddenly, I was faced with the very real possibility that my anger would kill me if I didn’t let it go.  So I let it go.  I learned to “ease up,” to chill, to say “whatever” and mean it.  This letting go hasn’t been easy, and sometimes I still falter, but I can usually take a deep breath, count to ten (or fifty), and trash the toxins.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t still quite a few frustrations that seep their way under my skin, but they no longer make my blood boil and my head pound.  I won’t let them.  They are minor irritants that I would like to remove from my world, but if I can’t, I’ll do my best to ignore them.

For example:

  • Young men who wear their pants so far below their waistlines that I am witness to at least eight inches of their undies. I don’t want to know what color your boxers are today; I really don’t.  When you walk with your legs spread apart to keep your pants from falling to your ankles, it looks really uncomfortable (and really stupid), and I can’t help wondering what future hip and back problems are already in the making because of your unnatural gait.
  • Salesmen who insist on talking to my husband instead of me. I don’t know how your household operates, Mr. Chauvinist, but in mine we have what is called an “equal partnership”–oh, except for one thing.  The checkbook is carried in MY purse–not his back pocket–and my purse and I are headed out the door.
  • People who are rude to secretaries, waitresses, checkers, and others they consider to be “subordinate.” Walk a mile in their shoes; it will be one of the hardest miles you ever walk.  They provide valuable services, and yet they don’t make enough money, they don’t set policy, and they have very little control over their work environment.  (They do, however, have the ability to “lose” your urgent phone message, spit in your food, and “accidentally” scan your most expensive items twice.)
  • Personal space invaders. You don’t have to stand six inches from my face in order for me to see you and hear you.  Sometimes your cologne is overpowering, and sometimes it’s your coffee breath.  Back off.
  • Old folks who stop in the middle of the aisle to visit with other old folks. I’m sure you are nice people, probably the world’s greatest grandparents (with the coffee cups to prove it), and you haven’t seen each other since Wednesday night’s church service–but please move out of my way.  I say “excuse me,” but you are so engrossed in your stories about Sister Myrtle’s cats and Brother Bob’s gout that you can’t hear me; I try to manuever around your stalled carts, but there’s no room and you’re not budging.  After waiting patiently for several minutes, certain that one of you will finally realize (or care) that you’re blocking traffic, I finally re-trace my steps and attempt to head down the next aisle, where an entirely different set of old folks is catching up on everything that’s happened since last they met.
  • Smart girls who play dumb. Stupidity is not cute, and any boy/man who can’t appreciate you for your intelligence won’t appreciate you for anything else, either.
  • People who don’t start meetings on time. Much of the information presented in meetings could have just as effectively been dispensed through email or a 10-minute phone call.  For those times when a face-to-face is deemed essential, let’s assume that all parties involved do have other work to do, and let’s “get the show on the road.”
  • Motorcyclists who won’t wear helmets. Some of you are my friends, and I know from previous conversations that you will argue about the rush of the wind and the infringement on your civil rights.  I’m tired of arguing with you, so let me just say that my heart goes out to the patrolman who has to try to sleep at night after working the scene of your accident.  Severe head trauma does not a pretty picture make.
  • Salespeople who call me by my first name. I’m not talking about the locals who have known me forever; I’m talking about the ones in a neighboring town who take my check, look at it, and say “Thank you, Karen,” as they’re handing me my receipt.  A few months ago a male checker at Wal-Mart did this, and now every time I see him there, he says, “Can I help you, Karen?”  “Are you finding everything you need, Karen?”  “How are you today, Karen?”  This FREAKS ME OUT!  How does he remember my name?  Does he also remember my phone number and address that were printed on the check?  This is just plain creepy.
  • People who cough up a lung and then spit it on the sidewalk. I understand the need to cough; I even understand the need to occasionally spit in public–but it doesn’t have to be on the sidewalk where the rest of us have to look at it and (hopefully) step around it.  Please, find a trash can or a thick, grassy area.
  • People who share the most intimate details of their private lives via loud, public cell phone conversations. Maybe the person on the other end of the phone is enjoying the verbal replay of last night’s sexual exploits, but the rest of us are extremely uncomfortable (and that part about you —- and then he —yeah, that was just disgusting.  Do you kiss your mama with that mouth?).

Yes, I find these people mildly annoying, irritating, and sometimes even offensive, but there are probably a few people out there (one or two at least) who find me the same–but, I promise you, not for the same reasons!

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About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
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9 Responses to Under My Skin

  1. Angie says:

    Amen, sister! Especially the rudeness to those who “serve” us! I also remember walking around a furniture store for about 20 minutes w/out one salesperson approaching (kinda nice, actually) until Mark arrived to meet me and…wallah! they appear out of the woodwork to sell us furniture! Hey, life is short enough tho, isn’t it? 🙂

    • Yes, it is, and as I get older it gets easier to just “let it go” and pick my battles. (I actually tried to ask a salesperson once a question about a satellite system; he asked if my husband was coming in, and when I said yes, he said, “Why don’t we just wait until he gets here?” I walked out.)

  2. Janet says:

    Congratulations on being able to learn to let some things go…sometimes this is easier said than done, but when it becomes a life-or-death matter, I guess you learn. Good for you!

    (And good for you for sharing such a well-written blog. I love reading one that doesn’t have me mentally correcting all the grammar and punctuation mistakes as I go along.)

  3. Angie says:

    btw- we promptly left the furniture store…at my prompting!!

  4. Mom, I love hearing those intimate details of people’s sexploits. I find it ridiculously entertaining, and it makes me feel better about myself. And one of the best ways to keep space invaders away is to either stick your pelvis out as they get closer or breathe heavily with your mouth open as they talk to you.

  5. missy says:

    So true. Why is it that when people, mostly women unfortunately, get this attitude of “I’ve served others my whole life and now it’s time for people to serve me” when they are in a restaurant? It’s just another form of bullying which is a huge pet peeve of mine! Everyone should have to wait tables for a living at some point in their lives. It builds character.
    One more thing: I saw this quote in a book, “When girls act dumb to attract a guy, they attract dumb guys.” I love it.

    • In my early years, I was a waitress, a secretary, and a checker at K-Mart (I pre-date scanners; back then every price had to be keyed in.). I agree–everyone should have to spend time doing those jobs; it gives you an entirely different perspective and a new appreciation. Love the quote!

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