I’m a firm believer that everyone needs an arch nemesis. I’m not talking about people you know and have serious conflict with – that’s bad for you. I mean those strangers who you can’t stand for one reason or another. They make you want to be better, so that you can be better than them. Today I’d like to offer my sort-of thanks to the following arch-nemeses – those haters who were also motivators.
The Two A-Holes With A Jogging Stroller
This couple seemed cute – late 30s, running gear, jogging stroller – until their stroller started barking and lunging at me. Their “baby” is a tiny dog who hates everything. Despite their running regalia, the couple never gets much mileage because they spend minutes on end hooking and unhooking their dog from its stroller. They want it to run with them, but its tiny legs and desire to lunge at passersby get in the way. The animal hates everyone so much that I wonder why they don’t leave it at home. The only explanation is that they hate everyone, too. Do you remember that SNL sketch from a few years ago, the two a-holes? That’s how I imagine they sound.
These are still on my active nemesis list, so I don’t know what lesson I’m gleaning from them yet.
The Myspace Tattooist
Before Facebook got big, all the cool kids were on MySpace. So were all the creepy adults. In college, I got a message from a man who worked at the tattoo parlor on my town’s main street saying how much he liked to watch me walk by his shop. I ignored it, as well as the messages that followed for the next few weeks, and started walking on the other side of the street. From this nemesis I learned that you should keep your internet privacy settings secure, but when that fails, ride that wave and see where it takes you. I probably could have gotten a free tattoo out of the deal. What a waste.
Hugs 4 Christ
I stopped into a neighborhood church while house-hunting on some type of holy day of obligation. As I tried to leave after mass, a dad-aged guy in a Cosby sweater pulled me into a hug with such warmth and familiarity that I thought I must have known him from somewhere, although usually I remember aggressive huggers so I can avoid them. As I wriggled away, he said “hi, I don’t know you. You just looked like you could use a hug.”
I’m sure he had worked up a whole narrative that I was a lost, struggling soul finding her way back to the church in a time of trial, when I was in fact a normal lady going to open houses. I don’t know what was worse, the hugging or the idea that my regular, neutral face looks sad.
From this nemesis, I learned that while the resting bitch face can make a sturdy wall between you and the world, some fools will try to hug their way through that wall like a Kool-Aid Man of affection. Those people are why you shouldn’t go to strange churches.
Does It Sound Bad If I Have Two Homeless Arch Nemeses?
There’s a man who likes to sit on the bridge and ask for money. I like to walk past him. I’m not a total jerk, but I’m also not a total idiot and opening my wallet on a crowded street is just asking for trouble. One time as I walked past this guy, he yelled after me “YOU… YOU THINK YOU’RE PRETTY.”
That doesn’t sound like much, but think about it for a second. It knocks your self-concept off kilter in a way that a direct insult cannot. If you ever really want to unnerve someone, I suggest you try that line. My first (unfollowed) instinct was to shout back “NO I DON’T!”, which is true. Then I could have sat on the homeless man’s bench and told him all about my feelings. That would have confounded him so much that he never would have asked me for money again.
My other homeless nemesis is a man who I sometimes see at the park a few blocks from work. He stopped me one day and said “Miss… Miss I just wanted to tell you something.” I braced myself for a gross compliment, because I think I’m pretty. Then he said “I have never seen anyone as pale as you in my life. I mean I’ve seen white people before, but you’re like paper. You’re like CLEAR.”
If my life were a Hallmark movie, those homeless men would be secret angels sent from heaven on a mission to make sure I know I’m not cute.
This poor sample guy used to try to give full cooking classes when you just wanted a Dixie cup full of tortellini. I’ve since discovered that you don’t have to pretend to be interested in their product – just grab your free samps and hightail it out of there. I learned that when I was caught in the middle of a 10-minute schpiel about how to sautee spinach and just walked away.
I’m probably also on his nemesis list, as Ungrateful Shopper Girl or something. If you’re reading this and thinking “why didn’t you just go shopping and not try to get free food,” then I don’t think we’re the same kind of people.
The Miniature Law Bro
In law school, I took trial technique with a kid who looked like your typical law bro, except tiny. For the purposes of this story, you should know two things about me: (1) if there were a Ken Burns documentary on the Potato Famine, and a voice over was reading from the diary of a poor yet hopeful Irish orphan, and the camera panned in on a tiny, resilient urchin, that’s how I look; and (2) I was really good at fake trials.
In one class, I nailed my fake opening argument and the professor opened up the floor for critique. Li’l Law Bro spoke first, carrying on for about five minutes. There was no commentary on what I actually said, just lots of talk about how juries would probably really like me, because I seem … the word sweet was definitely used. As was approachable.
Please. I wanted my fist to approach his face. The content of my argument was rock-solid (as are my knuckles, which is why my brother called me Li’l Fists Of Fury when we were kids), and if I were to win (which I did, in the class final) it was because I was good, not because I won the jury’s sympathies by looking like a Dickensian beggar child.
Like the homeless nemeses, I like to think the miniature law bro was sent to teach me a lesson – perhaps a plant from a coalition of small lawyers, preparing me for my career as a below-average-sized attorney.
The Suburban Moms That I DID Give Diet Coke To When I Worked At A Movie Theater In High School
Bitch, it WAS Diet. Now enjoy Freaky Friday with your daughter.