Stories I’d rather not hear

He was a middle aged man I talked to occasionally when I saw him here or there, but we didn’t have a social relationship. I had on several occasions listened to his stories.He was very smart and a bit eccentric. This one day I ran into him and he started telling me about visiting a woman friend and her 18 year old daughter. Then he told me about how the young woman had taken something of his and he had wanted it back. So he said, he had to “beat her up a little bit” to get it. I assumed he was just joking, using a turn of phrase to illustrate a story. I didn’t react. But then he made a point to repeat it, to say just that phrase again, that he’d had to “beat her up a little bit.” Now I was listening differently. I could tell he wanted a reaction from me – hence the repetition – and that he was kind of pleased with himself.

I was appalled. I suddenly had a visual of this solidly built man strong-arming a young woman. Frightening her, maybe even hurting her. The scene went from inconsequential to alarming in my mind’s eye. I’d never challenged him before, not seriously, but this couldn’t pass. “If you put your hands on an 18-year old girl for any reason that is a reflection on you,” I said levelly. He immediately became defensive. Clearly, my reaction was unexpected. He became agitated, raising his voice, insisting to me he wasn’t going to let someone take something of his.  I know an argumentative tactic when I hear one. I’ve been listening to men say things like this all my life; the what-else-could-I-do excuse. As now, they get mad at you for pointing out they did wrong.

I was uncomfortable but kept my voice the same and repeated exactly what I’d already said. Instead of backing down, he clung to his position. I knew far better than to say things like “You could have called the police” or “You could have taken her to Small Claims Court.” People in this mode aren’t interested in solutions. They feel called out, embarrassed possibly, especially because a story meant to amuse you, their listener, or to at least get a positive response, has backfired.

Once someone starts raising their voice (to me), they are not listening. Moreover, once someone starts raising their voice to me, my time with them is over. I moved along that day and haven’t stopped to talk with him since. He revealed something about himself to me in that conversation that I wanted no part of. Putting his hands on the young woman was bad enough but repeating it to another woman he ostensibly liked – assuming I’d see his point or take his side – compounded it. He had an opportunity to reconsider when I challenged him, but instead he chose to defend his position and in doing, alienated me.

 

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25 thoughts on “Stories I’d rather not hear

  1. Ron Walker

    You were right in moving away, distancing your self from him. That statement he was so proud of, reveals darker parts of his psyche. The same as men that like to abuse animals after they are grown.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Quite right. It did tell me something. He wasn’t even ashamed which was so bothersome. (Minimally) show me a man who, if he’s doing wrong, or has a bad temper, knows it and is taking steps to remedy it.

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  2. M. Oniker

    While they are stories you’d rather not hear, I suspect that you might share my feeling that, in one way, you’re kind of glad he shared. Nothing like people outing themselves for their true natures to allow you to distance yourself from the creeps. I have no idea how I would have reacted to him standing there, telling me with pride, that he roughed up a teenaged girl.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      M, I didn’t know how to react. I was so taken aback I winged it but felt good about what I said. Maybe he’d think about it later when he settled himself? The only thing is, yes, much as I’d rather know, I’m getting a little tired and weary of people’s true natures.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      It rings true doesn’t it? So you, the other person start raising your OWN voice to talk over them, or that’s how it typically would go. Then what you have are two loud people hollering and maybe catching every 10th word. (And thank you.)

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  3. edgar62

    I am so very surprised at you – not being in awe in the presence of such a big, brave hero, who beat up on a little girl… I would have said “Why didn’t you involve the police?” and irrespective of his answer my time with him would be over too.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Edgar, you gave me a laugh! I knew better than to offer possible alternative strategies because it was clear he thought he’d “handled” it. He was surprised and mad I didn’t see it that way.

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  4. Ally Bean

    I wonder if this guy knew that he’d alienate you with this story, so he told it to you so you’d go away. Kind of a passive aggressive way of handling a relationship he didn’t know how deal with. With you gone, he no longer has to deal with any guilt. It’s a win-win for him.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      No, he sought out conversation with me. I’d previously listened to unusual stories without offering strong judgment. He didn’t know me or my values very well so he wasn’t considering his audience. I believe he was genuinely surprised I took issue with this story and by definition, him.

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