Wednesday 6 February 2013

Three Life Lessons on General Assholery

Something like this from
As most of you have gathered by now, I am wise far beyond my years.  And since my eminent wisdom appears to be wasted on my kids, I feel it is my duty to at least share with someone (that would be you guys) the three most important life lessons I have learned so far.

For me, living by these lessons has been the most conducive to my personal happiness in general and if everyone followed them the world would be a much better place.  This shit is so good that someday I'm going to cross-stitch up some old-timey samplers of them and display them on my living room wall.

And it's all about assholes.

Life Lesson #1: Nobody wants to be the asshole.

This lesson I was lucky enough to learn first.  Most people don't come to learn this truth until well into adulthood, whereas I was lucky enough to grow up with a World Class Asshole for a step-father.  And when I say "World Class Asshole" I need you to understand that this is not an exaggeration for comedic purposes.  If anything it is a breath-taking understatement.  His assholery was on a scale of such epic proportions it had the power to violently thrust into the mind of anyone in close contact with him the question, "Dear GOD!  Why is this man SUCH an asshole?"

The worst part of it was the constant and never-ending stream of lies he would tell with such skill and conviction he could make you question your ability to perceive reality.  Over the years I have encountered many liars but none could ever surpass the truth-bending abilities of that asshole.  Being a precocious youngster I began to make a sort of observational study of his behaviour.

What I learned (aside from how to be a human lie-detector) was that he was lying so much because he was such an asshole.  His extreme-assholery was in direct contradiction with his self-image as The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.  That level of cognitive dissonance forced him to make a difficult choice: he could either accept the fact he was acting like an asshole and deal with the discomfort by, you know, not being an asshole or he could rewrite his whole reality so that everyone else is the asshole.  

And this has been basically true of every asshole I ever met since.  The reason they are such assholes is because they have convinced themselves that they aren't assholes, thereby condemning themselves to assholery forever.  (Shudder).  And when I learned this I saw how easy it could be to fall into that trap because in life nobody wants to be the asshole.  Everyone wants to be the President.  Admitting you're the asshole hurts and changing your behaviour is hard.  This realization inevitably led to the next:

Life Lesson # 2: So try not to be an asshole, okay?

Taking Life Lesson #1 to heart, I resolved to try to be as self-honest as I could.  This is not easy for the young and immature, as I most certainly was, but I like to think I was slightly less of an asshole than your average 18 year old.  Unfortunately I wasn't so skilled at the lie-detecting yet to be immune to the assholes in life.  Between the ages of 18 and 24 I was generally plagued and harassed by assholes, as the world seems to be filled with them.

It was incredibly unpleasant.  

Like most young people I wanted to make an impact on the world and maybe leave it a better place than I found it for future generations.  By my thinking I figured that if everyone could just stop being assholes for like five minutes we'd all hold hands and sing Kumbaya.  The problem with this is, how do you get them to do it?  And the obvious answer is, you can't.  The best you can do is to try not to be an asshole yourself, so basically there's no hope.

When I became a Mom I found out I could do a little better.  I just had to make sure my kids didn't turn into assholes.  This wasn't so much about making the world a better place as it was about not making it any worse.  Also, I wanted to ensure their happiness in life.  Actively curbing my own assholery was making my life pretty good.  It wasn't perfect but it really simplified things.  I know of very few happy assholes.  My entire parenting philosophy; be kind, be honest, be responsible, pretty much boils down to this Life Lesson.

Once I had #'s 1 and 2 down, I thought I had it all figured out.  And then came Life Lesson #3.

Life Lesson #3:  Always remember that on some level we are all assholes.

It was during one of those downswings marriages typically go through every now and then.  My husband and I weren't fighting but we weren't really talking or spending any time in the same room together or any of the other things people normally do in relationships.  It had gone on for months with me quietly seething, waiting for him to pay some attention to me already.

I felt like I was always putting way more effort into our marriage than he did and I read that to mean he didn't really give a shit.  When I finally blew up at him asking, "Can you honestly say you're really happy with the way things have been lately?!?", he shocked me by saying, "Yes!  I thought everything was fine!  Aside from being broke all the time, I thought we were perfect!"

This blew my mind.  At first I was angry because, how could he be that clueless?  But then I thought about it and realized that I was unhappy with him a lot, but whenever I asked him if anything I did bothered him he always said no.  He almost never complains.  Throughout our relationship all he has ever really wanted was to be told how to make me happy and to his credit any time I asked him to do anything for me, he did it.  I don't think he really thought things were "perfect".  It felt like he was saying "I totally accept you exactly the way you are."

The fact is, my husband really is that clueless.  And getting angry at him for months because he didn't know I expected him to be something he isn't was not showing the same level of acceptance that he showed me.  I could have been an adult and taken responsibility for my own happiness by making a fair communication about it to my partner but instead I pouted like a child and blamed him for it.

I was being an asshole.

In that moment I felt unworthy of that man.  Maybe he doesn't think to do the kinds of things I want him to but sometimes he does things that I don't expect and those things are better because they were unexpected.  And just because I'm super-attentive to his needs and an all around awesome wife doesn't mean I am above acting like an asshole.  If I had already learned that lesson I could have saved myself months of unhappiness because if I wanted him to make me happy, all I had to do was ask.

So take it from this asshole, these are great lessons to live by.  They won't make your life perfect but in this asshole-filled world that was probably never going to happen anyway.


  1. Been here, done this. Sometimes it's a real eye-opener seeing someone else's perspective of the same thing. We're all assholes. Trust me.

  2. Such a good point, "I know of very few happy assholes." So true. And that right there is a great reason not to be one.