Am I a jerk?
December 27, 2011 11:08 PM   Subscribe

Am I a jerk? If so, how do I stop being one?

No, seriously. Let me explain:

Tonight my wife and I took our 15 month old daughter to the zoo (it was open late for holiday festivities) and in the bear area was a little window to see a couple of grizzly bears hibernating. Crowded around this window were about 30 or so people all trying to get to the front to see.

My wife and I waited our turn to make it to the front (and the bears were pretty adorable) and when we got there a woman pushed her way through the crowd (and pushed my wife holding our daughter) to get to the front. There were a few other crowd members giving this woman angry looks. Annoyed, I pushed myself back in front of this woman. She said, "Hey!" to which I replied, "You pushed my wife and daughter to get up here." She exclaimed, "I did not push you!" I replied, "Yes, you did." This went back and forth a couple of times until a friend dragged the woman away, yelling.

Later, I saw the woman and her friend in the gift shop. I probably shouldn't have said anything but I was still a bit bothered by the encounter and so I said, "You know, you can't just do stuff like that. You did push my wife who was holding a baby." This devolved into "I did not!" and "Yes, you did." My wife actually backed me up here a little bit with, "Actually, yes, you pushed me and my daughter." Again, more back and forth. Agitated, I then said, "Listen bitch, you pushed a baby to look at a bear." This is generally where I lost support from my wife for calling the woman a bitch.

Later, in the car, my wife and I got into an argument over whether or not what I did/said was appropriate and if thats how we "really want to raise our daughter." I maintained that I was standing up for my family and I felt the woman's actions made her a bitch, so it wasn't a problem that I called her one. I don't really want to write our more he said/she said so I'll cut to the chase:

Was I the jerk in this situation? I feel as though I was standing up for my family. I'll admit I probably should have let it go before the encounter in the gift shop, but I just really didn't want that woman to get away with it. There are two more encounters I'll outline below where, similarly, I got upset, couldn't let it go and didn't want the person to 'get away with it' but ultimately my wife (being pretty non-confrontational) ends up more upset with me than with the other party.

My wife ended up going to bed without talking to me, which drives me crazy (she knows this) as I would prefer to work/talk everything out. So I've just been screwing around on the internet all night replaying tonights events in my head over and over which led me to you guys.

Anyway, in all honesty am I really an ill-tempered jerk and if so, what do I do about it?

I'm really not looking for ammunition for my side of this argument or justifications of my actions—just a little third party analysis.

- - - - - - - - - -

~ 9-12 months ago: there was an incident in a Whole Foods parking lot where a large SUV cut me off while obtaining a parking spot. Coincidentally, this spot was one of their "Fuel-Efficient Vehicle" parking spots and we have a fuel-efficient car. Annoyed, I confronted the man as we entered the store, asking him what kind of fuel economy he got and called him an asshole. (I'll admit I'm really ashamed of this one. I wasn't standing up for anyone here and it was just a parking space.)

~ 2-3 years ago: my wife was having some blood-work done. She had requested I be in the room with her and the nurse told her I could not as they were going to have a student perform the blood draw and there wouldn't be enough room for me. This freaked my wife out, (she's had some bad blood drawing experiences in the past) so I went and spoke to the nurse. She ended up being very unsympathetic towards my wife's anxiety and so I asked to speak with her supervisor. My wife was requesting I be in the room with her and that the draw be performed by someone with experience and the supervisor wouldn't budge. Frustrated with my wife crying I exclaimed, "This is bullshit!" and again, because I used a bad word, I instantly became the bad guy. My wife wanted me to just drop the whole thing at this point and I became a little frustrated with her because I didn't want her to let other people walk all over her.
posted by joshwebb to Human Relations (85 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The first two sound like you're being a little over-the-top to me and overly confrontational, and the third one sounds okay. What are you accomplishing by taking an incident this far? I think it's fine to ask someone not to push in front of you or call them out on using the wrong parking space, but calling them names is going a little far. If I were the "perpetrator" in these situations I would think you were a little out of line!
posted by queens86 at 11:12 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

imo, its all about the language and the doubling-back to make your point which move you from being "opinionated" or "careful" to being a jerk. you can be firm and hold your ground w/o cursing at someone... both of those behaviors in tandem seem kind of like "jerk" behavior to me.

big ups on holding your ground for your family, though.
posted by raihan_ at 11:17 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Speaking from experience, you're not an asshole. However, you have anger management and impulse control issues. It's probably a good idea to get some help.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:20 PM on December 27, 2011 [13 favorites]

"Listen bitch, you pushed a baby to look at a bear."

Your wife should have high-fived you, not given you the cold shoulder.
posted by hamsterdam at 11:21 PM on December 27, 2011 [38 favorites]

Agitated, I then said, "Listen bitch, you pushed a baby to look at a bear."

You probably shouldn't have started up again in the gift shop, and you definitely should never have said the above-quoted line. In fact, I'm having real trouble imagining a context in which "listen, bitch" is an even remotely permissible sentence opener.

I totally agree with your wife's sentiments that your outbursts -- at the zoo? at the hospital? at Whole Foods -- set a terrible example and tone for children, but even worse (in my view) they are profoundly embarrassing to your loved ones who stand by while you act like a complete damned fool. Protecting your family NEVER involves mortifying them and making them wish they could crawl under a rock. You come across as a hot-tempered fool with these outbursts, and you are less of a protection and more of a liability when you can't be trusted to keep your cool. You're not being the "rock" of solidity your family needs. You're embarrassing them and being needlessly belligerent.
posted by jayder at 11:23 PM on December 27, 2011 [68 favorites]

Lashing out, calling people 'assholes', and declaring situations in which you haven't got your way 'bullshit' are all great ways to lose sympathy, and to ensure that the situation will not be resolved in your favour.

You have certainly acted like a jerk. This does not mean you are a jerk.
posted by pompomtom at 11:24 PM on December 27, 2011 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Whether you're a jerk or not is beside the point. The question is, what were you hoping to accomplish? The SUV driver wasn't going to move his car. Pushy lady wasn't going to admit she was wrong.

Standing up for your family is important, but man, my dad was the king of this sort of behavior and by the time I was a teenager I was chomping at the bit to get the fuck of out of his orbit. It was a big part of the reason I ended up going to boarding school. So I guess I'd urge you to pick your fights wisely.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [19 favorites]

Best answer: There's assertive, and then there's aggressive (or, as you imply, "being a jerk").
Standing up for your wife, your daughter, or yourself is assertive.

Calling names is generally perceived as aggressive and crossing a line (I personally think it's going too far, yes). Confronting someone again when they haven't provoked you a second time is aggressive (you get one confrontation per provocation, pretty much, you should drop it after that - pursuing someone is pushy and creepy). For many people, cursing (in anger/frustration) is crossing a line as well; obviously your wife thinks so.

What should you do about it? Well, if you know you have this tendency, then you should try to stop yourself before you cross those lines. I remind myself (and my husband when he is defending me or the kids) - "what result do you want here? do you want them to listen to you? do you want them to see your point of view? do you want them to be sorry?" Then your words, voice, and actions should be in line with your goal. For example, people are more likely to listen to you make your point if you aren't cursing; once you do, they'll tend to write you off as overly angry, out of line, and therefore they can ignore you. If you want someone to be sorry, then don't give them the moral high ground by calling them names - they won't be sorry, they'll feel vindicated in their bad behavior because you're so obviously out of line and nasty.

It's easier for people to justify their bad behavior towards you if you're behaving badly - don't give them that opportunity.
posted by flex at 11:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [20 favorites]

One more thing. When you start using profanity, I think you dramatically decrease the likelihood of getting what you want. It's the resort of an ineffectual person to start cursing. You are immediately pegged as a hothead and irrational, a problem person, when you exclaim "this is bullshit." In the hospital scenario, it would have gone so much better if you had used firm, insistent, but respectful language. It seems like you took a bad situation and made it worse.
posted by jayder at 11:28 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

"Standing up for your family"? You have no clue who these people you're confronting are.

I saw a big guy, about 6'3", 220 pounds, get laid out flat by a 150 pound guy because the big guy "stood up for hs girlfriend" by confronting the little guy for carelessly banging into her and knocking her down on the sidewalk. You've no clue who you're dealing with in public, and thinking you're hard or tough likely will not end well for you. There is always someone stronger or more violent than you.
posted by dfriedman at 11:28 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry, but this made me laugh: "Listen bitch, you pushed a baby to look at a bear."

As for your question, I recognize your personality type. You are probably a slightly tense individual and it comes out sideways, maybe when you're a little tired, and then you just overdo it.

I think for your own sake you need to learn to broach these situations differently. This means you should work on keeping your voice calm, your tone even, and smile even if you don't mean it.

Then if you think you have a case worth pushing (the bloodwork and the bear, okay; anything related to driving and parking should always be let go, or you'll become an ulcer-ridden driver), concentrate of suave assertion, not angry aggression. This will not only garner more respect from your wife, but it'll keep you happier, too. (Think how old those other two incidents are, yet you're still thinking about them!)

As for those you're trying to convince, it might be a more persuasive tack. Using a tone of voice, and approach that indicates you're ready to escalate at any time only puts people on the defensive, which is to say on the offense--even if you know they're wrong, and they know they're wrong. Conversely, treating people as people, as though they're reasonable even when they're not sometimes reaps rewards with respect in kind, which means the odds are greater of you getting your way.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:29 PM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

concentrate on
posted by Violet Blue at 11:30 PM on December 27, 2011

I think curbing the profanity will go a long way toward toning down any jerk vibe in your scenarios. Added plus, your daughter is about at the age where echoing your potty mouth is going to seem like a highly entertaining way to get attention. I wouldn't stop sticking up for your wife and child, though. Just do it in a way that you all can be proud of.
posted by cecic at 11:32 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

My SO and I have the same dynamic, with my (male) partner often playing your role and me (female) playing your wife's role. My partner is quicker to stand up for himself, and much more likely to be verbally aggressive; I tend to be more likely to be a pushover and trend toward even-keeled interactions. There are some benefits to this arrangement. He helps me stand up for my needs, and I help him chill out when he's over-reacting. However, we both acknowledge that this very dynamic is the single biggest challenge in our relationship.

So, as the wife in this role, I'll say it: Yeah, I think you were acting like a jerk. You went out of your way to call a stranger a bitch, in an area surrounded with families, in front of your child, after the stranger minorly inconvenienced you. (Your initial interactions with her sounded fine; I'm glad your wife and baby were OK.) It is really not acceptable to resort to censor-level name-calling over something that is of this significance.

To me, it sounds like you were overly aggressive, potentially creating fear in your daughter or wife. For myself and a lot of people, when confrontation and fighting words come out, we halfway fear that actual fighting might follow-- it's a terrible association and probably unlikely, but my gut instinct is to get away from the potential violence. Even worse, since your reaction was out of line with what your wife expected from you, it could be doubly-jarring to her... it's an initiation of violence from someone who is supposed to keep her safe.

Your wife loves you, but more than anything, I bet she was just embarrassed at the social faux pas and freaked out to be reminded that you are OK with initiating confrontations around her & kid. She has to accept that this is part of how your brain works, but you've got to put yourself in her shoes too.
posted by samthemander at 11:41 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Why does it matter what a bunch of internet strangers think as compared to your wife (and your child in the future)?
posted by andoatnp at 11:44 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Well, acting like a jerk 3 times in 3 years is not a terrible track record, but yes, the first two examples are both jerky and probably embarassing for your loved ones. (#3 is extreme bullshit and how is that even legal? But using the word bullshit upset your wife and didn't help your argument.)

I guess I don't see it as productive to "stand up" for your family unless there's a possible positive outcome. Saying something to the bear bitch was appropriate at the moment it occurred, but carrying it on later takes it from a momentary annoyance to a trip-ruining incident and you are the one who took it there, not her. What were you hoping to get from her and how would it have improved your outing? I can't think of a useful answer to either question.

Incidentally (and I say this as an inveterate talker-outer), your need to talk it out with your wife seems of a piece with your inability to let assholes pass unconfronted. You cannot TALK the world into being the world you want it to be -- and if it's your verbal aggression your wife is upset about, I can understand her desire NOT to verbally engage you tonight, though as a general thing I'm of your mindset and prefer to talk things out. Especially if you carry some verbal aggression into talking things out, which I bet you do, even though I'm sure it's not jerk-level with your wife. But it may be more pushy than she can deal with when already upset.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:47 PM on December 27, 2011 [13 favorites]

I don't think you're a jerk, but I do think you have a temper problem. The reason your wife is getting mad at you instead of (the more nebulous) Them is because you're scaring her. When you fly off the handle like that, you're not "protecting your family", you are, in fact, doing the exact opposite because by escalating these minor incidents, you're exposing you and your family to a possibly violent reaction from the person(s) you're trying to school. Don't do that.

You have no idea what people are capable of. What if the woman at the zoo had been mentally disturbed and perceived your re-igniting the argument as an act of aggression? What if she pulled a knife on you or your family? What if the hospital staff called security on you and they hauled your butt off to jail for disorderly conduct? What if parking lot guy waited for you with a pack of friends and jumped you after you left the store? You didn't know what could've happened during any of those incidents and your inability to control your temper when your adrenaline kicks in is worrying your wife, and it should be worrying you too.

Get some help for your anger management issues and learn how to control these petty situations in a more effective manner ... or just let them go. It's not your job to teach the world how to behave.

(And for the record, I would've been annoyed at each of those incidents as well, but considering nobody was physically hurt, your reactions were somewhat extreme.)
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:58 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Someone gave me excellent advice once. If you're in the right, don't become the new bad guy.
posted by The Deej at 12:01 AM on December 28, 2011 [53 favorites]

Best answer: My dad used to occasionally run to the end of the driveway and yell "Fuck you!" at people who were break-the-law speeding past our house when we were kids playing in the front yard. Right impulse, wrong action. I think I know a little where you are coming from.

In my mind you were acting scary and maybe a little bit of a jerk More to the point, you were in a situation where you were (to my read) correct and then fucked it all up by losing your cool and/or having last-wordism problems. No big deal, we've all been there, but if it's causing trouble with your wife [and really, you'd rather be snuggling with her than listening to me] then you need to figure out how to turn these situations into Team Us and less into putting yourself into scoring position for Team Me. Put another way, you seem to have these papa bear tendencies where you want to stick up for your wife. That is not bad. However, you are doing it in ways that make her upset, and sometimes in situations where the whole thing has blown over (gift shop) and/or where your wife is already upset (hospital).

So, I get that it's totally frustrating because you feel like you're helping your wife and she, in response gets mad at you. That said, helping people sometimes helping them be the sort of person they are, not the sort of person they'd be if they were you. This is a problem of perspective. Additionally, there are many people--and it seems like your wife is one--who automatically feel that things have gone too far when people are yelling and/or swearing. You know this. So, now that you know this you need to be able to act like your concern for and understanding of your wife's perspective is something that you have access to, even when you are annoyed. Otherwise, you have a temper problem.

You do not have this problem if you get mad in your mind but then don't track people down in the gift shop to argue with them. You do not have a temper problem if you have reasonable conversations with people and/or stand your ground. You seem to need to find a way to recalibrate your anger-meter to be more in line with your life partner's. Sometimes this is as easy as having some sort of sekrit word that she says when she senses your Going Jerk on someone and you stop because you trust her and know it's something you're trying to work on. If you make this agreement and then you DON'T stop then you really have a problem. So you need to maybe set up some ground rules and find way sot work within them. This sort of thing doesn't have to start at dealbreaker-level [i.e. "You call someone else a bitch one more time and I'm walking"] but at some sort of "This is a thing you should try not to do anymore and if you're still doing it despite trying not to, you have some sort of problem" level.

Use lower volumes. Don't let stuff escalate. Determine where you're going to draw the line ahead of time, and think of some sort of karmic payback [or whatever jibes with your belief system] is going to befall people who are lousy. Being a lousy person is its own punishment at some level, and you should be determined not to get stuck being one. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 12:09 AM on December 28, 2011 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks guys, this all helps.
posted by joshwebb at 12:18 AM on December 28, 2011

I think flex has it with the assertive vs. aggressive comment. Your initial response is to protect your family, however once the area is cleared, it should stop there. These people are not going to change their behaviour even if you confront them in the gift shop afterwards.
Try and focus on dropping the swearing, which invalidates your correct concern, then moving your family out of the zone of conflict. Your first duty is to them and escalating the conflict doesn't do them any favours.
I recognize this tendency in myself as I'll keep beating that nail on the head until it's damn well flat (inherited from my father), but my wife as successfully taken the edges off me so it rarely happens anymore.
posted by arcticseal at 12:20 AM on December 28, 2011

I also think you need to get really clear on what situations set you off and why. You say you don't want them to "get away with it," but unless you try to foil unsolved crimes, it seems more about protecting your family adequately, or not feeling something was taken away that you'd been waiting for. Being able to spot a situation before it occurs will help you correct course before you get angry.

Being angry feels powerful, but it doesn't come off as powerful. Powerful people remain in control. Losing control is what powerless people do because they don't have other options.
posted by salvia at 12:28 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Was I the jerk in this situation? I feel as though I was standing up for my family. I'll admit I probably should have let it go before the encounter in the gift shop, but I just really didn't want that woman to get away with it. There are two more encounters I'll outline below where, similarly, I got upset, couldn't let it go and didn't want the person to 'get away with it' but ultimately my wife (being pretty non-confrontational) ends up more upset with me than with the other party.

Ignoring your second example, since you admit that it was over-the-top, you're taking minor conflicts centering on your wife and making them about you. What on earth are you trying to prove, and to whom? And oof, "getting away with it?" It doesn't benefit your family for you to go out of your way to continue arguing these points.

/tough love perspective
posted by desuetude at 12:35 AM on December 28, 2011

To comment on your 3rd point with getting the blood drawn. I myself was a student who drew blood. We always let the person know that I was a student. I did a very good job, but it was always and I mean always up to the patient to whether I was allowed to draw their blood. There are many people who freaked out about getting their blood drawn in the first place, let along the nervousness of knowing it is a student. So I think this was perfectly acceptable to have gone to the supervisor to ask about this. I am absolutely amazed that they would not let you be near her and that you had no options.

You might just get out of line when you start swearing. You need to be firm but polite and understand that sometimes making a big deal might embarrass your wife more than it helped her. Also, I think when it comes to customer service, people will respond better to nice people. I always wanted to go out of my way for nice people when dealing with them.
posted by Jaelma24 at 12:46 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Eh, I don't think you're so much a jerk as not particularly skilled at engaging others in confrontational situations or conflict. By that I mean, your one and only strategy is escalation. There are times for that, but it sounds like you aren't aware of other tactics: silence, using the crowd/public scrutiny for leverage, disengagement, guilt, clear statement of preferred outcome, communicating to understand the other person's logic, which you can use against them, deescalation, calling in higher authority, etc., along with visualization of an initial funny outcome internally to defuse how you respond externally, compassion, breathing exercises, etc., etc.

Without those skills - based on at minimum a healthy dose of strategy, and self discipline and control to keep your head during conflict - people sort of manifest behavior that's unpleasant at best, dangerous at worst. People escalate, forgetting any strategic approach to get to their goal. Sort of a, "Hulk MAD, Hulk SMASH!" situation. And then everybody thinks you're the asshole; a big, green, slightly confused looking asshoe wearing nothing but ripped jeans, breathing hard and wiping away spittle, wondering how you got there. It also means you are vulnerable....if other people can throw you off your game just by antagonizing you, then all sorts of people can let themselves off the hook by making you mad and then refocusing the attention not on their behavior, but on your unskillful response. That's not good.

I don't know if this means you go to anger management class as you teach yourself skills to manage confrontation better. There are a number of good resources, you just have to find those that work for you. There are books like crucial confrontations, getting past no, getting to yes, how to deal with difficult people, etc. Just hit your local library or go online and google til you find something that resonates with you.

In short, it sounds like it would help if you knew more than the false dichotomy of Escalate vs. Letting people walk all over you. There are a whole lotta skillful approaches stuffed between those two extremes. You just probably never learned them, it's not like they teaching this in school, though they should. But you can learn to be more skillful, and it's worth taking a few months to find some good resources, and try to do so. Because when you are the guy who keeps his cool and skillfully negotiates to a preferred outcome or calmly eviscerates an opponent's argument without raising your voice or using swear words, it's a thing of power.
And beauty. If you've ever seen someone do it well, it is like witnessing a Jedi mind trick of Yoda like proportions. It's pretty awesome, and I understand it feels pretty good as well. I'm pretty sure in reduces the possibility of your wife going to bed mad at you.
posted by anitanita at 12:46 AM on December 28, 2011 [30 favorites]

I get the sense that these things aren't so much about your family's wants and desires as your desire to be seen as a guy that stands up for his family even when his family (or your wife) doesn't want that guy showing up to yell and swear and make even more of a scene.

Focus on your family's needs and wants rather than your own. Your wife just wants the situation to be over and done with. Give her what she wants, unless it's a truly dire situation that merits the whole papa bear treatment, then go hog wild. Save the freakouts for the situations that deserve it (and since you're asking us, I suspect you know deep down you overreacted a little), not the minor wrongs of the world, and you will be happier and less-stressed.

Secondly, you seem to think there are Rules and when other people don't play by them, they should acknowledge they broke The Rules and apologize accordingly. I think you'll find most people don't hew to any particular set of rules. Frankly, if I did something and we yelled at each other, then you came storming up to me for another round, I wouldn't be admitting I did something wrong, I would be thinking "Oh great here comes that crazy asshole again" even if I knew I did something wrong.

Getting loud and angry doesn't make people go "Here is someone not to be trifled with," it makes them go "Christ, what an asshole."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:16 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are not a jerk.

People like those you described in the first two situations get by because no one is willing to publicly call them on their behavior. If more people reacted like you did to that type of behavior there would be less of it.

The final incident is completely different from the prior two. The fact that the people working there seemed to be unsympathetic to your wife's anxiety and the request that you be present sounds like modern medical care to me. Unless they seemed completely incompetent, keeping calm for her sake would seem to be the best thing.
posted by pianomover at 1:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recognize that you care, but I think your actions are making things worse.

My mom acted a little bit like that when I was a kid- there were two incidences I remember quite clearly because she reamed strangers out in public in what I see now was an attempt to protect me, but at the time was just completely humiliating and pretty scary. Also, unneccesary. Of course it's good to stand up for your family, but calling out the woman for a second time in the gift shop was definitely not the way to do it- you were encouraging an argument which could actually have put your family in more danger. And when your kid gets older he/she will feel embarrassed and scared by these scenes.

Also, to be honest, the woman at the zoo may not even have realized she bumped into your wife. Which is not to say she's not at fault, but just that there is no point at all in arguing with her. When there are big crowds people get bumped into.

So- good for you for caring. You sound like a lively and funny person too. But try to tone it down and if possible get some help for managing your temper. Good luck!
posted by bearette at 1:41 AM on December 28, 2011

i think you feel like you're trying to help your wife have more backbone/not get walked over, but really, you're probably making her more timid in confrontations. now, instead of just worrying about setting a stranger off, she has to worry about your anger too. if your goal is to stand up for your family/wife, you should listen to what they're telling you about how to do that.
posted by nadawi at 1:48 AM on December 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

Was I the jerk in this situation? I feel as though I was standing up for my family... but ultimately my wife (being pretty non-confrontational) ends up more upset with me than with the other party.

What I think you're not realizing in these situations is that you are putting your family in MORE danger with these confrontations with strangers. Realize that. By escalating situations with strangers and making them more confrontational, you are not protecting your family and making them more safe. YOU are making your family less safe. You are putting them into very serious danger.

I would dread going out with you all the time if I were your wife because I would never know when you were going to escalate a confrontation with the wrong person and we would both end up shot to death. I'm not joking at all.

So first, you need to stop endangering your family over petty bullshit like a parking space and arguing with some rude woman who wanted to look at a bear. *IF* you ever do find yourself in a situation that is not petty, one where you have to truly protect your family, then you need to USE JUDGEMENT about the right tool in that situation. And the right tool is not always a loud confrontation. Sometimes is is, but sometimes the right tool is calmly talking it out, and sometimes the right tool is just running away. You default to loud confrontation and you really need to develop much better judgment there.

Aside from the whole danger issue, you are embarrassing your wife because
1) Again, you do this in petty situations, so you come off as super petty.
2) You use profanity, and that just makes you look really low-class and trashy, and makes her feel like others see her as low-class and trashy by extension.
3) You're screaming profanity at a zoo in front of a bunch of families and children, which addition to being trashy, is incredibly self-centered and inconsiderate. And so your wife looks/feels self-centered and inconsiderate by extension. Even when you're not screaming profanities, when you do this in a place (like Whole Foods) where there are innocent bystanders around you probably make them really uncomfortable. Which again, goes back to self-centered/inconsiderate. Having loud arguments in public, in MOST cases, is seen as trashy/self-centered/inconsiderate.

I'm really not trying to hurt your feelings, joshwebb, so I'm honestly very sorry if this comes off as mean, I'm just trying to tell you the truth about how this comes off to people.

If you really were dying to say something to the woman in the zoo and couldn't resist, you should have said your piece in a brief, level-headed, calm, rational, and adult way. And walked away. You could have said, "That was terrible of you to shove my wife and baby out of the way to look at the bear. Shame on you." And walked away. And your wife probably would not have been as pissed off.

Okay and the situation with the blood work. The profanity thing applies here too. There's also this: it seems like you don't realize that if you piss people off, they will be a lot less likely to help you, and in fact may even turn on you and be worse to you than they otherwise would have been.

Your wife was stuck in a situation where she already had super high anxiety and was at the whim of these people, and now you are making it worse by getting these people pissed at you and by extension her. So now they are even less likely to be helpful to her. Rather than protecting her you made the situation WORSE for her.

If you are at someone's whim it is a really bad idea to piss them off unless you know for a fact that you can turn the tables on them and force them to comply with what you want. And that was not at all the case for you here. In this situation it would have been much, much, MUCH more effective for you to get your way by using charm. If you couldn't muster that, then at least if you had tried to do what you could *politely,* your involvement would at least be a neutral instead of a detriment.
posted by cairdeas at 2:17 AM on December 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

Just wanted to add though that I don't think you're a jerk, and I think your intentions are good. I didn't see anitanita's excellent answer before I posted, but I completely agree with her suggestion that maybe a good solution here would be for you to put some real study into confrontation management skills. It actually seems to me that you would find it really interesting to learn new ideas for how to handle these situations more effectively.
posted by cairdeas at 2:35 AM on December 28, 2011

Look at it this way..

If you think you're in the right, you're not going to convince anyone of that by insulting and swearing. Insults and swearing come off as immature/unbecoming.

You call someone an asshole, you become an asshole.

You call someone a bitch and suddenly you're the one being bitchy.
posted by royalsong at 2:56 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

As someone who worked in pathology for quite a few years through uni, and who...if I may be so bold was one of the very, very best... having a "support" person in the room is very off putting to the person trying to find the vein and in those tiny rooms is certain to make the person miss. It is always in the best interest of the patient, unless they are a child, to not fluster the person who is about to stick a needle in to a, probably invisible, vein in their arm, hand, foot or scalp. So while you think you were standing up for were upsetting the needle lady. And if you ever go back, they will remember you and send in the weakest and gentlest staff member, not the best possible nurse.
posted by taff at 3:14 AM on December 28, 2011

I used to have a bullshit, awful job in franchise credit control. I had to almost always say no to giving people money, and each time I did it would cost them. I had targets to meet, and the single most effective way to hit them was to get the person on the other end of the phone to swear. In all other circumstances I had to provide explanations and options, but as soon as someone said "bullshit" I was in the clear to put the phone down. I got so good at it I could tell from the way they said hello how long it would take.

I don't know if you're a jerk. But in some cases, you're definitely a mark.
posted by cromagnon at 3:59 AM on December 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

I would be so utterly unimpressed if my partrner pulled these stunts and expected applause for it. Apart from the blood draw, none of these are remotely important. Certainly not important enough to provoke strangers, to follow them or accost them afterwards. It not only escalates the danger, it paints a really unfriendly picture of your ability to prioritise. And is deathly embarrassing.

Focus on what is important and focus on the result you want. And the thing with what you teach your kids with your behaviour? It isn't always what you expect. In this case you are teaching your daughter that loved ones are alowed to scare you, yell at strangers and pick fights over trivial things. She isn't going to parse any of those interactions as protection, she is just going to see the escalation.

If I need to be assertive with someone (work mostly, since I work with the public) I do two things: I try to channel my inner English gentlewoman or bogan, depending on context; and I condense what I want down to one sentence and use that as my lead (rarely as a question though). Saering, yelling or trying to make someone 'learn' or 'admit' is uselss in the short term. In the long term a fight is even less useful because instead of anything constructive, they've got a story about that psycho dude who followed them through the zoo.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:07 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you really want to piss off obnoxious ogres, be a responsible calm adult, don't play the same game of who can yell louder. The one time I've gotten into an argument with a service worker doing something unconscionable (preventing me from getting some time-dependent medicine), I apologized afterwards in a calm, adult manner. The result was her yelling "FUCK YOU! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?" etc. across a crowded store full of customers.

Your sense of personal pride can't override your duty to stay alive for your wife and kid. If somebody is a problem, call security or employees whose job it is to deal with them. You are going to meet the wrong person one day, who won't think twice about putting you on the floor while you are eagerly awaiting verbal sparring.
posted by benzenedream at 4:14 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

If my partner called a woman a bitch in front of our hypothetical future daughter I would lose my shit. I mean that. I think it's one of the worst possible behavioral models to present to a female child. "When dad is angry at women specifically he thinks they are bitches. Ergo, he occasionally must think mom and I are bitches too."

Bullshit. Your wife seems to be on the same page with this one. You escalated. That's not standing up for your family, that's standing up for your own ego. Using gendered slurs in the heat if the moment means you can't be trusted not to use gendered slurs around the house. It must have been humiliating for your wife, both the extended outburst and the language used. Learn from this. To protect your family you need to be collected, assertive, and calm in the face of anger. You're firing from the hip right now and, yes, that makes you a jerk in these specific situations.
posted by lydhre at 4:27 AM on December 28, 2011 [30 favorites]

Sometimes (examples #1 and #2) people are assholes. After you escalate, they become assholes who hate you and might have a personal vendetta against you and your family. This is, as others have already pointed out, not good for your family's safety. And it's embarrassing and uncomfortable for your wife.

> I'll admit I probably should have let it go before the encounter in the gift shop, but I just really didn't want that woman to get away with it.

She still got away with it. And she got away with ruining your zoo trip and making your wife angry too. Trust me, the confrontation in the gift shop was something that happens to her often, and she enjoys it on some level. You didn't ruin her day at all.

I'm not sure how you could have truly stopped her from getting away with it (Report her to zoo security? Videotape her being a jerk and post it on YouTube?) but you didn't have an opportunity to do that this time. So you pretty much have to let it go.

As for #3 I would have done exactly the same thing, in fact I would have left the hospital outright if that was an option. If she doesn't want a student to do it she shouldn't have to deal with that.

BUT your wife has a particular opinion about the swearing and the angry tone, even when you're completely in the right and on her side. So you need to learn how to have a confrontation without going to extremes.
posted by mmoncur at 4:27 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

P.S. No, you're not a jerk. If those are the only incidents where you got angry enough to swear at someone in the last three years, you've probably got most of us here beat.
posted by mmoncur at 4:29 AM on December 28, 2011

One of my bosses (an incredibly smart woman of whom I'm in awe) has a saying she uses with the people she advises, and it helps me when I want to get into this sort of thing,

"You can still be right even if you say nothing."

If saying something isn't meant to accomplish anything but making you feel better or getting out frustration on another or whatever, it's probably best to keep it to yourself.
posted by xingcat at 4:42 AM on December 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

I want to focus on a sub-part of the question you are asking. I read your description of the first encounter to say that your wife was particularly focused on the use of the word "bitch" to the woman who pushed you guys. It sounds to me like she was telling you that in her opinion using gendered insults like bitch are in the "never acceptable" category to her and that she finds their use offensive. This would lead to her becoming upset at your behavior and be in line with her concern that this is a problem in terms of how you would raise a daughter. If your wife believes that calling a woman a bitch is always unacceptable and your defense was that she was acting in a way that made it OK, you are in no win territory. To see it more clearly imagine you called her a cunt and apply your same defense (or imagine a racially based insult). I point this out because my wife would be of the opinion that calling a woman a bitch is always off-limits and I didn't start out sharing her view. I did, however, learn how she felt and because I respect her I also learned to avoid using the word. Its now in my mental database of hate words and I just don't use it. You need to have a calm conversation with your wife where you understand what exactly upset her and you react appropriately. You will find that understanding and being sympathetic will help you tremendously in similar disputes (note I didn't say that you have to change or give up your point of view, you just have to truly understand and be sympathetic to hers). If she is disturbed by your pattern of angry outbursts then the questions you are asking and the feedback you are getting here are what you should be focused on. If she is upset that you used a sexually loaded insult and you just told her she was wrong to be upset by that, you are solving the wrong problem and that will never end well.

I'll also say that once I figured out that the key in arguments with my wife was that I had to learn to stop trying to win the argument or convince her of the justifications for my behavior and make sure that I focused on understanding exactly why she was upset and how she felt and made sure that I communicated understanding/validation/sympathy for her upset, I never found myself in the position again where she went to bed angry and I felt thwarted in my efforts to talk things through. When your spouse makes the choice to go to bed angry rather than continue discussing the issue, that is usually a pretty good indicator that you could benefit from working on your argument conversational approach.

As far as my two cents on the bulk of your question, I think that if you are pushing situations so far that your efforts to support your wife end up making her upset or angry then you are making a tactical error. The fact that this encounter reminded you of the blood work one from several years ago suggests to me that you never really resolved that one because I find that an incident that you remember under stress like this is probably telling you something. My take on that one is that you two never completely understood how the other one felt. My guess would be that you felt like you were doing a good thing by defending your wife in a situation where she was upset and feeling frightened (which is in fact what you ought to be doing) and when she became angry with you that led to you feeling like she wasn't appreciating your efforts on her behalf. If you had been able to communicate effectively about that incident I'd bet the bank that she did (and does) in fact appreciate that you have her back in this sort of situation. Its harder to be sure why she was upset with you, but I'd be very surprised if exclaiming "This is bullshit" was the actual reason why she thinks you "became the bad guy."
posted by Lame_username at 5:13 AM on December 28, 2011

My mom was always in defense mode when we left the house. I have seen a couple hundred "battles" in which she swore and became vulgar in general.

We never felt defended or proud. We were always ALWAYS embarrassed and praying for her to shut up and move on. The offense was completely dwarfed by her swearing and her anger.

The horrible part is that now (I'm an adult) I have developed this horrible knack for saying the cruelest things to people when they don't act the way I want them to. So my brain didn't like the vulgarity, but the pattern stayed. I never swear, I never lose my cool, but I say the cruelest things you can think of. And I regret it for AGES afterwards.

I have been confronted by my mom (!) and my sister about this, and I am pretty sure it's the root for many social problems I have. Don't set that example for your daughter. Because if proving you're right or winning the fight was your main point (which is usually mine), once you win an argument by insulting you will feel like you lost all respect for yourself.
posted by Tarumba at 5:19 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Speaking as a nurse, a procedure should never be done if a patient requests that a certain staff member or student nurse not do it because it makes them uncomfortable. That is your right as a patient.

As far as the other incidents go, you lost your side of the argument as soon as the first swear word came out.
posted by sybarite09 at 5:24 AM on December 28, 2011

ll admit I probably should have let it go before the encounter in the gift shop, but I just really didn't want that woman to get away with it.

This impulse is the problem. Don't keep score. Life isn't a game.
posted by empath at 5:26 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I see where you are coming from in trying to stand up for what you think is right. Oftentimes, in those situations where someone cuts me or steals a spot I let them walk over me so I think it's a good way to make others realize that people are watching them and their actions and sometimes they should think twice before doing something. I do think though that you have overreacted in these situations. There is really no reason to curse or raise your voice. Just state your point and move on. It will be much more effective.

Try to keep composed in situations, remember one day your daughter will comprehend your actions and it's not an example you would want to set. Try to balance respect with composure. I don't think you are a jerk, just acting a bit immature and unreasonable in those situations.
posted by melizabeth at 5:28 AM on December 28, 2011

And more over, if a man aggressively approached my wife or GF in a store and called her a bitch, I'd have a really hard time not knocking him out myself.
posted by empath at 5:29 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I did't read all of the comments yet, but perhaps your wife is scared by your reactions...I know I would be. I would be fearful that the "bear enthusiast" might have a large and mean boyfriend nearby and you might get hurt in an escalated altercation.

On another note, I would hate for my son to be exposed to this aggression as he would likely be scared by it too.
posted by murrey at 5:33 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm like you, although I don't go looking for the offenders after the moment has passed. But I come from a long line of hotheads, on both sides of my family. So I don't think you're necessarily a jerk, but you're treading the line. Some of my family hotheads are lovably frustrated grumps, and some of them have caused permanent psychological damage to everyone in their lives.

I understand just how you felt in the first two situations you cited. I always grapple with the desire to tell such assholes how deeply they can shove a crowbar up their asses. But it would have been better for you to just walk away. You don't have to be the one who avenges every injustice you see! Just let the assholes go on with their asshole lives, wondering why so many people dislike them.

On the other hand, your hotheadedness was completely appropriate in the third situation. Related example: My maternal grandfather and dad share our tendency to flip out on people. And they apparently both lost their shit on some medicos who wanted to do an unnecessary venous cutdown on me when I was a toddler. Immediately, the doctors magically figured out how to put an IV in me the old-fashioned way. Sometimes, your over-reactive nature will be one of the many valid ways to react to a screwed-up situation.

Mostly, though, it's just going to get you in trouble, and not the kind of trouble that's worth it. I believe 100% that your SUV driver and the lady at the zoo were complete jerks, but it's not worth confronting them. Not because they aren't wrong - they definitely ARE wrong. But it's going to do a number on your mental health every time you put yourself through one of these adrenaline-fuelled freakouts, and those losers are not worth the pain.

You should usually drop the profanity in these situations, although it's understandable when it comes out in frustration. I don't think you Automatically Lose The Fight the moment you swear, but plenty of people think that. And they'll just dismiss you as a blustering, inconsequential rageaholic. Considering your pride issues, I KNOW you don't want that to happen, right? So don't swear.

My own similar rages stem from my mile-wide streak of righteous indignation, regarding what I see as "wrong" behaviour. I've had to learn to pick my battles, and I recommend it. Very good for your blood pressure.

I also have rage-outs as a consequence of being continually humiliated and deprived of agency as a child and teenager. Most destructively by certain members of my family, who have their own rage issues. Your behaviour has the potential to cause this kind of damage in your own family, and that's a big reason to curtail it. But perhaps you were similarly mistreated when you were younger? I think it's worth thinking about.
posted by Coatlicue at 5:46 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Like many I don't think you are a jerk, I think you just need to change your strategy. For the zoo lady I would have sadi something more along the line of:

Look Ma'am, we both know what really happened I just wish you would be more considerate in the future. Namaste.

I would say the Ma'am in the most condescending way I could and done rightly it way more effective than calling someone a bitch and if asked what happened later you can just drop the tone of voice and it seems perfectly reasonable. The Namaste is there as an extra added dig because what goes around comes around.

The SUV guy I would have probably left, or ticketed his car with one of the fake tickets I keep in my glove compartment for laughs. Maybe do something even more childish like piss on the door handle of the car, but only if I were FURIOUS.

I wouldn't have left the doctors room, but calmly explained the issues with a student using my wife as a pincushion and how that was unacceptable. For extra added benefit offer your arm to have the student practice their blood draw but still refuse to have them draw your wife.
posted by koolkat at 6:04 AM on December 28, 2011

So here's the thing: you didn't want the people in the first two situations to "get away with it," but they totally did. There were no consequences for their behavior other than being called a name by a stranger who they will never see again. Not only that, but you lost your cool, so now they have a story about how this unhinged guy started screaming at them for no reason.

When you get into situations like this, where the offending action has already happened and is over, the thing to remember is this: this is not the day that person's life changed. Twenty years from now, bear lady is not going to be telling a story about how a stranger called her a bitch and it really opened her eyes about how pushy she was being. SUV guy will not gather his grandchildren around for a heartwarming tale that ends with, "and that man called me an asshole. And I realized, 'I am an asshole.' And I never parked in that spot again." So if you aren't changing their behavior, you aren't accomplishing anything at all.

The third instance is a different animal, because the infuriating thing hadn't happened yet, and you were trying to prevent it. In that case, you were standing up for your wife, because you were trying to accomplish something that helped her. Unfortunately, when you lost your cool and started cursing, you also lost the game. You became someone who the medical staff could ignore, whose concerns could be dismissed, because you were clearly irrational.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:18 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I notice that all the answers you're marking as "best answers" come from people who say "yeah, you were a bit of a jerk". So whether or not we think you were a jerk, it sounds like you have made up your mind you were, so there's that question answered.

As for how to stop: it looks like your biggest issues are not in the initial confrontation, but rather in perpetuating them, and in not remaining calm:

1. I'd have snapped at the woman who pushed you at the zoo too. However, I wouldn't have taken it up again if I saw her in the gift shop later. (Okay, maybe I'd have given her a dirty look and an eyeroll, but that's it.) Everything in front of the bear window sounds normal to me; she was being a prat, you were snapping back; but once I left the window, I'd have just shaken my head and said "wow, she was an idiot, some people, huh?" and dropped it.

Mind you, if she had come up to me in the gift shop, then it would have been on. But you going up to her is where it got a little ax-grindy. (And calling her "bitch" was not a good idea at any point.)

2. The SUV case -- yeah, I probably wouldn't have done anything unless I was having a really bad day, and even then the only thing I'd have done would have been a drive-by snarking (muttering "Nice fuel-efficient car you parked there, jackass" as I speed-walked past him). But I'd know as I was doing that that I was being a jerk, and it wouldn't really help.

3. This is a little complicated, for two reasons: a) dealing with doctors, policemen, customer service people, etc. usually works best if you take a persistsent-yet-calm approach, rather than snapping and calling the situation "bullshit"; but b) your wife should have had final say, not you. It was great you were standing up for her, but dude -- her health, her choice. At most I'd have said a couple things to encourage her not to put up with the bullshit and say something herself, but if she really just wanted to drop it, drop it. It could be she was trying to psyche herself up to do this on her own after all, and your making a fuss was stopping her from being able to do that.

But if you were doing this for you: yeah, asking for a supervisor was the right move. And if that didn't work, what you should have done was remained calm and continued to ask for THAT guy's supervisor, and then THAT guy's, and know? You're calm, you're zen, you just aren't going to give in.

So in short: you're coming from a good place, but you just need to work on the swearing, the calm, and knowing when to stop. You can do this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on December 28, 2011

Wow, I could not disagree with Hamsterdam more strongly.

I think everyone's covered the general issues at hand pretty thoroughly at this point, but I just wanted to add: If absolutely nothing else, your wife has every right to want you to never, ever use misogynistic insults like that one in front of your daughter. If you absolutely needed to tell this woman off, it would have been better to call her a jerk, because that's an appropriate label for someone who pushes babies.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:51 AM on December 28, 2011 [14 favorites]

That number 3 example frankly scares me a bit. My wife has similarly had trouble with blood drawing in the past, to the point where when trying to donate blood the nurses who do nothing but practice that all day have had to poke her arm a half dozen times to get anything. At the same time, she hates being the center of attention, and particularly of controversy. So, at the very least, I sympathize a lot there. Personally, I also make a big distinction between "This is bullshit" which is describing a decision and situation, and calling someone a bitch or an asshole. As folks have noted above, when you descend to profanity you've declared defeat, but further impugning others is even worse in my opinion. Everyone has bad days and your one interaction with them isn't enough to really know their character, so drop it and move on with life.
posted by meinvt at 6:55 AM on December 28, 2011

Tit for tat is the optimum strategy in the Game Theory textbooks. In real life tit for tat may be way below an optimum strategy with some clod or goon who is too dumb to know you are playing tit for tat.
posted by bukvich at 6:57 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sometimes, calling out people for obvious bullshit is a service to both the community and yourself. In each situation, an attitude correction was called for:

"You pushed a little girl to look at a bear." - Oww. I don't care how stone-hearted you are, time for some reflection and self-appraisal if a stranger points that out to you in a gift shop.

"What's the fuel economy on that?" - Uh, oh - I got caught. I may not want to try that again.

The name-calling and bomb-dropping, on the other hand, undermined what you were trying to accomplish and allowed the ne'er-do-wells to escape with a feeling of indignant superiority.

It's OK to get angry with someone - and it's OK to confront them. It seems like you only want to stand up for yourself, not pick fights. What's not OK is to insult or swear, especially if you know your wife isn't happy with bad language or offensive terms.

So, stay angry... just remember, ice burns more than fire. Cold and cutting is always better than heated and profane. Clear observation and wit is more devastating than insult and crudity. Only use this power for good.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:01 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

You're a jerk, for these reasons:

1. You embarrassed your wife, because of an injustice that mostly had to do with your ego.
2.You set an example for your daughter that men she doesn't know can consider it appropriate to attack her with gendered slurs in public.
3. You addressed minor nuisances as if they were important by pursuing completely ineffective means of redress. You squandered a situation where you were clearly right on your need to also be dominant! That's 100% jerky.
posted by anildash at 7:20 AM on December 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

Count me as another one who finds bitch completely unacceptable, used in the way you did. Definitely would not want any daughters of mine hearing that.
posted by peacheater at 7:21 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

My partner uses "This is unacceptable" where you used "this is bullshit!" Note, however, that he doesn't yell. He just speaks very, very firmly.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:29 AM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't think you're a jerk, but I think a lot of women have a problem with the word 'bitch' so that could be why you lost your wife's support in that situation. The Whole Foods incident I would have just let that go because people are parking lot assholes all the time, and I think everyone is an asshole at some point even if it is unintentional. With the blood work situation, just speaking for myself, but blood work is one of my least favorite things to do and I am also very anxious whenever needles are involved, so by reacting the way you did/getting agitated you were probably making your wife's anxiety worse.

So, I would avoid using the word 'bitch' and maybe try to control your impulse to lash out a bit. Since you're only using words and not starting fist fights or anything I think you're fine otherwise and not a jerk - but you could run into someone who does try to start physical fights so you might want to tone it down to avoid that.
posted by fromageball at 8:00 AM on December 28, 2011

Listen bitch

You're teaching your daughter it's ok for men to say this to women, aggressively.

If you don't stop speaking to people this way, in the future she may hear this from a man and think, "Well, my father spoke this way to women who made him angry." So if a man in her sphere says this sort of thing, even to her, it may not surprise or outrage her the way it automatically should.

And yes, any man who speaks to a woman the way a violent pimp speaks to a 'ho in his stable is indeed being a jerk. You're not only refusing to take the high road, you're showing everyone you think speaking to a woman this way is the way to assert yourself. You're wrong, wrong, wrong.

Actions like that show you're less of a man, not more.

People--not just your family-- will notice, and you'll pay a price, even if it's not apparent to you.
posted by devymetal at 8:01 AM on December 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

I don't think that provoking a fight when you have your child present is a responsible move. What if that woman was with a male companion that felt as obligated to defend his woman as you felt to protect yours, and decided to punch you in the face? What if she -- being a possibly unstable person -- had physically attacked you? These are perfectly plausible reactions, and in my opinion you put your wife and daughter at risk by continuing to pick a fight.

Raising your voice and swearing at someone typically just escalate a situation. If you can't confront someone without splashing gas on the fire, then you need to avoid confrontations at all costs, before you get hurt.

If you really had a problem with what the woman did or thought she was being unsafe, you had the option of telling the zoo security. If you had a problem with some guy parking in the wrong place, you had the option of taking it up with the store management. These are people who are paid to keep a cool head and resolve problems. You're just some guy calling a woman a bitch in a zoo gift store, presumably within earshot of other children and parents. It's not your job to call a bitch a bitch.

You owe your wife an apology, and I think you should ask HER if she thinks you have anger management issues.
posted by hermitosis at 8:02 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm confrontational (f) and my SO (m) is not, but I will say that when I've actually gotten in confrontations, the outcome has always been far better if I don't completely lose my cool and start cursing. I don't really care about gendered insults, because if I've let myself get that far, pure vitriol is coming out of my mouth and nothing's going to stop it, there certainly won't be any calm thoughts of 'Oh, maybe I shouldn't call this woman a bitch because I'm perpetuating misogyny..." Nope.

I don't think you're a jerk overall, and I think saying something was fine in each of the incidents you mentioned - you just have to put a governor on the old hate adrenaline engine. Be the adult in the equation. Or pretty much what EmpressCallipygos said.
posted by HopperFan at 8:11 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

my view: you ought not to called her a bitch. That would get other ladies to side with her. You should have told her that she could have injured your very young child: that would get crowd approval. Your wife should not have gone to bed as she did because she knew this would upset both should not let an incident damage your relationship.
posted by Postroad at 8:40 AM on December 28, 2011

You made two fatal mistakes:

1) You lost your temper.

2) You used profanity.

These are not ways to win arguments, and should especially not be used in front of your family. Try being calm but assertive. It sounds like your first encounter with the woman was okay -- I probably would have pushed her back, too -- but there was no need for a second confrontation in the gift store. As for the jackass in the SUV, I totally feel your pain, but let it go.

Win your arguments by words, not actions (being aggressive and using profanity is an action, which will ALWAYS provoke a defensive response). Build up good karma for yourself and your family by being assertive but calm and reasonable. You don't have to call out every asshole you encounter (there are too many) -- karma will take care of them in the end, anyway. Don't waste your energy on it.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 9:03 AM on December 28, 2011

My wife ended up going to bed without talking to me, which drives me crazy (she knows this) as I would prefer to work/talk everything out.

I'd like to address this part of your question. It seems like you prefer to deal with things as they come up and resolve them quickly while she prefers to have some time to reflect on them and maybe even calm down. Neither way is "right". If you can both recognize this difference in your conflict resolution styles, it may help you come to a middle ground.
If you insisted on talking about the issue right noe, it wouldn't be because you were trying to win or hurt her. In the same way, by refusing to talk about the issue temporarily, she is not trying to win or hurt you. This is assuming good intentions on both sides and that at some point, the two of you do talk about it.
posted by soelo at 9:34 AM on December 28, 2011

In any conflict, the first person to goad the other into losing their temper wins.

So if you're not satisfied with the initial way a conflict has played out, and you're going to seek out your opponent again to make sure they don't get away with it, don't engage them physically or verbally because this will merely offer them opportunities to goad you. What you need to do instead is find out where they live, then go there at two in the morning and key their paintwork or break a few windows. Yeah. That'll learn 'em.

Alternatively, just learn to let arseholes be arseholes and get on with your life, secure in the knowledge that being an arsehole is just one of the many forms of self-inflicted misery.
posted by flabdablet at 9:43 AM on December 28, 2011

What's wrong with “Excuse me miss, I'm sure it was an accident, but you pushed my wife and baby out of the way. Would you mind stepping aside for a few moments so they can take a peek at the bear?"

It takes a few more syllables and a few more brain cells than popping off, but it is a charitable approach to getting what you want in a way that lets everyone save face. You're not waving the verbal cudgel and you are not assuming malice on anyone's part - which, by the by, will almost always get you lots of push back. If someone gets all in a huff, well …let them be the one to make an ass of themself; you’ve said your peace and stuck up for you and your family - and that's more important that waiting a few extra minutes to see a bear.

The second confrontation sounds less like sticking up for your family and more like you strong-arming the woman into admitting she was wrong. Said differently, the first confrontation was about principle, the second was about power.

I suspect too that there is an element of power and control in your other confrontations. As for the Whole Foods incident....why why why preoccupy yourself with something so petty that has zero effect on your life? Why was it so important to you to make sure the stranger knew He Was Wrong and You Were Right? And why did you need to pick an argument at the doctor's office? It was your wife’s anxiety, not yours, and she seemed okay with letting it go. There is sticking up for your wife and respecting her wishes. I’d err on the side of the latter, personally.

You're not a jerk, but it sounds like you could use some brushing up on what is and is not your appropriate sphere of influence. Some anger management and etiquette instruction can’t hurt, either.
posted by space_cookie at 9:44 AM on December 28, 2011

People above pointing out the difference between being assertive and aggressive are spot on. I'm not sure why our society doesn't teach the difference. You need to be a model for your daughter on how to be assertive, not aggressive. What about taking a class/reading a book/investigation how to be assertive without being aggressive? If the only tool in the box is a hammer, that's what you reach for. Time maybe for something else?

Please think long an hard about how upset your wife and eventually your daughter will be when you put them in uncomfortable social situations. Would them watching you get into a fist fight and be hauled off by the police for questioning help them? Do you want to be that 'right" about something? Anytime something like this has happened to me, I felt more uncomfortable due the ensuing actions of my spouse rather than the original incident. He's pretty much an iconoclast with little respect for entrenched authority, but he has changed as he matured, and I can see where assertiveness works 1000 times better than aggressiveness. He has also modeled assertiveness for me, to where I also question authority more than I ever would have.

I doubt your actions affected the people involved more than they've affected you and your family. They had a momentary unpleasantness that I doubt they thought any more about. You and your wife are still involved in the after effects of your behavior. Had you not lost your temper, your wife would no doubt have enjoyed the zoo outing much more, not gone to bed upset, and you wouldn't be worrying that you might be a jerk. You're not a jerk. Just don't act like one.

Minus the profanity, if you had come up with the line "pushed a baby to look at a bear" at the time of the original incident, it would have been brilliant. Reopening the issue in the gift shop was out of line. As far as anything related to driving, please, just don't go there. We can't win, we're outnumbered by them, and it's just not worth it.

The incident with the blood draw is one situation where you should have been assertive. You WERE protecting your wife, they had no business allowing a student to draw blood when you both requested not, and there was no medical reason that you couldn't have been with her to alleviate her fears. Unless it couldn't have been resolved properly, and unless it was absolutely medically necessary that her blood be drawn there and then, I'd have walked. Additionally, whatever happened draw or walk, I would have made it clear that I was going to file complaints and take it high enough to get satisfaction. I would have also made sure that they knew the issue would have been publicized, verbally to my friends and family, in a letter to my insurance, in a letter to the medical facility director.

Profanity helps nothing, and by the time you get to that point, you've 'lost' anyway, and there'll will be no good resolution.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:44 AM on December 28, 2011

I probably should shut up because I weighed in twice on this thread, but something else occurred to me. Initially I was a bit harsh with you, but I couldn't really understand why I felt that way because I sympathize with the drive to protect one's family.

Here's why it bugs me so much: The zoo thing and the Whole Foods thing trouble me because you took a situation where someone else may have been a little wrong, and you "remedied" it by doing something worse. And you exposed other people --- not just the object of your verbal abuse --- to the spectacle of incivility that they are not likely to soon forget.* We have to let little slights and discourtesies roll off of us in society. Those people acted rudely; but you acted with extreme incivility. When people start name-calling, "asshole," "bitch," others in the vicinity begin to back away in the expectation that fisticuffs may break out. So you broke the peace in places where people justifiably expect and deserve peace. So, yes, I think you are a jerk.

If I were you, I would spend some time reflecting on a man you admire for steadiness and wisdom, and consider how that man would act if confronted by the situations you describe. I suspect that man, whoever it is, would not call someone an asshole or a bitch.
posted by jayder at 9:54 AM on December 28, 2011

*I still remember a verbal altercation I witnessed in a drug store, more than ten years ago. It wasn't even that noteworthy, I just couldn't believe two adults were arguing so heatedly about who was next in line.
posted by jayder at 9:55 AM on December 28, 2011

Consider that if you are in the situation to begin with you are probably dealing with someone who will not respond to your remonstration with the response you are seeking.
If you were looking for the guilty party to admit their guilt and apologize, I think we all can agree that that result would not happen in any of the scenarios you describe nor will it happen in any similar scenario in the future. You may as well just bitch about it in the car on the way home - you will have you wife's sympathy and no poor public behavior to account for.
posted by JXBeach at 10:49 AM on December 28, 2011

I can totally relate to you here, and I've definitely been that guy. If you're like me and you feel that unacceptable, bear-watching, baby-pushing behaviour needs to be called out for the greater good, please follow the following three rules:

1) Be correct. Always make sure that you understand what happened and that the subject of your criticism was truly in the wrong. If unsure, walk away.

2) Be polite. Don't call people names or use inflammatory language. "Listen bitch, you pushed a baby so you could look at a bear" is awesome, but unnecessarily rude. Describe what they did in neutral language (i.e., drop the bitch part). Just say what they did and, if it is heinous, that will be self-evident.

3) Be quick. Say your short, pithy piece, and be done with it. If this provokes a person, let them be provoked. They were wrong, now they are wrong and angry. You have made your point. Or you haven't, and never will. Walk away.

Following these rules, I have had a surprising number of people own up and apologize, or acknowledge their wrong. People will only do this if you are polite and quick, and if what they did was clearly wrong. No one will do this if you insult or lecture them, or if they feel justified in their actions. Other people just look ashamed and clam up. Many will double down and get angry at you. Let them do that, and walk away.

I ride my bike in the city. I see a lot of assholes, and sometimes I call them out. I am an experienced cyclist and feel like cross-modal education of drivers is a good thing. Many people see this as preachy, holier-than-thou, typical cyclist behaviour. That’s fine, but I like being alive, and telling drivers when they almost make me not that way is something that I do, to prevent more of my friends or myself from being roadkill. Something like “excuse me, but you almost hit me back there,” delivered with a look of dazed fear does a lot more to educate a driver about how dangerous they are than “slow the fuck down!” I think this principle applies in other situations, too.
posted by the thing about it at 11:03 AM on December 28, 2011

There are many good answers above, but I'd like to speak to this: Am I a jerk? If so, how do I stop being one?

In one of my jobs, I supervise children. In the group I supervise there are some who are very easy-going, and some, my own daughter among them, for whom rules are very important. They're not as flexible when it comes to adjusting or varying games; of forgiving of others' mistakes in the moment; and they're ones to hold others accountable for their actions - every little action, even inconsequential ones, at times - and so I tend to think of them as "right-fighters". It's more important for them to be right for everyone to be happy. As they mature and as they learn to manage themselves, they might deal better with the stressful environment and be able to prioritize and to let three out of four incidents go, but the tension builds and on the fourth time, it's too much and they blow their tops. Hey, I'm the "nice" supervisor, but I'm also the strictest and most rule-oriented one. It's all in how you apply it.

This sounds like what happens with you, both from a child's and an an adult's perspective. This might be a skill you haven't yet mastered, though your maturity has made up for some of the deficit. It doesn't come naturally to some, and it's affected by environment too. At each of the places you had an incident, you probably spent a lot of energy dealing with some sensory defensiveness leading up to your extreme reaction, and possibly because you were already a bit frayed by stresses like crowds, the parking lot scramble, and the lab environment, and even noises like crying plus all the urges for protection and battles with fatigue that come with being a parent. In addition, those are all places and situations where neither my daughter nor I do well either - they make us tense before other people's behaviour or actions even have a chance to mess it up. I don't think you're a jerk - I think certain situations themselves might affect you more than you realize though, and being aware of that is part of the battle.

As to how to stop behaving like a jerk (not saying you are one - saying that some behaviour is jerky), well, take how you felt you needed to talk it through with your wife. That's another example of right-fighting, but you've transferred it to her since you couldn't fix what instigated than left those feelings in you. At school I gently remind the kids - "You have a choice, you know. You don't have to care so much, or get so mad. Tell yourself that for a minute and see how you feel." A mantra can help, if you can find one. The reason old sayings like "Two wrongs don't make a right" are true, is not just because they are true, but because they're a gentle reminder. The goal is to find a happy medium. For the kids who cry "It's not FAIR!" I always reply that "Fair means everyone gets what's reasonable, it doesn't mean what's right or not."

Practically, I often perform or suggest a pattern interrupt, sometimes with words, or even something that calms them physically, like, "Go wash your face, and come back to work it out." They're a skill. The very notion that you can change a response is so great - you can do it with words, actions, visuals or physically. Look at some tutorials for words that will get desired responses from others; what you can do to physically break the tension; or something that you can do to shift your own perspective.

With my daughter we try to make her aware that her response to a situation is incongruous by saying things like "You're having a 10 response to a 2 thing." We know we can bring her back down from a 5, but if she's around a 7 it's going to end up in a tantrum unless we do something drastic - like leave. Eventually she'll do this on her own. So, we also leave the party while we're still having fun. We take breaks even when we are having fun. I'm not saying you're a child - I'm saying that as your daughter grows, you'll need to manage her childish responses and give her these skills, and having a handle on your own and modeling them will really help. It might help if you and your wife used these terms to gauge where you are with each other.

In fact, there are more than a few of our other management techniques - for our kid, and for myself and for the kids at school - that you might consider using to prevent everyone from behaving badly. Trying to sleep and eat well is huge, because we're more prone to snappishness when things are "off". At school, I remind kids we eat for "good energy", and that's huge. In my experience, the kids who've had nothing but a can of Pringles and a can of pop are often the ones who are going to kick a ball at someone's head in response to a shove when playing soccer - there are a variety of socio-economic factors at play in that, but part of it is that their tummies feel grungy and they don't know where to go with that (By third grade, they've learned that coming to me for an apple helps them feel better). Knowing that in particular, I'm worn down by the butt-brush factor at any place means we avoid certain events entirely or go at off-times; or my husband braves the crowded parts with our daughter while I wait aside. I know I need warm feet to be a happy person. Or sometimes I just take a chill pill. Knowing what self-soothes is key. My daughter walks in circles. I try to find something to read. At school, I might send a kid on a bogus errand if I see they're starting to rub someone the wrong way, or realize they need some space from a group dynamic that's not in their favour. Figure out what works for you.

But wherever we go and in all we do as a family, I also do a lot of stepping back and observing in the course our own excursions, as I do at work, to try to forecast where things are going and to make adjustments if and as needed. In order to manage over-emotional responses to things that could otherwise be brushed-off, I've had to learn that sometimes going with the flow is what leads to trouble. Prevention is part of the cure. Sorry for the novel and the platitudes, but I feel you here. Warm wishes for the best - I know it's not fun to feel the way you do at times.
posted by peagood at 11:18 AM on December 28, 2011 [33 favorites]

peagood's suggestions are really fantastic.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:30 AM on December 28, 2011

I can, and will, be the Queen Bitch of the World if I see someone taking advantage of my kids, or kids in general (you would be surprised how many people feel like it is perfectly acceptable to be horribly rude to teenagers, apparently acting under the assumption that they are all potential juvenile delinquents).

For instance, if the school makes a scheduling error and puts my kid in two foreign language classes and no math class at all (actual event) and a bureaucratic flunky is keeping him from seeing a counselor until "next week sometime" meaning he'll miss the first week of math classes, I'll step in and be the voice of parental authority, since I know they are more likely to listen to an adult. And I will start out being polite and only escalate into making a scene if I have to to get the problem fixed.

My line is drawn when I feel like something/someone significant to me is being jeopardized and I can do something to change that. I speak up then, because I feel like it's important.

Using that metric, you were advocating for your wife during that blood draw, and I support you 100% there.

But if you are just going on to satisfy some primitive need to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women? That's over the top.

With the woman at the zoo--you had your say once, and people took her away from the bear viewing. So while I could see desire for that the initial confrontation, going back at her in the gift store, no matter how much I admire the, "You pushed a baby to look at a bear!" line (which is awesome btw), is jerkish in the extreme, yes. What were you going to accomplish? Your wife and child were not currently being threatened or even inconvenienced at the time--in fact, you actually made the situation worse for them by embarrassing them in the gift shop. You were doing the equivalent of Someone on the internet is Wrong, real life style.

In the parking lot--it was just a parking space. How significant was that space to you? Seems like you found another one, so getting all up in the SUV driver's face was also jerkish. Even though he was obviously initially in the wrong, you were gaining nothing by confronting him (he wasn't going to move his car), you made yourself look bad in comparison by cursing at him in public, and, for all you know, he could have been carrying a gun, etc. How would you getting shot, beaten up or the like help your family AT ALL?

So I think you might want to take 5 seconds or so when something like this happens to take a deep breath and ask yourself, "Am I doing this for me, or for a larger cause?" And "Will my reaction make the situation better or worse?" And now, you might want to add to that, since your wife has raised the issue, "Is this the way I want my daughter to see me behave?"

If you go from there, I think you will be fine. Your intentions are good, you just need to get a little perspective.
posted by misha at 12:24 PM on December 28, 2011

In some cultures, you are being just fine. Maybe even a standup guy.

In other cultures, you'd be considered pushy and aggressive.

It really depends where you are. Levels of aggressiveness are cultural, so I can't say you are a jerk or not, but the couple of people who live around you can.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:47 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're not a jerk, but you're acting like one. You were right to call out the rude woman the first time. Say your piece and be done. Engaging in a back and forth with her was pointless and was toeing the jerk line. Engaging her again in the gift shop was completely unnecessary and jerkish, and calling her a bitch sounds fairly threatening. You went from being right to being over the line by pushing things too far.

I totally get the anger around the SUV guy, but again, the confrontation was unnecessary. Calling a random stranger an asshole under those circumstances can land you in more trouble than it's worth. You were right that it's aggravating, but the confrontation really isn't going to get you anywhere positive. There is nowhere to go but down in that situation.

I totally get standing up for your family when they're being threatened, but pursuing people for minor squabbles, especially after the fact, is over the line and unnecessary. It's not defending anyone. It's responding to sticks and stones with guns.

Regarding the third incident - I'm completely on your side there. It was bullshit, and you weren't calling anyone names - you were describing the situation, correctly, from what it sounds like. If I were you, I would have walked out, refusing treatment with an explanation. "I'm leaving because you're providing poor care and not listening to our very reasonable requests. I will come back later for treatment when I can work with someone willing to listen and work with us in a reasonable way."

Don't pursue people after the fact. Don't escalate. Say your piece and then walk away.
posted by cnc at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2011

So, who died and put you in charge?

I ask myself that whenever I find myself reacting badly in one of these situations. Sometimes I need a reminder that it is not my job to police other people's behavior. That would be a mighty fun job to have, and I think I'd be damn good at it, but still, it's just not my job, and if I go around acting like it is, lots of people will think I'm a jerk.

Many times, I do wish to influence someone else's behavior, and at those times, the absolute best tool I have is to smile and treat them with respect. If you want people to treat you well, the best way to maximize that possibility is to act in a way that makes them want to be nice to you. If they have no inclination whatsoever to be nice to you at that moment, let that be their problem, not yours. You'll feel better knowing that at least you didn't make things worse.

One way to deflect these conflicts is to get in the habit of always giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Every time you see someone behaving badly, imagine what could possibly be making them do that: their dog just died, or their mother; they have a killer headache; they have to pee really bad; they hate their miserable job but they gotta pay the bills. It doesn't hurt to be nice.
posted by Corvid at 3:01 PM on December 28, 2011

Even if the pushy woman deserved a second telling-off, does your wife deserve to be embarrassed like that? It doesn't matter of we think her embarrassment is warranted or not. She felt embarrassed, both at the zoo and at the hospital. It doesn't sound like she is asking you not to stand up to people, but to tone it down, specifically the profanity. I think that is a reasonable request. If you also feel that it is reasonable when you are in a calm state of mind, I'd suggest telling her that you will make an effort to not use profanity when in public confrontations. You can't promise that you never will, obviously, but just the promise to try may be enough to keep you from actually doing it.
posted by soelo at 3:03 PM on December 28, 2011

"Listen bitch, you pushed a baby to look at a bear."

I'd high-five you for that line, too, my boyfriend and I are still laughing about it.

Ultimately, you stood up for your family. The Whole Paycheck example was a little overreaction - understandably frustrating though.

I think you'd be 100% fine if you just didn't use expletives outside of your own head (think bitch, say ma'am). Also practice realizing when to walk away. It is something I struggle with too.
posted by arnicae at 5:52 PM on December 28, 2011

"Listen bitch, you pushed a baby to look at a bear."

Your wife should have high-fived you, not given you the cold shoulder.

Not to pick on you personally, hamsterdam, variations on this have popped up a few times in the thread. Here's why I completely disagree with this sentiment, OP.

You high-five someone when you have acted as a team to achieve something, or you've had a victory.

1. You're not a team with someone when you're acting directly against their very frequently stated wishes.

2. What could you possibly be said to have achieved here? What victory was there here?

-If anyone is winning when an angry man publicly yells a bigoted gendered slur at a woman to shame her and put her in her place, it's not your wife, daughter, or any other woman in this society. Obviously there are women who are fine with it but it seems your wife is not one of them.

-One person acted rudely, one person acted rudely back, they caused an unpleasant scene in front of a bunch of families and kids trying to have an enjoyable time, and both left feeling like there was nothing wrong with what they had done. The only thing this achieved was adding one more instance to the world of rudeness, hostility, and inability to work things out. To me, that's about as opposite as you can get to a victory.

A victory here would have been to turn a situation of conflict into a situation where there was no conflict -- or shit, even a situation of harmony. THAT would have been worthy of a high-5. That would have been an achievement.

Spouting off at the mouth in a cocky aggressive way feels good, but it's nothing impressive or worthy of back-patting.

And if you maybe think, sometimes, that others are probably pleased and thankful that you did what you did, something that they would have done themselves if they had been as willing to stand up for themselves -- IMO you should re-think that.

My sister and I were taking the subway back from Coney Island one day when we were teens. Right by us was a guy crouched in his seat reading a book, and then most of the rest of the car was filled by fairly drunk people coming back from Coney Island. There was one woman with two small boys, she was rambling loudly and drunkenly, and started BLASTING the stereo she was carring with some incredibly grating music.

Yes, it was annoying. But the reaction of the book reading guy was a million times worse. He started passive-aggressively stage-whispering to me and my sister really nasty comments like: "This is why we need abortion." I guess he thought because we looked middle class/white/dorky, like he did, that we would readily agree with him. Then when the woman got up with her boys to exit at her stop, he waited till she was off the train, ran over to the door, stuck his head out, and yelled in a very Spanglish sounding way, "PUTA!!!" Then he turned around and gave me and my sister this shockingly triumphant look like he thought that would impress us.

We were horrified, appalled and disgusted. Yes, the woman was really fucking annoying, inconsiderate and rude for blasting her music, and she was drunk while she was caring for two kids. It was still a million times worse to make comments about how she should have been aborted in front of those children. To call her a slut in front of those children, in a racist-seeming way no less. I was humiliated that people might think I was associated with him and I wasn't even his wife. What he did solved nothing at all, and just made society that much shittier. I would rather listen to her music all day if it meant that episode would have never happened. Not one inch of my being wanted to give that guy a high five.

The point is, if you behave in a really awful way in your quest to put people in their place, you could really end up being the one that people are really put off by.


From upthread --

Listen bitch

You're teaching your daughter it's ok for men to say this to women, aggressively.

If you don't stop speaking to people this way, in the future she may hear this from a man and think, "Well, my father spoke this way to women who made him angry." So if a man in her sphere says this sort of thing, even to her, it may not surprise or outrage her the way it automatically should.

This is exactly right. But it's not just your daughter who's learning this. It's all the little boys you do this in front of, some of whom your daughter might date or marry in the future.

My wife wanted me to just drop the whole thing at this point and I became a little frustrated with her because I didn't want her to let other people walk all over her.

Dude, YOU were one of the people walking all over your wife in that situation, too.

posted by cairdeas at 7:51 PM on December 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

It also seems like the idea of starting out, in these situations, from a courteous and polite place, or even a kind or empathetic place that doesn't assume the worst of the other person, would be off-putting to you. That someone would only start off that way if they were submissive, weak, timid, a wimp or a coward. Or that they were a naive PC ineffectual goody-goody.

I think you should examine your thinking to see if you might believe these things, and if so, try to see if you can change those beliefs and understand the other, better reasons why people would deal with conflict that way (because it usually truly is more effective, for one).
posted by cairdeas at 8:44 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another way to think about it -- what would you think of your behavior if you were on the receiving end of it? What if the woman came up to you in the gift shop and chastised you for pushing her back, since you think pushing is so wrong? What if someone came up to you in a store and berated you about your choice of parking spot? Wouldn't you think they were loony?

And as for your wife letting people walk over her, well, what if she'd turned to you after your baby/bear zinger and given you a piece of her mind right then and there? Would you be applauding her for standing up for herself?
posted by desuetude at 11:42 AM on December 29, 2011

I want to add, one of the coolest things I ever saw once was when I was in L.A. and I was standing in a considerable line for an ATM.

These two pushy women just swooped in after the last ATM user, cutting off all of us in line.

I could feel myself, and the entire line bristling in anger, about to step in when a gentlemen with a vague European accent stepped forwards. Very cordially, he said,

"Oh, excuse me! I'm sure you ladies didn't see the line that starts behind you!"

He said this extremely cheerfully, without any of the rage I'm sure 99% of us in that line were about to unleash. It was obvious they had seen the line and stepped right around it, but he was pleasantly insisting they must have missed it.

They gave him a deer in headlights look, and shuffled away. I don't think they actually wanted to do this, but he was so fucking cheerful and pleasant it was a little shocking. The rest of us would probably have instigated some name-calling pissing match.

When the women slunk away, I should have started clapping. We all should have started clapping. Ok, maybe not, but I think that's how we all felt inside.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:21 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm a bit late but, case 1: I was on your side till you started up again in the gift shop. Just let it go. Case 2: No excuse, you were being a jerk. I know the other driver was wrong, but you should have just silently wished his karma against him. Case 3: I agree with what you were trying to do but not how you went about it. This is a case where your wife, if she was really that uncomfortable with the situation, should have gotten up and walked out. No one can force her to have a blood draw done by a student, nor make her husband leave the room.

About a week before Christmas, I was sitting in the passenger side of my car, my mom driving. We had just pulled in and were CLEARLY about to get out of the car. Some guy walks up and leaves his cart right next to me, and oh yes, he saw me sitting there. I squeezed carefully out of the car and said "That's okay, I'll take your cart in," in the most nonchalant tone I could muster. When I got back out, my reward was another cart, right next to my door. I'm betting this guy went out of his way to get another cart to put it next to my door. Some people are just assholes. Just let it go.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:47 PM on December 31, 2011

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