Football season is insane in Alabama. Most of the state is divided into AL/Auburn and on seasons where both teams have good chances to go all the way – Facebook becomes a very ugly scene. It’s not just “Roll Tide!” or “War Damn Eagle!” It’s, “Alabama fans are drunk idiots!” and “Auburn fans are ignorant blowhards!” There’s a lot of MEAN trash talk and it makes me very uncomfortable. One day I was discussing this with a friend very similar to me. A friend who talks the way I do about spreading joy and avoiding putting negativity out in the world. Someone who I thought would be us upset by the trash talk as I am. She said, “Eh. I dish it out really bad too. I have family who are Auburn fans, you know. It gets ugly at family gatherings, but I’m just as bad as everyone else. I don’t take it personally.”
And at that moment my whole world view was shattered. WHAT? Someone can say to you, “Fans of the football team you support are ignorant assholes!” and you don’t take it personally? BUT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT YOU! How can you not take it personally?
She went on, “They’re talking about whatever fan it is that just pissed them off. Not actually about me. And also I know how emotional football makes me and I say/do insane things all the time relating to football and I never actually mean it. I’ve definitely group all fans of Auburn into terrible descriptions on Facebook, but I don’t really mean that my brother is a d’bag. Even though I just said all Auburn fans are d’bags.”
WHAT? You say stuff inflammatory and insulting and YOU DON’T EVEN MEAN IT? WHAT IS THE POINT?
It was SO confusing to me. And when I expressed my confusion she suddenly got concerned. “Wait. So you’re saying some of my family who are Auburn fans could think like you do and get their feelings hurt when I say inflammatory stuff about Auburn?” “YES!” She considered for a second. “That’s just dumb. I don’t think any of them actually feel that way. No one takes that stuff seriously.”
And if Facebook is any indicator, she’s right. There is a lot of venom during football season on Facebook and if people took it seriously they’d be shattered. BUT! The few times I’ve come out and expressed my distaste of it, I have had people chime in and say, “ME TOO!” There are a few of us sensitive souls who commiserate when it starts to get really ugly.
But most of the people? People I love and admire and trust and care for? Don’t care. They dish insults out and take them and no one gets upset with anyone else. I’m over here with wounds AND I DON’T EVEN HAVE A TEAM IN THE FIGHT! I guess I’m an Alabama fan because my husband is and I like to see him happy, but I truthfully don’t stress about it YET! YET! YET! I get my feelings hurt every season. EVERY. SINGLE. SEASON.
I bring all of this up for obvious reasons.
It’s election season.
And this week someone who I see rarely but we are on “Hug Terms” (we hug when we see each other) bashed Clinton supporters in an insult-filled Facebook post.
Now…No one has made me as excited this year as Obama did in 2008 so I’m not really “supporting” anyone. I’m not going to put a Clinton sticker on my car. But, at the last minute at the primaries I voted for Clinton and if she wins the nomination I will most definitely be voting for her in the Fall. I am a very open Democrat-voting Liberal. (I refuse to call myself a Democrat because a lot of times, as a group, the do things that piss me off.) If this person spends ANY time on Facebook at all they know that about me. Yet, YET, they post inflammatory posts insulting people who vote like I do.
So I was thinking, “What could I post that would their feelings like this post hurts mine?” Not because I was going to do it, I just wondered if there was a way to put them in my shoes? And then I remembered: FOOTBALL SEASON. What if NOTHING hurts their feelings? What if they are like extreme football fans and just root for who they want to root for, and dish insults out because they know they’re coming their way? What if not everyone wants to JUST BE NICE? What if people LIKE being inflammatory and they don’t think about MY feelings because, their feelings wouldn’t be hurt if I posted something insulting them?
Once again I’m blown away that there are people in this world who don’t walk around with their feelings hanging out right under the surface of their skin. How does it feel to live in this world world and NOT bristling at every not-nice word thrown out? I mean, sometimes it doesn’t even have to be directed to a person. Sometimes it’s just directed to an inanimate thing I love AND I STILL FEEL WOUNDED.
Once someone said, “Ug. I just never got into Harry Potter. It drives me crazy when everything comes back to a Harry Potter comparison. Not all of us thought it was great. Some of us couldn’t even make it past chapter 1 because we thought it was so terrible.”
Y’all…Y’ALL? Those words nearly destroyed me. WHY WOULD YOU BE SO MEAN ABOUT SOMETHING I LOVE? WHY POOP ON MY JOY?
So I’m trying to remind myself of this during political season. That not everyone is as sensitive as I am. I’m even sensitive ON BEHALF of conservatives. In 2012 I unfriended someone I barely knew who was a die-hard Obama supporter, because she was SO INSULTING to Republicans. I unfriended her because my feelings were getting hurt too often ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE I DON’T AGREE WITH.
I’m a overly-sensitive mess.
But I have to remind myself of all of the times I’ve learned I’m kinda unique in this way. I post a lot of “Just Be Nice!” type statuses during political season. A lot of statuses reminding people to be kind and respectful to preserve the relationships. But that only works to people who understand how words can hurt. If you have a thick enough skin that words don’t poke through, then you’re never going to think about the people who are wounded by your words.
I really wanted to comment on the status bashing everyone who votes for Hillary and just say, “You know I’m one those people, right?” Just to remind her that we’re out there and those words will be in my head the next time we see each other. No matter how much I try, the words will be there ringing in my ears. How this person thinks I’m stupid and ignorant and how they hate the country under Obama and it’s the fault of people like me. But it’s one of those relationships that is precariously embedded into other relationships and I don’t want to rock the boat.
I DO NOT WANT TO UPSET ANYONE BY POINTING OUT THAT I AM UPSET.
It’s hard. But I’m glad this is who I am. It’s related to why I only want to medicate my anxieties as a “last resort”. The negative effects of some of my personality traits are very tightly woven into the positive effects. I’m intrinsically aware of the connections between the “crazy” and the “wonderful” in my neural makeup. The fact that I’m sensitive is directly related to my power of empathy and I would never give that up in a million years. I’m very glad I have the power to feel VERY strongly. I’m glad my feelings are easily touched because that also means I’m moved by gestures of benign kindness that no one notices. It means I see love in things around me that other people miss. I would not trade this sensitivity for anything in the world.
I just need to remember not everyone is like me. If you are unable to be wounded by the words of others, you will more likely use your words to wound. They’re not trying to “be mean” in the way it feels like they are.
It’s a rough time to be a fragile soul.
Although honestly? It’s still not as bad as football season in Alabama.