The Bad-Tempered Woman

Thalia, The Apparently Humorless Muse of Comedy

In college I wrote a paper about a play written by Menander, a Greek playwright who wrote comedies during the 3rd Century B.C. The play was called Dyskolos, translated as The Misanthrope or The Bad-Tempered Man. I thought about him this week, since I am about as bad-tempered as I generally get and trying to minimize the damage.

To be fair, it’s been a pretty rocky few days. The week was kicked off with our sewer lines backing up into our basement after tree roots invaded the main sewer pipe. Spending a good portion of Monday masked and gloved was delightful. I am also preparing for a trip to visit family, which is always preceded by stomach knots and anxiety for me. And I’m on the tail end of severe burnout. It’s difficult to be around people or to interact without being offensive or dismissive. It happens. I just keep to myself, put my nose to the grindstone and work hard, until the sweat of splenetic impulse evaporates.

Earlier this week, I was invited to write a post for The Outlier Collective on the latest Facebook kerfuffle. I wondered whether writing a guest post when I am already sharp around the edges and banging about for a fight is a particularly good idea. Most of the time, I try to be thoughtful and see things from other people’s perspectives. Times like these, though, I have an attitude and it throws me off-kilter. I struggle not to tell the world that it’s shit and to go away. It’s a surly attitude, but more about me pushing for room to breathe than any true sentiment.

In Dyskolos, Knemon the Bad-Tempered Man hates anyone who tries to come onto his land or talks to him. He falls down a well and nearly dies, before seeing the error of his ways. I’m not sure how that works.  Human nature dictates that we have short memories. He recovers from his near-death experience, continues to be cantankerous, but softens ever so slightly by joining a family party. Bully for him. I’m sure the party goers were delighted, after years of Knemon shouting curses and threats at them, that he showed up. He better have brought the good wine.

I try to avoid situations where I’ll have to backtrack in a week to apologize for my behavior or words or abrupt disappearance. Usually it works out. Some weeks, not so much.

“So, um, listen…when I said you had a God complex, I meant it in a good way, you know, like saintly…”

“Sorry I laughed hysterically when you told me about your accident. I just couldn’t believe anyone would be so stupid, I mean, uh, sorry. Again.”

“I didn’t mean that your child was a sociopath. I just meant he was exhibiting sociopathic traits…”

“I know I said that I’d call you back, but then Burn Notice came on and I remembered how much less interesting you are…”

I think I need to find a well down which to fall. Preferably with clean water.

47 thoughts on “The Bad-Tempered Woman

        1. I am just writing that up. I hate this flipping iphone app. Every time I respond and someone else likes or comments on my blog whatever I am commenting on is wiped out. So I am about to start over. Using my computer instead.


        2. Here I am. On my computer this time.

          Every time I have a client who tells me they want a Facebook page I gag. I have to hold my hands behind my back so I don’t strangle them.

          At least 90% of clients have no clue what Facebook even is or does. They are not users, themselves. The only reason they want to be there is because it’s cheap, compared to television advertising, and because they want to be cool. Mostly because they want to be cool.

          They’re afraid to be left out, or left behind, because everyone else is there. Including their competition.

          Trust me when I tell you they get absolutely nothing out of it from a business perspective.

          Ask them, and they will tell you it increases customer loyalty. BULLOCKS!!!!!! They have convinced themselves (because it is NOT measurable) that when someone ‘likes’ their page it means they are buying the product, or telling others about it, or pledging their loyalty. BULLOCKS!!!!!!

          It means dick.

          Consumers are not on Facebook because of the ads. They hate the ads. They feel it is an intrusion. Consumers are on Facebook to keep in touch with friends, family, acquaintances and school chums they haven’t seen in 30 years.

          Consumers are on Facebook to see what everyone they know is up to.

          Consumers are on Facebook so they can talk about themselves and their opinions. To post personal photos, to vent when they fight with their boyfriends, to tell the world when they have had a lousy experience with an airline, or a hotel, or a restaurant, or their cable provider. To share the things they like and also to share the things they hate.

          So there you are, reading the most vicious, salacious status updates from humans who hate their phone company. And the next thing you know said phone company has a Facebook page where they try to rehabilitate their reputation by having employees and their ad agency employees fanatically ‘liking’ their pages.

          Pretending to be happy customers.

          And when consumers go on, in a rage, and post about their lousy experiences with said company, on said company’s page, the comments are removed. By said company.

          You want to rehabilitate your reputation? Try offering products and services that work … that are priced fairly … and delivered with a smile. Give good customer service. And when there is a problem, which there are ways will be, despite everyone’s best intentions, solve it quickly. Being on Facebook does nothing to fix their problems.

          Advertisers with a conscience, advertisers who respect HUMANS AND THEIR RIGHTS, advertisers who respect their customers as above-mentioned humans and also respect their customers’ intelligence (and there are some who do) will always pull advertising from any medium when they feel the editorial content or the stand they take on an issue is inappropriate. IF AND WHEN THEY BELIEVE IT WILL ADVERSELY AFFECT THEIR OWN BUSINESS. Or when mounting consumer outrage forces them to do it.

          I am a writer, so obviously the notion of free speech is an important one for me. But I do have an issue with messages of ‘hate’. Against religions, against men, against women, against gays, against whatever. I am 100% against abuse of any kind. Sexual, emotional, verbal, financial, whatever. I personally don’t think it belongs on a place like Facebook, or in my daily newspaper, either. Or in my favourite magazine. But the sad fact is, from a publisher’s perspective, or an ad salesman’s perspective, revenue is revenue. So they’re probably not about to refuse an ad from anybody.

          Even if they should.

          At the end of the day, money talks.


        3. This is a great comment, Fransi – could you copy and paste it to the Outlier site? It really helps add to the conversation and I love your professional perspective. If you’d prefer not, I’ll just leave it here – with great appreciation!


        4. I tried once and it didn’t show up. I tried again and I got the usual message which is, “Your comment is awaiting moderation”. Let me know.


  1. Yep, some days, one’s tongue is quite bloody from the biting of it. I keep my head down at work, avoid meetings and now avoid getting on the elevators, which is where my nastiest demeanor is revealed too often. Ah, humanity. That’s why I look forward to the isolation of my weekends. Good luck on the family visit!


    1. I really try to counter it in my head, but I find that down time and isolation really are the best cures for what ails me! Thanks for the good wishes. Head down, nose to the grindstone, a Harry Potter “Silencio!” curse on the mouth!


  2. Well aren’t you the poster child for perky 🙂

    Great post – I always enjoy your writing whatever the subject or how crabby you’re feeling.


    1. I do often laugh at my cantankerous personality at times. Really, I am destined to end up an old lady in a little house on the corner, scaring off neighborhood children with a witch’s cackle and possibly a pitbull. I hope to also have a cane to wave erratically in the air when people walk by.

      Thanks, Alison, for reading through all the moodiness!


      1. Well this gave me a chuckle 🙂 What a wonderful image. As long as you’re still laughing at yourself!
        Easy to read through the moodiness – quite entertaining actually 🙂


  3. Had you not referenced the Greek nature of this story in your post I’d have thought you were talking smack about me. Kidding. Sometimes you have to vent frustration, you know?


  4. Must be something going around. I’ve learned to take deep breaths before talking when I’m in that mood.
    That way I have full lungs when I start to tear them a new one!

    Hope you get some down time.


  5. So glad you’re admitting to this. You always seem so thoughtful and reasonable on your blog and in your comments. As someone who can’t seem to go a day without yelling something at family members that I will regret later, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in my cantankerousness. I’m grumpy and burnt out and tired of being tired (children and all their night-wakings). This morning my two year old put his head under the skirt of my nightgown and I yelled “stop it” so loudly it made him cry. I felt bad. But I just want some privacy!!


    1. Well, it might surprise you to know that I’m a bellower. I don’t name call or insult, but when I reach my limit, I am known to bark “Walk away now!” I am also known for mumbling swear words under my breath while doing housework. We all have our moments.

      I have to believe that I’m close to a turning point – school just ended and our schedules are loosening up. Give me a few weeks and I might be able to do some happy, happy posts. Until then, I’ll just be grumbling it out of my system!

      Hang in there – and yeah, I’ve made my child cry when I bellowed. There’s just no end to parenting shame!


  6. Gods, this made me laugh. Sorry, I know that’s inappropriate, but you’ve described every mixed state I’ve ever lived through. The smoke from burning bridges gets so thick!
    What I’m hearing (I think) is that you’re a deeply introverted soul. You need solitude and quiet to rejuvenate. People, chaos, *life* drain and make you brittle. The world isn’t kind to introverts. It demands more than is respectful or possible. And it takes so much effort to reestablish boundaries or even carve out enough time to mend.
    I get you, sister. Where do we go to get our “Crankypants” tee shirts?


    1. It made me laugh, too. Sometimes writing about my surliness helps me feel less so. I’ve been a pretty decent bridge burner in the past, but now I’m too tired to deal with the aftermath of my bad behavior, so I try to limit it.

      I am an introvert and when I want to get out of the car, man, do I ever want to get out. Life keeps on driving, though and it’s a challenge to stick with it through this need for down time.

      You’re right about the effort required to find that time. Usually, I miss the signs until I’ve already hit near bottom. That’s usually when I stop answering the phone or emails and mumble when people talk to me. I feel myself shrinking away and the monologue in my head becomes more aggressive and vile, occasionally to slip out of my mouth and offend. I’m pretty sure, though, that I’ll master my coping skills by the time I’m 80, so there is hope.


  7. May your well be not so deep that you cannot be found. May the sh*t you pile on not be so deep that you cannot dig your way out. We’ll see you when you get back from Family-geddon.


  8. I went through a plumbing crisis earlier this year myself – not sewage thankfully – but I did end up with a thousand dollar ditch in my yard. I bought a couple of yards of topsoil to try and fill the ditch and have spent the last three weekends moving dirt trying to even it out – ugh! I’m a bit behind in my reading so I hope your trip went well – that stuff can be so toxic – a sewage spill is a good comparison.


    1. It was a tough trip, but there’s a blog post that will come out of it. Trying to make that lemonade! I am extremely far behind on reading due to an eye condition that precludes much time online. Getting better, but still trying to avoid the Eyeballs of Fire. I think everyone is slipping into summer mode – less blog writing and reading.


      1. Lemonade – that’s the best way to look at it sometimes. I have kept up the writing, but I am way behind on reading – obviously. I managed to have a bad tick encounter and it’s taken a lot out of me – I see a light at the end of the tunnel though.


        1. It’s crazy – 11 years in the woods, but I guess this year has been especially bad – at least I had a great hike before it took me down. I’m lucky, some people spend months or even years trying to get a diagnosis. Glad to hear you are having less pain. Good sleep helps all around.


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