Things I Want To Be Able To Do Without Feeling Like I’m Being Unspeakably Rude.
1. I want to end emails and other text-based requests with “Thanks.” rather than “Thanks!”
You’ve encountered this, right? I think this is the best example, so I started with it so you can get bored and leave any time after this point. Have you ever noticed feeling like you’re supposed to put that exclamation point there, even if you’re not feeling at ALL exclaimy? Do you ever feel obligated to stick that explanation point on, even if you’re really annoyed, because the word looks rude without it? And then you can run into that thing where the person you’re emailing KNOWS you’re annoyed and KNOWS your exclamation point is disingenuous and non-sincere, so it NOW looks snarky, but you have to do it anyway, because it would be RUDE not to.
I know it’s totally possible to skip the exclamation point, and I know some people have no problem doing it, and it’s never even occurred to others to use an exclamation point when they don’t feel it suits their current mood and level of enthusiastic emphasis. Of course there are people like that and maybe you’re one of them, and it’s great that you’re not held captive to punctuation angst. But for me, and others like me, because there definitely are others like me and I’m not totally out of left field with this one, I would really like to evolve past the compulsory exclamation point. I mean, maybe you’re being firm, not rude. Maybe it’s an email that just requires a “Thanks.” and not a “Thanks!” But when you (I) hover over the send button without adding that exclamation point, you (I) have a moment of sincere doubt, just knowing it’s possible for someone to take personal offense to your tone.
And here’s the thing, maybe your tone is totally intended! Maybe you really don’t WANT to sound perky and chipper as an exclamation point implies. But knowing that people of a certain sort take personal offense to tone, you have to fake the tone. Which is a whole new level of self-insulting and I’m getting agitated about it which means I’m about to type the same point 15 different ways until I feel like my rage has been stamped out via my fingertips.
Let me skip all that and save some irritation for the other points you may or may not read. It’s not so much that the exclamation point is required, but that the tone associated with the exclamation point is required, therefore necessitating that exclamation point after the word thanks. Should you neglect to use it, your email may be read with a firm or – heaven forfend – even strident tone, which would be unforgivable, EVEN IF YOU WERE, IN FACT, BEING FIRM AND STRIDENT AS YOU TYPED IT.
And look – I know people are super sensitive to pointing stuff like this out – but I just quizzed my husband, who sends emails all day, on how he feels about not adding an exclamation point to the word thanks at the end of an email, and it’s honestly never crossed his mind that it’s a thing. I really don’t think men spend as much time thinking about how their tone will be perceived in an email in such detail that the punctuation after the word thanks is a huge concern. But I do. I have consciously gone back and forth over a single point of punctuation after a single word in an email, and if I’ve done it, based on my theory of being the most average person on earth, plenty of other people have as well.
That’s this point. I want to be able to not use it without angsting over it. I want to move past it, like I know many people have managed. If I’m feeling “thanks” instead of “thanks!,” I want to say that without giving a rip what the other person may interpret about my tone. EXCLAMATION POINT DELIBERATELY LEFT OFF TO FORM A NEUTRAL CLOSING.
2. I want to be able to disagree with someone without conceding their point.
So, if you’re brave enough to disagree with someone on Twitter, you’re being stupid and it’s not worth your time because other people are landmines that will ruin your day on purpose. In general, it is impossible to disagree with the standard Twitter person without insinuation that you’re starting a fight, being a mean girl, or attacking someone. Just… just fucking stop it with that.
But aside from that, say you (I) see someone make a point you disagree with. Your choices are this: say nothing, do nothing, close the computer, move on, pretend you never saw anything at all, possibly move. OR, say, “Hey, I disagree with that.”
I’m skipping over the people who believe that when two adults disagree, they’re fighting and do that whole thing where they watch the “fight” and type instigatey little sub tweets without @-ing anyone. You people just fucking suck so hard. Stop it. Just join in the conversation. It’s a free Twitter and you’re allowed. But I’m skipping that because it’s just… it’s too much for me to work though with appropriate polite punctuation while I’m still sitting in bed in the morning.
Skipping that. Instead, just the simple scenario. You’ve gone and done it and you’ve spoken up and said, “I disagree with that.” So, assuming two normal adults, you go back and forth a bit about your conflicting opinions, and somehow, by the grace of Superman, you manage to escape the attention of the subtweeting instigators and just go back and forth with each other.
Eventually, that conversation has to end, right? Do you ever feel obligated – and I know some of you never do and that’s fine – to formally end the discussion with some kind of, “Oh, well, I guess we’re both right! Nice talking to you!” sort of gesture? EVEN IF YOU TOTALLY DON’T BELIEVE THE OTHER PERSON IS RIGHT AT ALL?
It’s just the polite thing to do. It seems that in a lot of social media, people are unable to consider a conversation closed and fully resolved unless both parties agree to give a little ground to each other or something like that. And if you don’t, you are fighting and being mean and rude. Sometimes I don’t want to give any ground and I don’t think you’re also kind of right and I think I’m ALL THE WAY right, and I don’t respect your opinion at all (thought of course I respect your right to have an opinion, even if it’s a dumb one) and I want to end the conversation there with YOU KNOWING that I don’t think you’re right. And I want that to not feel rude. I want to be totally at ease with being firm about how wrong I think you are without you – or the peanut gallery – assuming we now hate each other because I was such a dick for not just agreeing with you.
That needs to be a thing that’s allowed. Or a thing I allow myself, because no one is actually in charge of that. I need to be able to say, hey, you’re wrong, I’m always going to think you’re wrong, and I’m not going to acknowledge that you might be a little right BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE A HUGE LIE BECAUSE YOU ARE SO WRONG. And the other person should feel able to do the same thing with me. And life should move on.
Actually, I don’t have trouble doing this one. I do usually have trouble with my surprise over other people’s attitude toward it. I’ve disagreed with a casual Twitter friend before, you know, just talking away on Twitter about our opinions about something dumb, and had the other person say something about how she wishes we weren’t fighting. We’re not! I’m just telling you that I believe you’re wrong and you believe I’m wrong and that’s totally something adult people can do in real life except apparently not on social media. If I haven’t called someone a fuckface for her opinion, I really don’t think it’s crossed the line into rude.
3. There was a whole other thing here I decided wasn’t worth the hassle, which kind of perfectly illustrates my overall point.
Anyway. Here’s something else instead of what I had here before. On a work forum the other day, I saw a woman say, “I don’t mean to sound firm, but…” WHY DON’T YOU MEAN TO SOUND FIRM? YOU’RE MAKING A POINT. YOU CAN BE FIRM. How have the niceness police gotten so out of control that a woman completely denies being “firm,” even when she’s speaking about something she feels very strongly about? How have things gotten to the point that rudeness is an unforgivable affront, and “non-super-niceness” is the new rude?
I want to be done with all of this, because it’s weird an inappropriate for me to worry that I’m being mean and rude when I’m just being neutral. I don’t want Penelope to grow up thinking being rude is okay, but I also don’t want her to feel like she needs to let that dude with the bananas go ahead of her in the shopping line just because it’s expected, if she doesn’t feel like it.
I know these are all me things and not every person questions how other people might view her motivations if she says what she wants to say the way she wants to say it. And truthfully, the older I get, the less fucks I have to give about this kind of stuff because the people who know me as a person know who I am and if someone else wants to deliberately misinterpret me, fine. Go ahead. Don’t like me. The point in life where you realize you absolutely do not need everyone to like you has probably been the highlight of my life so far. But how, as an adult, am I still worried about a stupid exclamation point at the end of an email? How is that a thing?
As always, I flame out spectacularly when trying to pull everything together into a cohesive topic with one real conclusion. I guess I don’t have an overarching conclusion. I’m frustrated and I have been for a long time, and I’m kind of putting it out there to get that whole “yeah, me too!” thing that the people who read this blog have always been good for, with other examples of the same phenomenon and how they (you) think about the whole thing and how you cope or don’t cope with it, even if it is also a 2000 word rambling epic with no actual conclusion but just random fist shaking at the sky.