An interesting exercise in thought-process reproduction.

… Or “Teaching your friends how to administer a ‘verbal ass-kicking'”.

Now, the last post wasn’t particularly intended to be an ass-kicking. More of a boundary-setting. But it was the firmness of my intent that mattered, I think.

As it is when I snap at J. for failing to deliver a story on time.

As it was with the e-mail I sent to the new president of Rose-Hulman and his secretary when he slowed down production of the newspaper by not having his Freshman Orientation Letter and signature to us.

But both Bob and Luke (affectionately known as “Bluke Starlein”) have asked me how I remain respectful while being firm. Luke said, “You get the point across that an ass has been kicked/chewed, but you have recently done it in such a way that no one can really complain about what you’ve said.” We’re going to leave that “recently” alone for the moment. Bluke has [have?–there are two included in that subject…] also asked me to provide lessons to teach them how to do it.

This makes me wonder how I do it.

I have a problem with adrenaline. It used to be that when I played Doom 2 or Diablo II, after about twenty to thirty minutes, I’d have to stop because the adrenaline would leave me too shaky and worked up to be able to actually play.

Imagine being seventeen and too excitable to play a nine-year old game. I could never play any game long enough to actually get good at it.

The same thing used to happen when I felt attacked–standard fight or flight. The butterflies would take up home in my stomach, my hands would start shaking immediately, my voice would shake. I would fire off at the mouth, saying anything to hold my position, but usually stopping short of personal attack or anything terribly embarrassing.

Another problem I have? I am damned slow on the verbal uptake.

If I’m going to have an altercation, give me e-mail. Give me a blog. Give me instant messaging. Give me a fucking sheet of paper, a quill, and a bottle of ink.

Do not get in my face. I just can’t think that fast. Or I can’t think well that fast. It’s my Achilles heel.

Any verbal take-downs I perform are usually quick explosions. When J. sat on the Thorn couch, joking around and taking up space and air when he couldn’t be fucking bothered to write my front-page story–the adrenaline hit and options included 1) Saying something to snap him back to my reality, 2) walking out of the room and letting things ride, or 3) physically attacking him (honestly). I thought I could nip shit in the bud by doing the first, so I did it. “J.”–tone sharp enough to snap his head up–“When you agree to do a story, do it.” Every problem, every issue, is contained within that short burst. He acknowledged, and we’re done.

But I must pick and choose my battlefields. When I go to chew someone out, I will almost always do it via e-mail. I can lay out my thoughts as clearly as I can and revise until I am satisfied, just like I can on my blog. I can get advice (although this is very rare) if I so choose. I can choose not to send said message, and let things ride.

I can be as calm or as excited as I want to be. I can sit and turn over and over in my head whatever it was that pissed me off. I can [more] fully analyze what I perceive to be the reasoning behind the original attack, and decide the degree to which I am going to snap back, even though I know my final response will be taken by others to be much harsher than how it is composed in my head.

Luke said he has a problem with watering down things too much. Believe it or not, so do I. I want to blunt my edge. I do blunt the edge. I want to be humorous, and jokingly get people to see my point. I want them to laugh as they come around and realize that they need to get on that job or go fuck themselves or whatever the case may be.

I really don’t go around looking for people’s balls to stomp on.

But more important is the idea that I am clear. I will take a temporary duration of hurt and anger if I can be clear and resolve a serious issue. If I am sending this e-mail, or this quill-scratched letter, then I (or someone related) have already sent reminders and nudges. I’ve already jokingly prodded, and apparently, either my point wasn’t clear in the joking or someone doesn’t understand that my will is one that will be done when and where I can enforce it.

I guess I’m just arrogant like that.

Yes, I’ve run into brick walls and I am fully capable of coping when my desires are not met. I even have standards that tell me when to back down or not to attack at all.

The big question Bluke was really asking, I think, was how do I do it in a practical sense. How do I sit down and craft a blog post like yesterday’s, to which Luke said, “What you have here is a thought process that I can’t duplicate.”

To me, it’s just like any other type of writing I do (not that I do a particularly diverse set of genres, but…). I start with a tentative “goal”. For instance, “How ’bout we stop folks from getting bitchy with me about the conclusions they jump to?” I follow this thought-path to the real problem, which was that I felt like I was being expected to write to someone else’s expectations or readability other than mine and that I was being man-handled in my own space when I didn’t measure up. It’s the same exact process I follow in a literary essay. Minus the man-handling.

Then I need a short intro to grab attention and, basically, state a “thesis”. “Listen up, bitches. This here blog is pour moi.” Or, “I’m Lissa Avery, the News Editor of the Rose Thorn and I’m e-mailing to remind you that we are publishing the Freshmen Orientation issue of the paper this week”–again, listen up bitches. I refrain from being lengthy, or meandering, or excusing myself unduly. It should take less than two complete ideas to grab the attention. I have every right to grab said attention and need no excuse–the president of my damn university can feel free to cock an ear in my direction. The real issue at hand should be a single, short, complete idea, even if it later requires a bit of elaboration to ensure something close to absolute clarity for those not cohabiting in my head. “The paper is being finalized tonight and tomorrow morning, and we have yet to receive the President’s letter or signature.”

(This arrogance has grown as a result of hanging around Michael, and recently, Luke. No one says “Listen up, bitches,” like Michael does. When I’m not being arrogant, I’m usually doing my best to take up as little space as possible: don’t bother people, don’t get in people’s way. I don’t go so far as to attempt to stay off people’s radar, but maybe it’s the “unveiling” that gets people? “When the giggling stops, watch the fuck out”?)

(Cussing is fun when you aren’t aiming the words at people and when the playing field is fairly level. Don’t let people tell you it’s a sign of a lack of vocabulary. Well-placed cuss words give an idea of the depth of the fury simmering below the surface that can be easily released with just the right response to this very e-mail/post being crafted.)

(Can anyone other than me tell that I have way too much fun with this?)

Indirectness and generalizations are actually the best way to do things. Never once would I have written, “You haven’t sent us the letter or signature you agreed to send.”–I’d have someone I knew was on-campus visit him in person first, because that’s an attack. I just wanted the damn letter. Never lose sight of the goal. I have to keep things informative, or it’ll be an attack.

In fact, if I’m being direct (“This is the third time you haven’t turned in a story you agreed to take, J.”), I’m either passed pissed (in which case the fecal matter is hitting the rotary impeller and I’m actually out for blood), or I’ve carefully weighed out the personality types–I can play on J.’s fear of me and whatever desire to please that he has, for instance.

The president simply got my contact information (in the indirect form “I can be reached at 704-…”) and “A timely response would be greatly appreciated.” Nothing disrespectful, but the last sentence was evidently some kind of a donkey kick to the face, because he sent his letter.

Actually, it’s the exact same thing bill collectors do, now that I think about it… *shudder*

Just find someone who gets behind on bills, and read their mail. There’s your how-to guide. Seriously.

The rest? The staccato paragraphs and the repetition and the metaphors? These are just itemizations and punctuations and the metaphors of my thoughts. Tricks of thought and language to best express my opinion. Honestly, I don’t even worry about being hard-hitting, because I am confident I will be–I worry about how to clearly express my opinion. This is how I think; my thoughts do not meander and ramble. I must have picked it up somewhere amidst all the reading and the literature classes and fighting with what used to be a damned short and flighty attention span.

Now, the final form is not the original form–things don’t usually just flow for me. It took me about 45 minutes to do yesterday’s post because it was short and the point was simple, and this one has taken me about three hours. I quibble over metaphor usage and the degree of punctuation and the degree of directness and number of examples and word choice and flow of paragraphs. I check to make sure I’ve covered my bases in explaining my point–not that I’m ass-covering, but I make sure I didn’t leave any big aspects out. I don’t want an argument. Someone transgresses, I let them know what’s what, case closed.

And then, after much re-reading and checking for cohesiveness, I send or publish or roll up my parchment and seal it.


  • Mae

    A beautiful work of mental strategy you have here, my friend. And by the way, I’m counting the hours until you get back here. I need a Lissa-fix!

  • Lissa


    I should be in Saturday afternoon to get my room key–I’ll swing by your room then. [8)]

    You know, this is the first comment you’ve left on my site, methinks…