While The Pedant was here, I got to talking about the horrible neighbours downstairs. They know how to fake being good, responsible adults when necessary, and have always been pleasant to me when I run into them in the hallway, but they have screaming fights with each other that trigger me and make me afraid to be in the common areas of the house. When I was growing up and my dad would scream about stuff – he’d throw a tantrum to himself, even, over trying to pick up a piece of paper from the floor and dropping it again several times – his anger would transfer onto anyone who crossed his path*. So I worry that if I bump into them in the hall mid-fight they’ll start screaming at me, too. Or at the very least we’ll make the most awkward eye contact ever because they’ll know that I’ve been able to hear their entire argument.
Anyway. These same people seem to have a vendetta against me. They’ve complained about me to the landlords for various reasons, one of which was reasonable enough I suppose and the others of which were bullshit. They fired the first shot, btw – I’d been graciously trying to ignore their constant fighting, and had never mentioned it to my landlords. Then suddenly the landlords are all “Mr. and Mrs. Fightypants said you’ve been doing this thing that disrupts their enjoyment of their living space.” They never went to me with this shit. They went directly over my head. So now it’s on.
Their latest bullshit thing is claiming that my “bin buddy”‘s and my garbage and recycling bins aren’t getting taken out so they’ve been doing it for us (there are several sets of bins for the building and each set is shared between two apartments. Except for Mr. and Mrs. Fightypants who I think have their own). When my bin-partner first moved into the building and I asked him how he wanted to divide the duties, he said he’d just bring the bins down himself every week. I trusted him and never double checked. When this whole complaint thing went down, I emailed him to ask what was up and he said he always brings the bins down at 5am the morning of pickup…except for the last few weeks they were already at the curb.
I bumped into Mr. Fightypants in the hall a few days later as he took his laundry out of the dryer. I figured it would be weird to look him right in the face and not address the elephant in the room, so I stopped and said “Hey, so apparently you told the landlady that we haven’t been taking our bins down? I talked to [buddy] and it turns out it was just a misunderstanding. He does bring them down. He just does it in the morning, not at night.”
“You’re not bringing them down! I’ve been bringing them down!” Mr. Fightypants said.
“No, we just didn’t bring them down yet. [Buddy] does it in the morning, is all.”
“NO! I’ve been bringing them down! I’ve been doing it! I go out the night before pickup and they’re still there because you didn’t bring them down! So I’ve been doing it!!!”
“[Buddy] was going to bring them down. He just hadn’t brought them down YET.”
At this point Fightypants has the audacity to cut me off with the words “I don’t want to argue with you” and walks right on into his apartment.
I honestly can’t tell if he was trying to needle me or if he’s honestly that fucking stupid. And I don’t know which would infuriate me more.
But here’s the intriguing thing, though: when I addressed his complaint right to his face, he got awkward and had a hard time looking me in the eye. And he didn’t show the kind of temper with me that he does with his dumbass shrieking harpy partner; he got more emphatic with me but didn’t really raise his voice. I had had a totally shitty day and was uncharacteristically bold so I was actually being louder than he was.
I suspect he (maybe both of them) has social anxiety**. Either that, or they know their yelling is disruptive and they know I have the power to call the cops and/or child services on them so they’re a bit afraid of me. Maybe they’ve gotten in trouble for disturbing the peace in previous places they’ve lived. Or maybe his sheepishness was just a result of him being called out on going behind my back, or a result of him realizing – now that it wasn’t the heat of the moment – that he has screamed a lot of things at his dumbass harpy girlfriend that I can totally hear.
Anyway. He and his fucking troglodyte harpy are awful and they still scare me, but I have an inkling that maybe if I put up an aggressive front they’ll actually be cowed. All the anger and yelling may be a just-them thing and not how they interact with the world.
But the point I wanted to get at with this post is that The Pedant was here on recycling night and I was like “Well, I’d better put the fucking bins out tonight since Fightypants doesn’t know what the word ‘yet’ means.” And I added that one reason I typically waited til the middle of the night to do it (before my “bin buddy” took over) was so I didn’t run into either of the Fightypantses doing theirs. Since I hate them and I know entirely too much of their personal business and they seem to want to start a feud with me and everything.
The Pedant and I just generally hashed out all the angst I’ve been feeling toward those neighbours and what I should do in the event of face-to-face confrontations of various kinds. We spun out a lot of probably unrealistic “what-if” scenarios, and The Pedant inserted himself into several of them (“If they ran into you and I was there I bet it would throw them off-kilter”). He talked about the vaguely threatening things he would do and say.
And then later he said “Y’know what would be satisfying? Threatening Mr. Fightypants with a knife.”
“That does sound satisfying,” I said. “How do you picture that going down?”
“A confrontation gets to a point where he throws a punch at you and I grab him, hold the knife to his throat, and tell him to never fucking come near you again.”
It honestly hadn’t occurred to me that he was picturing himself, not me, as the knife-wielder in that scenario. I feel kind of embarrassingly…stereotypical, or something (y’know, conforming to the whole “damsel in distress” thing or wanting to be rescued or liking brutish men who resort to physical threats or whateverthefuck…there are a lot of cultural narratives about chicks with boyfriends who protect them…) but all of this talk about The Pedant threatening this neighbour was totally, totally awesome and hot to me.
But that should really come as no surprise. I have a serious Being Protected deficiency in my bloodstream. When I was growing up and my parents should have protected me from bad things, they didn’t – including my dad being a Bad Thing that I needed saving from and my mom completely failing at it. My first few boyfriends were also Bad Things that someone should have protected me from***. My ex-husband was possessive and had a temper, so he’d sometimes tell me that he’d kill someone who hurt me, but his temper was indiscriminate; on one hand he’d get between me and someone who seemed threatening, but on the other hand during fights with me he would get up in my face and yell so loudly that it terrified me, and then when I ran and shut myself behind a locked door he’d break the door trying to get at me. Why did he need so badly to get near me again? Why, so he could scream “WHY DO YOU KEEP TREATING ME LIKE THE BAD GUY?!? I’M NOT THE BAD GUY!!!” into my face from two inches away, of course! (Screaming in a partner’s face while they cower and cry is something good men do, right…?)
And then we have The Pedant, who doesn’t have a temper; whose voice I’ve never heard louder than regular speaking volume, ever; who’s never threatened my physical safety, either explicitly or implicitly. His talking about threatening someone with a knife is not something he does all the time. Only right now, for me. And his security guard training included some stuff on how to take down an assailant, so he may actually have some skills to back up his tough talk. So I feel incredibly safe with him, and loved, and protected in a way I’ve longed for all my life.
*By which I mean, me or my mom. He never lost his shit on his boss, on his parents, or even in public whatsoever. Because as much as my mom described his tantrums as “losing control,” he magically found the strength to rein in his temper around people who could actually bring consequences down on him.
**I think sometimes socially anxious people have a huge temper at home because they’re doormats in the rest of their lives and the the only place they feel like they can let looseis at home with family. And/or they’re counting on a family member to be their buffer against the rest of the world and when that partner fails, they get enraged – as much at themselves for being so broken as at their partner for failing them. My mom was a bit like that, kinda standing behind my dad and hissing in his ear that she wanted him to tell off someone who’d just pissed her off, and if he didn’t do it (or didn’t do it to her satisfaction) she’d be snarling in his ear about it for like ten minutes.
***Funny story: when I was seventeen my mom noticed a bruise on my arm and asked how I’d gotten it. I said “[boyfriend at the time] and I had a fight.” And she didn’t follow up on that. She was just like “Oh” and then started talking about something else. Way to parent, mom! Gold star.