Sunday, September 16, 2007

Short Fuse

Stand back, I may be about to blow! In the past, you could've described me as mild-mannered and been spot on. But as I age, I find myself easily erupting; and some recent flare-ups have made me wonder: Am I alone in my new volatility, or are other traditionally tame people experiencing similar behaviors? And, is having a short fuse so bad?

To start you thinking, I've shared two tantrums and hope you'll confess to a few of yours. For inspiration, I've included pictures of some famous hot heads.

Here goes: In my childhood (see "The Division Street Princess"), I was the classic good little girl. I can't recall ever talking back to my parents, raising my voice, or stalking off a sidewalk game. If challenged, I'd likely cry, or run home to mommy. Adolescence continued the same pattern and first marriage tussles typically ended in silence rather than a strong defense.

I admit to losing it a handful of times with friends, daughters, or second spouse. But I don't count these as authentic blow ups because my anger dissolved in tears. The following blow-ups, though, where absolutely no aqua was in evidence, made me feel 10-feet tall.

The first occurred on the CTA Blue Line. Husband Tommy and I were seated near exit doors when a male passenger leaned over the metal bar, smiled at the two of us, then dropped his pants to show off his …..

Because Tommy was partially blinded by a patch over one eye (recent cataract surgery), he didn't catch what was going on. I, instead, leaped from my seat and erupted in profanities. "Get the f@#$ off the train!" I shrieked. I don't know who was more startled, the flasher, other passengers, or me. I continued screaming until the offender slinked off the train, hiking up his pants on the way out. I felt like Wonder Woman!

Number two for your enjoyment took place during a discussion with a neighbor (known to be a feisty guy). We were in the midst of a debate, when he switched from the topic at hand to a personal attack. "You're retarded if you believe that!" he threw at me. "Shut the f@#$ up!" I returned. (You'll note I have a preference for a particular epithet.) He continued on, Tommy intervened, then pulled me home. Again, no tears, just a feeling of triumph.

(In the interest of full disclosure: I wound up writing my neighbor a note apologizing for my outburst because I realized his anger covered a raw spot. “Let’s put this behind us,” I suggested. He happily agreed. But I still count my initial rage as evidence of new boldness.)

I can't guarantee future outbursts won't find me dabbing my eyes and seeking a tissue. And I can't predict what will set me off. So, this will have to serve as fair warning: Watch out who you're messing with. I may be short, but…