13 March 2008

I have a temper...

and I know how to use it.

Yesterday there was a great confluence of events that lifted me over the edge of my self control. I know it may be hard for some to believe, but I used to be rather volatile.

Yesterday, when I went to my German class, the theme was cliches and Meinung. This was perhaps a bad idea. I had arrived late and I had noticed a strange atmosphere in the class, which had not been there last semester and had started in a minor way in the last few weeks, but which had apparently blown up while I was gone. Some weeks into this semester we had had several new folks join. One in particular, let's say A, has a habit of taking the class off tangent and not using what we are learning. When I am partnered with A in exercises I have flatly said that I am interested in doing the exercises and will not add to them or attempt other grammatical structures: I learn through repetition and I am quite happy with my teacher and her pedagogical method. But I told A to A's face.

Another person in my class, B, has taken to eye-rolling, slumping, sighing and acting like a put-upon infant in response to some of A's behaviors. While I was gone, this apparently turned into such a habit that when A is absent, B turns this behavior on others, passing notes to C, whispering in their common third language, and generally showing tremendous disrespect.

During the break, my friend shared with me that person B had written a note about something my friend had said, which my friend had seen, and had passed it along to C. The note was dismissive and rude. I was very angry. What had started as an amusing development of cliqueish behavior had now, in my opinion, turned to bullying.

So after the break, when the assignment was to discuss what each of our nationalities had as cliches in rethe other's nationalities, it was a dangerous topic. It allowed individuals to air what in some cases were ignorant and hurtful beliefs and in others actually devolved into misogynist and racist cliches. Rather than discussing cliched behaviors (loudness, drunkenness) they discussed physical characteristics. I wonder whether it is because I am American that I find discussing things that are not actually behavioral (color, hair, eyes, weight, height) to be offensive. I come from a melting pot and I am proud of it. But I let that go.

Then, to be non-specific, a friend aired a term which she thought was a cliche about Americans (as the teacher had requested) but which was rather both misogynistic and anti-Semitic. I was certain that she did not understand the connotations (being herself both Jewish and a woman) and I rather clearly explained why that term 1. was not pertinent in a discussion of cliches about tourists from different countries and 2. was offensive and should not be used. My friend understood this, but B, an American whose family emigrated to a third country and is thus cognizant of the term in all its aspects, smirked. I'm not certain whether she was smirking at my passion (and I assure you, I am passionate about responding to slurs against my religion, my gender and my nationality) or whether she was smirking at my friend, but I turned to her and unleashed my +5 Tongue of Vitriol, stating that I was old enough and had worked long enough to have been discriminated against as both a woman and as a Jew, and that perhaps she hadn't, which would explain why she found my explanation and passion amusing. She said nothing, and C, who has done human rights work, agreed, perhaps undercutting whatever response she might have made if she had the gumption to actually speak face to face rather than traduce behind backs. I needed to leave at that point to pick up the kids and apparently after I left, B turned to C and in her language said that she was offended by what I said.

Whew. So I was still frothing and simmering after I got home. My friend stopped by to drop off a paper that I had missed and told me that she no longer wanted to go on our class trip to Dresden because she didn't want to be on a train trip with B and C and my anger notched up another level. I said that I would speak to our teacher about this that evening.

Then I called my Dad to say hello, and I can't even go into how that led to an argument with my mother and how she then used her +10 Tongue of Vitriol against my dad. I got her acid and quickness to take offense and my Dad's volcanic temper. My gosh, the German is a brave man. Luckily my general happiness usually keeps the lid on and I do try! While she was hanging up on me (her general reponse when her bad behavior is pointed out) I heard a muffled noise from the other room and found Thing1 strangling 2 with a plastic cord that my landlord's workmen had left after putting up blinds. Not that she was doing it on purpose, of course. Rather that she was using it as reins on her sister the horse and unfortunately had twisted it so tight that the screams of 2 were being muffled. After I yelled and 1 still did not drop the reins I actually picked her up and tossed her on her bed, then comforted 2. Then 1 was in hysterics because I had yelled at her and thrown her in her room. Then we were all crying.

Then I called the German to vent and he couldn't talk. And that was after he couldn't talk after class either, or in the morning. So then I yelled at him and hung up.

Then I put the Disney channel on and read blogs while both kids sat on me.

Then I made dinner and did another load of laundry.

Then I fed the kids, the German came home with flowers and we ate, and this morning I spoke to my teacher about the atmosphere and my discomfort, she said she felt it as well and would speak to B and C and she apparently did. At least C made a real effort today to be friendly and my friend says that B and C have changed their demeanor to her. But I usually sit by B and C and I sat by A today and I am not sure whether the feeling I had toward class, that it was a refuge from the kids, has not been ruined.

I am sour right now. And I needed to vent, as Thing 2 still won't sleep at night and is padding around the apartment at 11 pm. I need my nights child-free!


Anonymous said...

Rough day. I always feel a little better after I blog about it. I hope you do too.

Snooker said...

Wow, it sounds like it was a hard day. I'm with Danie, having a blog to be able to vent with is a wonderful thing.

Lynda said...

Vent away! Hope you feel better now. I am surprised that the teacher would use such a delicate subject as lesson material. Being the 'foreigners' here in Cairo, I have become painfully aware of how often we use the terms 'them or they' V's 'Us', our teacher is Egyptian and seems to tolerate our crassness with good humor. Somedays it makes me squirm. Stick to your convictions.

Diane Mandy said...

UGH!!! How OLD are these people in your class--12 or something??? Very few things rile me up and cause me to explode, but the sort of talk you described in class always pushes my buttons. I am glad you spoke up! Good for you!

G in Berlin said...

B and C are under 30 and B is under 26, so perhaps the age is part of it. But yes, more reminiscent of 12. Today, everyone was very friendly and non-cliqueish, though;-) And we are going to Dresden tomorrow,and I would think that we will speak carefully.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Why is it that some people don't grow up? B and C should realize that this isn't high school.