I Call Shenanigans

The world would be a happier, better adjusted place if we all got called on our shit. Seriously. (Better if everyone stopped their own BS, but even the painfully self-aware aren’t exempt from the stupid.)

So when people around me act like an idiots, I call them on it.

Since I made this glorious discovery, I have become so much happier in who I am and in my relationships. And my family — the ones I most often call out — seem now to count on me doing this. They like that I do this. They’re weird.

There’s a trick to doing it. Putting people on the defensive is a great way to give them a persecution complex. Try to understand their line of thinking, or at least leave yourself open to hearing it. If they know you’re listening, they’ll be more likely to reciprocate.

Don’t call people out because you can, or because you think it will make you look cool. That just makes you a dick.

Timing is important. Right when it happens is great. I have a hard time with that because I have to think about what I want to say. I usually need a minute or five to articulate what, exactly, the stupid is. Then I have to wait until it’s relevant again. Bringing it up out of context really doesn’t work; it just confuses people.

You have to figure out why you care — does the idiocy hurt someone? screw things up? — and you have to be willing to let it go.

That’s right: say what you need to say (about a specific incident, preferably), then drop it.

You can lecture until you’re blue in the face and it won’t have nearly the same impact. Your lecture-ee will stop listening. You will be blue. If they don’t hear you the first time, the other hundred times won’t matter, either. And really? Only that person can change his or her behavior. If and when behaviors do change, acknowledge it. Not as a reward, but so they know they’re doing it right.

And, of course, try to make sure you have someone (or multiple someones) in your life who will call shenanigans on you.

…I may make this sound easy. It’s not. It’s confrontation, and it’s hard. But it gets easier with practice.

So here (with some necessarily vague details) is the story of the most difficult calling-out I’ve ever done, that is also the most important:

Three years ago. A couple weeks before my sister’s wedding. My dad…did something he was very proud of, not realizing that it was actually a Dick move. (Much as I loved him, he did have a tendency to live up to his name.) He even called me to gloat. But he’d managed to scare someone I cared about; I couldn’t just shrug it off like I usually did with his antics.

I didn’t call him for a few days, because I didn’t want to have that conversation and I knew we would. Dad was great for holding a grudge and wouldn’t like what I had to say. Sure enough, when we finally did talk, he brought the issue up — again, quite proud of himself.

In the middle of a restaurant with my sister and grandmother, with him on the phone, I called him out on it. I told him the flip side of what he’d done, consequences he’d never considered, how and why I was so very not ok with this.

He didn’t want to talk to me after that. But I called him the next day. He almost didn’t answer, and when he did, he was short and gruff and claimed he was about to lose reception. I realized later that he was as scared as I was that our relationship might be forever ruined. He didn’t know if I’d ever forgive him. I didn’t know if he’d forgive me. He was just never all that great at channeling his emotions.

I said something like this: “Can we be done with this thing now? Please? It bothered me, and I am too much your daughter to let it go. I said what I needed to say. I’m over it, so are we good?”

And you know what? We were.

About a week and a half after that conversation, he died of a heart attack. Calling him out cemented our relationship in a way I’m not sure anything else could have. It allowed us to leave nothing unsaid between us, and it made him see me for myself, not just as his baby girl.

So take the plunge. Call out the stupid. (Just don’t forget to hold yourself accountable, too.) The universe will thank you.

One thought on “I Call Shenanigans

  1. Amen 2 that M.J. Very well said. l, 1st hand, know what a heavy burden it is 2 leave things unsaid. l always wanted 2 ask my sister…were things always turbulent between our mother, and father – my sis, and myself were born sixteen yrs apart – she being the older.

    l’ll spare u the soap opera ,-4 the most part- such as it was, but 2 nutshell it; as l was growing up, my parents rarely had a civil word 2 say 2 one another. l either heard yelling, or silence. Anyway…my mom passed several decades ago, and my dad, in ninety-seven, so their was plenty of time 2 address my concerns w/ my sis, 2 if she grew up w/ such hostility in the house, as l had, but l put it off, and put it off, ’til…..a few yrs ago, my sis was stricken w/ the same dis-ease/order that comedian,BernieMac had, and after a couple months, l ‘lost her, as well, and w/ that,…no closure.

    Ppl truly need 2 ‘hear’ what u’re saying, b/c truer words, have never been spoken. Be well, MJ.

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