Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you. ~Frederick Buechner
It’s later that I notice what I has been taken out of me – what I have broken. During those moments? Anger is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. Only then does freedom of speech not seem like an impossibility. There’s nothing quite like watching someone’s face crumple under your fury, nothing quite like that satisfaction. But I suppose everything is relative.
My elementary school guidance counselor was a short, loud woman named Ms. Shannon. Her office was a blinding yellow, the window shutters thrown open in a way that made you feel vulnerable, painfully exposed. There were orange posters of quotes from musicals and various children’s authors (You’re never fully dressed without a smile!) tacked onto the walls, next to various pictures of ridiculously thrilled children and Anne Gerber photos. A blown-glass bowl of rainbow gumdrops sat at her desk. Ms. Shannon never offered any. She always wore pinstripe suits in varying pastel colors, frilly Louis VII blouses with smiley pins, blue stillettos – the costume of a carnival clown. She had the Botox smile of a real estate agent. I hated her.
Ms. Shannon was in a position of power. She was buoyant, elevated by her sense of purpose to some Freudian state of Nirvana only psycologists can achieve. She must have imagined herself as sovereign of the kindergarteners.
Ms. Shannon enjoyed using a complex vocabulary while conversing with six-year-olds. It was how she got her sick kicks, telling children that they were going to go through Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. I went through the misfortune of having to converse with Ms. Shannon because I was strange. And thus, something obviously had to be mentally wrong with me.
Ms. Shannon said I had “suppressed anger anxiety issues”. She made air quotation marks as she said this, making it obvious that she had pulled out those four words from some Carl Jung book. I pretended to listen while simultaneously trying to escape suffocation from the enormous, fluffy chair I had sat in, as she waved her manicured fingers around and spouted phrases like “your cognitive appraisals are immature”. She eyed me and yelled at me to look at her. Eye contact! She told me I was an angry, angry girl.
I was confused. Me, angry? Anyone who knew me would say I was the most non-threatening six-year-old on this side of the planet. I was small, timid, bullied to an extent that my father had had to enroll me in karate. I didn’t hold grudges, and it was impossible to provoke me. I just nodded my head and smiled. I didn’t know English.
Ms. Shannon, however, had the unique ability to make me furious. What did she know about me? Nothing, that’s what. Who was she to tell me my “cognitive appraisals” were screwed up? I did not need her. I knew myself well enough, thank you very much, and I didn’t need anyone telling me what I already knew.
Avoid anger. Avoid fights. No one wins in an argument. Yes, muchas gracias, Ms. Shannon, now will you leave me alone? Will you stop looking at me like that, will you quit harrassing me? I was extraordinarily sensitive back then. I might not have gotten angry, but I remembered everything. And everything left a scar of some kind.
Whenever I elude a fight, I end up thinking of Ms. Shannon. Her strawberry blonde hair, her plastic expressions. Whenever I get into one (which is not very often), I also think of her. Strangely enough, though I detest the woman, it’s always her words that end up helping me avoid confrontation. I’m not going to thank her for that. I’m not going to thank her for anything. But she did teach me something, even if it was small and obvious and I was too young to have learned it before.
Anger may seem beautiful at first. It may be wonderful, and you may rejoice in it, for days, weeks, years, centuries after. But you always end up regretting it.
There you go. Another ridiculously lame super profound thought, courtesy of an angsty teenager. God, I need a hobby.