She’s Not An Asshole, She’s Socially Awkward: Why One Can Look Like the Other
The plight of the clap-and-runner and why they may be doing it.
It was sometime in the mid-’90s, and I was waiting in a psychologist’s office while he selected the words he would use to eviscerate me. My first husband and I were in marriage counselling. The doctor pins me with his reptilian stare. The jig is up. I’ve been outed. My crime?
After a thorough review of the personality tests we took the week before, he has discovered I demonstrate this most grievous and unfortunate trait.
Where he briefly touched — and I mean briefly — on the fact that my husband may be a ‘little distant’ and perhaps ‘somewhat controlling’, it was my lacking in interpersonal niceties that required his immediate intervention.
He spared no time in expounding the seriousness of this unfortunate social faux pas. I stare wide-eyed.
I got nothing. So I ask. “What the fuck is an interpersonal nicety?”
His mouth gaped as his gaze slid left of me. He got it, and his sympathies were now squarely in team hubby. But there could still be hope.
Possibly, she can learn. He adjusts his natty tie, clears his throat, and dives in.
“Well, you know. Your co-worker gets a new haircut and you notice it and tell them it looks nice.”
“What if it doesn’t?”
“Then admire their dress.”
“She’ll think I’m admiring her dress because her hair looks like shit.”
Team hubby issues a loud groan.
“Well, perhaps the haircut is a vast improvement.”
Got to hand it to him, his determination is impressive.
“Or maybe she got hosed and she knows it and she’s hoping no one remarks on it. Then I just look insensitive and bitchy.”
“Let’s say the haircut looks nice. You should remark on how nice it looks. Maybe she had it coloured and she feels good.”
“Maybe she looks at my hair and thinks to herself, Oh, shit. If she’s sporting that cockup and she thinks mine looks good, I’m fucked.”
“I think I’m beginning to understand why you struggle with interpersonal niceties.”
He pauses for a moment, and I’m hoping he’ll turn his laser focus on team hubby.
“When did you last have your hair done?”
“Six months ago. I know it looks like hell so if this is interpersonal niceties 101, try something else. My shoes are new.”
“Fantastic. Paula those are great shoes you have on, are they new?”
“Yes, but they pinch and, they’re wearing too fast, but with two kids and paying a marriage counsellor, they are what I could afford.”
“Typically, one would say thank you.”
“Ah, I get it.” I smile brightly. “You are saying people want to be spoon fed inauthentic platitudes so I can feel better about my social skills.”
“Good Lord, No. I am saying people need encouragement. They need to feel noticed and acknowledged.”
“Why on earth would they need encouragement from me? Here is how I see it, one doesn’t compliment upwards — only a downward or lateral strike.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well if I admire my bosses suit, he’s thinking, who are you to admire my suit, Asshole. But if his boss admires his suit, he feels good about it,” I said.
“I don’t think he’d think — .”
“If I admire someone’s hair they may think, why are you commenting on my hair when you didn’t comment on the report I sent you last Tuesday? See what I’m saying?”
“No.” He gives his head a vigorous shake like he’s coming out of the lake after a swim. “I believe you’re over thinking it.”
“I do.” His eyes are wide as he says the words.
That week my coworker came in with a new haircut. Her hair is a peroxide-battered tangle of hell that is now, well, shorter.
I pour my coffee, stir in some cream, and take the plunge. “You’ve had your hair done. How nice.”
“Are you saying ‘how nice I had it done’ or ‘it looks nice’.”
Fuck. She knows me — too well.
“I’m new at this, so I guess I missed the part about it looking nice.”
“You’re new at this?”
“Yes. Interpersonal niceties.”
“It looks nice. Really.”
“You know, not all advice needs be taken.”
When you see someone clap and run without leaving a comment, which I sometimes will do, it’s not because you failed to move, inspire, strike awe into my heart or humble me by your talent, content or story. It’s more likely because I am resorting to the old lateral or downward strike school of thought.
Generally speaking, it takes an epic amount of emotional wherewithal to make comments, and I would bet I’m not alone. I will add at this juncture it was only a few years ago a psychologist mentioned I was likely on the spectrum, albeit mildly. I’m betting some chips are falling into place? Am I right?
I’ve read several stories on Medium regarding the ‘clap and run’ and why people do it. I’ve had people clap and run myself. Comments are lovely, and they lend to feelings of acknowledgment, support, friendship and best of all — community. I have since stopped clapping and running — unless it is a person I have never engaged with before, or perhaps a Top Writer who is likely to think, ‘who the hell is this Asshole, and why is she commenting on my suit. . . er,. . . story?’
You’re unlikely to see me commenting, ‘Hey Tim, you content machine, You. Great article. Love the suit.’
In any event, even if I did clap and run, you can bet I loved it. If I highlighted it, I loved it even more. If I commented, well, it no doubt kept me up that night.
But then again, you are worth it, you rascals.