Sunday, February 27, 2011

old yeller

My name is Leslie, and I yell.   (Please don’t call me a yellaholic; I prefer ale to yellahol.)  If there were a club, a deity-free 12-step program, a debriefing, a detoxification, a reprogramming, I’d be in.

I don’t need anger management.  I’m not particularly angry (though perpetual pain does make me snappish); I’m frustrated.  Most of the time, I yell to get people to listen, to recognize that I’ve asked three times nicely already.  CLEAN YOUR ROOM! I AM SICK OF YOUR PILE OF CLOTHES!  Or I yell to stress to them that I really did tell them last week we were going to dinner at Beth's.  I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK WE WERE GOING TO DINNER AT BETH’S!

Sometimes I yell at the dog after I step on him.  I yell at the TV when the news is on.  I yell at people to get out of the kitchen, to stop using my computer, to PUT MY FUCKING CAPO BACK ON MY GUITAR WHERE IT BELONGS. 

Yelling is more love than hate. It is more caring than not caring.

Sometimes the yelling is the reaction of a control freak trying to control areas that she can’t control (people) because she’s unsuccessful at controlling what she can control (pizza).  Today I yelled at an acquaintance.  Instead of being the trainer barking obedience into a dog, which is the way it’s supposed to work, it backfired, and the dog ran away, which is the way it sometimes goes.  Because this was a person, not a dog. 

I could blame it on my family.  I was raised by a pair of yellers.  My first words were yelled.  When my sister was about to be born, my parents drove me to my grandmother’s house.  I fell off the back seat when we went over a bump, and I yelled, “OH, SHIT!”  I was four.  The old familiar familial yelling bothered me when I was little, but I couldn’t beat them, so I joined, yelling at my sister, my parents, our dogs and cats.  I moved out when I was seventeen, and, though I yelled a little less with the help of mellowing agents, I yelled more because of my punk rock band.

Yelling is an exorcism of sorts.  GODDAMMITRASSUMFRASSUM  is usually followed with Hi.  I don’t yell to hurt anyone’s feelings.  In fact, I hate that about yelling.  But I yell if you’ve hurt mine. 

I don’t mean to excuse it.  I just want to explain it. I often resolve to stop it.  But I don't know how.

I tried to quit yelling once a few years ago.  My therapist (he retired, or I’d be on the phone with him right now instead of talking to you) told me that every time I yelled, I had to do some housework I disliked.  I chose to wash the filthy kitchen floor.   For two weeks, I had the cleanest fucking floor in Baltimore.  Sometimes I would yell with the wet mop in my hand.  And soon, like the skinny bitch I put on the refrigerator to remind me not to eat the pizza, the mop became invisible. 

My name is Leslie.  I yell, and my floors are dirty.


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