So I only learned the term “getting read” recently when I discovered a podcast called The Read, which I enjoyed for all its mindless banter. They tickled me. At the end of each episode the host and hostess basically picked a topic that made their teeth itch, and would tell the irritating or insulting person or people about how awful they were. Nobody was safe. Random flight attendants. Celebrities. Anyone could get it. And I would listen and laugh because I thought it was funny.
I also liked to listen to another podcast that discussed political issues, hosted by two comedians, one of which would make fun of himself regularly for continuing to be single… which, by the way, is totally okay. He would joke about how his mother would comment on him not having a girlfriend. I’m not sure, but he probably even used this as material in his stand up acts. And so one day, I made a comment regarding his lack of a girlfriend on Twitter. And do you know what happened?
I got read on their next podcast. OMG. Picture it. So I’m sitting there, listening to the podcast like normal (because I was a faithful listener), and the insulted comedian starts talking about how people are rude on Twitter and how this one person (me!) made a joke about him not having a girlfriend. I was just sitting there thinking, “Holy shit, that’s me!” He says the joke wasn’t funny. (Well, I’m not the comedian, so….) The other comedian says that although it’s a joke, I’m not in on the joke (but y’all keep telling the joke), and I have no right to comment on said comedian’s single life (okay, point taken). He says he can make jokes about the insulted comedian because he’s his friend (alrighty then). Then the insulted comedian goes on to say how he’s educated and successful and doing pretty well for himself even though he’s single… as if having a woman is synonymous with success. At any rate, he was pissed, and I was sorry. So I apologized via Twitter. I never listened to their podcast again, so I have no idea if he ever read my apology or said anything about it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even finish the rest of that episode. They said something about not coming back for a third season. I may or may not have single-handedly ended a whole podcast by telling one bad joke about a comedian that started the joke about himself in the first place. Who knew I had that much power?
And then I realized how those people must feel when they get read on The Read. I stopped listening to them too.
That wasn’t the first or last time I’ve gotten told about myself. It was certainly the first time I got told off on the air. And it was humiliating. I wish I could say that’s the only time I was put in my place in 2017, but it wasn’t. I had several more embarrassing moments where I was talked to as if I was a child, all while approaching 40. Each time I apologized for my missteps and tried my best to remember not to make the same mistake again. It’s uncomfortable to listen to someone talk about your behavior as if you intentionally did whatever it was they didn’t like. But I try to remember that their feelings are valid in that moment. I would like to think that I'm a kindhearted person, who would never want anyone to feel uncomfortable because of something I said or did. So of course, having to listen to my faults in that manner is hurtful, and often feels degrading.
My counselor and I have discussed better coping mechanisms for situations such as these. When I am emotionally uncomfortable, I tend to restrict (anorexic habits), and isolate. It’s like punishing myself for making mistakes. It’s like a mental version of sending myself to bed without dinner; remember when that used to be a punishment? The thing is, we can’t help but make mistakes. We are only human. Learning to accept that with a Type-A personality has proven to be very difficult for me. I’m already my harshest critic, so having others criticize me is like validation that I am as undeserving and mediocre as I already think I am.
I’ve learned (and relearned) some good lessons in 2017.
Like, don’t joke about someone else’s issues, even if they've joked about them first. Don’t assume someone knows what you’re talking about in a text message. Demand face-to-face business meetings, or face-to-face discussions about anything of importance for that matter. End conversations before they become toxic. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. And always, always be honest. I also learned to be more patient with others, to always speak to people with respect, and communicate in a manner that motivates people and gives them a sense of appreciation. There’s never a reason to talk to someone as if they are less than, and it will never be my intention to do so.
Being read by a complete stranger was humbling, even more so than being read by someone that I know. Mostly because this person knows nothing about me, so my first impression was all he had to go from. His impression of me was taken at face value, with no knowledge of what I do for a living, or that I have children or a husband, or that I’ve taught several hundred nursing students how to be awesome nurses. He doesn’t know that I love community service and that I’ve thrown myself into helping women of color through yoga. He doesn’t know that I’m actually a great mentor to many. He only knew that what I said insulted him. And that’s all that actually matters. He also doesn’t know that his comments changed how I interact with others via social media and in public. I’m reminded not to take people at face value; to remember that we are all humans, with stories, who have flaws, and that we should all be working to make each other better people.