Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Art Of The Hissy Fit

There is a great divide below the Mason-Dixon line within my clan of women kinfolk. The definition of a hissy fit is decidedly Southern and it's not a complimentary term. It usually conjures images of spineless, mindless women throwing temper over trivial matters and being laughed at by the opposite sex who'll pay them no never mind for the privilege of watching the fit.  But in my family, the fine art of flinging a fit was passed down by women who had plenty enough brains and too much hot-headed temper for their own good. Some could make it work for them. Some could not. But none of us ended up in the dreaded ditsy bunch. We reserved that distinction for "floozies" and Uncle Mark's two-timing wives with the flamboyant beehive hairdos and red nail polish.  *note* This does not include the subcategory of eyelash batting and hair twirling when one is purposely dishing the ditz thing (I might know something about that. Ahem) which has an entire chapter all to itself in the Book of Southern Women.  You either have mindless women throwing fits (the true stereotypical kind) or spineless matriarchal misfits of women in communities where if you're gonna steal someone's husband, you need to have the good sense to take off the brazen telltale nail polish. 

 I'm remembering just how frightening and how awesome a well-flung hissy fit can be. My mother threw things and slammed things. Glasses. Cabinet doors. Shoes. My grandmother only had to look at you sideways and squint her eyes. You knew you had exactly sixty seconds -that's how long it took her to finish the purposely lit cigarette-made-for-contemplating that she tapped eight times on the side of her little silver ashtray after eight long thoughtful draws - to either agree with her or change her mind. After that, she'd arch her irritated eyebrows right at ya and wait for you to feel guilty for sin you hadn't even committed.  It was deadly. And my great-grandmother? Her mother? The scariest thing about her was the century old tribal mask she kept on the bedroom wall and the shudder I felt just peeking through the forbidden keyhole in the back of the house when I wanted to look at it. The floor creaked and she'd find me every time. If she reached for the broom behind the door, you'd better run. She wouldn't say a word but you'd better run. You haven't lived until you've seen a tall green-eyed Cherokee woman who birthed twelve children violently wield a straw broom back and forth in front of an apron full of swats and skedaddles. Do you know about skedaddling? Well, I don't have time to tell you today.

I'm too busy pitching fits.  I had one the day before yesterday. I had one yesterday. I decided not to have one today. 
But it was totally worth the fight and the spew and the hissy. Because sometimes even a person who strives to be peaceful has to stand up for herself, especially if what she is fighting against is a stealer of said peace. And if there's one thing I'll protect with all my being it's my right to live in a peaceful space, a peaceful planet, so that I can be a peaceful me.  The world rails you know. But I grew up staring down the broom. I learned to duck. I learned to run. I learned to hold a gaze while I choked on smoke (thank you, Grandmother) and I learned to fill my word quiver and fling when needed.  Because I now walk in a world without the presence of that protective tribal force and I'm on my own in the here and now. Oh, my legion of angels are with me; their souls still know how to wrangle through my head and my memory. I know that. But they're not going to fight my struggles for me.  

There are people who think their agenda should rule your world, usually because someone else's agenda rules theirs. If you don't stand for your piece of the ground - the little square you want that is your place in this world if you don't protect it - you'll keep losing it. And pretty soon there won't be a spot left to stand on, much less a place to leave your mark. So don't let the giants and the fence-builders ruin that plot of grass.  You do want to leave a mark, don't you?

What was my agenda? After two days of hissy-fitting and two days of not sleeping and two days of fretting about the power struggle I was in and the decisions I needed to make but didn't want to make, I decided to wave the white flag. Not because my cause was unjust nor my request unreasonable. Quite the contrary. But because my hissy-fitting ways only adding to my stress. I needed a new strategy - one that didn't include arm-waving, eye-rolling, throwing things and raising my voice behind closed doors with said and unsaid adversaries, who kept trying to get a word in edgewise as I flung all that pent up frustration at her with my well-chosen words and hot-headed genetically induced temper. And that strategy was to disengage.  I fumed and pouted, stomped and steamed (oh, it was a sight) because I realized that even though I knew she was dead wrong and wrong again, I wasn't going to solve my dilemma by being absurd. Or disrespectful. Even though I was right and right again.  Still right.  Just quieter.

  So I put the broom back behind the door and let go.  What I found was that my adversary made an unexpected U-turn and offered a compromise.  I learned two things: (1) hissy fits (if that's what you call your non-violence tantrums) aren't bad things if done with as much honesty as you can throw at the other person. They aren't wars and they aren't without integrity (2) walking away from a battle sometimes helps you win the war.

Did I get everything I wanted?
But I said my peace and I kept my peace. 

Go on. Have a hissy fit if you want to.
I think it's very healthy.

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Amazing Gracie said...

I know all about the fine art of "hissy fittin'," but you're a far better woman than I. I've stuffed so much anger down my throat for the past thirty years by not giving it a voice, it's erupting all around me now. Duck!

speedyrabbit said...

I do it on occasion too,it doesn't last long though,it may not solve problems but it does make you feel better and it it gets everything out in the open,at 41 now I find I can't be bothered with taking rubish from people,so if they are out of order,I tell them and and if they keep at it then look out hissy fit of the tornado kind and then 5 minutes later it has blown over and peace is restored,xx Rachel

Travis Cody said...

I'd say that it's a step in the right direction when you can stop, turn down the volume, and give the other person a chance to understand the passion of your argument and the need for at least some compromise.

Mimi Lenox said...

Gracie - But I'll bet you're passionate about your beliefs and opinions, right? Don't stuff it. Let it out. (I can duck, ya know)

Speedy - Peace can be restored after a blowup for sure.

Travis - You know the struggle I am writing about! It's been an interesting week.

The Gal Herself said...

Sometimes disengaging is the best, wisest path and I applaud you.

I also really enjoyed the writing here. You've done generations of Southern women justice!

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