Long long ago I was accused of having a hot temper. I was told that it wasn’t charming and would get me in trouble as I got older. I guess as a little girl, I was quickly infuriated by things. I don’t remember it that way, but I do remember being in trouble — and receiving a lot of lectures — for getting angry. My dad was a model for a short temper, but everyone just said that the “got his Irish up easily.” It wasn’t, as my mom said, such a big problem for a man, but for a woman?

I don’t know about this double standard of temper, but somewhere in all that modeling and lecturing something might have sunk in. It’s been years since I’ve lost my temper. I think what buffered it was teaching. When you are obliged to be the adult in a room filled with post-adolescents you learn patience and how to keep your emotional distance. From that distance you can see that often the stuff that pisses you off is funny.

The last time I was infuriated I got very sick. My students (some of them) posted a sign on my classroom door saying my class was cancelled. When I headed to the classroom I saw some of my students going down the steps away from the building. “What?” I said.

“Professor?” they said, “we thought class was cancelled.”

“It isn’t,” I said. In the classroom, a few students. were sitting around looking bewildered, not believing it (I always posted on BlackBoard and emailed my students if I were going to be absent). One of my student picked up his phone to text some of his classmates, a message I knew later said, “Get back here. She’s pissed.”

I was angry at them but not profoundly. It was more a matter of needing to remind them why they were there, what the policy of absences was (I didn’t care). And there was a big rock concert in the desert that weekend, and class was on a Thursday, I expected absences anyway. Their stragedy was unnecessary. I didn’t count absences against students. I figured they were adults and could make their own decisions about their lives including attending class.

I was angry at whomever had posted the sign, however. That was just WRONG because it could hurt other students, but even then I would get over it. I wanted to find those students so I could tell them they had every right to miss class, but no right to affect the decisions of their classmates. If they didn’t want to go to class, great, that was their decision but cancelling class and pretending to be me? No.

I told my boss (who, from this episode I learned was a piece of work beyond description) who asked me who did it. I said I had suspicions and told him who. They WERE on their way to the rock concert I learned from their Facebook page. He called them into his office the following week. Afterward he said to me that I had had no right to look at their Facebook page and said, “They’re good kids,” and some other stuff. He then proceeded to accuse me of all kinds of things that these students had said, all of which were untrue — that I was often late for class (NEVER), that my lessons were disorganized (NEVER) and that I didn’t know the subject I was teaching (had taught for 10 years, had published juried articles about, etc.).

I was, obviously, furious and trapped. He’d criticized me to my students and had taken their side. A good boss should have the backs of his teachers. I have never been more angry or felt more impotent.

In the middle of that night, I had my first ever asthma attack. It was so bad — and completely unfamiliar — that I was terrified. I could not breathe. These episodes didn’t stop. They went on every night for weeks. One night I really thought I was going to die. I finally went to my (incompetent) doc who threw steroid inhalers at me and then complained when I didn’t get well. More than a year later. I was diagnosed by two specialists (working as a team) with a rare pseudo-allergy called Samter’s Triad or Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease, given a bunch of meds and was finally able to breathe and taste food again.

The thing is… I don’t seem to have it any more.


13 thoughts on “Rage

  1. Being thrown under the bus….infuriating. At work, we were asked to describe ourselves in three words. I chose ‘quiet until provoked.’ My department mates smiled. They knew.

  2. When I was about 11 my neighbours children did something to make me angry (can’t remember what) so I got angry and started shouting at them. My mom came out and really told me off! From then on I have always bottled things up. It’s only recently that I’ve stopped being like that and been able to express my (justifiable) feelings x

  3. Wow! I internalized anger. Nobody ever cut me any slack for being angry, even when it was 100% justified. That is a common situation with social animals.

    When a higher status member of the troop messes with you, you take it out on someone lower in the hierarchy. Objecting to the one who was at fault just gets you more pain. It all rolls down to the poor omega dude. Hierarchy always trumps “justice” in a lesson I learned very early in life.

    I suspect your boss was more afraid of dealing with students than subordinates

    • Exactly right. He was a teacher and had probably been challenged to get good student reviews forever, so his perspective was still there. “If they don’t like me, I don’t have a job.” Plus he really and truly did not like women AND during his tenure as my boss, his wife left him. I know he took things out on us all the time. When he left the management spot, not even as a full professor, he was “forced” to retire but got emeritus status and a good pension. He killed the whole business communication section of that college. It moved to a different college within the university.

  4. Infuriated? I’m infuriated by the state of our battered house than anything else, especially since our lives depend on my getting it together. Lord I wish I knew a lawyer who had some free time!

    I worked at so many jobs, I always knew who had my back. They were few and far between, yet I remember the good guys and have forgotten the evil pricks. Time has done at least that pretty well.

    Garry gets mad at everything because he wasn’t allowed to get mad on the job, so he stored up 50 years of anger. Mostly, he shouts at the television, One sight of our National Buffoon usually turns him scarlet with fists shaking and I have to remind him we can’t afford a new TV right now. But that’s a national thing. Meanwhile (Thank you, Mr. Colbert) our national BP levels have risen nationwide during the past 2-1/2 years.

    What a shock, eh?.

  5. I don’t think bottling emotions up – internalising feelings – is good for you, especially if it builds over a long period. We all need to ‘vent our spleen’ occasionally. Maybe we should all have a punchbag in our garages to let all our rage out on. 🙂

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