Posturing

The other day, I got into a verbal altercation with a guy over a parking spot.  I had backed into the space just as he was pulling forward in the hopes of getting there first.  When he didn’t, he felt the need to make a comment to me as I got out of the car, probably assuming that I’d just continue walking on by, and not make a comment back.  Had I been in the wrong, I probably would have apologized and accepted the verbal punishment quietly, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

As I started to respond, however, the guy got angrier that I’d dared to “talk back” to him, and walked up to me.  He started yelling, asking me questions and then talking over any answer I tried to give.  At one point, he got so close to me that his nose was mere centimeters from mine and he was screaming at me “Why you gotta be all up in my face?!”  (Yes, I noted the irony of that comment, even at the time.)  He even alluded to how “lucky” I was that this didn’t happen two weeks earlier.  He never fully explained that threat, but he kept putting his hand to his hip, like he was used to having his gun holstered there.

Throughout this whole scenario, I maintained my cool (outwardly . . . inside I was shaking like a leaf) and calmly answered his accusations with things like “You’re the one who walked up to me,” each time he asked why I had to be up in his face, which I’m sure pissed him off even more.

But even when my heart was pounding from the fear of the threats he was spouting–and the general fear many of us have of these sorts of confrontations–there was a part of me that kept seeing him as nothing but a peacock or rooster, trying to posture and make himself to seem like a big, scary man.  Some part of my brain stayed calm enough to realize that he wasn’t going to hurt me, but he was angry, and wanted me to back down first; like that would soothe his wounded ego . . . over a parking space, mind you.

I’ve seen this guy once since the incident, though I doubt he saw me.  He was with a few of his friends, smiling and acting like a nice guy; which I’m sure he is to people he knows.  It’s just that, for some reason, that day he felt the need to try to put me in my place.  That I didn’t allow it was what made him angrier.

I have to admit that I’ve done something similar from time to time.  I’ve never threatened anyone (either vaguely or blatantly), but I have absolutely no compunction about telling someone that I think it’s wrong when they try to cut in front of me in line, or to say “excuse you” when they bump into me, rather than using the ample empty space around us.  Sometimes they just ignore what I’ve said, and other times they don’t.  There have been a couple times where some heated words get exchanged, or some severe neck rolling happens by both myself and the other person involved; neither one of us wanting to back down and let the other appear to win the argument.

I don’t really have a comment or philosophical take on any of this–I feel that every now and then we need to stand up for ourselves when we think we’re wronged–but I do recognize it for the posturing that it is.  I also see how people can let the fear and adrenaline that builds up during those moments, move the argument into a realm of violence.  When we feel we’ve been wronged, we want the other person to apologize (and we can’t always see clearly who wronged whom).  When we get back talk instead of the apology we’d hoped for, it cranks our anger over the injustice up even higher.

When that happens, I think it’s best if we can calmly acknowledge the posturing for what it is (on both sides), and simply walk away.  Yes, our egos may be wounded for a while (and no doubt we’ll dish about this with our friends who will be sufficiently indignant on our behalf), but at least the situation wouldn’t have devolved into fisticuffs over something silly . . . like a parking space.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maddy
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 08:41:38

    Well done to you for standing your ground. I have a big yellow stripe down my spine and nearly always avoid confrontation, though so saying, I do remember a brief moment of bravery in a similar situation.

    I’d not been in the States very long then, and another car backed into mine in the car park [parking lot!]. She reparked her car and I pulled into an empty space too, checked for damage-none-and then she came after me. I would have liked to have run away and hidden somewhere but I was heading into the shop [store] and couldn’t avoid it without looking silly. [big fat ego]

    So she’s yelling something at me which I couldn’t translate but it was something like ‘why the f*** did you hit my car.’ I decided to be brave and said ‘but you drove into me.’ She said ‘excuse me?’ so I repeated my comment because obviously she didn’t understand me. She stepped closed and we repeated the same two comments several times and each time she was getting closer and closer until I was practically yelling at her.

    It has been many years since then. Now I understand that ‘excuse me?’ is not a question but a term of stupefied disbelief.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 15, 2012 @ 09:15:31

      LOL I can see the humor in you misinterpreting her “excuse me,” but I applaud you for standing your ground, especially being new to this country! That takes quite a lot of courage, Maddy.

      It’s definitely scary to face a confrontation, especially when you know you did nothing wrong, but the other party wants to make you responsible. But even the more timid amongst us has moments where they just won’t back down.

      Good on you!

      Reply

  2. Dana Fredsti
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 09:08:45

    I think that standing up for something once in a while is actually necessary, especially if you’re someone who goes out of their way to be accommodating and the “nice guy/gal” all the time. I’ve noticed a lot of folks think it’s okay to say some pretty rude things to me (my mom gets this too) or behaving badly and I finally came to the realization that I don’t have to be nice all the time and it’s okay to speak my mind. Which isn’t necessarily the same thing as posturing… but I also think that there are times when someone does cut you of or bump into you without apologizing that calling them on it is okay too. But if the posturing starts at that point… it’s so not worth it.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Jun 15, 2012 @ 09:32:34

      Good for you for realizing it’s okay to speak your mind, Dana! And I agree, speaking your mind isn’t posturing.

      I think the main reason that I sometimes continue posturing, is just because I refuse to let someone else believe they’re right & I’m wrong…unless, of course, that’s the case. And I don’t know that I posture all that much, but I will stand my ground & not back down. With the case up above, not once did I raise my voice to him. I kept my cool & let him have his tirade, but I wasn’t going to back down.

      Reply

  3. Dana Fredsti
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 12:08:45

    I’m gonna give you a “Posturing Pass” on this one ’cause I don’t think it sounds much like you did!

    Reply

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