The Ugly Truth

We went to a party yesterday and a couple that were there did something which always makes me squirm when it happens in public. They had an argument. It wasn’t the usual kind of what I call the well-intentioned argument where a wife is looking out for her husband by saying: I don’t think you should have any more of the cheese dip, dear. It’ll be terribly high in fat and you know how you have to watch your cholesterol.

This argument was nasty in nature and obviously had its origins well before the party had begun. It very quickly degenerated into she going down the always route.

You always say one thing and do another.

To which he countered with –

And you’re really, really fat.

Why do people do that in an argument? Why do they feel the need to bring it down to its most hurtful level by making it a commentary on physical appearance rather than on behaviour?

My husband does that and it drives me crazy. A few years back his sister stayed with us while she was on holiday from New Zealand and they got into an argument which ended in him calling her Thunder Thighs. She was upset about it for days. The size of her thighs are something she’s sensitive about. I also know that the woman at the party is sensitive about her weight and no doubt still feels upset that her husband had to bring things down to such a base level.

Little kids argue like that all the time.

You’re ugly.

You’re dumb.

You stink.

You would think that as adults our style of arguing would be much more sophisticated, but often it is not. You would think we would have moved on from what is basically just name-calling. But many of us haven’t.

I have been told I am a difficult person to argue with. I can be quite hot-headed, but in an argument I am uncharacteristically calm. I choose my words carefully and don’t throw ugly truths around. I don’t see the point of honing in on a physical characteristic someone is sensitive about and exploiting that sensitivity. It is careless and irrelevant to what you are arguing about. It can also be very difficult to forgive.

My husband tried that tactic with me last year when we were having an argument about him coming home late three nights in a row. I was calm. I stated my case – how his behaviour made me feel. There was no hint of character assassination whatsoever.

And his response?

You always have to have things your way.

And the comment that damned him for a good six months –

You’ve lost your looks.

POW.

ZAP.

OUCH.

Following the initial premise stated in this post that the arguers hone in on physical areas their victims are sensitive about; you might be led to believe that I am sensitive about getting older. That is actually not the case but my husband thinks it is. He thinks I have used what he calls my cutie-pie blonde looks to get what I want throughout my life. When I think about it that is fodder for another post, another week’s worth of posts; but mostly, it reveals more about him than it does about me.

It hurt me that he said it. There was no need. It had nothing to do what we were arguing about. And it had an unexpected consequence. It gave me ammunition whenever he started griping about something else.

ME: Oh, I suppose you’re going to go on about how ugly I am again.

HIM: I should never have opened my mouth. I should have thought before I spoke.

Exactimundo.

Think before you speak in an argument because if you don’t those hateful, horrible phrases will come back to haunt you.

Because ugliness just begets ugliness.

And that’s the truth of it.

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24 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth

  1. Oh my gosh! That is absolutely horrid. A comment like that sticks forever in me- forever. I can remember every single one ever made from primary school until now. I would never do that to anyone. I’ll admit I am a terrible fighter. What I do is bring up old fights, which should be done and over. My husband is like you, Selma, always calm. I try so hard to be like him. I will try better especially after reading this. But these people, and even your husband, must watch what they say. There is a saying in Setswana that the best weapon is words and I agree with it completely. In English it’s sticks and stone will break my bones but words will never hurt me- what a lie that is! Bring on the stones if you ask me.

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  2. Yeah, we can be amazingly hurtful to one another. And words have a way of sinking into the consiousness and staying there forever. It’s bad enough that we hurt each other in the privacy of our homes, but to do it in public – especially to shame someone about his/her looks – is insidious.

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  3. It’s the planetary alignments(Mars ,Saturn)…… I got into an argument yesterday. For once , I was glad I did. Some things have just been needed to be spoken about for some time now…but…Well… I could have said some things more delicately. I don’t regret it one bit though. It’s over now, and it’s one less concern I have. I can’t comment on what you and your husband argue about…”cause … I’m no saint.

    Arguing at a party, Jeez , it’s supposed to be a party. But, I’ve ruined my share of those too. So again , I’ll just say , “It’s supposed to be a party…dammit.” ( as I spill my drink on a beautiful dress)

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  4. I doubt we’ll ever grow out of arguing in that childish ways, it’s so easy to hurt with words but I think people can get past it at one time or another but there really is no excuse for saying such awful things

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  5. I swear there is something in the air. I just got through blogging about Redbeard’s and my argument this morning, and here you are writing something similar. Amazing.

    He used to do that to me a lot. Redbeard can be very manipulative in an argument and where it started out with him being thoughtless in his actions, it suddenly becomes all about me. I hate that. That’s why I try really hard not to engage anymore. There are other ways to get the idea across without getting mad and hurt without resolution. Of course like this morning, we’re just destined to clash, and then we just have to deal with it. 😛 My point is, the less I engage, the less stupid comments he makes. Not sure how that works yet.

    Have a happy day, Selma. I hope you got heaps and heaps written today! 🙂

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  6. In a roundabout way, I guess that’s why they say that the pen is mightier than the sword. Words can scar you, especially when they are said by the people that we hold closest to our hearts, as they are the ones against whom we erect no defenses. I don’t know why people degenerate into childish versions of themselves, because more often than not, the reason for the argument is long forgotten and it becomes more of an unwillingness to lose the argument. Which is silly.
    As a child my mother told me that I had an answer for everything and that I love to argue. Which is true. Having said that, none of my arguments are in any way nasty. Once the conversation starts going that way, I tend to clam up. I don’t have it within me to make comments about other people’s looks or anything like that. Once the argument goes that way, I think that both people have lost.
    I feel sorry for what happened to that lady in that party. Her husband should know better – if things are not right, venting in public is the worst thing that you can do.
    I concur with Texasblu – I hope that you have a great day Selma, and that you do get a lot written today and look back tonight with a sense of total and complete accomplishment and content!

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  7. When my son and I get into arguments or debates that are not productive and I sense we are both trying to get the last word or make the most valid point is when I decide it’s best to withdraw. But, if there’s a point I really want to make, I morph into a bit of the raving lunatic to get my point across and then he will just go baaaa (like an eject button noise), and then all I can do is laugh (unless I’m really mad) and hope he will get whatever message I want him to get. I don’t like attacking people for their appearance, though, I think it’s a tasteless and hurtful strategy used to shut someone else up.

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  8. I think the most hurtful thing I ever heard was a woman yelling at a neighbour ‘At least, my kids all have the same last name!’

    Poor Mrs Moore, she couldn’t help it if her first two husbands had been killed in WWII …

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  9. Using such arguments against someone is an unmistakable sign of weakness. It simply means we feel threatened, we have no other means of protecting or proving ourselves right and we do this to “disarm” our opponent. And it works although it is definitely not an intelligent way of arguing. I think this is very difficult to forgive and forget, no matter the circumstances under which such words were said, because it’s mean and unfair and we tend to register it as a betrayal when it comes from someone close.

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  10. Hi RUBYELIZABETH:
    Absolutely. Thanks so much for visiting.

    Hi SLAMDUNK:
    Hahaha. If more people were familiar with that saying they might consider their words more carefully. It is a classic!

    Hi LAURI:
    It sticks with me too. I do have trouble letting it go and I analyse it over and over in my mind afterwards. I agree completely with the Setswana saying because I think words are just about the most hurtful thing there is. They can wound deeper than a knife. We have to be so careful how we use them. I would also rather have the stones any day!

    Hi JENNIFER:
    I think it’s awful to do something like that in public too. It’s embarrassing and makes everyone feel awkward. I hate to witness another person’s dismay. It’s just not right.

    Hi PUNATIK:
    Every party I go to has some kind of drama going on which peeves me because I don’t go out all that much anymore. Stop raining on my parade, people!

    You’re right – some things do just need to be said. I’m no saint, either, but I do try not to be too hurtful if at all possible.

    Hi LISSA:
    You’re right. It is too easy. And in the heat of the moment many of us do become a bit childish. I guess it’s just human nature.

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  11. I avoid arguments at all costs anyway but I certainly could never be involved in an argument that degenerated into a personal slanging match.

    My husband and I never fight mostly because we don’t talk about anything meaningful anymore. Oh he doesn’t resort to name calling when he argues but he does something just as annoying. He immediately goes into attack mode no matter how gently you try and point out something he might be doing that is disagreeable to you. He stops listening and just bristles until he can get the next defensive maneouvre in. My attitude now is what’s the point? I just don’t bother. I realise that isn’t a healthy way to deal with things but you can’t reason with someone who is NEVER wrong.

    What your husband said about you losing your looks wouldn’t have upset me as much as him thinking I use my cutie pie blonde looks to get what I want. That would have really pissed me off because I would hate anyone to think I am one of THOSE kinds of women who trade on their looks to get ahead in life.

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  12. Hi TEX:
    WOW. There has to be something in the air. I try to avoid arguments where possible because in my case they usually blow up into something out of proportion – so I completely get what you’re saying.

    I did get a lot of writing done today. Almost there….

    Hi MANOJ:
    What a fantastic point. Some people really hate to lose an argument and will do whatever they can to avoid that. You are a great observer of life.

    Your very kind wishes about my writing are much appreciated!

    Hi ROWE:
    Your son sounds like mine. He has many sounds he uses to diffuse situations. Oh yeah, there’s no need to bring it down to appearances. It’s just mean, mean, mean!

    Hi TRAVELRAT:
    Yow. Now that really smarts. Talk about unkind….

    Hi SHIONA:
    It does feel like a betrayal. It’s as if your secrets have been shouted out to the world by the person you trusted most with them. And it definitely is a form of insecurity too. I wonder if people who argue that way even realise the damage they are causing….

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  13. Hi GYPSY:
    You got it in one. That really got on my goat because he knows I am not like that at all and I am not a fan of women who do it. I still can’t figure out why he said it. It still makes me mad even now.

    I am sorry about the situation with your husband. My Dad is like that. I think that’s why I am very careful in arguments because I grew up with a man who was never wrong. It is exhausting to argue with someone like that. It does make it difficult to discuss things. I truly sympathise.

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  14. I’ve encouraged my kids to always question what they’re not happy about and argue their point if they don’t like what they’re hearing… but I’ve also encouraged them to be respectful and considerate of the other person and their point of view.

    If ever I’ve been questioned and forced to defend my actions or views with one of my kids, I’ve always been happy to engage in the argument with them. However, the very moment they reduce their argument to a personal attack by referring to me as either an idiot, or that I’m an old man and wouldn’t know etc… I immediately say that the argument is over and that they have conceded my point. “You stopped arguing about the issue and you are now attacking me personally… that’s a change of subject and I’m not interested in discussing that particular subject with you… the argument is over.”

    It has helped them to remain focussed on the issue and not the person.

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  15. You think we would’ve learned by now, but if we screw up one thing over and over again is communication. If we allow ourselves to flood with feelings, or succumb to whatever triggers us into an emotional marshmallow, we can’t think straight!
    My husband and I argue in different manners. My emotions always get the best of me, even when they are positive! they scare the shit out of him. He holds it all in and then BOOM…..I feel ambushed by stuff that has been held in for sometimes over a year. We try to be respectful, but sometimes it has to all be laid out on the table. The problem is, like all couples I think, we admit stuff that is hurtful.

    As for the bozos that do this in the public light, it makes you wonder what’s going on behind closed doors. ICK!

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  16. Your husband is insane Sel. Your beautiful spirit is incandescent even through the blur of cyberspace. And what about all those strangers who stop and chat to you? It’s not a cutie-pie blonde they’re drawn to; at least not the encounters that matter. What you have is something you can never lose.

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  17. “I can be quite hot-headed, but in an argument I am uncharacteristically calm. I choose my words carefully and don’t throw ugly truths around.”

    I am SUPER Hot Headed too, and I lose my cool VERY quickly, but I do NOT attack people verbally, or throw insults, or call names. That accomplishes NOTHING. And, I would HATE to have someone speak to me that way.

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  18. I dated a guy – for an embarrasingly long time, looking back – who had an IQ of 182. He was intellectually brilliant, and emotionally stunted. He had this thing he would do where, simply to end an argument, he would say the most hurtful thing he could think of. The thing that would stun me so deeply I couldn’t possibly retort. i.e. When I was missing my mom one day, and he had had it with me being so quiet: “Look, my mom is going to die too someday. It probably won’t be the same way as yours, but I’ll get over it!”

    The ironic thing was that he always said I was the only one he’d ever met who could mentally “pin” him in an argument. It was true that I could, but that was only after I’d detached myself emotionally from him so much, that it was like I was on the debate team competing against a rival.

    Cruelty of any kind, to any degree, is not love. No matter how much back pedaling, or how many effusive apologies are offered. It is simply the intention to cause pain. Period.

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  19. Hi BEAR:
    What a fantastic technique. That will stand them in good stead for their entire lives. Once the personal attack begins in an argument it sort of becomes difficult to reach a resolution. I am not a fan of that form of arguing. Good on you for avoiding it, Daddy Bear!

    Hi DANA:
    That’s the problem, isn’t it? Holding on to it all for ages and letting it splurge out. I am guilty of doing that too. I am training myself to talk about things as they arise rather than letting them get bottled up. It’s not easy.

    Hi DAOINE:
    What a beautiful comment. You have made my day XXX

    Hi DAVID:
    Sacre bleu. I would love to settle arguments with a duel or a slap of the glove!

    Hi MELEAH:
    You are so right. It accomplishes absolutely nothing. It is upsetting when it happens.

    Hi STEPH:
    That comment he made to you about your Mum is beyond hurtful. I’d like to punch him in the nose for that. I agree with you that cruelty is not love. Not ever. It is very hard to recover from.

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  20. Through personal experience & those of others close to me, I know that once you lose control of your tongue and say the most hurtful things to the other, that’s usually the beginning of the end of the end of the relationship. Or atleast things will never be the way that it once way. Words once said can never be taken back; it’s hurts harder and the scar is there for everyone to see.

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  21. Hi ROSHAN:
    Oh, it definitely can be the beginning of the end because those words stay with you no matter how hard you try to get rid of them. They really do change things.

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