My ego got dinged this weekend, and I swiftly and assertively struck back. Even as the words came out of my mouth, I regretted them. I don’t think I was excessively rude, but I definitely reacted more harshly than was necessary, especially since my ego checker’s intent was not malicious.
Ever since the incident, I’ve been analyzing the root cause of my defensiveness. In other words, what the hell was my problem and why did I act like an ass?
I was at a small social gathering, and the crowd comprised mostly people I had just met for the first time that evening.
The hostess has been a friend of mine for years, but we hadn’t seen each other in quite a while. I was thrilled to get her invitation because I’m slowly working my way out of a year-long self-imposed isolation. Literally, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to “get back out in the world.” Seeing an old friend while meeting some new ones at an impromptu after-the-holidays party? Yeah, it sounded like fabulous idea, and it was.
Anyhoo, my friend’s other guests were lively, fun and very welcoming. I liked ‘em. Everyone in the group was close to my age, so it was inevitable that there’d be another Amy among them. In case you were not aware, Amy was a very popular name in the late 1960s/early 1970s. I always shared a classroom with at least one other Amy/Aimee/Amie during my formative years, from preschool all the way through undergrad. I’ve also worked with a few Amys since then. And I still have several good friends who share my name, though they all live outside Kentucky.
All this is relevant because the comment that got my hackles up was Amy-related. See, one of the guys at the party decided that he needed a way to differentiate between the two Amys in attendance. He decided to refer to us as Amy No. 1 and Amy No. 2. Guess who he thought should be dubbed “No. 2?”
Yep, THAT was the comment that set me off. The second this dude pointed at me and called me Amy No. 2, I reacted. Badly. I think my exact words were, “Hell, no! I have fought that all my life, and this girl is second to nobody!”
And then I back peddled a bit, not wanting the other Amy to think I meant that she should be second to me. My ego deflater was a little shocked at how adamantly I denounced his nickname. Well, that made two of us. I’m not normally a competitive person. Like, at all.
Fortunately, we all moved on to other topics pretty quickly, and there were no hard feelings. In fact, it’s very possible that I am the only one who remembers this whole exchange.
The bottom line is I do remember it, it still bothers me several days later, and I’ve been trying to figure out the source. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
I’ve worn the “Amy No. 2” moniker as a sort of scarlet letter since I was a kid. I think my kindergarten teacher was the first person to use it, and the title stuck in nearly every classroom after that. I hated it. A few teachers were more considerate and used last initials instead of numbers, but the number system crept back in frequently over the years.
I was always a very tiny, very shy girl, and that nickname fed into to my inadequacies. I was convinced that the other Amys were prettier, smarter and cooler than me. I wanted to stand out among them, but as Amy No. 2, I was destined to be a wallflower. (I really believed that garbage. For years.)
As an adult, I realize that no one put Amy in her sad little corner. I did it to myself.
Today, I am a confident, poised, outgoing woman. I also don’t spend time comparing myself to others. I am OK with who I am – I’m not better than or less than anyone else. I just am.
OK, that’s true most of the time. Apparently, I just have to hear a childhood nickname and I revert right back to that mousy girl from 1982. Hmmph.
No, that’s not right either. I’m pretty sure it’s a direct result of the crap I’ve gone through in the past year. My recent drama and trauma has precariously poised my self-esteem over the toilet.
See, the second round of my marriage broke up last April. Its demise was loud and messy. Since then, I have been ruminating on what I could have done differently. It’s human nature to feel like a failure when a significant relationship ends, right? (Hello Human? Meet Nature.) Yep, I have been feeling like a disaster in the relationship department for the past six months, and that made me extra sensitive to a comment that I perceived as diminishing, whether it was intentional or not.
Bottom line, I reacted to my own baggage. And that tells me I have a whole lot more work to do on myself before my old wounds can heal. Ain’t self-awareness just grand? Sheesh.
All sarcasm aside, I’m truly glad that I have the common sense to take a step back when I act like a jackass and earnestly try to figure out where that jackassed-ness came from. Beats the crap out of the ignoring it and hoping it will go away.
So, to the very nice guy I verbally shanked this past weekend, I would like to publicly apologize. It doesn’t matter if you called me Amy No. 1, No. 2 or No. 754. You were not attacking me, so I shouldn’t have been on the defensive.
I’d also like to thank you for giving me an opportunity to look a little deeper into my emotional health. Sometimes it takes a stranger to shine a light on our darkest crevices of pain and regret. It turns out that mine are still pretty dank and dusty. I promise the next time I see you, I’ll have done some spring cleaning.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.