Here is what I dreamt last night, to the best of my recollection: I’m looking after the fragile son of a wealthy Asian man who resembles my former piano teacher and kind of Garry Shandling. Anyway, I assume the son is fragile because he never leaves his bedroom the whole time I’m babysitting. Before he leaves to go to wealthy Asian things, Shandling gives me a tour of his kick-ass mansion and I’m all appreciative, which he really likes. “I have precious things,” he tells me, “but my most prized possession is my son” (if you haven’t done so, read that quotation back with an Asian affectation to your internal monologue. Nothing racist, just a touch of Mr. Miyagi on “my most prized possession.”) Anyway, so he leaves me in charge of his delicate son and I’m thinking this will be an easy job because he’s just in his room sleeping or whatever. But then, you guys! I hear some rowdiness and I go downstairs and there are these street toughs having a party! Like playing beer pong and skateboarding down the hallways and playing their loud raps! Well, I’m scared of the street toughs, but know my priority is Garry Shandling’s son, so I try to tell them to vamoose. But, this being a dream, the one thing I’m trying to do is the one thing I can’t. My pleas fall on deaf ears and they wreck the whole mansion and I know I’m in bad trouble and there’s nothing I can do about it, and then I woke up.
I thought this was an interesting dream because a) you hardly ever see the inside of a mansion and b) I wouldn’t be able to confront the street toughs in real life either. In my life I’ve learned how to make a good grilled cheese sandwich, and the ideal time for microwaves a Mrs. Field’s cookie (12 seconds), but I just can’t confront people. When wronged, I opt to avoid the person who wronged me forever, attempt to bury my hurt feelings, and bitch about it to anyone who will listen except the offending party. Well this ends here!
Dream: Become good at confrontation.
Goal: Achievable. I’ve participated in my share of confrontations, though I’m always the confrontee, not the confronter. But when somebody’s gotten in my face about something, I’ve knocked it off. So why can’t I knock other people’s faces off?
Plan: Change my traits and habits so as to better intimidate others. For instance:
I could be more physically imposing. Despite my tallth (the word I’m trying out for “tallness”), nobody cowers at the sight of me. And though I’m no longer the lithe deer I once was, my pizza gut resting proudly on my ranch dressing thighs doesn’t give the proud bearing of a bull-moose either. I sort of look like I’m having a rough second trimester. Maybe I should go with that look instead. Ease myself into chairs and draw sunflowers on my gut and stuff. Though that’s far from intimidating, isn’t it? Scrap that one.
Be stronger vocally. Oh man, I wish I could change my voice when I get my dander up. Unfortunately, when I get angry, my throat closes and my voice gets all quavery, like I’m trying not to cry. And I really don’t think I’m near tears, it’s just what my voice naturally does when I’m pissed off. I got angry at a customer the other day after he became furious with me because his credit card was repeatedly declined. Of course, this was through no fault of my own, this guy had a bum credit card, but he was obviously from the school where if you yell and scream and something for long enough, everything turns out as it should. So finally I said, “If you don’t have any other form of payment, you need to move along” indicating the people with fully functioning credit cards in line behind him, waiting to pay for their stuff. “That’s bullshit!” he says. “I’m a paying customer and your machines must not be working because my card works and this is fucking bullshit!!!” A man good at confrontation would have bellowed a solid, “GET OUT OF MY STORE!” at this point, but instead I managed a quavery, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave!” With his quaking rage and my snippy quivers, I’m sure it came off like Godzilla being chastised by a hairdresser.
Lastly, I have to stop gossiping to a third party about my problem with another person because that always just leads to more problems. I’ve always found it easier to gripe to an ally, “So-and-so’s driving me crazy! I can’t stand him!” and so forth, rather than confronting so-and-so. And it’s never worked in the history of time. Nobody hears that people are talking about them behind their back and then thinks, “Oh wow, I’d better straighten up and fly right.” They think, “That James is a bitch” and it only leads to more problems.
I may never strike fear in the hearts of men, but the least I can do is take a stand in my own self-interest. For I have many precious things, but my most prized possession, after all, is myself.