I’ve been reading my way through a lot of old “story papers” over the past few months. The Magnet was actually a paper for schoolboys for the first half of the 20th century, although I eagerly read my dad’s Billy Bunter books when I was young, despite being “only a girl”. The stories are no less entertaining for me now, although they are definitely sexist and racist in the eyes of modern society, and I do cringe when I read some of the now-horrifying and offensive words and phrases used. However, at the same time, it’s fascinating to see how attitudes have changed over the last hundred years. Language, too, I say, old chaps – my only silk topper and sainted aunt!
Anyway, as well as the stories, I love reading the Editor’s “chat with his chums” in every issue. It is truly refreshing to read a children’s paper from a time when the editors actually cared about educating, disciplining, and instructing their young readers. I have laughed out loud at some of his responses to readers’ letters, because they are so stern and haughty that it’s more like an old-fashioned school master chastising a disobedient pupil than anything else. If an editor today wrote anything of the sort, he’d be sued by angry parents of insulted children all over the country. The editor of The Magnet did not only reprimand boys who wrote ‘cheeky’ letters, but also gave very strict and serious advice to those who were polite yet somehow slightly misguided.
Don’t write “Mr.” or “esq.” with your name when enclosing a stamped, addressed envelope, he advised in one issue. It makes you seem pretentious.
Please stop sending in multiple notices concerning back issues you wish to obtain, he barked in another. Make up your mind what you want, and ask for everything in one notice.
Don’t start requests for notices to be placed by saying “Kindly insert…”, he complained on another occasion. It is extremely presumptuous of you, and ‘bad form’ entirely.
He devoted an entire column to “Manners” in one issue. I love it. No pandering, no simpering in order to boost sales – his readers were the naughty schoolboys, and he was an authority figure. He wasn’t going to take any nonsense for the sake of being the nice guy and not ruffling any feathers. He spoke up when he felt insulted, and he stood up for himself. In a way, his directness and honesty has inspired me.
It has occurred to me that it’s all very well being the nice girl, until you start getting walked over because of your natural tendency to say the following kinds of things:
- “Oh, I don’t mind – whatever you want to do is fine!”
- “Did I seem annoyed? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, please don’t be angry with me!”
- “Ha ha, yes, you’re right, I’m stupid!”
- “No, no, you’re right, I’m completely wrong – are we OK now?”
- “I’m so sorry to bother you, it’s just that, well, there seems to be a dead rat in my fries. I hate to cause any trouble… but… oh, it’s OK, I know you’re very busy… well, just when you have the time… no, never mind, honestly, it’s fine!”
Seeing everyone happy and getting along with each other is generally much more important to me than winning an argument, getting my own way, or asserting my rights. I will follow everyone else’s choice of bar/restaurant/entertainment even if I would prefer to go somewhere else. Not because I’m a selfless martyr, you understand, but because it really doesn’t matter as much to me as it often seems to mean to others. As long as we’re together, and they’re happy, then I’m usually happy.
However, as I said, sometimes this easy-going compliance results in me becoming invisible, to a point where people can say what they like and do as they wish as if I’m not even there. They don’t need to worry about insulting me, because I will take it quietly and laugh with them even if their remarks really hurt. They don’t have to consider what I might want to do, because I’ve given the impression that I never really mind. I am a pushover of my own making, purely because I run from even the tiniest risk of conflict. If there’s something I really want, I will more than likely miss out on it because someone more confident and self-assured will push determinedly ahead of me and snatch it without a second thought. It’s not their problem – it’s mine.
No, said a wise friend today, as I fell victim once again to my own “never mind, it doesn’t matter” complex, this is not right!! You need to stand up for yourself. Get back in there, explain your side, don’t be pushed aside.
It was a fairly trivial matter, but one which had left me somewhat taken aback, and feeling as if I’d been walked over. My natural instinct was to drop it and walk away silently. It’s not that important… it’s better to say nothing and keep the peace than to speak up and risk causing bad feeling… My friend was indignant on my behalf, but knew that it was up to me to stand up for myself. With a little encouragement and assurance that I wasn’t being offensive, I did so. And although I do now feel a little uneasy, hoping that I haven’t rocked the boat or made myself into a Bad Guy by refusing to just step aside, I do believe that it’s something I need to start doing for myself. I find it hard, but at the same time it does feel good to know that I haven’t backed down or kept quiet like a wuss when I believe I’ve been wronged somehow.
Which, incidentally, is why the girl who left an unnecessarily rude, offensive, and arrogant comment on my last blog post found that I didn’t accept it and laugh politely at her insult as I did way back when some Australian guy called me fat, ugly, and talentless. Looking back, I can’t believe I let that nasty comment stay there, and that I took the insults with humour almost as if they were justified because he didn’t like my blog post. I rarely get offensive comments on my blog, and this time the immature, condescending one left by “Anna” was immediately deleted. Why should I be spoken to like that? Not a question I’ve ever asked before, as if I think people are entitled to talk down to me. Enough!
In the spirit of standing up for myself, I also fired off a polite(ish) email to “Anna”, which was basically a few remarks on basic courtesy and etiquette. Her comment was a correction of a mistake I’d made in my writing, which is perfectly fine and always appreciated. You probably know how much I hate to see errors in spelling, grammar, and suchlike! A comment to point it out helpfully, or even tease me about it, is welcome. A comment that is downright rude and insulting, on the other hand, is just immature. Or nasty, I’m not sure which. Probably immature.
I may use the email as my next post, as a warning: I expect decent manners, both on my blog and in Real Life. And why shouldn’t I, now I come to think of it?!