These kinds of questions tend to stump me, maybe because I’m trying to figure things out in general right now, as I go through therapy. But, when is it okay to take things personally, and when is it not? Or is it ever okay to take things personally?

There is someone rather tangentally in my life, who fairly consistently tells me how to take care of my cat. Either in obvious ways, such as giving me pages long instructions, unsolicited advice, on how to play with my cat or how to give her treats, or in more subtle ways…such as moving a plastic bag to the top of the fridge from the floor when he’s taking care of my cat. For what it’s worth, I know my cat very well, and in the 8 years we’ve lived together she has never once been interested in the plastic bags. Furthermore, it is absurd to think that if she was interested in them, that putting it on top of the fridge, which she can easily access with hardly more effort than if it had been on the floor, is solving anything.

The implication is always that he knows best. If I end up, to my regret, involved in a conversation with him explaining my opinion on the subject, I’m simply given a lecture, with his self-assumed authority used as a virtual bludgeon. Despite that he has had almost no experience with cats, in comparison to my lifetime worth of experience, anything I have to say is dismissed, absolutely.

It is clearly an insult, whether he consciously intends it or not. I remind myself that I’m in the south now, home of the passive aggressive insults that were part of “southern society” that drove me out of Nashville and Atlanta. Okay, that’s not all that drove me out of there, but it sure helped. When people talk about the charm of the south, the graciousness and southern hospitality, I think of the bite of the knives slid into my back by the charming, gracious, smiling southerners. But of course that is just my experience.

So, an insult. Does that mean I can take it personally? I am unsure. Does it matter if he needs to prop up his flagging…confidence by insinuating that he is the only one who really knows how to take care of my cat? I know the truth. And reality seems divorced from his insults.

I suppose I shouln’t take it personally. That conclusion doesn’t stop me from wanting to lash out and hurt him, cut him down to size (verbally, I promise). Perhaps I’ll talk to my therapist about this tomorrow.

long shadow