Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pathos

I've been trying to stifle the urge to write a whiny post all day. You know, I was often accused of being whiny and overly sensitive as a kid (mostly in the under-10 years). I thought I'd outgrown that stuff. Oh well.

Sometimes I forget how sensitive I am. I'm so busy putting up a strong front and trying to get people not to worry about me—and leave me alone!—that I'm surprised when a seemingly meaningless slight infuriates me and makes me want to cry.

As you may have inferred from yesterday's post, today is my birthday (thank you in advance). I didn't plan anything because I had a little celebration on Saturday. I've gotten some presents and many "happy birthday" wishes. I am feeling a little old this year and stressed because of all my work issues so I can't say it's the happiest birthday ever but it's not terrible. I'm fine.

Then, this morning, I'm sitting at my desk and it become clear that some folks have plans to go somewhere together. I ask my officemate, "Where are you going?"

He said, "We're going to [X] museum—they're having some free food. You were on the email, weren't you?"

"No," I said, "I didn't get that email."

"Oh. Well, we're going at 11. You should come."

I was immediately angry—not at him, but at the woman who organized the outing. Mandy. I know I've mentioned Mandy before, though I can't remember what name I used. She has a habit of organizing happy hours and parties and not inviting me. Nina (my work friend) is usually invited and has asked if I'm attending these events on occasion, assuming that I'm invited too. It has always hurt my feelings that I'm not included, even though I don't like Mandy. (I always give her the courtesy invite to events to which I ask work-friends.) Still, as long as I don't know about these events (I asked Nina not to mention them to me and she's been good about respecting that boundary), I'm not bothered. Out of sight, out of mind.

But today was a different story. It's my goddamn birthday and Mandy organizes an outing for people in my division, including my officemate, and doesn't bother to invite me? Out of pure politeness, I invited her to my birthday get-together on Saturday. She came, thanked me, and enjoyed herself. She knows that my birthday is this week—perhaps she didn't know it was today—still, still, it was just too much.

After I figured out what was happening, I stuck my head in her office and said, "So you're going to the [X] museum? I didn't get the email."

She said, "Oh. Sorry."

That's it. Off they went. I was standing next to TR and as soon as they left, I practically shouted at him, "I can't believe it! She didn't even invite me and it's MY BIRTHDAY. That's fucked up! I'm so done with her. I've had it!"

He said, "I know. I'm sorry. Let me take you to lunch."

I stomped into my office, still muttering about the rudeness of it all, hoping to calm down. I sent an email to Nancy and my mom. Both were sympathetic and agreed that it was a particularly insensitive thing to do on my birthday.

Later, TR took me and the new office temp to lunch. I still felt lousy but it was a nice gesture.

Honestly, I don't need people to make a fuss over my birthday. If you forget, it won't hurt my feelings. But if you are needlessly cruel and insensitive, then it will hurt my feelings, tremendously in fact.

After they all got back, Danielle (not the offending party!) came into my office to apologize. It's her birthday on Thursday and Mandy is organizing a lunch for her. Danielle thought I hadn't been invited to that. I was invited. I explained to Danielle why I was upset. I felt even worse because, while Danielle and I aren't best buddies, she's unfailing polite and never, ever unkind.

As it turns out, Danielle has similar issues with Mandy—which must really suck because they share an office. In fact, Danielle demanded a telework day from our old boss for the sole purpose of getting time away from Mandy. Geez. At least it's not just me.

Then I sat around wondering how long it would be before Mandy came to apologize.

(In case you're wondering, I hadn't said anything to Mandy or Danielle, so how did they know I was upset? Probably my tone of voice and body language before they left. I'm very easy to read.)

I hoped Mandy wouldn't apologize because I was in no mood to forgive her. My mother had this to say, "You don't need to pretend to forgive her. If she apologizes, you can say you hear her and thank her—if she apologizes for her actions rather than the way you feel." Good point, Mom!

Right before she left for the day, Mandy comes up to me and says, "I'm so sorry. I meant to get you flowers but I didn't have time. I didn't mean anything by it. Happy Birthday."

I said, "Ok. Thanks." And smiled grimly.

I wonder, does she know what she apologized for? Ideally, I'd never speak to her again but it's hard for me to be that rude. At the least, I'm going to keep our interactions to a minimum from now on. No more courtesy invites, either.

I sure wish this didn't bother me so much. I feel overwhelmed and still a little teary. Dammit.

Ok, time to put on a happy-birthday-face. Smile!

Grateful for: perspective.

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