Better Living through Imaginary Payback

By Colette Moody

Follow me down this winding path for a moment.

It’s been theorized that the main psychological difference between men and women is that men are much more likely to exhibit physically aggressive behavior. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to internalize their aggression and harbor some deep-rooted, twisted, potentially borderline psychotic shit.

Is it because society forces us into gender-based kitty cat-shaped cut-outs from birth? That boys are encouraged to resolve their conflicts with their fists, while girls are taught to “get along,” be demure, and view all peers as their competitors?

That would certainly explain the prevalence of cattiness and nefarious double-dealing that I’ve borne witness to in the workplace over the years. In my experience, men seem more likely to say or do something completely inappropriate, and though they may deny it, they enjoy gossip just as much as their female co-workers do—perhaps more. But when it comes down to real hardcore sabotage, males have been sadly lacking in the premeditated treachery department. Again, this is just my own anecdotal assessment based on the gender of anyone I’ve ever worked with who has:

  • Thrown me under the bus
  • Lied to me
  • Asked me to lie for them
  • Stolen from the company and then tried to frame someone else for it
  • Been sickeningly sweet to my face, only to trash me as soon as I stepped away

Don’t get me wrong. I love women—more than many hate groups say I should, in fact. I just don’t love all women. And as someone who tallies myself in both the feminist and lesbian columns, it’s particularly disappointing and dispiriting each time I watch another female colleague do or say something utterly contemptible. Because I feel like they’re just perpetuating a stereotype that women are mean.

Since our society doesn’t encourage us to be open and physical with our negative feelings (but get out of the way if it ever happens! “Catfight! Meow!”), we learn how to push those hostile feelings down and smile through them—a form of deception in and of itself. And even though I’m conscious of this practice and have pondered it to some extent, I still feel myself doing it. Because really, what’s an acceptable alternative?

“You know Joanne, your smug superior attitude makes me want to beat you repeatedly about the head and shoulders with a rake.”

How do you think that would fly? Don’t you think regardless of what’s said after that candid little gem that it will likely end with me being escorted by building security to my car, whilst toting my personal items in a cardboard box?

Now, those of you who have seen my Facebook posts know that I have, from time to time, had a status that conveys a certain level of frustration with my boss. Sure, there was the time I want to pummel her with my shoe until she wept. And I willingly own that dark thought… because honestly, I feel that way about her at least once a week. But that’s beside the point.

Something I’ve found as I’ve been writing is that it can be truly cathartic for me to channel some of these abyssal and unspeakable emotions into a scene of some kind. Trust me; I’ve done it quite a bit. I wrote a pirate novel where people got daggers to the gullet. Don’t think that wasn’t something right out of my id.

Is someone upsetting you? Create a character that somehow resembles them and have them meet some unspeakable fate. I know what you’re wondering. Just how unspeakable should it be?

Understand that there’s an algorithm of woe that should be used when determining exactly what horror should befall someone. In real life, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to my boss worse than no one holding the elevator for her… or perhaps being fired for incompetence. We’ll use the following karmic equation.

(Level of your frustration x the frequency of their vexation) +8 = your victim’s fictional calamity

Let’s see an example, shall we?

Suppose your neighbor is a cantankerous shrew who regularly spies on you through her blinds with binoculars, and at least once a month, calls the police to complain that your car encroaches on her property—even when it’s parked in your driveway. As a variable, let’s add that her septic tank has backed up and your yard is now filled with her feces.

So the level of your frustration in this case would be significant—maybe a 9 on a scale of 10. And she’s vexing you regularly—we’ll say at least twice a week. Add 8 and you get a character who meets an untimely demise by falling into a large industrial vat of cleaning products, or perhaps gets a flaming pike through her eye socket. And depending on your genre, you can adapt your atrocity accordingly. If it’s speculative fiction, she might have her spine removed by an angry stone golem. Likewise, she could by flayed alive by ghouls, or devoured by wolves, mutant crabs, and/or zombies. Win-win!

That guy who cut you off in traffic this morning? Plug him into our equation and he can become a cheating riverboat gambler who gets a knife through his palm, or an escaped convict who unintentionally leaves his testicles behind on a barbed-wire fence.

Someone in the express lane of the grocery store with too many items? Write about him losing a few toes to gangrene. Life being complicated by your ex? Work her into a story where she’s incinerated by lightning, or possibly turned into a desiccated husk by a giant mutant insect.

So yes, I’m aware that there’s more than likely something irreparably wrong with me. I own that too. But I sleep very well at night. The cleansing power of imaginary payback makes everything right for me.

8 Responses to “Better Living through Imaginary Payback”


  1. 1 Athena June 16, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    LOL I love this! Especially the part about beating your boss until she weeps and imagining a person you despise getting a pike through the eye And I couldn’t agree more. Who said writing isn’t a dangerous profession? Thanks for the refreshing post Colette, and for the laughs on this rainy morning🙂

    Like

  2. 2 Annette P Clancy (irishlass) June 16, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    I’m not a psychologist but I have a couch . We could just laugh until we cry. Great Bolg.

    Like

  3. 4 Carsen Taite June 16, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    Nothing like a little fiction based revenge to put a smile on my face. Thanks, Colette!

    Like

  4. 5 Barrett June 16, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Oh my, that was a breath of fresh air andTruly inspirational. I feel my muse crawling out of her den. Thank, Colette.

    Like

  5. 6 Rev June 16, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    I look forward to reading about Moody’s Algorithm of Woe in my kid’s math and/or English book(s).

    Like

  6. 7 bookgeek June 17, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    I guess you will have soon enough to put together another book

    Like

  7. 8 Gillian June 18, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Have never commented on one of these before but just had to, this is sooooo spot on and what a great idea to truly express the “in with anger and out with love” just blow the anger out in your writing and you really will be able to “smile it makes people wonder what you are up to”. Love it!

    Like


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