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Monday, July 10, 2006


The Art of the Hissy Fit

I have a temper. I come by it honestly. Family lore holds that my maternal great-grandfather, a Swiss farmer, once shoved a hand-grenade up the ass of a goat who'd eaten his favorite shoes. I try, though, not to let my temper get the better of me and goad me into, say, yelling "Lick my ass!" to a group of pipe-wielding teens on the subway. I've always made it a policy to not vent my spleen on people, except for a period in my early twenties when I routinely yelled at bank clerks, and, honestly, they usually had it coming.

So what exactly, you're asking yourself, do I do with this volcanic rage when it boils up within me? Does cartoon steam shoot from my ears while my eyes roll wildly in their sockets? Do I turn green and grow four times my normal size, shredding all of my clothes with the exception of my miraculously stretchy pants? Do I spit nails? The answer is: none of the above.

Instead, I bust a tantrum. Aw, yeah.

There are a number of ways to do this, and it's really a good idea to try to match the type of tantrum with the situation, maintaining a sense of hissy fit aesthetics. All of my tantrums involve taking my anger out on inanimate objects--with one exception--which I find is a good way to avoid assault charges. [Note: Hairshirt does not guarantee that the following tantrums will not lead to assault charges.] So let's take a quick look at a few types of anger physicalizations and the best times to use them.

Punching--When I was young, I engaged in a lot of punching of doors and/or walls. Punching is a very showy type of tantrum. It very clearly expresses just how pissed off you are and is also fairly threatening, letting the person who has pissed you off know that they're goddamn lucky you chose to pound your fist on a doorjam instead of their face. I have used punching less and less as the years pass because I've become convinced that repeated punching turns one's phalanges into a fine powder over time. Punching, then, should be used sparingly and only if you're not already arthritic.

Slamming--Slamming is the violent closing (or opening or opening and closing) of doors, cupboards, drawers, basically anything that opens and/or closes, with the exception of, say, jars. You can slam the lid down on a jar, but then you have to screw it on and it's difficult to look threatening when screwing the top on some mayonnaise. This is a really nice punctuation when leaving at the zenith of a fight. It's also effective when you're arguing in a very calm, steady voice, but want to give things that undercurrent of anger. Slamming is one of my personal favorites.

Throwing--Breaking things can be a fantastic spit valve for your blood pressure. Instead of your head exploding, you're destroying an innocent vase (especially good if you're a housewife in a 1950s movie). When I lived in the country as teenager, I would sometimes take expired dairy products from my mother's refrigerator and throw them at a tree across the road from our house. This served the dual purpose of getting rid of moldering cottage cheese and providing me with an incredibly satisfying tantrum. The trick with this one is to make sure you're not so enraged that you throw something about which you actually give a shit. After I shattered my favorite Revell model of Boba Fett's Slave I, I laid down a strict "look before you hurl" rule that's served me well ever since.

Intense Petting--If you hit your cat, you're an asshole. It's that simple. Chicks hate abusive pet owners. Which is why, when you discover that your dog has left shredded sanitary napkins up and down the hallway, you should try my patented Intense Petting. You simply look the dog/cat/fish square in the eye, maybe allow a menacing smile to cross your face, and you pet them, firmly. Put some tension into your hand and make sure you're petting down the entire length of their back. To anyone looking at you, you're an incredibly understanding guy. But the pets know. Oh, they get it. They understand, "Wow, this dude is powerful and, if I take a shit in his closet again, he's going to be tearing my fur out instead of smoothing it into place with his mighty hands."

Having these releases has prevented me, over the years, from getting so angry that I, say, slam my head into the chest of an opposing player during the championship game of the World Cup. It's one of the many reasons why I'm as incredibly cool as I am.

Intense petting. Done and done.
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