The Art of Dealing with Condescension
Updated: Jul 30
One thing I most definitely haven’t missed throughout the tedium of Covid isolation is unsolicited advice, otherwise known as condescension. I’ve suffered from this particular malaise all my life, whether that’s due to my gender or diminutive height, I couldn’t say.
As a perpetual target for the well-meaning and judgemental alike, I’ve grown accustomed to dealing with it as a trained dog does on a leash. There are two main ways to respond to these insufferable people, with a few minor variations to those themes.
The first is to point out that you neither asked for nor wanted their opinion on your clothing, hairstyle, life choices [insert most common event that elicits an eye roll here] and turn your attention to their most obvious flaws. This method rarely, if ever, ends well. Instead of being the victim of their condescension and downright insulting advice, you immediately get saddled with one of two titles — an aggressive b*tch or an ingrate. They were, after all, trying to do you a favour by pointing out that your lawn needs mowing or your bum looks fat in those trousers, etc etc.
The second response takes more time but enables the invading know-it-all to leave thinking that they have miraculously revolutionised your whole life by wasting twenty minutes of your precious time explaining how to sand down a door frame before applying paint because, you know, I’m a girl and I’ve never heard of sandpaper before.
During my many, many weeks of isolation, I’ve only had to endure passing neighbours and delivery drivers bestowing their nuggets of wisdom on me. I’m woefully out of practice in dealing with said people.
Take this week’s supermarket delivery. The chap who came to my door looked me up and down, making his assessment. Us women are used to this. We can almost hear the assumptions being ticked off a list in their brains.
Age? Hmm, similar to mine. Groceries indicate that no man lives here, nor children. Hmm, figure’s not bad, hair’s a mess, but hey, she could be a fixer upper. Let’s see, she’s not up to date with her DIY. Look at the weeds in her front path. “Hey, you know what you need there, don’t you?” And thus, it begins.
What they don’t realise is that we are summing them up too. Here we go again. What’s it going to be this time? Ah right, more mansplaining, as if we haven’t the sense to refer to Google or YouTube, or my two academic degrees are merely something pretty to put in a frame on the walls. Can I be bothered listening to this condescending pillock or shall I cut him down to size and get on with my sixteen-hour workday? Choices, choices…
The worst insults are from people you know. Those throwaway comments that give you a glimpse into what they really think about you, such as, “Hey if she can do it, ANYONE can.” It doesn’t matter that you’ve spent five years of sixteen-hour days without let up practicing, learning, and honing your craft, there will always be those who assume that you must have simply found a loophole or shortcut to success. You have no discernible talent; it was pure luck that you created something that people want.
When you try to point out how much time and effort went into said product their usual response is, “Oh well, it’s alright for you. You had it easy. You didn’t have to cope with the same challenges as everyone else.” Or “Their achievement is far more remarkable because he/she had to contend with [insert feeble or inaccurate excuse here].”
The most recent stunner of an insult was after I had single-handedly plumbed in a reverse-osmosis filter system to my mains kitchen supply with only a rudimentary printed guide for help. When all the components were assembled correctly, the unit failed to work. I sent photographs to the company proving that my handiwork was not at fault and in return they sent out replacement parts to interchange.
After weeks of continuous issues with the unit, and not my plumbing, my male friend said to me, “I’m not surprised it didn’t work. I wouldn’t have attempted it and I’m a bloke.”
It seems that fixing toilets, tiling walls and floors, building brick walls, laying turf, patios and felling trees is not enough proof that I am just as capable as the next man. You actually need a set of male parts before you can stem the flow of patronising comments. Honestly, if the roles were reversed, these people would blow a gasket and yet still they would not receive such damning labels.
I thank the universe every day for my family, since they are the only people who are qualified to judge me, and yet they never do. They know my strengths and weaknesses and instead of holding them against me, they support me. They’re there when I struggle and there when I succeed, and best of all, they only bestow their advice WHEN I ASK FOR IT!