Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Conflict Enhancement

The Anonymous Mother


I don’t believe in conflict resolution. I believe in conflict enhancement.

Take Deb, for instance. Take her far, far away.

Deb is the most annoying acquaintance I have ever known. She is a spoiled, controlling, whiny know-it-all who gets on my last nerve. I have worked with her for ten years.

I’ve tried to ignore her. I’ve tried to avoid her. I’ve nearly gone blind, trying to see the good in her.

I’ve turned my left cheek. I’ve turned my right cheek. Now I’m turning both cheeks.

Bottom line is, I don’t like her and she doesn’t like me. We both acknowledge and accept this, and have consequently made great strides in our relationship. It’s all very adult and mature.

“Deb,” I say, with my feet propped up on my desk and my hands clasped behind my head, “the very sound of your voice makes me want to shoot ducks. You’re such a brown-noser. Who do you think you’re fooling?”

Deb cackles and pops a blueberry into her mouth. “Your shoes are disgusting,” she says. “Where did you get them? Family Dollar? You wear the tackiest clothes I have ever seen. You could at least polish your toenails.”

Together we chuckle. “Do you remember the time you tried to take all the credit for the Bilcon account?” I ask. “The one I landed? I hated you so much that day. I still hate you, but I feel so much better about it now. Everything’s all right, because now I accept you for who you are, you lousy, no-good, rotten, whiny, transparent, gravy-sucking wad of fly flim. This is great.”

“Isn’t it, though?” Deb says, as she sits up straight with much enthusiasm. “Do you remember the time you misspelled ‘occur’ at the Valentre presentation? I was promoted the very next day. You didn’t even know how to pronounce ‘conglomerate.’ I just love stupid people, especially you.”

My eyes grow misty with reminiscence. “You are the most two-faced person I’ve ever met,” I say to her with great respect. “You should give lessons. Do you remember the time I told Candice you said she was fat? We ganged up on you and watched you cry and lie like the dog you are.”

“And do you remember,” Deb says, “the first time I accused you of sitting on your butt one too many times? It was your turn to wash the coffeepot, you lazy fleabag. There was mold growing in the lid. Of course, you probably considered that a delicacy.”

We laugh long and hard, then look at each other somewhat uncomfortably. There is a hint of vulnerability in the air.

“Are you feeling what I’m feeling?” I ask. “I think I’m beginning to like you! Do you want to go get a cup of coffee?”

Deb hesitates, and twirls her hair. “Are you kidding?” she laughs. “I wouldn’t be caught dead with you. What if I ran into one of my sorority sisters? I’d get kicked out!”

“Whew!” I say. “That’s a relief. For a minute there, I could have sworn you were my best friend.”

If I’m your best friend, you’d better be running for cover,” says Deb. “And while you’re at it, buy yourself a new outfit, and get rid of that perm. The ‘80s are dead.”

It’s Friday afternoon, and we get ready to leave. I turn out the lights, and Deb locks the door. We walk down the long corridor together, where she always turns left and I always turn right.

“Goodbye, Deb,” I say. “And thank you for being my nemesis.”

“Anytime,” she says. “Anytime.”

***

The Anonymous Mother lives in Middle Tennessee. In July 2000, the editor of The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tennessee, replaced a nationally syndicated humor columnist with The Anonymous Mother's weekly column because he felt the writing was funnier and reached a broader audience. “Anonymity is a big no-no in publishing,” she says, “but somehow this works. The mystique has created a certain appeal that allows for a freer voice through which others can vicariously live. I write about the things people feel but are often unable to express, and this provides much-needed relief for us all.”

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Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012