What To Do About the Meta-Asshole?


There are so many thoughts and things I’ve been wanting to share with you lately and I feel a deep sense of irony that *this* is the post so compelling I cannot not write it.

This is a post about assholes.

A friend of mine recently purchased The Asshole Survival Guide and I’ve been fascinated with it since she first mentioned it.  I read this interview with the author recently. Aside from the weird bit at the end which is, perhaps, a little asshole-ish, it’s a good interview. I’m particularly interested in the author’s definition of who/what an asshole is:

There are a lot of academic definitions, but here’s how I define it: An asshole is someone who leaves us feeling demeaned, de-energized, disrespected, and/or oppressed. In other words, someone who makes you feel like dirt.

People that make you feel like dirt.

These people are, undoubtedly, a problem, but I’ve found myself thinking about someone we might call the meta-asshole. This person doesn’t make you feel like dirt–they just don’t make you feel seen at all. I’ve had to deal with a surfeit of these types lately: people who, theoretically, are supposed to make your life easier and don’t.

I feel much more devastated after interactions with these folks than with certified assholes. The reason, I think, is because I’m pretty good at not giving a f*ck when it comes to dealing with assholes. I’m not at all good at not giving a f*ck when it comes to dealing with meta-assholes. I spend all day, and sometimes several days, wondering if I’m crazy or if I’m the only one or just trying to figure out what the hell happened.

Part of the complication of the meta-asshole, that thing that keeps me from just saying “f*ck it” all together is that the meta-asshole so often has genuinely good intentions and is doing their best. They actually want to help, and think they are helping, even when they aren’t. Unlike the certified asshole who wants to sabotage you, to make you feel bad, the meta-asshole wants to see you succeed but can’t be bothered to pay enough attention to understand that maybe, just maybe, your path to success doesn’t look like what they think it should look like.

It’s not a surprise that the author of this book is an academic. Academic work places do often breed assholery because egregious social behavior is written off as academic awkwardness (all academics are socially awkward, obvi) or, more obscenely, as *genius.* (It needs to be noted that bad behavior only gets written off as awkwardness or the cost of genius for men. Women don’t have this luxury.) Dealing with academic assholes day-in and day-out has made me want to write a book about assholes before.

But, beloved, I have a problem.

What on earth do we do about the meta-asshole? That person who is supposed to support you and just–doesn’t. They don’t want to see you fail but they won’t stir to help you succeed. Honestly, I’ve tried just not giving a f*ck with these folks and it doesn’t work. Instead of taking the wind out of their sails, which it does with the certified assholes, it simply reinstates their existing notion that they really don’t need to help you anyway because you don’t care.

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