Posts Tagged ‘Jellyfisher’

Ah, the jellyfish. A brainless, spineless sea creature that drifts along feeding and spawning incessantly. And yet it is strangely hypnotizing and beautiful. Not completely unlike its human relative, the Jellyfish Friend, or for those who don’t like to be friends with mean people, simply the Jellyfisher.
Bridget Jones’s Diary and its sequel (written by Helen Fielding) introduced us to this species of people: “Humph. Rebecca is not “great”; she is a Jellyfisher. Talking to her is like swimming in a lovely warm sea, then suddenly something stings you and next thing everything is back to normal except a bit of you really hurts.” The Jellyfisher is defined as being a person who makes small cutting comments and put-downs, all the while pretending to be perfectly friendly and ordinary.

For awhile I thought the Jellyfisher was mainly a fictional creature. Perhaps I could live in this state of blissful denial through the combination of having many male friends (for whatever reason, the Jellyfisher tends to lean female, at least in the media), making the effort to be tactful as much as possible, and blaming myself over others in a pinch. However, I’ve recently had the interesting though dubious distinction of being able to watch one of these bloodthirsty creatures in the wild so I can vouch for their existence.

As far as I can tell, Jellyfishers live to make us feel badly about ourselves. No matter how solid we think our armor is, Jellyfishers will, with consummate skill, locate the few little chinks and stick their stingers right in there. Sometimes they’ll even discover (or create?) a chink we never knew we had. They dress up their phrases with such judgmental gems as “well, if you’re comfortable with that” and “oh, isn’t it nice that you finally [have a boyfriend/sold a story/got a raise/pretty much anything else you can think of]”, with occasional snide remarks about how your clothes/hair/belongings aren’t very nice or you’re obviously an unkind/immodest/unintelligent bitch (except said in a very subtle way or as if joking, sometimes so skillfully that other people involved in the conversation won’t even notice).

No, I am not using this essay as a mere excuse to show you pretty photos of jellyfish. Really…

So what to do about your friendly neighborhood Jellyfish?

1. Identify these people as quickly as possible; this way you deprive them of the element of surprise and limit their potential ammunition. When we feel badly after interacting with a particular person on a regular basis, this may be a sign that we are dealing with a closet Jellyfisher.

2. Ignore the stinging comments. Refuse to rise to the bait and become defensive. Instead, smile and make a dismissive comment, or simply change the subject. Then think or talk it through later to avoid internalizing the negative messages this person is giving you about yourself.

3. Avoid this person when possible. Obviously there’s only so much we can do to avoid some people who play a role in our daily lives, but we certainly don’t need to seek them out.

4. Stand up for yourself. Ferrett is trying to teach me that it is not necessary to be polite to people who are behaving rudely. I’m still thinking about that, but even if you’re like me and being rude feels like drowning kittens, it is still possible to stand up for yourself while being polite and firm (often with a dose of deadpan humor). Examples: Jellyfisher: “Well, as long as you’re comfortable with that.” Me: “Why, yes, I am comfortable with that. Thank you for being so supportive.” Jellyfisher: “Do you really think that red is your color?” Me: “Why, yes, I do. I simply adore red. I’m glad you agree.” Jellyfisher: “You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?” Me: “Why, yes, I actually do have a high IQ. Thanks for noticing.”

Of course, with a close enough friend, bluntness may be called for if you have any interest in saving the friendship from dramatic implosion and/or causing you prolonged misery.

What do you think? How do you deal with the Jellyfishers in your life?

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