I say terrible things to spam callers. This is my confession.
I’m filled with rage. I can’t tell if it’s a normal amount for a woman pushing 50 (to be fair, technically 48) or if I’m one step away from burning this whole place down. I can’t tell because no one talks about this anymore. Did they ever?
It seems like we sort of used to, at least through art. The prom scene in Carrie was perfect. So was the entire film La Femme Nikita (original version). The scene in Thelma and Louise when Susan Sarandon blows a few holes in a rapist’s chest still gives me a satisfying jolt.
Some might argue that catharsis is the only point of art, and popular culture is lousy with movies that prove this point…for men. Almost every Denzel Washington or Liam Neeson movie has a scene where a (relatively) good guy blows away a bad guy, before a dramatic pause that allows the viewer time to think through clenched teeth, Yes. Kill that motherf*cker.
But do we have anything like that for women anymore? We have the overused trope “badass” to refer to women in real life and pop culture, but it’s not the same thing. I’m talking about watching something that helps you release elemental, murderous rage, which I have.
Yes, I fantasize about blowing people’s brains out. Not people I know, of course. I have a specific type: every strange man I encounter in public who is confidently aggressive. The guy who stood so close to me in an empty elevator that I was pressed into the corner and said “Who’s gonna make me?” when I asked him to give me some space. (Yes, I know it sounds like bad dialogue on a bad television show. But it happened). Or the other guy who did the same thing but told me to “Smile. Relax” when I again asked for space.
There’s the guy who laid on his horn when I wouldn’t immediately turn right into a crosswalk filled with high school kids, and then put his tongue between his V-shaped fingers and patomined cunilingus when I honked back. The guy who almost ran over my dog when he blew through a crosswalk and flipped me off when I screamed. Or the guy who almost ran me over in the parking garage yesterday, and when I yell “Watch it!” slammed on his brakes like he was going to get out of his car and confront me.
I kinda wished he had. I fantasized about putting my car key into his eye. But after I stared at him, he drove away. Maybe he saw something bubbling up in me.
These men are always white. I’m white too. It’s not lost on me that when an elevator door opens and I see an African American man I feel relieved. The racial implications of this are above my pay grade and my abilities here on Medium, but it feels important. They are almost always over forty and appear to be in middle management. So I guess there’s something about a white guy hitting the halfway mark, confronted by his stupid career choices, that makes him feel like he can say whatever the f*ck he wants. And apparently what he wants to say is something menacing to a slightly overweight, middle aged woman.
Each incident alone wouldn’t be enough to make me want to put a gun to a guy’s temple in an empty elevator. It’s a cumulative, slow burn. Each layer of rage is added like a sheet of gold leaf, until I’m carrying around a tightness in my chest that gets tighter with each incident.
Cue the fantasy for the honking guy: I slowly get out of my car, pop the trunk, pull out a shotgun and calmly walk to the his window (which is conveniently already rolled down) and place the muzzle at his temple. “Honk again,” I’d say with a smile. Maybe for the elevator guy I pull a ladylike .22 out of my purse and put it at the base of his skull or under his chin. “No, you smile honey. You relax,” I would say with a twinkle in my eye.
My boyfriend, a cop, used to want to get me a gun for protection. Then I made the mistake of telling him about these fantasies. No more guns for me. “You can have pepper spray. Maybe.” he said looking at me, horrified.
Then I stumbled upon a release. I am overrun by spam callers — fake credit card offers, fake health care offers, fake vacation offers, fake social security and IRS scams. Yes, I know you shouldn’t answer unknown numbers. I tried that and they just kept coming. And I have a life where I do need to answer calls from unknown numbers — elderly parents who sometimes like to wander off, a horse stabled far away who could be sick.
So I answer these calls. One came in on a particularly rageful day, and all of a sudden I found myself saying terrible, violent things to the man on the other end. What I said is so bad, it’s absolutely unprintable, even though I write under a pen name. If these calls are ever recorded, I will never be able to run for office. I use slurs. I say terrible things about their families, and the violent things I hope happens to them.
I scare myself when I do this. And the men on the other end (the most I ever say to women spam callers is that they can do better with their life) seem, for a moment, a little scared too. Not that I can do anything to them — they’re sitting in a call center thousands of miles away. They’re scared because women never say that they would enjoy violence, or admit to being capable of violence. It’s so out of the ordinary it’s as if someone told them that a meteor is going to hit in five minutes. Both unexpected and unbelievable, but scary if true.
Sometimes they just hang up. Sometimes they pause and then say “what?” “You heard me,” I would seethe and then repeat my violent fantasy. Sometimes they try to say violent things back. Then I escalate and all of a sudden we are in a deathmatch violent conversation, each trying to outdo the other.
One day the cop boyfriend overheard one of these calls. “You shouldn’t do this,” he said, and before he could say why, I interrupted him, “I know, I know it’s bad. It’s terrible. I’m terrible”
“Yeah, it is bad” cop boyfriend said, “but not for the reasons you think. It’s bad for you — violence creates violence, it’s basically physics. The more violent you are, the more violent you are.”
He’s right. I’m trying to stop, I really am. And yet the rage exists. Where am I supposed to put it? Where do other women put it? It’s too big for a kickboxing class. It’s not only a pile up from every micro-aggression to every actual aggressive incident, it feels inherited, like I am carrying around each violent moment my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother had to endure. I feel like I’m carrying around the moment my friend’s ex-husband dragged her into the bathroom by her hair and whispered that he could rape her without their children hearing.
I want out of this cycle. I want to drive out to the desert and drop the rage somewhere, but then I think of it contaminating all the dry California flora and fauna that I love so much.
I think the only thing that will save me is to sit in the dark, eat popcorn, and watch a movie featuring a woman with a weapon taking down a bad guy, but not until she allows him to wallow in fear. I don’t want to see a comic book character in a skin tight suit do this. I want to see a real woman, maybe middle-aged and slightly overweight, finally blow and release rage. I need a female Dexter, but one with an imperfect life and a messy bedroom. I hope I’m not the only one.