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Abstract Thoughts has been updated with "Responsible" Rant - which is all about my hot button of when people call me "responsible."

October 24, 2008
"Responsible" Rant
This is a rant. It has been building for a while now. That's your warning. This is a rant.

Do you want to know how to piss me off? Tell me I'm one of the "most responsible people you know." Really. Go ahead and watch my gears lock up as I fight with the knowledge that you are trying to compliment me but you just, in fact, stomped all over one of my hot buttons.

Do you want to know what I hear when you say something like "you're so responsible"? I hear you tell me:

1. "I'm a fuck up and I need someone else to pull my ass out of the fire and because I know you're stable and nice, you'll help me."

2. "Help me. I can't think for myself. I can't be bothered to call the right person or to look up this information in the normal places I should look."

3. "Oh, man, I have the money management skills of a stoned turtle and am up shit creek without a paddle but you, you're a hard worker and have money. You'll "loan" me money even though you know I'll never pay you back."

4. "Dude, I totally did not think about the consequences of my actions and now I have an emergency on my hands but you're the kind of person who can't help but fix other people's problems. So, fix my problem for me."

5. "Wow. You're smart and nice. If I tell you what I did wrong, you'll tell me how to fix it so I don't have to think for myself and maybe even fix it for me if I cry at you."

Bitter? Yes. The word "responsible" has come to mean "I can use you for my own gain" in my lexicon these days. I've loaned out more than $15,000 to friends and only a handful of people have bothered to pay me back. I have helped people move, find apartments for them, cat/dog sat, given financial advice and a myriad of other things and very few people have bothered to even say "Thank you." Much less returned the favor. Many of the people I have rescued in the past are no better off now than they were then and it frustrates the hell out of me.

What's worse is that I am now married to a "responsible" guy who has friends who think nothing of asking him to do all sorts of things for them without gratitude. They are so used to him being "the responsible one" that they automatically call him to help them or for information or for anything else. To the point that people still call him long after he's left a volunteer position because they assume he's going to have the information anyway. Or, if he doesn't, he'll stop and take the time to look it up for them.

Together, we have become "the most responsible couple" people know. This makes me want to scream and yell. "Why don't you know more responsible people? Why aren't you more responsible? Why didn't you think about your actions before now? Why can't you stand by your word of honor? Why can't you manage your money? Why can't you look this information up? Why can't you take care of yourselves? Why? Why? Why?"

It has gotten to a point where people expect me (or my husband) to automatically pick up the pieces of a mess they have made and now that we are saying "no" because we have our own lives to take care of, they are shocked and upset at us. Well, guess what, folks, past mistakes are catching up with us and I've been burned one too many times. Some of you know about this last burning and it is bad enough that I'm half tempted to take people to court over it.

I have friends who tell me, "I hope this won't stop you from helping people in the future" but unfortunately it will in some ways. Never again will I tie myself financially to anyone who is not family. Small loans, small favors, small rescues, yes. But the days of my big rescues are gone. I have a husband and a household to look out for.

My current rescue going on right now has caused me to insist on redoing the budget in my household so I had a much better understanding of how much money we have coming in versus how much is going out. Yes, I did something in good faith and I have not only been bit on the ass for it, my credit score is suffering which hurts my husband's score since we are tied together. The economy is not doing great and it scares me. The budgeting assured me that all was well but Jeff and I need to look to ourselves for now.

Sure, we are responsible people. Today we had a meeting with a great estate lawyer who helped us put together our household trust and wills. (Seriously great. He's now on my 'highly recommended' list.) We are preparing ourselves for all possible problems. Being an adult sucks sometimes. But if you are an adult, you need to be an adult. That means to be responsible for yourself and your family. That means being prepared and thinking ahead. That means being able to stand on your own two feet.

I'm not saying I won't help people in the future but I will think long and hard about it each and every time now. I've been burned way too many times just because I'm the "responsible" one and I can recover from it. The wounds of being used have healed but the scars are still there and I'm just plain tired of it.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
I often feel exactly the same way when told I'm "reliable" and "organized".

Oct. 24th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
But if you are an adult, you need to be an adult. That means to be responsible for yourself and your family. That means being prepared and thinking ahead. That means being able to stand on your own two feet.

I totally, totally understand. It scares me sometimes how many people in geekdom and fandom don't have this learned by now, when we're all in our 30s and 40s. I don't mean the ones who reached for a dream career or degree and are financially behind for it; and there are plenty of folks who tried to be nice to an ex or a friend and got taken for a credit card balance. But yeah... basic planning. Basic paranoia, even.
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
Okay, then, let me say this, as someone who knows many people who *do* have their shit together:

"You, madam, have your shit together."
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you and I can honestly say the same for you.

Sub in "sir" for the "madam" of course.
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
Please tell me I'm not being painted with this brush re: being a total sniveling mess on my wedding day and your coming in to help save the day by dropping stuff off at our house and getting me good and liquored up? I admit my planning-ahead functions were running at about 40% capacity and it did not occur to me we'd have that much crap to pack out, much less fresh produce.

You have my utmost gratitude, lady. So much, in fact, I may have to staple two thank-you cards together.
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
You are absolutely not who this was pointed at. I promise.
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Here here, you stick to your resolve.

I was raised by a Mother who made it clear I need to be responsible for my own mistakes does that mean she's made me swing in the wind, no, but I also make really really sure I have not figured out my own way to fix my own problems before I ask for ANY help be it parental or friends.

As a consequence our wedding was done with a lot less than we wanted but because I never ask for help we had tons of help to get it done on our tighter budget but in the end we owed money to no one except our credit cards...
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
But if you are an adult, you need to be an adult. That means to be responsible for yourself and your family. That means being prepared and thinking ahead. That means being able to stand on your own two feet.

Indeed. Though, the people who ask me for help don't try telling me I'm responsible. Smart, caring, good with money, yes. Responsible, no. Could be they just want to avoid thinking about responsibility.
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've ever had that used on me, but, I'd probably counter with, "part of being responsible means watching what I invest in. You're a bad loan risk - sorry, but you are, or you'd be going to a bank, not me. However, here are some books you can buy to help you get started, and if you come to me with educated questions I'll be happy to have coffee and share my understanding of the nuances."
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I don't mean to ruffle feathers, but... that's not universal behavior. I mean, I'd certainly call people who, say, have their taxes done several months early "responsible", but that's not implying that I'm incapable of doing them ahead of time as well.

I'm sorry that so many people have taken advantage of you, though. It's a sad truth that some people seem to just revel in their own drama and disaster and never really work to get themselves out of it, even when they suck other people into their whirlpools.
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)
I know it's not universal and I know I brought some of it on myself. I could have said "No." and that would have been the end of it but sometimes, I'm too nice for my own good. My husband has promised me he won't let me do that anymore.
Oct. 24th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
Man, B and I are in the same position... and he really lets people abuse him. It kills me because I have become much more jaded about helping folk and I don't appreciate folk taking advantage of my guy. :(
Oct. 24th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm saving this, because it so nicely sums up what I'm afraid to speak out loud. I'm one of the ones who gets called "responsible" myself; I've done pretty darn well for myself, considering background and such. I'm in a crappy spot now, but it's not for lack of trying, and I know how, in general, to get out of it. It's just the means I'm not seeing yet. But I will; I have before, I will again.

So when *I* think of you as a "responsible" person in my mind, it's with these thoughts in mind:

1. Wow, another person who is capable of being an adult when need be.

2. You're someone who won't tell me I have no right to panic about my current situation because I've "got it pretty good." You wouldn't try to deny me my feelings because of my relatively "better" financial position.

3. You're someone who I could ask for a recommendation for someone to help me, like a financial planner. Or, if you and I had been in the same situation (like selling stock from our mutual employer), you could point me to the right resources, or if you had the time, give me a hand. And you'd do this because I so rarely ask for anything.

4. You're a person I'd likely do just about anything to help if you asked--because you're the kind of person who so rarely asks for help, it means it's an authentic "situation."

5. You're the kind of person I would look to as a role model for those areas you excel at that I'm behind on. Not that I would be expecting a bail-out. More like words of encouragement: "Hey, I did it, I know you can do it, too."

6. You're the kind of person I'd want to take to the teen center for "show and tell" kind of things--to point out that you can still be a responsible adult and ALSO have fun with the less-than-mainstream activities you pursue.

7. You're the kind of person I worry about looking like a flake around, as I am learning how to cope with my newly re-engineered brain. I value respect I earn from people like you, and hate to lose it when I'm struggling.

Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. Wow, it helped me defuse some serious anger issues myself--I hope it helped you!
Oct. 24th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks. If you want me to speak at the teen center, I will. :)
Oct. 25th, 2008 12:59 am (UTC)
Together, we have become "the most responsible couple" people know. This makes me want to scream and yell. "Why don't you know more responsible people?

I understand where you're coming from (believe me). But have you looked at the other side of this yet? Why don't you know more responsible people? In other words, if you're the most responsible person that many of your friends know, what do you get (or what did you used to get) out of always being the giver?
Oct. 25th, 2008 05:57 am (UTC)
The fact of the matter is that I do know more responsible people than irresponsible ones. (Or they haven't revealed themselves as irresponsible, yet - which is something that has bitten me before.) Just lately, some big things have gotten to me. Some of the rescues have been above and beyond. Something that has made me take stock and look at what I've put out and gotten back in return. About 60% of it, I don't regret at all. The other 40% I'm taking as lessons learned the hard way. Most of the time these are not lessons I'm relearning. Though, some might say they are variations on old lessons from the past.
Oct. 25th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
Personally, and since I doubt we'll ever have the type of relationship (or proximity) where I'll be asking for help of any kind, I hope you don't hear those five things when I say you have your shit together. Seriously, you're probably one of the best people I know personally who's an inspiration for me.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )