old yeller

My name is Leslie, and I yell.   (Please don’t call me a yellaholic; I prefer ale to yellahol.)  If there were a club, a deity-free 12-step program, a debriefing, a detoxification, a reprogramming, I’d be in.

I don’t need anger management.  I’m not particularly angry (though perpetual pain does make me snappish); I’m frustrated.  Most of the time, I yell to get people to listen, to recognize that I’ve asked three times nicely already.  CLEAN YOUR ROOM! I AM SICK OF YOUR PILE OF CLOTHES!  Or I yell to stress to them that I really did tell them last week we were going to dinner at Beth’s.  I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK WE WERE GOING TO DINNER AT BETH’S!

Sometimes I yell at the dog after I step on him.  I yell at the TV when the news is on.  I yell at people to get out of the kitchen, to stop using my computer, to PUT MY FUCKING CAPO BACK ON MY GUITAR WHERE IT BELONGS. 

Yelling is more love than hate. It is more caring than not caring.

Sometimes the yelling is the reaction of a control freak trying to control areas that she can’t control (people) because she’s unsuccessful at controlling what she can control (pizza).  Today I yelled at an acquaintance.  Instead of being the trainer barking obedience into a dog, which is the way it’s supposed to work, it backfired, and the dog ran away, which is the way it sometimes goes.  Because this was a person, not a dog. 

I could blame it on my family.  I was raised by a pair of yellers.  My first words were yelled.  When my sister was about to be born, my parents drove me to my grandmother’s house.  I fell off the back seat when we went over a bump, and I yelled, “OH, SHIT!”  I was four.  The old familiar familial yelling bothered me when I was little, but I couldn’t beat them, so I joined, yelling at my sister, my parents, our dogs and cats.  I moved out when I was seventeen, and, though I yelled a little less with the help of mellowing agents, I yelled more because of my punk rock band.

Yelling is an exorcism of sorts.  GODDAMMITRASSUMFRASSUM  is usually followed with Hi.  I don’t yell to hurt anyone’s feelings.  In fact, I hate that about yelling.  But I yell if you’ve hurt mine. 

I don’t mean to excuse it.  I just want to explain it. I often resolve to stop it.  But I don’t know how.

I tried to quit yelling once a few years ago.  My therapist (he retired, or I’d be on the phone with him right now instead of talking to you) told me that every time I yelled, I had to do some housework I disliked.  I chose to wash the filthy kitchen floor.   For two weeks, I had the cleanest fucking floor in Baltimore.  Sometimes I would yell with the wet mop in my hand.  And soon, like the skinny bitch I put on the refrigerator to remind me not to eat the pizza, the mop became invisible. 

My name is Leslie.  I yell, and my floors are dirty.
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10 Comments

  1. Belinda February 28, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    I simply love this entry. It is me, sort of, too. I yell. I need to join YA? I don't know.. I don't think it's Wrong but it's very hard when you are surrounded by people who DON'T, who it bothers, and who misinterpret it. Personally, I think we are Misunderstood. Our intent at least. Or there is no intent, it is just expressiveness. Better than REpressiveness, I always say…

  2. Cybergabi February 28, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Thank you, Leslie. I could sign every word you wrote. I'm just that way. It's driving others (and myself) nuts every once in a while, and it hasn't made life easy for me, neither in my private nor my professional life. Yet, it's hard to fight.

    I'm thankful to have people in my life who put up with it. I can understand and will not judge if they yell too. Because I know how it is. On the other hand, I'm easily moved too, and cry way too easily and uncontrollably for a middle-aged woman. Emotional expression is something very immediate for me – and, in a way, unstoppable. I'm still trying to get a grip on both. Maybe age will bring some moderation. Who knows.

  3. Corinne February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Thank you Leslie! This was just what I needed! I am a yeller too and I am insensitive and I just burnt today's meat…

    Even if I try to be diplomatic and gentle (which would be the opposite of yelling maybe) it often comes out wrong and hurtful. And sometimes I get the appropriate answers for it, like this mail today that consisted entirely of "YOU CAN LICK MY A***" in capital letters.

    So again, thanks for your text!

  4. Lysandra Cook Photography February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    We are like ying and yang. I am not a yeller and my counselor has told me to become more assertive. We all need to work on something.

  5. Kim Hosey February 28, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    It is more caring than not caring.

    OMG. EXACTLY. It's like you looked into my head these past few months. I almost never get angry, but I get frustrated all the freaking time. It's a problem. I want so badly to be the calm, harmonious mom and wife and friend, but it never seems to happen. I cry and yell when I drop a slice of bread.

    On the other hand, I bet (if you're anything like me) you bring your A game when it's an actual catastrophe.

    I'd say hang in there, but I want to yell when people say it to me. XOXO

  6. sharon miller February 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    I was NOT a yeller until you were waaaay older. But when I learned to yell back, I also learned the art of the nice note–wherein you don't have to take the actual blame if you are not wrong, but wherein you say sweet things that reveal the person beneath the growly monster. And too, when you are right, you will be fine. Also, my kitchen floor is clean!
    Love,
    Dogfacemom

  7. Leslie F. Miller February 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    @sharon miller I got Dad's slob gene. Shame. I'd look a lot less impoverished with fewer cobwebs and dust bunnies. It's hard to tell them apart from the pets.

  8. Sarah February 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    OMG yes! I am a yeller too. Always have been.

  9. Richard Gilbert March 1, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    ha! notice lower case: a mild low-key shout out. cuz i don't want to be yelled at. i used to be bad about that myself but am better. not so much mellowing agents as simple dumb age, probably, took care of it . . .

  10. Aunt Teena March 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    I yell a lot, especially lately. I'm always frustrated and have no patience. But I can't yell at strangers or people I'm not close to. I mostly yell at the wrong people.