This essay is going to come across as particularly self-serving. No matter, it’s my digest, and as I proclaimed before I got on-stage for my standup routine, ‘buckle up fuckers, I’ve got some things to say.’ 🙉
It’s impossible to argue against being pleasant and polite so instead I’ll focus on our discomfort with people who don’t present as inviting on first pass. Part of the social fabric relies on getting along with others, and while I see the value in that, it can also constrain behavior to the dullest of interactions.
Some of the problem with difficult people is that they say and do all sorts of things that make us uncomfortable. They point out the inequities and say real things about their experiences. They aren’t trying to please right out of the gate. Why should they? Who are we to demand comfort and ease from all our interactions?
I like difficult people because that means they’re perfectionists and they’re passionate. Stephanie Sigman
At the heart of difficult-avoidance is the notion of being likable. Evolution has wired us to get along so as not to be cast out of the tribe. Women are particularly burdened by this expectation. Be pretty and pleasant so men will like you. Pretty and pleasant is fine, but it has me longing for men to quit being such ninnies (I realize I am not helping my case here). It ought to scare them more when a woman is 'chill’, because that either means she is boring, doesn’t care about them, or the passive-aggressive tsunami is coming.
Difficult can veer into hyper-critical, I am not a fan of that either. That sort of person feels low and finds their balance by dragging you down too. This isn’t a difficult person so much as an asshole.
The best thing about cancer is how thoroughly it unshackles one of the fiction that the sky will fall if you present your unvarnished self. People are generally so self-absorbed (me included), even my most outrageous behavior gets barely a nod. My theory in friendship and love is to be exactly who I am, this will serve as a beacon to the right people. It works better for the former.
Being 'difficult’ is an effective tool at speeding up the sorting process. If this isn’t for you, get out while the getting is good. But, as you go, know this: everyone is difficult in some way. Front-loading the challenging bits doesn’t necessarily mean there is nothing but. More likely, you are getting a relaxed and accurate version of the person. People want illusion in romance, and pay a high cost for it later on.
Qualities like kindness, generosity, and reliability often don’t show up hand in hand with instant likability. My favorite people are difficult ones. I don’t mind having to work with and around some off-putting things to get the good stuff. I need stability and genuine connection more than an affable nature.
Difficult people show up when I am ill, speak the truth when I need to hear it, and make me laugh. They are irreverent, perceptive and given a little time, warm-hearted and insanely loyal. They make art, and help the rest of us connect to our essential selves.
Not so scary.