If you ever want to coerce me into doing something, all you need to do is tell me I can’t do it. Naturally, this rule does not apply to things I am physically incapable of doing, like dunking a basketball or only eating a couple of Pringles out of the canister. I’m talking about serious decisions that I actually have some mind control over. Like when I was seven and had to conduct the scientific experiment of whether I would die if I stuck a butter knife in the light socket. This experiment, much like Pavlov, only reinforced the behavior when I realized my mother was lying to me and I would not die from doing this. It was a cheap thrill to prove her wrong.
I repeated this pattern of proving others wrong over and over again growing up. Not that I was a rebellious teen, because there’s only so much rebellion in an honor student with braces and a Flock of Seagulls haircut. Oh yes, I wore my sunglasses at night, but I was not a troublemaker by any means.
I believe the lethal combination of a French Canadian stubborn streak and temper have often conspired against my well-being. I have been known to look for a fight, despite never actually being in one. This just means I am undefeated. In my mind I am half-ninja, half-MMA expert. (The ninja part comes from wearing an excess of black of clothing, which is visually slimming.) This Rocky Balboa complex came to a head when my older, heavy-set sister-in-law chose the day of my father’s funeral to air all of her grievances with me. Being a whopping two inches taller than her, I peered down on her, nose to top of nose, feeling quite badass as we exchanged verbal jabs and obscenities. When she challenged me to go outside to fight it out, I was quite confident I could just push her over on her bad hip and she would be rolling around on her back like a beetle. Thankfully other family members broke it up, as I momentarily forgot my sister-in-law was Detroit trailer trash and was probably packing a deluxe Ginsu collection of knives in her giant sweatpants.
Whenever I find myself falling into this pattern of poor decision-making, I try to remind myself of my law school experience. This isn’t too difficult, as it pops up every month when I pay more in student loans than the GDP of Mozambique. My first year of law school was a nightmare. I was lonely, in a town of 250 people with only one bar and traffic light. Even worse, I struggled in school for the first time in my life. Academically, I was in the middle of the pack, which was as foreign to me as the appeal of eating fried bugs in some cultures. I wanted to quit. And I would have…if my mother didn’t inform me that my brother-in-law, a stereotypical arrogant cop and my archenemy since childhood, was betting everyone that I would drop out. That was all the incentive I needed to stay and prove him wrong. Not only did this decision cost me $95,000 in loans, but a few short months after learning of his secret wagering, I met and became engaged to my ex-husband. The only redeeming point of this story is that I eventually recouped some of the money in alimony payments. But still, my stupid pride cost me my chance to move to Montreal debt-free and hook up with a hockey player. I would have settled for a street mime. Anything would have been better than my ex.
Will I ever break this pattern? I don’t know. Seems kind of foolish to quit when I’m riding an unbeaten streak.