There’s been some back and forth about the term “passive-aggressive” and what its exact meaning is. I’ve been using it loosely in what I took to be the vernacular sense, not in what I took to be any kind of technical sense. On being questioned about this, I looked it up; I hadn’t realized it was technical in quite that way, included in the DSM and all. It’s a personality disorder, by gum. I thought it was just a bit of outdated descriptive psychology of the kind that Woody Allen likes to throw around – a bit of pseudo-Freudianism.

What, exactly, is the difference? What’s the difference between an official personality disorder that appears in the DSM and an outdated bit of quasi-Freudian vocabulary? I, frankly, have no idea. The DSM also includes Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which always makes me laugh like a drain, because it’s me all over and because I don’t think of it as a disorder, I just think of it as an approach.

So anyway. I’ve been using it informally, not formally or technically, and I’m going to go on doing that, because people (most people) seem to know exactly what I mean by it, and because it describes something real, that we keep seeing. So what have I been meaning by it when using it informally?

I’ve been meaning (and I have in fact spelled this out a few times) being aggressive while trying to hang onto the credit for being non-aggressive. Having it both ways. Being bossy and censorious while pretending to be gentle and sweet.

I’ve never gotten along well with people like that. Never. I suppose that’s my Oppositional Defiant Disorder playing up again. I get all oppositional and defiant about them. I want to kick them until they drop the goody-goody act and admit they’re just being hostile and quarrelsome like the rest of us.

My view is, if you’re going to be bossy and censorious, then be it. Don’t pretend you’re being Little Saint Lovely of the Blossoms, just get on with it.

I also mean, sometimes, people who praise themselves without admitting that they’re doing it, at least when they are people who also do the bossy-censorious thing. People who say things like “oh my goodness I’m so amazed that everybody loves me so much.” That kind of thing makes my oppositional defiant demon laugh a coarse laugh and scratch its bum. Come on, sweety, you’re not amazed at all, you’re gloating and boasting. Don’t try to fool us – just say “excuse me for a minute while I gloat and boast.” And don’t combine “oh my goodness I’m so amazed that everybody loves me so much” with “if only all of you could be as loving and compassionate as I am everybody would love you so much too.” That’s fatal, darling, we see right through it.

That’s what I mean by passive-aggressive. How about you?

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