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Apr 17 2016

On Drama, Butthurt and the Language of Minimization

Everyone these days is either ‘butthurt’ or causing ‘drama’.

Because, apparently, we’re all twelve years old.

'Are you there, God, it's me, butthurt.' (source)

‘Are you there, God, it’s me, butthurt.’ (source)

It didn’t used to be this way, though. People used to be more nuanced, I think. Or perhaps we were dismissive of other’s feelings differently.

Ten years or so ago I was active on a forum for readers and writers and one of the regulars was a fairly well-known writer. Who also had a fragile ego. They got into a verbal sparring match (as was this person’s wont) and eventually used the phrase ‘drama major’ to describe the non-writing peasant who dared to cross them.

That was the first time I had heard an actual grown person—a New York Times bestselling author, no less—use the phrase ‘drama’ to mean anything other than conflict between two or more groups/forces/whatever. I took it as further proof that said walking ego was more immature than I had realized and withdrew from the group even further.

I haven’t returned there, but I’m sure said author is continuing to hold court and they’ve probably added ‘butthurt’ to their lexicon.

That second word actually raises my blood pressure when I see/hear/read it no matter the context. Whether it’s directed at me, another person or even if someone is referring to their own reaction to something. It’s taken me awhile to work out why.

  1. It means nothing. It is literally not a word. It’s two words that don’t make sense together in that order. ‘Buttplug’ is two words that mean something separately then you put them together like the German language does and can pretty much work out what the new word means.
  2. It sounds fucking stupid. It sounds like something a twelve year old would say. If I said, ‘Hey, what’s up with Sally?’ And your response was baby talk (and you’re not a Little) you sound like a person unfamiliar with English.
  3. This is the big one, though. When you say, ‘Oh, they’re just butthurt.’ That dismisses the other person’s feelings and experience. Two things result from this:
  • 1.] Anyone listening knows you have dismissed this person’s feelings and they are now being encouraged to dismiss this person as someone who is over-sensitive (‘Ignore them, they’re butthurt.’)
  • 2.] Humans love labels and once you get that ‘prone to being butthurt’ stamped across your forehead by another person, other people won’t forget it.

Being known as someone who ‘starts drama’ is similar. You get labeled with either of those and no one ever has to listen to you again.

Your friend didn't make that volcano erupt. And they'll remember how much you helped, btw. (source)

Your friend didn’t make that volcano erupt. And they’ll remember how much you helped, btw. (source)

Butthurt and Drama: The Similarities

Is there anything worse than being drawn into ‘drama’? Or being seen as being someone who starts ‘drama’? (Maybe a butthurt person who starts drama.)

The threat of being labeled as a drama major (or whatever) so terrifies people they will leave long-standing friends to cope with terrible situations on their own.

I present to you, the power of language, people. All you have to do to get people to shut up about something important—including life or death situations—is to first load a word with meaning then threaten to label a person as that thing.

In this case: drama. It’s bad to cause drama because that’s what teenage girls do, right? You don’t want to be that because teenage girls are idiots. (According to our society.) You don’t want to cause drama, do you?

Dramarama.

So you’d better leave your friend high and dry rather than ask any questions or even offer support after something happens to them because people will remember you being involved.

And if someone says you’re making a fuss over nothing when you’re trying to find out what happened, don’t get all butthurt!

How to Be ‘Butthurt’

The best way to be butthurt is to have a genuine response to something that another person either doesn’t understand or like.

Whatever you do, you are not allowed to be: frustrated, upset, disappointed, annoyed, angry, tired, sad, pissed off, or, literally, ANY other word describing an emotional state that actually exists and is more nuanced. Using any of those words would show the other person has some understanding of what you’re actually feeling.

What you want to do is be as nonspecific as possible and use a nonsense word a child probably made up so other people can know you’re being childish and should be ignored.

It’s rather fascinating that the person who has control in the situation—the one who has decided that you’re ‘butthurt’, which is saying you’re being childish—is the one who is using childlike language and showing the least interest in engaging like an adult. Then again, children are adept as hell at taking control. One pre-verbal child can control two fully-grown adults and have them in tears of exhaustion and frustration in no time.

Just looking at the photo gives me chills. (source)

Just looking at this photo gives me chills. (source)

A Personal Note on ‘Butthurt’

I mentioned earlier the actual word ‘butthurt’—no matter the context—literally made my pulse race. That was curious to me, as few things annoy me to that degree these days. Then I realized that my (verbally abusive, alcoholic, gun fetishizing) father was a master of minimizing my feelings. Well, the feelings of any woman. Women were all frivolous creatures, you see, who only cared about shopping and feeling pretty. If he’d been particularly horrendous he’d throw a credit card at me and tell me to, ‘buy yourself something nice, I know you girls like to feel pretty.’

The man didn’t know me at all. I didn’t care about pretty. I bought books and chocolate.

But his ability to minimize was astounding. I began developing clinical depression when I was eight and first tried to kill myself when I was thirteen. He’d been in the house during that first attempt and still, in my teens, he referred to my depression as ‘moping’.

Though, I’m sure if he’d had the term ‘butthurt’ he would have used it.

[Disclaimer on this writing: Yes, there are people who could turn the most peaceful, loving hippie commune into the worst cannibalistic massacre in North America over a long weekend. There are people who are incapable of getting through a day without their feelings getting hurt. There are people who seem to be capable of thriving only if they are at the center of a shitstorm of their own creation. I think it makes them feel alive. If you read this piece fully you’ll see, this piece is not about them. This piece is about minimizing other people’s feelings because it’s inconvenient or annoying or the thousand other reasons some people do so. Mostly it’s a plea to stop talking like teenagers. What did the English language do to you?]

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