“I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry, and accept an apology I never received.” — Unknown
Ugh, why are you flodging?
Flodging. It is a dated yet a fitting term. I first remember hearing this word in the late 1990s, either from the movie Friday or a popular hip-hop song during that time. The definition of flodging is best articulated as saying, doing, wearing, eating, reading, sitting, moving one’s eyes, breathing, watching TV or performing any sort of action that plays upon the insecurities of those who either witness it or are the target of it. Flodging can be done intentionally or inadvertently. Those scorned by flodging have no interest in the degree of deliberateness under which it occurs. If on the receiving end of it – speaking from personal experience – the only acceptable recourse is to stamp it out with as much fervor as possible. Synonyms to the word flodging more readily understood in the American lexicon include antagonizing, putting on airs, pretending, alienating, acting brand new, annoying, masquerading, and the like.
As a preteen and teenager, I was constantly accused of flodging directly and indirectly by relatives. I share this experience not as a way of seeking pity – a toxic emotion that adds no value to any situation in any circumstance. Acknowledging someone’s hurtful experience allows them to begin moving past it. Pity ≠ Acknowledgement. I blog about this to shed light on another display of bullying perpetrated by adults who directed it at their defenseless, younger relatives. I never ever intentionally flodged to annoy my relatives.
Tangential Note: Admittedly, I have flodged at times to check racists, bigots, and homophobes who think they are better than I am simply because they are white, heterosexual, or insert something they did not earn. Sure, flodging adds no value to my life yet on a moment’s notice gets me through hundreds of such microaggressions I experience every day.
Flodging ≠ Seeking Approval
I have some relatives who are quick to mouth off about how much they do not care about what people think – which everyone on the listening end of this narrative immediately understands as the direct opposite. These unprovoked defensive statements are the most glaring signals of insecurity. Externally, these moments of setting the record straight appear impulsive. I have learned over time they are responses to never-ending internal conversations the messenger is having with their own “shame gremlins” in an attempt to reassure themselves.
I say all that to say my so-called flodging was a mischaracterization of desperate attempts to be engaging and likable. I was seeking acceptance and comfort – a safe zone. An escape from what? During my childhood in 1990s, an emotional void was borne from the proverbial matrimony of living in a home headed by a whimsical, implacable, abusive, alcoholic father to being raised in a region hostile – on a good day – to a closeted gay boy. Before I was eligible to get a driver’s license, my lack of self-confidence, overall fear, and self-worth had accumulated a deficit so massive my maternal grandmother, mother and sister’s efforts to shrink it – while appreciated and helpful – were not enough. As a result, my yearnings to securely feel liked, safe, and validated were solidly ranked as fundamental a need as fresh drinking water – fitting firmly within the basic needs’ level of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. With such a demanding void, I needed to diversify my sources in order to fill it.
What may have been construed as antagonizing by my paternal aunts and uncles was my tornado warning style emergency response to any situation bearing a hint of rejection or being dragged out of the closet. My pleas of trying to relate to my relatives in search of self-confidence and validation were misinterpreted for acting brand new. With that, I really cannot hold my bullying aunts and uncles accountable for not knowing about this inner battle I fought. However, my disdain for the way they treated me remains white hot. Irrespective of their level of awareness, their actions remains damningly inappropriate.
The anecdote to my “shame gremlins” was evidence I was likable, acceptable – that I was enough. If my aunts, uncles, and cousins liked me, they would not say or do mean and hurtful things to me. They would treat me the same whether my parents were in the vicinity or not. They would not make a big deal about the clothes I wore of toys and gadgets I possessed. Obviously, this tactic did not work as intended. As an adult in a loving relationship with a spouse who wholeheartedly knows I am enough, maintaining healthy relationships with select relatives and close friends who accept me for who I am, and being a humbled person with access to resources that allows ongoing use of professional help, I applaud the younger Keith A. Bussey’s efforts. I more clearly understand just how hard I was flailing about to keep it together emotionally given what I thought knew for sure at the time.
Tangential Note: I was also a crybaby and a very scared child. As I may have stated in other blogs, I was bossy too. I now understand the crying, fear, and bossiness were my younger self’s messy attempt to control situations – keeping them from morphing into unruly instances that could bring about crushing uncertainty. There was a surplus of chaos and uncertainty funneled into our Bullock County trailer on any given day by my belligerent father. Sure, he “-vided” for us as any father and husband should. He also routinely terrorized us Thursday – Sunday for as long as I can remember with his drinking, bullying, misogyny, and constant attempts to pit my mother and me against each other.
Are you sure your aunts and uncles were attempting to check what they misconstrued as flodging?
Yes. Why did I perceive my paternal relatives as accusing me, my parents, and sister of flodging? Snide remarks. Inappropriate questions. Stares drenched in repulsion. “How much does that cost? When did your mom-n-daddy get you that? You think you better than everyone else, don’t you? You’re too young to wear clothes and shoes that expensive. You ain’t nothing but a spoiled brat. Your mom-n-daddy get you everything you want, don’t they?” Never any clean, non-sarcastic compliments.
My paternal relatives implied I was an ungrateful little shit who did not deserve the nice things my parents worked hard to provide me, my siblings, and hell even them and some of their children on occasion. Now as I blog this, they could have been responding to some sort of preamble my father gave them when my mother, sister, or I were not around to provide full context. He could have lamented about how much he thought the way we dressed was over the top. This would have been strange given his clothes, shoes, cologne, and other items were just as nice as ours. He did occasionally accuse my mother of buying my sister – who is not his biological daughter – nicer things than she bought me. Anyone with at least one functional optic nerve would have seen this stupid accusation for what it was – malarkey. I have seen and heard him do these things many times. Of course, today, selective amnesia would render this entire blog to hearsay evidence.
I guess I should be grateful. The bullying aunts and uncles gave shallow compliments the few times my father touted my good grades when he was not telling me my A’s were insufficiently high.
Tangential Note: I fully understand no one is obligated to dole out compliments to anyone for any reason. That goes without saying. I also know it can be annoying when people yammer on about how awesome they think their children are, irrespective of whether the audience has children of which they may (not) be equally proud. I mentioned this specific form of disrespect because in a society which supports the narrative surrounding no child left behind and enjoys saying useless statements such as “you’re every spit of yo daddy,” being mean spirited to children is particularly egregious.
My aunts and uncles spoke to me in hateful and harsh tones as if I was a yet-to-be-discovered masochist spawn of Satan. By the way, I am not misremembering, projecting my childhood insecurities onto well-meaning family members who misspoke, or otherwise was a child with a dark and active imagination. What I am sharing here may seem harmless to some and nice-nasty even which in and of itself intolerable. Because of the tone and timing in which such statements were uttered – with my parents nowhere to be found – I interpreted them as:
- I know you are a faggot and you are going to hell.
- I hate you, you do not deserve that
- I chose not to buy my kids that so you do not need it either
- I cannot afford any of what you are wearing for myself or my children so why are you showboating
- Why are your parents spending that money on you, they should be giving it to me
Nowadays, my parents would corroborate this entire paragraph – even my father who has a history of making a billion excuses for the obviously unacceptable behaviors of his brothers, sisters, and the Golden Child.
Next, I talk about my experience in 1998 where one aunt and one uncle – both of which are my dad’s sister and brother – cornered me at a family gathering and proceeded to interrogate me about my parents deteriorating marriage at the time.