A simple staff room chat at breaktime can be like treading through a verbal minefield. People are rushed and pressured. The intensity of trying to relax for ten minutes can be as tiring as the job itself therefore sometimes we forego a break and keep on going. Just to avoid the tension. You need to be careful what you say. You really need to watch the way you hear things. Mis-hear, misunderstand or listen too carefully- and you might feel jellyfished.
What is the act of Jellyfishing? Remember that scene in Bridget Jones Diary- The Edge of Reason whereby Bridget explains the concept? No? Well, in short it is when someone supposedly being friendly says something to you and you automatically smile back without really taking in their words.
Then boom. A very short time later, you feel the whiplash sting that the comment lashed upon you. Sharp, seering and causing you to seethe. Loaded. Ambiguous. The effect of these comments may depend on your own personal mood that day. This is true. Sometimes we choose to overreact. Mostly they are thoughtless throwaway statements with no underlying intention to create pain. Other times, they are just plain mean.
One time, I was with a car load of friends on the way home from a hen party. Heavy heads and bumpy roads, we were all not feeling our best selves. Spotting a billboard advertising something like Smarties, I mentioned how I would love some sugar right then. My Jellyfisher friend brutally growled at me, asking was I diabetic or just greedy. I mumbled the affirmative to the second and the moment passed. However, the red line stayed on my ‘pinch more than an inch arm’ for quite a long while after.
The other day, another mother of two smallies and I were having a little bond over the trials of motherhood. My friend is not a complainer- far from it. Sometimes we just need to talk. We were sharing concerns about morning pressure. Getting kids up, out to minders whilst meandering the tiredness. Trying not to escalate the tempers that might ensue. As my friend regretted being frustrated over a temper flare that morning, I was trying to make her feel comforted by explaining mine are the same. A third colleague appeared at our table and we dutifully let her in on the chat, just saying how it is hard to deal with tantrums in kids but how we get past it.
She gave us her two cents.
‘My children never had tantrums’, she announced. ‘I wonder what it is…’ silence. She let the words hang.
On that note I got up and made tea.
I do not think she meant to sting us. Maybe she does not know the effect of Jellyfishing. It was surely not intentional but it definitely stung.
She wasn’t aware the sting stung.
Then again, do the jellyfish?
I heard a rumour that her children were actually nightmares growing up. Just saying.