The greatest possible good in life is never to be yelled at. There is no higher goal, no purer aim. There is no achievement sweeter, no more towering legacy, than to make it from birth to death without ever having once being yelled at. Better never to go anywhere, never to do anything, if the end result is to go through life without someone having yelled at you. Sweeter than immortality, more precious than fame, the greatest reward of all is nobody yelling at you.
I myself have spent the better part of my young life looking for ratholes and empty train cars to dive into rather than face being yelled at. I have found the following tactics useful in determining whether getting yelled at was imminent and, if so, then whether or not it was avoidable:
1. The moment someone – anyone – asks to speak with you, about any topic, regardless of whether they are in a position of authority over you, open with “Am I in trouble?” Better yet, start every conversation this way. Don’t give up until you get a straight answer. It’s always better to know.
2. If you think a teacher is going to yell at you, drop the class. If you think your parents are going to yell at you, don’t go home tonight. If you think your partner is going to yell at you, stop answering their texts until they’re so panicked at the prospect of breaking up that they’re no longer willing to say anything other than “Are you okay?” Avoid everything and everyone. Make no promises and honor no commitments. If someone knocks on your door, don’t answer it. Hide under the covers, even if it’s the mailman, and he leaves a FINAL NOTICE slip in your mailbox, which is sort of like getting yelled at by the post office. Throw away the slip. You didn’t need whatever someone was trying to mail you, anyway.
3. If you are in a low-level building, consider jumping out of the window.
If getting yelled at is absolutely unavoidable, immediately drop eye contact, make yourself as small as possible, and mumble incoherently until the yeller loses all pleasure in berating you and wanders away to find a snack. Shut down completely until all interaction with you becomes impossible.
Here are the three conditions of not-being-yelled-at, in order of increasing perfection:
1. Not being yelled at while no one else is getting yelled at.
2. Not being yelled at while someone else is getting yelled at for doing or saying something that you yourself would never do or say.
3. Not being yelled at while someone else is getting yelled at for doing or saying something you either A) do or say all the time but without ever getting caught or B) think about doing or saying all of the time but lack the courage to do or say it, so that you experience the twin joys of both not being yelled at and also the vicarious relief of watching someone getting yelled at when it could just as easily have been you.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.