How I learned to resolve conflict – most of the time

A long time ago, I lived with a domineering housemate who, despite her slight frame and cherubic curls, possessed the destructive force of a rageful god. If she had a bad day, you would know about it. You would hear her outside the door, angrily rummaging in (read: punching) her bag and know to take cover.

Then the cleaning would begin: loud, showy, door-slamming cleaning that felt like an accusation and filled the air with the smell of bleach. A bad episode would be followed by mean demands (“There are too many books on the shelf. You’ll have to bin some”) and then – when these were ignored – a rant about being mistreated, a threat about landlords.

“You’re an adult woman and are tiptoeing around,” Mum would say. “Grownups resolve conflicts – they don’t hide.”

“I’ll tell her she’s a knob–”

“That doesn’t mean childish slanging. Everyone has their reasons. Talking never fails.”

So I tried, and kept trying. It went nowhere. I could never elicit any recognition from her that her behaviour was unreasonable; instead, I found myself dragged into draining arguments. I moved out, leaving a snarky note: “If signs of life in the flat bother you so much, try the morgue.” I had failed in my adulthood mission.

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I thought about this earlier when a strange man was banging on my car window at a red light. He said I had cut him up. I had no idea.

“Perhaps,” I thought, as muffled expletives drifted through the window, “this gent is simply agitated by deteriorating road conditions in austerity Britain. Maybe he’s having a bad time at work. Maybe all he needs is a hug.”

I drove off when the light turned green. Some fights just aren’t worth the energy. And as for flipping the bird on my way off? Well, even the most adult of adults is allowed their moment, right?

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