Originally posted on FB, 3 April 2022
• Written by Lesa Quale Ferguson•

I harbor grudges.

That’s not revelatory to those who know me. I habitually turn my grudges into something quirky and absurd—neurotic obsessions rather than criminal vendettas. I grudged against a woman who had mocked my friend’s shoes. My friend had introduced me to “Posh Spice” at a bar downtown, though I can’t recall which one: Two Bells, Tini Bigs, or some other 90s Seattle hangout. Posh Spice and her “complicated shoes” (as George Costanza would call them) turned out to be an excellent comic foil during several beer-fueled tirades with my friends when I returned to neighborhood pubs.

A grudge is an Italian thing, or at least something I think of as an Italian thing because it was handed down to me from my Papa—the Don of my Italian Heritage. Holy Pauly Walnuts, he could hold a grudge. Right before Papa died, one of his relatives called to force an invite. The relative said he’d bring a pizza. My Papa said, “Bring two.” The relative declined the visit.

When he got off the phone, I asked, “Why do you care so much that he bring two pizzas?”

Papa said, “I knew that guy my whole life. If I were already dead, he still wouldn’t buy 2 pizzas for my family. I told him to bring two because he’s so cheap and full of spite; he can’t honor a dying man’s wish for 2 pizzas. He deserves to suffer.”

My grudges aren’t so existential. I’ve tried to get curious about them because my pleasurable pint with a grudge chaser has spiraled into sleepless nights with a racing heart. And the grudges themselves have escalated. What was once pub fare has me reaching for Andrew Puddicombe’s Headspace meditations to retrieve mine.

What sparks a grudge in me?

I’ve narrowed it down to latency. Latency was Google’s word du jour when I searched “grudge psychology.”

Latency measures the time that lapses between an antecedent and the performance of a specified behavior.” Vanderbilt.edu

A grudge wedges between what I perceive as a mean moment and the passivity that kept me from addressing it. The grudge drives me to rectify. I long for an eye for an eye: to vanquish the meany with sarcasm. “Don’t play my friend out just because you stole Oxford saddle shoes from the Broadway Shoe Repair while PJ Harvey plays on your retro walkman. My friend wants to be your friend, which is impossible given your toxic posh doesn’t merit one.”

Before kids and thus mattered, this Grudge Matching used to be fun—verbal sparring and Touché – ing.

I get that it was Much Ado about Nothing, and yet I “much” persisted. I crafted rants about Posh Spice or shook my ineffectual fist at “Braveheart” for winning the Best Oscar. In the 90s, the verbal play was staged inside my head and later performed at my neighborhood pub to my friends or co-workers over too many microbrews.

Suppose someone was mean to someone I love (as “Braveheart” clearly was to the Oscars), and I didn’t get to address it, or that person didn’t apologize; my grudge bloomed like a patch of Belladonna, deadly nightshade. A few years ago, an old classmate, Dan, apologized for slut shaming a friend back in junior high. I was too embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t weeded out that grudge for over 40 years. Posh Spice and Dan were the fertilizer in this side hustle as a seedsman of Belladonna.

Unfortunately, as a mom, the stakes are higher and have real-world implications. The internet created a channel from my internal world to the external. A couple of years ago, I was in an email flame war with the NIH that needed to be extinguished.

The NIH and this rando psychologist never apologized to Cal or me. The complaint didn’t get us a free chocolate lava cake, as I would have given when I fielded complaints as a waitress. I never seem to clock closing time at the Grudge Pub.

Here’s what I know is true: I love my people deeply. My mom and brother used to call me the Guardian at the Gate. I was protective and excellent at keeping people out of the castle: I spoke up and out and advocated my heart out to keep the meanies from storming the Gate. Sometimes, I’m not good at my job: slow-witted, reticent, cede my power, tongue-tied. This is when my perfectly tended-to moat of deadly nightshade comes into play. The next time Posh Spice, Dan, or the rando psychologist approaches my ruinous castle, they can choke on it. Not that anyone has, but the poison fortifies the distance.

For me, grudges are the Guardian at the Gate tax.

Sometimes, I worry that I’m so busy guarding my loved ones in the castle that I forget to cherish what made them so vulnerable.

Here are the three loves I mentioned:

  • My adventurous buddy. With a nose like a hawk, she would swivel around her desk during social studies, releasing the lingering scent of morning cigarettes and narratives of nocturnal escapades. Her conquests were way more stimulating than any Norman Invasion taught by a teacher.

  • My super competent friend who fished out her Birkenstocks that night to go to Two Bells, Tini Bigs, or wherever with me. She stuffed them under the seat of her brand new burgundy Corolla that she had recently purchased with earnings from her middle school teaching job, where she educated disinclined teens daily. She never languished in pub grudges. For being ever so sensible, she had a weakness for us pretentious (posh and artist-type) slackers.
  • My beautiful Cal. He Be-Bop-and-Scats, not knowing how to catch the rhythm with those around him but aching to keep time. I am proud to serve as his sentry, but it’s time to let him out of the castle more.

When I spoke with Dan about what happened all those years ago, he told me how the experience had helped him change friends and influence.

Change is an excellent remedy; forgiveness appears to be the only antidote.

May forgiveness inspire me to cherish my loved ones more and relinquish my craving for two piping hot, freshly baked pizzas.

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Lesa Quale Ferguson

Writer + Picture Taker ^ Image-Maker & Design Web-ber #Ma

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