Road Rage

Last week I was involved in a road rage incident and, perhaps most surprisingly for this time of year, it wasn’t me who had the anger problem! I’d met my friend for a walk and a chat and was driving to uni to get more of my project work done when another driver forced their way out of a side junction in front of me (I had right of way). I had to brake rapidly to avoid going into the side of their car, so I sounded my horn. About 100 yards further down the road, we stopped in traffic and the other driver got out of his car and walked towards my car. I didn’t act fast enough to lock my car (it would probably be a good idea to lock it whenever I’m alone in the car, but I worry about what might happen if I got into an accident), and he started banging on the car window. I tried just completely ignoring him at first and looking straight ahead but he was rather furious and kept shouting at me to open the window, so I rolled it down a crack. He started shouting at me so even though I knew I’d done absolutely nothing wrong and that he was the one at fault, I apologised. He was an older man (65+) and quite short, but he was so angry that I was worried I might end up getting assaulted if I escalated things (or that he’d end up having a heart attack or something), so my instinct was just to appease him as best I could. Thankfully, he went back to his car after this and pulled over to the side of the road (I’m not sure if this was to calm down or for some other reason). I was a bit shaken up afterwards, and ended up just continuing my drive to uni. I stupidly didn’t get his registration number or car make/ model because I was just so focused on getting out of the situation at the time. I don’t know whether I could’ve reported him or not if I had, and quite frankly I’ve had so much to stress about recently that I didn’t want to add to that. I actually laughed afterwards – partly nervous laughter/ relief that nothing more had come of the situation, and partly I was laughing because I thought it was a ridiculous way for a man of that age to behave.

I was a bit shaken up going into uni that afternoon and worried that I had somehow been at fault. I spoke to both my boyfriend and my mum about it later (again with the seeking validation from other people!) and neither felt that I had done anything wrong. I felt fine about everything after this, until dinner time. My mum had invited my dad and his partner round and somehow the road rage incident came up (I wish I’d just kept my mouth shut!) My dad’s partner seemed unhappy with the way I’d handled things, saying that I should have “stood up” for myself and shouted back at the other driver that it was his fault. I tried to explain that I thought it was better just to de-escalate the situation, particularly because I didn’t want to risk being assaulted. My dad’s partner said that if that had happened, I should have just assaulted the guy back and other people would have come to my assistance because “It’s not okay for a man to be hitting a woman”. So, in other words, I should have escalated the situation and then if I ended up getting assaulted, I should have assaulted the guy back and/ or just hope someone else would step in (and potentially end up injured, with a damaged car, and possibly in trouble myself), rather than just resolving the situation peacefully and avoiding all of that. It seems because of the way my dad’s partner been brought up, he believes that being right/ winning an argument is more important than anything else, because the worst thing that anyone could possibly think of you is that you’re weak/ a pushover. And of course, apologising when you are genuinely in the wrong is “weak”. He seemed to think that although I managed to resolve the situation without any further negative outcomes for myself or anyone else, I have somehow failed/ been a complete pushover because I didn’t do all out with aggression just to prove a point. I just find his views on this sort of thing – what he thinks counts as assertiveness, strength and weakness – so toxic (and perhaps even a bit childish), though they have made me think a lot about my own views.

Don’t get me wrong – assertiveness is definitely something I need to work on, but I just can’t agree with my dad’s partner’s views on standing up for yourself. If you’ve tried everything to resolve the situation peacefully and the other person escalates it to physical violence, or if someone physically attacks you, then yes, of course fight back. Fight back like a deranged cat. But I just don’t see it as an acceptable way for 2 civilised adults to resolve an argument. I also find it ironic that my dad’s partner is telling me to stand up for myself while at the same time I’m totally unable to “stand up” to him and voice any disagreement with his views because of the way he is. After what happened in Florida, I’m always worried about setting him off again, and my mum and stepdad seem to walk on eggshells around him/ placate him as much as possible, for similar reasons. I haven’t been able to be myself/ speak my mind whenever he’s around, since then. I find myself not really wanting to be around my dad or his partner recently. I spoke about all of this with my counsellor last week and she said that it almost sounds as if I know I must be doing the right thing for myself if it’s the opposite of what my dad’s partner would do/ want me to do. I’m beginning to feel that way myself.

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2 Responses to Road Rage

  1. Oryx says:

    Hi Gemma! That sounds like a really scary and nerve-racking incident! I’m sorry to read your dad’s partner hasn’t been supportive at all. I think I would’ve handled the situation the same way as you did. If there’s no reasoning with an angry person, why would you risk being assaulted for the sake of being assertive? Your safety is way more important than that. I think your dad’s partner has his own issues and is projecting his warped views on assertiveness onto you.

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks for your comment, Oryx. Yes, that’s exactly how I feel about the whole situation (and how the rest of my family seem to feel about it too). My dad’s partner is quite a tall and bulky guy and I think he forgets that certain situations might be different for a woman/ smaller or less bulky person. He seems to take issue with with me no matter what I say/ do, and then if other people do or say the same thing, he has no problem. I think he perhaps sees aspects of himself in me that he doesn’t like (i.e the fact that I’m a very sensitive person) and has been taught to see as “weak”. Other than that, I’m still not completely sure what his issue with me is. He seems to have a fear of other people thinking he’s stupid so perhaps I’ve unintentionally made him feel stupid at times, I don’t know.

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