Meanness always surprises me, like an ice cold rude wave slapping your face when least expected.
When I was in the 8th grade, I regularly read a comic strip called "For Better or Worse." It followed a family's life and I enjoyed reading each day, sometimes finding connections with the sister Lizzie. The cartoonist decided to write about a familiar character, Lawrence, telling his parents he was gay. He was the kindest character, but his dad responded by throwing him out of the house. (I think he was 14 at the time.) It bothered me so much as did the backlash the cartoonist got for writing about this topic in the comics. I wrote a letter to the editor of Newsday, supporting the comic. It was published, along with my name.
Later that night, the phone rang and I answered.
"Is this Kathleen?" a voice politely inquired.
I said it was, and then a string of disgusting profanity started. I stood in shock, then hung up the phone and burst into tears. I told my parents. I was frightened that the caller would try to find me. So much hatred, simply because I supported the cartoonist for raising awareness and empathy around homosexuality. I could not believe a person would take the time to look up the number of a 13 year old girl and then be so cruel.
I expect fairness, kindness, goodness. Perhaps naively, but I do. I am always taken aback and caught off guard when unkindness finds me.
Meanness always surprises me.