"Performative Fishing" Is Unacceptable Behavior

Use Your Words to Express Yourself, Not Your Exhales

By Kady Ruth Ashcraft ·

Much has been said about the merits of living alone. I wouldn’t know anything about that, however, and can only pass along the horror stories of roommates who’ve screamed at me for not loving animals enough. Everyone in New York City has some variation of a terrorizing roommate, because frankly when people live in such extreme close proximity to one another, the way a person breathes can cause you to plot their murder. The worst types of roommate rivalries are completely one-sided and over something as negligible as how they store their toothbrush in the bathroom. The biggest threat to my sanity is something I like to call "performative fishing," and you’ve probably been guilty of it.

Scenario: you’re sitting at home alone on the couch when your roommate suddenly bursts in. This is normal. It’s 6:30 PM and they’re just getting home from work. You acknowledge one another and you go back to doing whatever important thing you were doing before they disrupted your peace.

After they’ve settled in they come back into the room and start sighing loudly. “Why are they sighing?” you wonder. But you don’t ask, because maybe they just needed to catch their breath after hiking up all the stairs to your apartment. Then they sit down on the chair, legs splayed out and make a noise like all the air in them can finally be released from their body prison. “Perhaps they are upset?” you wonder again. But you don’t ask because surely if something was wrong they would just tell you like an adult human being.

However, they do not tell you what is wrong and keep exhaling like a forlorn wife whose husband is lost at sea, and who mimics the whooshing ocean winds, hoping they'll tell her where he's hiding. It's a dramatic way to tell you something is wrong. What they want even more than to let you know through animated exhalations that something is wrong is for you to ask them what is wrong. This is where I will not concede. I simply refuse.

I’ve let this charade go on to the point a roommate's frustration has escalated from acceptable to Donald Duck chasing Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Yet I remain anchored.

The other version of this behavior is something your coworker is guilty of. They've come across something in the murky depths of the internet that they find to be funny. Congrats, that's very easy to do. They laugh. Nothing weird about that. But they decide to keep laughing, maybe even throw their head into their hands. They just cannot believe the funny tidbit of content they’ve unearthed. Life is fleeting. It’s important to celebrate the humor in it and stop every once in awhile to quote Ferris Bueller and laugh so hyperbolically your coworkers ask, “What’s so funny?” 

But not I. 

I will not bend to your performative exasperation or enjoyment. Much like the limit in Mean Girls, my breaking point for ignoring the behavior of my peers fishing for a reaction does not exist. I want you to get hit by a bus and die not having had me ask "what's up?"

Tell me why your day was bad. Turn your computer around and press play on the video that has you peeing your pants. I would gladly love to pee my pants, too. But don’t play a one-sided game of charades I did not consent to. You can use your words. It’s allowed.

Kady Ruth Ashcraft

Kady Ruth Ashcraft is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and Amtrak Princess. Follow her on twitter @kadyrabbit and tweet her pictures of your pets.

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