Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Guess you can't be a superhero without one

I think I've just appointed someone my nemesis.

This wasn't an entirely willed decision--I've tried to be friends with the person in question, and although our relationship has always been somewhat vexed, it's only recently that I've begun to feel that Nemesis doesn't actually much like or respect me. Still, I resisted fully believing this: maybe I was misreading; maybe I was being overly sensitive; maybe it was my own insecurity talking.

So after some months of muttering under my breath and making vaguely resentful remarks whenever s/he came up in conversation, I decided that I needed to just get over myself already: Nemesis and I have personal and professional reasons to get along, and s/he even seems like someone whose company I might enjoy, had I not constructed this narrative of mysterious and ungrounded dislike.

So when an opportunity presented itself, I made an overture. It was a friendly, professional gesture, one that demanded virtually nothing of Nemesis and that left open any number of ways to remain cheerfully noncommittal or to graciously opt out--any number of ways, in other words, to affirm that s/he assigned some minimal value to our relationship.

Needless to say, Nemesis did not take the gracious way out.

So, really: I'm done here. It's easier to write this person off and declare him/her my nemesis than it is to keep trying to develop our relationship or to worry about the whys and wherefores.

Maybe that's an immature response; I don't know. But I do know that it's a bad idea to go around randomly making enemies of people. I also know that this behavior is entirely typical of Nemesis. One can hope that what goes around comes around or that Nemesis will eventually explode into professional flames. . . but it's more likely that I'll have to deal with this person for the rest of my life.

Damn. Where are those awesome superpowers and/or accessories--invisible plane, magic lasso, whatever--when I really need them?


medieval woman said...

I think that declaring this person as your Nemesis is completely logical and way healthy. I have a Nemesis and a Baby Nemesis (younger than me chronologically and professionally - but such an upstart!) - one day a bunch of us will get together at a conference, get smashed, and start assigning ourselves superpowers to counter their powers of evil. We'll draw our uniforms on cocktail napkins....it'll be fun!!

squadratomagico said...

I have -- or had -- a nemesis too. I still have never met this person, but since I've moved on to a new project now, I don't have to deal with him/her anymore. S/he worked on a topic related to the one on which I published my first book (and which I had been investigating beforehand, so it wasn't a question of me invading another's "turf;" if anything, the reverse). This individual was quite petty and obnoxious to me, and I still cannot understand why s/he thought it was worth it.

Hilaire said...

Oh, at the end of the month I have to go to a big conference (Congress) and a former close friend will be there, who now *hates* me for reasons I cannot fathom - like, I really have no idea what the problem is. I haven't seen her for *years*. Anyway, your story kind of inspires me to just let it go and let her be my nemesis, rather than fretting about it the way I have been, and imagining the overtures you extended. Who knows - I may cave, give in to niceness - especially because I just have no idea what the issue is - but it is an interesting and quite potentially liberating perspective you offer.

Mr. B. said...


Well as Dr. OJ always says:
"Be nice."

People like this - curmudgeons
before their time - are around
in academia and have become this
way (sometimes) because of the
way they have been treated.

But life is too short to fret
about these folks. If you have made an attempt to connect and have been spurned, just let it go and don't worry about it in the future.

(No, you are not crazy or paranoid - this happens all the time.)



Flavia said...

Hilaire & Mr. B: oh, I have no intention of cold-shouldering Nemesis; I'll probably be quite cheerful & smiley around him/her, in fact--I'm just going to try to be around Nemesis as little as possible and to expend a strictly minimal amount of emotional energy on him/her. (Or at least make that energy productive: rage can, for me, be pretty damn productive.)

And Squadrato: that gives me hope!

Abby said...

There's a woman who I struggle with on a relatively constant basis and, in complaining about her once again to a friend of mine, said friend announced, completely matter-of-factly, "Look, she's your nemesis. I mean, if you're going to be a super hero you need a nemesis, so just be glad that you found her."

I can't for the life of me figure out why that helps so much, but it does.

Beware the cape, though. If we learned nothing from The Incredibles, it's that capes are a liability.

muse said...

I keep thinking about Warren on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" stuttering: "We're your worst Nemesises . . .es"

ZaPaper said...

Hilaire: why do people suddenly decide to hate you? This has happened to me too, with a person I really liked. I don't understand it at all.

Relatedly, I wonder if Nemesis has truly terrible social skills and read things wrong. Related because I wonder if I do, and mistake subtle overtures for, I don't know, something else.

But writing someone off can be a relief. After ex-friend stopped talking to me completely, I was sad for a long time, then gave up. After a year or so, ex-friend conveyed through a third person that she might be willing to make up, but I had had it. How could I trust someone like that?

squadratomagico said...

This post inspired me to post the Story of My Nemesis over in my own blog... just in case anyone is interested in reading more on this topic.

What Now? said...

The only thing that doesn't suck about having a nemesis is that one gets to use the word "nemesis" more often than one would otherwise. (And, like muse, my mind immediately leapt to that scene in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer.")

I'm glad that naming the relationship this way is helping let go of said relationship. Makes sense.