Auntie SparkNotes: I Hate the Opinionated Girl in My Writing Class
I'm a senior at college taking a creative writing class. We do lots of fun things like analyse short stories and critique each other's work; we have a great teacher and a great group going on. Except for this one girl.
She is super annoying, immature, and unprofessional. She has a bold personality and is highly opinionated, and while there's nothing wrong with that, she's constantly interrupting to voice her thoughts, or is chatting nonstop with one of her friends about something irrelevant (and this is a very intimate classroom), or cracking jokes with/at the teacher. And he bears it pretty patiently, but it's really getting on my nerves when she derails a class discussion for the eighth time to hypothesise what the characters' zodiac signs are. It's detrimental as well when she refuses to agree to disagree—last week she kept talking over me when I was expressing my opinion, and when I asked, "May I speak?" she responded, "I don't know, MAY YOU??" and stuck her tongue out at me. Today she took charge of the classroom and put another student on the spot by asking for their opinion as "they'd been quiet for a while"; the teacher tried to address it, but she cut him off to say, "I know, don't put people on the spot, I don't need a talking to." She's fully aware of how annoying she is and she apologizes for it constantly, but at the same time she justifies it because she's "a scorpio rising" and "that's just how I am." I'm a scorpio rising too, technically, but I know how to behave in a professional setting like class, and anyway it's not an excuse.
It's pretty clear that she's not interested in behaving like an adult (despite being in her 20s), and she's mentioned before that "you shouldn't cross me" so I'm not enthusiastic at the idea of getting on her sh*t list. But I really can't stand to hear her anymore and I don't know how to deal with it. Should I tell her directly, either in or after class? Should I text her? Should I email the teacher and ask him to take control of the class? It's really having a negative effect on my class experience.
Er, yes. I'd imagine it is! Because not to put too fine a point on it, this girl sounds like a ding-dang nightmare person—and if Auntie SparkNotes were in the business of giving people permission to do murders, this is where I'd tell you that the next time she opens her mouth to derail a literary discussion with astrology talk, you should grab the nearest copy of Ulysses and beat her over the head with it until she is dead.
...But seeing as we don't endorse murder around here (FOR SOME REASON), I suppose you'll have to try something else.
And this is the bad news: much as I sympathize with your frustration at this girl's behavior, she's paying to take this class just like everyone else, which means she is allowed to be as annoying and unprofessional as she wants to as long as she stays within the broadly-drawn boundaries of the classroom's rules. It's the unfortunate downside to a democratic society that even the most obnoxious people, from the opinionated discussion-dominators to the flagrant toxic farters, are allowed to share (and talk and fart in) the same spaces as the rest of us. So while you personally see no value in speculating about the astrological signs of fictional characters, she evidently does, and it's not your place to police the way she expresses herself just because it's irritating. The fact that you're sick of hearing her doesn't negate her right to speak. (And it certainly doesn't make it the professor's responsibility to shut her up.)
Of course, that doesn't mean you can't push back when someone is turning a shared space into her personal nightmare-person playground at your expense—and her talking over you in class is a perfect example of a time when you could (and did!) assert yourself. A "Please stop interrupting me" will serve you well in the moment; so, potentially, will approaching her outside of class and asking her not to do it again: "I'm tired of having to fight you every time I want to speak, and I would appreciate it if you made an effort to be more respectful when I or someone else is articulating a point." (Or something like that, in your own words.)
The question, of course, is what will happen if you call her out—because honestly, I've no idea. The fact that this girl constantly apologizes for her behavior suggests that she knows she's kind of the worst, which means she might agree with you that she needs to dial it back? Or she might just be that much more angry at you for giving her a hard time about a flaw that she's already aware of and working on. Leaving aside her clearly empty "you shouldn't cross me" proclamations (or what? She'll somehow become even more annoying? She'll burn your house down?), you know better than me whether it's worth it to say anything.
Which is why this is on you to figure out. And I know, I know, that's totally unhelpful—but I'm not there. I don't know you, or her, or the intricacies of your situation. You, and only you, are the one with the knowledge to determine your best course of action. So consider what you want, and what it's within your power to accomplish; ask yourself what the likely outcomes are; weigh your options and then choose one, and see what happens. And here's the thing: I can't guarantee that whatever you do will work out in your favor. Trying to convince other people to behave in a way that's counter to their nature is frequently a losing game. But on the other hand, the worst that can happen is that nothing changes, she keeps acting out, and you keep dealing with it just as you have been, at least until the semester is over. You can handle that, right? You've been handling it! And whatever happens, I can promise you this: working through this problem, and figuring out how to deal with a toxic annoying person who's mucking up your group dynamic, is the kind of lesson that'll prove invaluable to you for the rest of your life… even if you have to cope with another couple months of discussion the astrological signs of the entire Western canon to learn it.
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