tapping into my inner Karen

I’ve always been a weenie. A people pleaser. I apologize to servers when they mess up my order. My most common phrase in public is probably “I’m Sorry…”. As a grown-up woman, three years shy of 40, I’m ashamed of my timidity. There’s a fine line between being assertive and being a bitch, but I’m so far to the left of any of those I’m afraid I’m just weak.

I blame years, decades really, of customer service experience. I’ve seen the general public at their rudest, crudest and most demanding. I’ve heard how servers and flight attendants and cashiers and baristas talk about the negative Nancys and Debbie downers of the world. And the part of me that always wants to be liked always remembers this, preventing me from acting out in anyway.

A few years ago while working at Starbucks I was introduced to the term “Karen”. The kids I worked with helped me stay hip with modern slang I guess- because the term is totally mainstream now. The NY Times even did a piece on the history of “Karen” . Being called a Karen is now an insult to UMC women everywhere, and I can’t say we don’t deserve it. Shrill, demented women without any shame or empathy are worthy of mockery.

However – there are times I myself need to find that inner Karen within and woman up.

An example from a few days ago – I ordered an antique clock on eBay and it arrived damaged. This was especially infuriating as it was one of those auctions where the seller listed the shipping price exorbitantly high, over half of what the clock cost me. The seller haphazardly wrapped it with plastic bagged air and shoved it in a used Chewy box, and expected the “Fragile” stickers to protect it. This did not work.

So, I, an justified unhappy buyer, actually approached the problem in the weakest way possible. I emailed the seller and basically said, “Here’s a problem, how should we go forward?” Homeboy offered me a discount. This is not what I was looking for. I negotiated again. He offered me a refund AFTER I sent the clock back to him.

I empathize with the guy. He was out over a hundred dollars, and he’s never getting the shipping costs back. This sucks for him. But … in the words of every Karen out there, It’s Not My Problem.

The entire time, I knew what the actual rules are. Ebay is very clear. Items damaged while shipping are the seller’s problem. The buyer never has to pay to send the item back. The buyer will always win the dispute, always always. So why did I play so nice, so dumb? Why was I demurring when I certainly had every right to chop my hair into a angled bob, put on my best rhinestoned jean jacked and go 100% full Karen on him?

Because I want to be liked. Still. I want to be a good girl. Being assertive is still code for bitchy in my psyche. So, I said I’d agree to the refund, but filled out the form from eBay. The form which clearly states he needed to send me a shipping label, prepaid, before I sent the clock back. Within a few minutes, he messaged me again, and I got my full refund without needing to send the broken clock back.

My niceness ended up just wasting BOTH of our time. I should have just told him it was damaged and I was filling out the form, none of the waiting for him to do the right thing thing.

I do think I’m getting better, though. I used to hate any sort of confrontation, so I’d choked down the wrong food delivered without a complaint if the server messed up my order. I’m very comfortable standing up for myself if my coffee is wrong, because I’m nice when I tell them. I even don’t let the eye rolls bother me as much as they used to.

Maybe by the time I reach full middle age I’ll mature into a woman who just doesn’t care what others think of me. That’s not the goal, I don’t want to end up on social media blasted for my unhinged rants, but having just a little more confidence in myself would always be welcome. If I can just harness a small fraction of the Karen that resides in us all I think I can stick up for myself and stop wasting everyone’s time.