How I Stopped Thinking Late People Were Selfish, Passive-Aggressive Assholes

Photo: weheartit
radical acceptance
Love, Self

Here goes: when you’re late or make me late, it feels like you have little respect for me. In my mind, an unspecified amount of time is the only thing standing between me and a cold, earthy hole which likely doesn’t feature an indeterminately large number of virgins, calorie-free cheeseburgers, multiple rainbows, or whichever expired grandparent seemed genuinely interested in my well-being.

Wasting my time by being late seems like an act of aggression — as literally all that matters is the unknown number of grains in my personal hourglass. Melodramatic? One hundred percent. 

Starting with my mom, most of the loving relationships I’ve had with women have involved chronic delinquency. While you’re sending a smoke signal to Sigmund Martha Freud, I’ll just say that even in the contemporary western world, an unfathomable amount of life is beyond our control. Traffic, emergencies, episodes of TV shows that do not stick to a 30- or 60-minute format. I get it.

However, a person does have complete control over how long it may take to “get ready.” Taking an extra amount of time or starting late may be a passive-aggressive form of control and, as you can imagine, have caused much bristling on my part.

But then I did some work on me.

My sister wrote the book called Radical Acceptance and the message finally sank in that I can’t change other people. While I read versions of the book since its infancy, I read it mostly for meta-content (i.e., “does this work as a piece of art?”) rather than fully embracing the message.

As far as Radical Acceptance goes, I had to do an emotional inventory and figure out if regular (and in my conspiratorial mind, intentional) lateness was a deal-breaker. Frankly, as personally messy as I am, throwing someone to the wolves for something that can potentially be attributed to “generally sloppiness” seemed antithetical to the laidback mythology I’d built around myself—  and this is where Radical Acceptance got tricky for me

I’m not going to write off people I love for being fashionably (and insufferably) late. What does that say about me? What does an obsession with punctuality say about me other than I could be a JV villain on CW's The Flash? Painfully, it says that despite the many advantages I have, I’m still wrasslin’ with the nearly complete lack of control I have of anything beyond my own person. (And probably within my own person.)

Like Ruby Rhod (or really any Chris Tucker character), I’ve prided myself on being able to solve problems with my intellect, charm, and willpower. But even if I were The Rock crossed with Kevin Hart and a pinch of Hugh Jackman, there are limits to the power of self. There are too many variables to factor. (And by variables I mean other things with a heartbeat and/or legs.)

Existential pain isn’t likely because life is meaningless, it’s because you have only a modicum of control over that life. 

Both the long way and the short way, relationships are exclusively about communication. Not about communication but they are communication, be it verbal, pheromonal, physical, psychic or emoji-based, nothing exists that’s not a thing shared between you or the memory of that thing.

That said, I’ve complained in every language I know about this obsessive part of my personality. Jokes and reminder texts have had the same efficacy as kicked doors and clocks set 15 minutes forward: none.

“Well, remember that time you were late?” Yes, I’m sorry, I work very hard on being on time.

“The previews take 20 minutes.” I like the previews.

“Then why do you always leave late for the airport?” Because I’d rather run to every flight than melt my life sitting in the terminal.

“People in LA aren’t late until they’re 30 minutes late!” People in LA are selfish assh*les. This is well-established.

Communication, the airing of grievances, becomes a little game called “Bringing Up Old Sh*t” when you can’t stop hammering home the same point. Someone (me) has to get over it. Every fail can’t be epic, every response to “shaming” can’t be perfect, every event can’t be the kind of important that I start tapping my foot and looking at an imaginary watch at t-minus 30 minutes before I want to go.

The next couple of Radical Acceptance steps are the easiest for me: love ALL of your partner and treat her how she wants to be treated. Appreciate how much she gets done and the pride she has in her appearance is painfully simple with a modicum of reflection, particularly when that reflection isn’t me scowling in a mirror. I know we’re not supposed to keep score but my ladyfriend is fantastic, so focusing on the plus side of the ledger when I’m salty because we need to leave in five minutes and the shower stopped 19 seconds ago.

Finally, not to go all Dr. Kelly Brogan on you, but I’ve started eating like less of a 17-year-old with unlimited credit and exercising slightly more than a Bill Nighy character. #EmotionalGains. Radical Acceptance of a partner is an inside job and making sure my insides are on board was a huge help.

Could this be the first world-est problem ever? Likely. But after carefully ironing, folding and putting away my corduroys, it’s pretty clear that most relationship problems are about the perception of respect, the balance of power, and being heard. A tiny amount of grace and two tiny amounts of humility really went a long way for me. That lack of patience could lead to paranoia and is not a cute look for this ginger.

Subscribe to YourTango's newsletter to keep up with us for FREE

- Our best articles delivered straight to your inbox
- The latest in entertainment and news
- Daily horoscopes and love advice

On the other hand, sometimes you get to take two cabs to dinner.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.