Saturday, 25 November 2006

Hate, Thy Name Is Dinki!

“Don’t say ‘hate’,” my mother used to admonish me. “‘Hate’ is such an ugly word. Say ‘dislike’.”

Hmph. That’s all very well for capsicum, or maths homework when you want to watch Monkey Magic. But an exploitative boss who tells you to deal with the mess she made in her bed because she insisted on sleeping naked during her period? The woman who deliberately calls you into her room to catch an unwanted eyeball-melting sight of her nakedness? The fiend who openly embezzles the money meant for your food and living expenses, forcing you to lunch on stale pretzels from last night’s dinner, and hand-wash your clothes in a bath tub? The moron who has the gall to tell you to speak “American” because her poor neglected child has begun to talk with an Australian accent? The cow who begrudges you a phone call to let your far-away parents know you’re okay? The slavedriver who works you 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week? ‘Dislike’ falls spectacularly short of the mot juste.

Of course, everyone hates people like Hitler and Mao and Gary Glitter, but how many people in our comfortable, bloggerland world have known a real, personal hatred for someone, a hatred that turns one into an unrecognisable seething mass of malevolence? I have. This unpleasant episode in my life occurred when I was a poor foreign student in China facing eviction from my only home (a small dorm-room across the corridor from the squat-toilets) over the summer, to make room for lucrative short-course students. With no family or friends within thousands of kilometres, not enough money to pay the next semester’s fees and living expenses, and no possibility of other work except as an English tutor, (at which I would unequivocally suck), I grasped at the few pitiful straws within reach and accepted a job as nanny to the child of an American woman helping to set up a multinational joint-venture. I shall call her Dinki, for Devil Incarnate.

At first it seemed I’d fallen on my feet, solving my problems of where to live, and what to live on, in one fell swoop of unimagined, 5-star hotel, company-payroll luxury. But it all went horribly wrong somewhere between our agreeing on terms of employment, and my arrival in the city of Changchun where Dinki was to be based for the summer. Her demeanour had radically altered from generous, reasonable employer and devoted working mother to selfish, lazy, demanding boss and dismissive parent. Dinki struck a great deal – her company paid my wages and accommodation, plus gave her cash for my expenses, which left her not a cent out of pocket. Unfortunately, this did not incline her to kindness, and her rude, imperious and demeaning treatment of me soon made me a pathetic object of pity to her colleagues and the hotel staff.

Becoming depressed, desperately homesick and slightly unhinged, I began to wish, half seriously, that one of the planes Dinki flew on occasionally would crash and kill her. When we moved to her company-rented house in Beijing, I can remember standing at the top of the stairs, indulging in a morbid fantasy of me pushing Dinki down, and explaining to the coroner she had accidentally tripped and fallen.

It was therefore a delightful surprise, and not a cause for waiting until her husband arrived for backup as she’d feared, when Dinki fired me (apparently for not accepting her poor treatment docilely enough). A weight slid off my shoulders like greenhouse-effect-thawed chunks off a polar icecap, and I think never was anyone so happy as I to return from obscene Western luxury to my dirty, cockroach-infested dormitory.

I’m angry with myself for submitting to such ill-treatment, and like many people I suppose I hated Dinki not just for her inherent vices but for the blinding spotlight she threw on my own weaknesses. I’m ashamed of the things I thought and wished, which were terrible but, I think hopefully, aberrations from my run-of-the-mill flawed human nature. It was at least a year or two before I stopped frequently fuming about Dinky, and was able to think of her without my blood boiling. While writing this post, I googled her, and found a picture that made her look like any reasonable, pleasant person. This annoyed me, but I no longer feel the hatred that consumed so much of my thoughts for too long.

Mum was right. ‘Hate’ is an ugly word, but an even uglier emotion.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Horrible tyrant sounds like a Great Wall squat toilet looks...in mid-summer.
Baby, look at it this way, at least you weren't her poor child.

Lonie Polony said...

Yeah, poor kid. I feel sorry for her, except now she's probably spoiled beyond redemption.

hana said...

oh my God... that really sucks...well... on the concept of balance of good against evil, i have to say that you had to go through what you went through to understand the limits of your tolerance..