Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 01/28/2024

We start with this long rant about a jogger. 

Our first reaction to this tale of woe:  What a pity if your name is Karen and you’re not an entitled, unaware, grumpy clod. As one commenter says, “Seems we could come up with something more clever than just recycling some random person’s name.” 

There is another word for it, and it starts with a B, and it’s not appropriate in many settings. But we probably could come up with something better. It would also be nice to have a gender-neutral name. What do we call a man who’s entitled and angry? 

Of course we have someone who disagrees with the above comment, “I know some Karen’s that aren’t bothered at all by their name being used like that cause they get it. If someone is actually bothered by some generic name being used to describe entitled whiners they probably truly are one of those KAREN Karens”

Another says, “I only know 2 women named Karen. They are both hurt and embarrassed by it.” 

It’s as though every person is unique and we can’t expect that all people who share a name to have the same opinions and feelings. But honestly I’m glad that the name Anna isn’t associated with anything other than tragic Russian novel antiheroes who throw themselves in front of trains. 

The original poster does a deep dive for us to find out where the term Karen originates. We learn that it came from nicknames for white women who were filmed being racist and nasty, like calling the cops on a Black child selling water bottles. People started making up alliterative nicknames, like Permit Patty, for these women.  When a picture of a woman pointing a gun at protesters in St. Louis went viral, she and her husband were nicknamed Karen and Ken. (In a weird twist of fate, her name is actually Patty.) And that image was so symbolic that the name Karen broke free into popular language. 

Since the initial incident that started this post happened on Monument Road, one commenter says we should name our resident Karen Monument Martha. On Vashon we don’t have generic assholes, we have specific, eccentric assholes. 

Others go back to brainstorming what else to call karens. One says, “the b word is a misogynistic term that I can’t believe any woman would utter. But Monument Martha or Karen doesn’t bother me at all. lol. Perspective is interesting and real.”

That causes one person to say, “is it weird to call someone “Bridge”? Or are you talking about another B word?” 

Another recommends, “shrew, moaner, grumbler, griper. “ Another says, “I am fond of the term ‘harpy.’”  Moaning, griping and grumbling aren’t inherently aggressive. And to me a shrew or a harpy is argumentative, but not necessarily prone to bringing the violence of the state down to bear on people. 

As one commenter points out: “The term was originally used to define an irrationally irritable customer, but now people use it to define any woman doing something they don’t like.” 

This is so true. Something that started off as a specific term to describe a type of racist, classist behavior turned into a generic insult. For a brief moment we had a shorthand for an insidious social problem, but it got watered down into just another insult, the way the word gaslight, which has a very specific meaning, has been watered down to mean any shitty behavior. 

I wonder if there’s a study on this, words evolving to describe very specific things, then having a sort of regression toward the mean and just becoming synonyms for words we already have, then new words being forced to blossom in their place, and then the same thing happening to them until we have a glut of similar words and yet we struggle to articulate certain feelings that erupt on the fringes of strange human interactions. I’d do the study myself, but I have no idea how, and anyway I’m too busy staring at this box, trying to figure out what it all means.

The original poster then says, “I think it’s funny that the word Karen got more attention than this woman’s actual behavior….” The rule of the comments section is that if we can avoid talking about actual issues and instead talk about the language we use to describe issues, then we’re happy. And I personally am happiest when talking about language. My favorite thing to do is look up the etymology of a word, because each word is an archaeological dig that can tell us about history, cross-cultural interaction, etc. So please, for my sake, let’s talk more about language and less about drivers and joggers. I’m so tired of posts about slow drivers, unleashed dogs, and bikers who take up the whole road. 

We finally get back on topic and talk about the jogger. Some people say they would have reacted differently. One says: “People like that bring out the worst in me. I appreciate your calm response and wishing her a hug… I feel that is appropriate, as we never know what someone else is dealing with… Too often though, It triggers anger and I FEEL like being rude or snide in response.”

If a jogger had yelled at me, I would have assumed  there was something deeply wrong with me, that I had somehow offended her in ways I was unaware of. Kind of like how if a horn honks anywhere, I imagine it’s because someone is passing judgment on the many failings of my personality. 

People inevitably say that we haven’t heard the jogger’s side of the story and we need to hear her perspective before passing down a final judgment and sentencing in the hallowed halls of  the Facebook Comment Thread Justice Department . One person reacts to this idea thusly: “Sometimes I intentionally speed up especially when I see the moronic bicyclists who constantly get in my way. It’s like GTA V.”

Another, who also likes revenge but has less of a death wish, says,“Just honk, flip them off and drive away laughing maniacally in a cloud of diesel fumes. It’s the neighborly thing to do” Please don’t do this. If you honk at them, I’ll assume you’re mad at me. 

In a later thread we figure out the name for a male Karen– Tesla Driver. 

Many of us ask, which white Tesla? 

One person sees humor in the situation. They say, “Haha, they all be pouring onto this island draining our electrical grid, don’t doubt that is why we have power outages sometimes. oh yes that is a thought, feel sorry for them if the power does go out on this whole island and they couldn’t charge their vehicle. Etc anyway. Humans 🙄

Others report on the behavior of this strange breed on islander. One says, “I saw a guy pull into a charging spot yesterday and plug in, kick off his shoes, put his feet on the dash and watch a movie. Aren’t you supposed to be able to charge your car at home??” 

Much like how movies are always better in the theater, they’re also better in the grocery store parking lot, where you can share them with other people if you leave your windows down. 

One person makes this point: “Charging spots should be set on a meter. Like parking in the city.”

I’ve learned that these spaces are metered and people have to pay, but I still like hating on Teslas because it makes me feel better about my 12-year-old Sonata that’s got moss growing around the windows and rat-chewed wires.

Is there a word for someone who complains about other people to make themselves feel better by comparison? Hopefully there already is, because I’d hate the name for that to be Anna.

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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