Has it ever happened to you that some young person starts complaining about something that you and everyone else already knows about? How bad the rush hour traffic is, or that the service at some chain restaurant can be terrible, or something like that. And you nod, in a way that's at the same time both sympathetic and patronizing, at someone learning this awful lesson. There's definitely commisseration, but there's an overtone of "you should have known, everyone knows this, boy, you're so naïve," along with a mild desire to engage in one-up-manship ("you think that's bad, this one time I had it a lot worse, let me tell you all about it!").
What I find frustrating, and which happens a little more often than it really ought, is when people assume anything you complain about must, necessarily, be just the same as what they've experienced, and you are just a newbie to the whole situation, even when the evidence indicates otherwise. The example that's freshest to mind is one I've been facing a lot the last week or two: how destructive and problematic are our two new cats.
Yes, I know that cats like to climb into Christmas trees and knock ornaments down. I know they claw things, and don't care at all about going anywhere they like, as long as they don't get caught and punished. I know the line between cuddly and affectionate, and ready to claw your eyes out, is so thin they can cross it twice in ten seconds.
I know all these things and more since there have been cats in my life for as long as I can remember. There were cats around the house I grew up in at all times; in my earliest memories, there'd been a cat already around, and there were more, often several, from then on. Some were born in the house, some adopted from other people, some picked up as strays. When I moved away, there were cats in the apartment I moved into before I got there, and there were cats from then on. In fact, when Brynna died a year and a half ago, it was the first time I can remember in my entire life that there wasn't at least one cat in my home. I've owned (read: been owned by) several dozen cats over my lifetime, and they cover a wide variety of personalities and behaviors.
So when I say that the two cats I have now are not just really bad, not just worse than all the others, but so much worse, so much more heedless and destructive and rambunctious, that it's a difference of degree so large as to become a difference of kind, I'm not just expressing a little frustration at something that I should have known would happen. They really are that much worse.
They don't just play with the Christmas tree ornaments and break a few and maybe climb up a little; they routinely knock down every single thing on the tree, squat in the tree chewing on it, and bend up the branches so much that I fear that within a week the tree itself will be trash. They don't just make a little mess with splashing water out of their water bowl; they knock pints of water onto the floor, enough to do water damage to the cabinetry and threaten to harm the floors. They aren't just a little slower and more stubborn about getting used to the dog; they aren't as far along after two whole months as I've seen cats be within two weeks. They aren't just more ill-behaved about making noise at night than some cats; they routinely keep me awake for hours night after night doing the same things and going back to them within minutes, or even seconds, of being sprayed, chased, or punished.
This is all a great source of frustration, so I'm naturally a bit cranky. But that's not the only reason that I get a bit irked when, if I mention this to someone, I get that patronizing, knowing nod. "Of course cats play with the Christmas tree, you should have expected that. Just suck it up." This is really not helping.
And I've had a similar experience on a lot of things lately in various venues, so it's not just the cats. I feel like I get no credit for actually having some grasp on the scale of things. I'm not the boy who cries wolf, I think. I don't say things like "far worse than usual" lightly. When something really is significantly more urgent, or worse, or more important, or bigger, or more dangerous, or more expensive, or more painful, or whatever, I can't get the reaction I need, or the sympathy I'd really appreciate, or even the sense that I'm being taken seriously or that I might actually know what I'm talking about. It's exhausting.