This Atlantic Writer Has Been a Bad, Bad Boy

Someone is in desperate need of a good yelling

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s:  Couple having heated domestic quarrel.
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gimme more

There are so many ideas in the world, and The Atlantic is on a mission to publish every single one of them. Just this week, I have learned that Slack is feminist and that the 2005 supernatural horror movie The Skeleton Key is an underrated masterpiece. But that is all small potatoes compared to the latest installment of the magazine’s “An Ode To” series, in which staff writer James Parker pens a series of, one could say, letters of recommendation, on a variety of products, concepts, and human experiences.

In today’s column, entitled “An Ode to Being Yelled At,” he has decided to let his freak flag fly.

“To start with, you probably deserve it,” he begins. Suddenly, I am implicated. What did I do?

It turns out he’s not addressing me, per se, but all of us. We all sometimes deserve to be yelled at, for any combination of the “innumerable tiny offenses” we commit in our daily lives — “All the evasions, hedgings, dodgings, half-assings, bloodless ill-doings, accumulated in darkness.” It’s true — we can all be lazy, disingenuous, and cruel, and occasionally we need to be called out for it. But here, things take a turn.

Let’s go beyond morals. What about the rush? The eventful physiology of being yelled at? Your skin prickles; your armpits fizz. The lights in your limbic system are blinking on and off. Your amygdala is squawking like a car alarm.

We all know that classic feeling when your boss is reprimanding you for missing a deadline and your armpits start to fizz. I’ve been a bad, bad boy, you think, as the lights in your limbic system blink on and off, and your amygdala squawks like a car alarm. You are a regular Mazda Miata in the middle of the conference room, and your coworkers are panicking, asking, “How do we turn him off?” But you love it, don’t you, you dirty little yell-pig?

Then there’s the yeller, the source of the noise. Can you appreciate their transformation, the changes they are going through? Before your eyes, a person is being magnified—rhetorically and physically inflated, pulsing with a wrathful radiance. You are seeing this person at twice their normal size. You are seeing them, in a way, in their splendor.

Suddenly we’ve gone from Fifty Shades of Grey to Twilight: New Moon. Something supernatural is in the air. The giant yelling beast is putting you in your place, and you’re savoring it. You will never forget to file those documents again, you disgusting little subhuman — or will you?

Next time, with luck and skill, you’ll find a way not just to survive it, but to relish it. Is it difficult? Are you difficult? What if they’re right? Open your ears, yellee, and take it.

As you wipe the sweat from your brow after another good yelling, your heart still pounding a mile a minute, all you can think about is: Is this relatable? “Is anyone else turned on?” you ask, being met only with blank stares. But they’ve never understood you anyway. Better take it to the page.