How not to ‘Karen’

Oh my are we ever here now… First of all I think we need to collectively apologize to all the prefectly lovely Karens out there, it really could have been any name. But… if you are a Karen who is a Karen it’s probably at least partially your fault. But some of this behavior is getting out of control. Personally I think it’s crazy that we’ve been calling out this behavior publicly for a couple of years now and people are still doing it! Over the past week someone made a post on our local questions Facebook group asking if there were rules against someone doing something they didn’t like. They were quickly told no it’s allowed, but she persisted. People quickly told her that her expectations were out of line and she kept it up and added a bunch of sarcasm to her neighbors. That post got shut down so SHE MADE ANOTHER ONE! I was updating honey on the progress and he kinda cared but then people were talking about it at the restaurants, the hardware store and even at the island in the middle of the bay! While none of the comments were positive I’m not sure if this development would make her happy or sad. What do you think? So here we are with a list of signs you might be a Karen and more importantly how to stop.

Karens in my life

I haven’t had too many of these issues along the way but… we all have it sometimes. Two Karens complained about me when I was waitressing. One was a terrible customer that made me cry, I told my boss about it as it was happening and her complaint still got me fired. Another complained that they felt rushed when the party of 8 came in 5 minuets before closing. I told my boss that it was probably true given the circumstances and that I’d try to be more conscious of that in the future and he was cool with that.

Signs you might be a Karen

  • You post on social media about the behavior of other people
  • You ask to speak to the manager about the actions of a specific employee
  • You don’t want someone to do something they are legally allowed to do
  • You call the authorities before talking to someone
  • You keep it up even when strangers tell you you’re out of line
  • You complain even when you should understand what the mitigating factors are
  • You write negative reviews on the internet (I did this once it was probably warranted). If you kinda have to write a bad review (like on airbnb) keep it neutral or at least fact based. People will get the hint.
  • You ever think it’s your job to get someone fired unless you’re their boss.

When is is not being a Karen

In all fairness we all sometimes have to speak to a manager. For me it’s when very expensive packages seem to be lost in shipping. I would argue no one’s job is really worth your inconvenience or even perceived or real insult. If they’re really that bad they’ll be gone eventually. So ask to speak to a manager to turn a no into a yes but not about a person for the most part. If you really are that concerned go home, calm down, think about it and either call or make an appointment to see the manager if you decide it’s worth it. Like if you catch an employee stealing from a business. 

Telling people about bad experiences you’ve had in real life organically is not being a Karen, it’s conversation. Saying you had a bad experience there or something wasn’t as advertised is fair if it comes up. That’s just part of life. Sometimes also you do have to call the authorities. I once called in a very public domestic dispute between strangers to me where he was chasing her down the road with a car because intervening didn’t seem like a good idea and it seemed like a fight where someone could get hurt. I’ve called on suspected drunk divers too. If a reasonable person would determine that people could get imminently hurt calling someone is the right thing to do. If you end up with food poisoning for sure after eating somewhere it is worth a call to the health department.

 How not to Karen

There’s a few places where Karen’s tend to get themselves into trouble and a few common behviours that pop up time and time again. So let’s go over those shall we?

 Social Media

We can debate this another day but for good or bad social media is really a place for happy thoughts. Things like self deprecating humor, sharing accomplishments or jokes are probably okay too. If you are ranting or complaining about someone else social media is probably not the place for the specifics. Certainly not in your feed and definitely not on someone’s wall! Public groups or those that are essentially public are a no-go too. So groups that are community based, linked to a school or workplace aren’t appropriate. In most cases if you have a problem it’s often best to privately contact an admin and let them decide. I’m thinking of cases where you encounter a scammer on sales pages. So if you are about to write a post calling out a specific business or person probably don’t.

Next one is the more vague complaints and clarifications. Things like ‘to whoever left all the alcohol bottles on the beach’ or ‘if you’re the one doing the burnouts.’ While these things are technically probably illegal they’re not serious crimes that would be considered time well spent if law enforcement were to investigate. They’re actually just minor annoyances in everyday life. Either pick up the bottles (or don’t) or get earplugs. What you’re really doing is showing just how annoyed you are and how trivial things really get under your skin, likely inviting more of the same behavior. Just take deep breaths instead.

Terrible picture but if you live here, you get it!

Last point is asking questions like ‘is this behavior even allowed’ you guessed it usually accompanied by a long rant. I can almost guarantee you that all your federal, provincial and municipal bylaws are online, you could read them. Failing that there is usually a municipal number you can call. Failing that I bet your local police department has a non-emergency number you could call if you really want to know. However if you post it online and people tell you it’s allowed and there is a consensus, delete your post and move on with your life. Leave the public notifications to police press releases. It’s literally their job to report on crimes that the public needs to know about.

Some places on social media are actually appropriate for certain posts that wouldn’t be okay elsewhere. I’m thinking of support communities. Go figure that I’m in a few ladies running groups and posts asking for help, ideas or even an ear to vent to can be okay (sometimes.) I’m thinking of ladies looking for help with an unsupportive partner, those who encounter harassment or are even relaying a terrible experience. If you’re unsure ask yourself is this the place online that was created for just this sort of post? Or… Would the other members here be likely to have suggestions that really might help with this? If the answer to that is a probable no, find a better place or just don’t post!

Talking to managers

We all have to talk to the manager sometimes, like legitimately. It might be to point out that your package of vegan cheese is outdated by months and moldy as are all the others on the shelf or trying to get a contractors discount where you shop frequently. Even for asking for a better deal! But in many of those scenarios you have to be willing to accept that the answer might still be no with grace. If you plan to complain about a person might I suggest an idea to keep everything kosher. Leave, calm down and then decide if it’s worth it. If you decide that it is your message will probably sink in more when delivered in a calm voice and if you make it clear that after time to calm down you’re still upset. An old restaurant manager used to say you never know if they came here to eat after leaving the children’s hospital, they might be having a terrible day. The same is true of your server, cashier or barista. If you don’t have to come back at all just do that, it’s a stronger message.

If you have to go there all the time maybe talk to the employee first. Over the course of a few weeks or months at our only local building supply center one employee seemed to have an ongoing issue with me. She was rude, never put in our discount code after being reminded and seemed to take pleasure in sending me all over the store for no real reason to check out. It was getting to the point where at least for me something had to change. So I asked her if I had done something to upset or offend her. When she asked why I would think that I explained it to her in detail with examples and threw out a fairly prickly apology if that was the case. Our account there was big enough that the manager would probably have to listen if I complained. After that day the problem was solved and no one’s job was put in jeopardy in the process. Consider a kind yet direct talk if you can.

Calling the authorities and ‘rights’

It’s always best to talk to someone a few times first if you can before calling the cops. Even if a law is technically being broken if no one is in reasonable imminent danger could you try to solve this yourself? If it’s a one time thing could you just ignore it? Whether its the police or bylaw enforcement their job it mostly to protect people and property and not settle your petty disputes. If you can just walk away and it will forever be over, just do that! We’ve all been that neighbor at one point and we’ve all been annoyed by that neighbor at one point so if you can just move on.

A Bellingham Police officer poses for a quick photo for me.

One thing that gets a lot of Karens into trouble is the constant idea of defending their rights. Here’s the thing though we all have them. Some are real and some are perceived. For example between the hours of 7am and 11 pm I can mow my lawn, run a chainsaw or play loud rap music that’s the law. You may perceive that you have a right to quiet and to enjoy your property and I would argue you have a reasonable expectation of that but in law it’s not the case. Is it fair? No, but it’s the law. Another example you might feel that you have a right to enjoy a public beach with your kids but every Canadian (including the women) have a right to wear whatever bathing suit they want and even go topless. Sometimes you don’t have the rights you think you do. Other times you both have rights and they step on each other’s. I’m thinking of the couple that decided to stand in their driveways with guns during a BLM protest. Both parties had the ‘right’ to do that but everyone can agree that one of those actions wasn’t right. Who was in the ‘wrong’ might depend on your point of view.

So how do you navigate these situations then? One thing would be to just care less about it. I’m not talking about situations where someone is literally trying to steal land from you or you know systematic racism but like the little stuff. Sure you have the right to ban someone building a fence for your neighbor from even stepping on you lawn. However that poor guy or gal isn’t trying to encroach on you but rather is just trying to do their job. Just like the drunk revelers aren’t trying to ruin my sleep at the beach every weekend and yeah the law is that they have do be quiet. But they’e probably different people and… they’re just drunk on vacation. Maybe we can just chill right?

So if you find yourself doing these sorts of things more than once a decade or so (we all have bad days after all) you are very, very likely a Karen. (Again sorry to all the lovely ladies actually named Karen). There really isn’t a reason that you have to stop this behavior after all it is your right to act a fool if you want to. But beware that word gets around. You might soon find your asks for help ignored, that tradespeople just won’t work for you and that your invitations are always missing or declined. You might notice eye rolls or excuses emerging as you approach or general ‘difficulties’ with relationships. If that’s the way you want to live your life than carry on as you were but it sounds miserable to the rest of us! If you want to make a change spend some time looking inward and out at your life as to why you’re okay being so miserable. Perhaps seek therapy but maybe yoga or kickboxing was made just for you. What’s you’re top tip for dealing with a Karen in your life? Leave it in the comments below!

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