An Open Letter to the Well Actually Guy

Dear Well Actually Guy,

"Well, actually, women do it too."

See, you're already doing it. I can't even say four words without you opening your mouth and well-actuallying all over everything.

What is wrong with you, Well Actually Guy? How did you become that one annoying guy on Facebook who responds to every opinion with "Well, actually. . ."

"Well, actually" you'll explain the punchlines of jokes.

"Well, actually," you'll argue about a single statistic in a news article for hours.

Well Actually Guy likes to point out when things are technically correct, even though those details are not important to the discussion. In fact, Well Actually Guy likes to throw in these minor technical corrections as a way to derail a story, or call an entire philosophical argument into question.

We should call it "wagging," or use the hashtag #WAG. As in, "Did you just #WAG me?"

"Well, actually, I don't start my arguments with the phrase 'well, actually.' So that means I'm not a Well Actually Guy, right?"

No, it does not mean that. You can be a Well Actually Guy without saying the words; it's the appropriateness and timing of your response that make you a Well Actually Guy.

For example, at this time of year, Well Actually Guy reminds us that many astronomers and historians believe Jesus' birthday was in April. It's not actually important to the peace and goodwill the season is supposed to engender, he just wants to make sure everyone knows The Actual Truth.

"Well, actually, aren't we supposed to be like this all year round? So what does it matter?"

See what I mean? Well Actually Guy can never leave anything alone. He has to put his Cheeto-crusted fingers all over stuff because 1) he has an opinion on everything, and 2) he doesn't understand the phrase "it goes without saying."

Well Actually Guy drives the speed limit in the left lane. He informs the cashier that it's "12 items or FEWER." He orders a white chocolate mocha at Starbucks and then explains how white chocolate isn't actually chocolate. For five minutes.

Well Actually Guy has three different flavors of Axe body spray.

In its purest essence, "Well, actually" is a form of gas lighting, which is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser tries to minimize the feelings and experiences of another person. It comes from Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play, The Gas Light, about a man who tries to convince his wife that she's going insane in order to cover up a crime.

"Well, actually it's not always used by emotional abusers."

No, you're right, Well Actually Guy. It's not just used by emotional abusers. It's also used by socially tone deaf people who seek to belittle the experiences of others in order to score debate points, or force their way into a discussion that has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Such as saying "Not All Men," whenever a woman talks about a time she was assaulted, abused, or afraid for her safety.

When someone shares their cancer diagnosis with friends, Well Actually Guy will tell a story about the time his grandmother had it.

Well Actually Guy reminds us that parsecs are a measure of distance, not time.

Well Actually Guy defends his neckbeard with a well-rehearsed recitation of other famous neckbeards throughout history.

Teen Vogue recently called out Donald Trump's gas lighting of the CIA, after the agency said the Russians interfered with the presidential election. His transition team said in a statement, "these are the same people who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Except it doesn't change the fact that the Russians interfered with the presidential election. And by gas lighting the CIA, Trump's team can minimize the damage of this story without actually defending themselves.

That's the modus operandi of Well Actually Guy.

Well Actually Guy counters every example of wrongdoing with another "Oh yeah? Well, your guy . . . " story of wrongdoing by the opposing side. Because nothing erases sin quite like the debate skills of a five year old.

When your car gets broken into, Well Actually Guy asks if you locked your doors.

Well Actually Guy responds to an African-American father's fear for his son with #AllLivesMatter, and an article about crime statistics.

The problem, Well Actually Guy, is you don't understand that some discussions are not about you. You need to learn that when someone shares their deepest fears or greatest pain, it's not your chance to correct them.

It's time to sit back and listen. Quietly.

Well Actually Guy just reminded me that it's "scents." He has three "scents" of Axe body spray.

Photo credit: Graham Lavender (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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