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How to Properly Cultivate a Nemesis and Then Insult Them

When you’ve found that special someone, that person you will hate the rest of your life, the Aaron Burr to your Alexander Hamilton, you need to be able to lay down sick burns. Those old standbys of “butthead” or “douche bag” are good for occasional road rage, but not this kind of relationship. Only the most excoriating verbiage will satiate your desire to make their day worse. *

I’m not saying that this is healthy. This mindset is wildly unhealthy and you are better off meditating, forgiving, or watching kitten videos. However, anything worth doing is worth doing well, and by the power vested in me by the Internet, I will escort you down this mad path.

First of all, make sure you’re committing to the right person. Inflicting soul-crushing burns takes energy and emotional investment. You can’t do this with every Comcast “customer service” representative or person who’s wrong on the Internet. The passion that drives you is like a diamond: hard, cutting, and lasts forever. The object of your disdain needs to be worth your time. Practically, this means a few things: you will be in the same-room hating each other occasionally; you are peers of a sort and this is upsetting to both of you; and, most importantly, what you say will have an effect on them.

Okay, now you have a type of life partner bonded to you through mutual contempt. In order to find their insecurities and what sets them off, you need to get to know them well. The thing is, you can insult someone and have it sound like a good burn, but for it to be effective you need to nestle your malice into the crevices of their soul.

Hate-read what they write. Hate-watch their YouTube videos. Hate-peruse their Facebook page. If your passion diminishes, they’re the wrong person. Give up. Do some yoga or something.

If you compulsively file information away to use against them later, you’re on the right track.

It may be tempting to use the worst words you know to insult your hate-bonded person. However, avoid the crutches of slurs and -isms; they apply to too many people and say more about your own deficiencies than the person you hate. Also, avoid appearance-based insults; they are easily shrugged off and are the tools of ignorant children.

Make it personal. Seek out the small and large failings that make this person vulnerable. Maybe it’s the way they try too hard to sound smart, their discomfort with their background, hell, maybe it’s their batting average or how their soufflés never rise. I don’t know; this is your hated person. You do the legwork. The point is, you can tailor ugly, terrible things to say that are unique to this one person, and that makes them much, much worse. (Prepare to lose some friends, by the way.)

Timing is everything. You can’t just swoop in, insult someone, and swoop out. There needs to be context and tension to do the most damage. For example, after writer Norman Mailer decked Gore Vidal, from the floor, Vidal taunted, “Once again, words fail Norman Mailer.” That’s perfect timing, dear reader.

Getting them while they’re down or souring a victory, well, it makes you a vindictive monster, but it also enhances your mockery of them.

Now, for the burn itself. Brevity is the soul of wit, not only for comedy, but also for spitefulness. A deluge of verbal swill will not do. Your word vomit is their win because you will look upset and irrational. Keep things short and prickly. Look through The Elements of Style and beef up on your rhetorical devices. You can use metaphor, like Napoleon calling his chief diplomat, “shit in a silk stocking,” or simile like, “If only your soufflés were as inflated as your ego.”

You probably won’t get great satisfaction from this time-intensive venture. The payoff to investment ratio is just way too low. However, I hope as you go forth with your gnarled, little heart that your words will sparkle like Champagne and cut like a shiv.

*Interestingly, getting to know a peer you respect and figuring out what they care about is good preparation for paying extremely flattering complements.

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