As I understand it, the definition of a toxic person is anyone whose personal habits are so disgusting or appalling they cause a negative emotional reaction in the people around them.
This could involve any number of repulsive mannerisms, from spraying the air with saliva when talking (especially with "p" words) to just plain boring the hell out of everyone.
The general category includes whiners, snobs, bullies, yellers, chest-tappers, hypercritics, egomaniacs, pawers, liars, meddlers, gossips and those you want to punch in the mouth for no apparent reason at all.
The late Wally Doon affected me that way. He was a classic bore. His hobby was knowing the history of every vacant lot within a five-mile radius of his home in southwest Artesia, and he would talk about them endlessly.
If he cornered you at a party, you were doomed to wither under the intensity of his tiresome monologue. Who wanted to hear about vacant lots? But it wasn't just that. He was generally boring. Someone told me that when Wally lay dying, his wife leaned over to catch his last words and dozed off.
The reason I mention this today is due to a new book on the market called, appropriately, "Toxic People." It was written by communications and image expert Lillian Glass, who occupies an office in Beverly Hills.
She is one of those kinetic, gesturing, fast-talking, high-energy people with a megawatt smile whose very presence seems to be accompanied by bells and whistles. But that's not why I sat on her dog.
The animal's name is Lambear Jr. of Greystoke, but that is also not why I sat on him. He was given to Glass by actor Christopher Lambert, who played Tarzan of Greystoke in the movie. Lambear is a modification of Lambert. I forget why she altered the name, but does it matter?
Lambear is a Lhasa apso, a small, furry thing which when curled up in a sleeping position on a chair looks a good deal like a pillow. When I entered Glass' office, she very graciously asked me to sit. So I sat on the dog.
It was, of course, entirely accidental. I don't usually sit on dogs, although I sometimes step on our dog Hoover. When he flattens out on the floor, he looks like a throw rug, and late at night when I come home from a party . . . well, you get the idea. Poor Hoover.
I apologized to both Lambear and to Glass, and while Glass seemed to accept my apologies, Lambear Jr. of Greystoke did not. He growled throughout the entire interview and stared at me through angry little eyes. It was an eerie feeling being stared at for an hour by a pillow.
"Toxic People" not only lists and discusses those whose personalities or disgusting habits cause negative emotional reactions, but also informs its readers how to recognize them in the first place.
For instance, ask yourself of someone you've just met: Are his clothes filthy and ill-fitting? Does he have hairs growing out of his nose? Does his mouth hang open? Is his skin flaky or scaly? Does his body smell bad?
If you answer yes to any of those questions, tell him (or her) you enjoyed the evening, but you're busy every night for the next 100 years.
"We're all toxic in one way or another," Glass said, gesturing and smiling and shifting around in her chair while the dog growled and stared at me with hatred in his eyes.
"My energy might upset people. They want me to calm down and shut up. I can write a book, talk on the phone, interview clients and do lunch all at the same time. I'm trying to mirror a quieter person's energy and tone down."
There are different ways of dealing with toxic people, she says. You can avoid them, laugh them off, blow them out, mimic them or shout them down. She illustrated the blowing-out technique by literally inhaling deeply and then blowing hard.
Sometimes, Glass admits, she fantasizes that she is responding to an especially toxic person by smashing him or her in the face, but to actually do so would be unseemly and unprofessional. Better to just huff and puff and blow the fool out.
The book says it's OK to dislike people, although hatred is self-defeating. It's a valid message. I never really did hate Wally Doon, for instance. I simply felt he was the most boring human being on Earth, and sometimes wanted to knock him unconscious, rip out his tongue and grind his face into the dirt. Now, of course, I would simply blow him out.
It's a lesson of temperance I feel Lambear Jr. of Greystoke ought to learn, or the next time I see him I'm going to drop-kick him across the room.