So the other day, I was at this awards show called the VMA’s. (OK, I’ll stop with the VMA faux-humility. It just feels like a weird thing to throw out there…like, you know how people who graduated from Harvard talk about dropping the “H-bomb?” That’s how I feel bringing up the fact that I was at the VMA’s. Anyway.) Upon arrival, members of the press were given numbers and told to line up accordingly, so that the show’s coordinators could lead us out to the white carpet like calm, orderly sheep.

So I’m standing there waiting,  and all of a sudden this tiny little woman with thick black bangs and a striped mini-dress pops up out of nowhere and latches on to the people behind me.

“Holy shit, you guys,” she rasps in a loud voice that betrays years of anguish and possibly a cigarette or two, “I can’t believe it. The girl who fucked my husband? She’s right there in line. And I’m supposed to stand next to her!”

OK. Let me stop the story here for a moment, although I realize it’s not a natural stopping point. I want you to know, before I go on, that I understand that that must suck. Someone fucked your ex-husband before he was your ex, and all you want to do is knock the shit out of her, and yet you’re forced to be in the same room with her all day and to demonstrate a modicum of civility. I get it. But there are ways to handle that situation, and there are ways not to handle that situation, and the following is how to not handle it.

This little woman began talking in a progressively louder voice about exactly which girl she was talking about: “that one over there…yeah, the one who looks like a Marilyn Manson groupie…yup, the one with ALL THE TATTOOS UP AND DOWN HER ARMS….yeah, that’s the one…the girl who LOOKS like a WHORE…”

This situation rapidly went from unfortunate to painfully uncomfortable. But since we were numbered, I had no logical escape. They could begin shuttling us at any moment. I tried to turn my head away from her so as not to experience the most crushing verguenza ajena of my relatively young life, but it was to no avail. She simply kept going. “Can you IMAGINE?? I guess he must have liked SKANKS…judging by the way that WHORE LOOKS…I’m lucky I didn’t contract a VENEREAL DISEASE…”

She carried on like this for about ten minutes, humiliating herself, the people she was talking to, the girl she was talking about, and most importantly, me. And that was why it was so surprising when out of the blue, she made the following bold, yet highly appropriate, proclamation:

“It’s OK. It’s OK. I’m just going to go, stand in line, and be professional.”

I looked around. Everyone heard that, right? Everyone heard this crazy, crazy woman decide out of the blue to stop having diarrhea of the mouth and magically become professional? As if that were still an option for her?

Because it was, to be clear, not an option. At that point, there are only two things you can do if you’re that woman, and you realize that you sound like a complete psychopath. You can put your money where your mouth is and go over to the girl, smear some Vaseline on your face and deliver a beatdown, or run away, very quickly, with your head in your hands, never to show your face at any MTV event again for as long as you live.

But what if all you’re actually going to do, after announcing to the entire world that you’re about to attempt professionalism, is take a short break to figure out how to put all the words that you’ve been toying with together in one long, curse-filled insult: “Yeah…I’m talking about THAT GIRL OVER THERE — THE GROUPIE–ASS FUCKING WHORE,” and then stand there, shooting daggers out of your eyes while the girl you’re talking about (who is about 20 years younger than you…sorry, it had to be said) uncomfortably smirks in that reality TV, no-this-doesn’t-bother-me kind of way?

Well, that’s when you know that you’re being unprofessional.