The Cactus Theory, or How Not to Be a Prick

I’ve met a lot of pricks in my time but you, sir, are a fucking cactus!


Some months ago, I explained my Seagull Theory, or How Not to Be a Shit, as a reflective contemplation on the behaviors of others with the purpose of learning how not to take the proverbial shit on one’s fellow humankind. Today I bring yet another over-simplified categorization and analysis of chosen behaviors for your contemplation and edification, inspired by some less than stellar human beings who keep darkening my doorstep these last few days:

Those who are a cactus.

Those who are not a cactus.

People who are a cactus are a prick while people who are not cactus are not a prick, although there are times when the non-cacti can be prickly ~ roses and raspberries are both prickly but they are not cacti. We all have known at least one cactus in our lives. If you’re unsure, than either you are the cactus or you need a biology lesson because they’re usually quite easy to identify once you know their basic anatomy:

Thick and impenetrable:

The cacti of the world are thick in that they, in the least, act stupidly even if not lacking all signs of intelligence. Their thickness extends to such a degree that almost no logic or reason can reach them. They are ever certain that they are correct and everyone else is beyond the reach of their reasoning, unworthy of their attention, and unable to admit their inferiority.

Prickly and sharp stickers:

While some cacti may be more or less sharp and prickish, having perhaps more or fewer stickers. Those stickers serve to protect their thickness from anything that might threaten the strength and integrity of their stupidity. They do not like to have that thickness threatened so they employ multiple injurious defense mechanisms to keep logic at bay! We have all been on the internet and therefore we all know that nothing derails more logical discussions than petty, cruel, and unwarranted personal attacks and remarks. Nothing. Like the stickers of a cactus plant that hurt and irritate at the slightest contact, the human cactus also hurts and irritated at the slightest contact.

Additionally, just as leaving stickers stuck in one’s skin allows them to slowly work themselves deeper into the flesh, the prickly remarks made by a cactus, if left unanswered and unchecked, will slowly work themselves into the soul until they have done so much damage, caused so much pain and harm, and anchored themselves so deeply that recovery necessarily becomes invasive, painful, and slow to heal.

Enlarged stem (not THAT kind of stem)… Maybe I should say enlarged ego instead:

While other plants and people have humble and modest stems and egos supporting and displaying their beautiful, leafy, flowering personalities, the ego of the cactus is enlarged to the degree that there is little or no personality beyond the ego of display to the world.

They are shallow in the depth they are able to accomplish:

While their root system extends far, allowing them to reach resources and desirables that seem so far beyond what seems reasonable for the size of the cactus and ego, the root system is shallow! It doesn’t run deep and seek the depths to find wellsprings of life bringing pure waters, it runs along the surface, seeking the shallowest resources, those which require little effort to locate or reap so that the cactus needs not extend any more effort than that which is absolutely necessary.

Succulents suck:

Cacti suck in and capture all the desirable resources within their reach. All of them. The human cactus also seeks to suck up all the desirable resources: attention, praise, affection, money, material possessions, status objects, attractive and or submissive partners, and other entitlements. They suck it all in and most of the time those from whom they’re sucking don’t realize their own life-water is being leeched away by a bright and verdant cactus.

And hoard:

Once resources have been gathered and stored within the safety of their thickness and ego, behind their wall of pain inducing stickers, all cacti refuse to share the bounties held within. They cannot bear to part with their hoard regardless of the life that hoard may bring to another. Their hoard is for them and them alone. The cactus does not and cannot enter into a relationship of any kind that is symbiotic or mutually beneficial in any way.

Short periods of growth:

If by some miracle someone is able to make it past the stickers to the skin of the cactus, they will still not be given anything by the cactus. Remaining there in the hopes of some miraculous life sharing event, like the sprouting of a flower or the growth of a new branch, will usually be a waste of time. Flowers that do manage to spring from a cactus are quick to bloom and slow to bud again. A short period of growth may be enough to sustain the hopeful heart for a time, giving them a glimpse at the life within, but the growth doesn’t continue for long. Furthermore, trying to break through the thick skin of the cactus to the life held within is futile. Even the smallest blemish will damage the cactus and its ego to the degree that the cactus may never recover.

Long periods of dormancy:

Following those short bursts of growth, the cactus goes into long periods of dormancy from growth and blooming, periods where all that takes place is more gathering of resources and desires and more swelling of the already engorged ego.

You see, the cactus, though verdant and living, is capable only of looking out for its own growth, sustainment, and interests. What a prick!

The cacti among us are pricks. While all cacti are pricks, it is possible to be a prickly on occasion without being a cacti. Roses and raspberries, folks, roses and raspberries. Each of us will at times seek our own best interests above the interests of others and each of us will be prickly at times. But the self-serving cactus sucks the life away from everything around it if it can to build up its own stalk and swell its own ego. Not all prickly behavior falls into that category.

The depth of the meaning of the term prick when applied to a particular person comes from the tone and manner in which the word is uttered about or to another. Truly, the pricks among us are despicable and contemptible. They wound anyone who gets near them, and they are so thick they’re unable to even begin to recognize the impact they have on others as their greedy and shallow little fingers creep and crawl just below the surface to the source of any other life and beauty in their vicinity. Pricks are beyond selfish because want to have and keep all that is desirable for themselves, not caring who they hurt by their choices. When a prick wants attention or seeks to have a desire fulfilled, they will go to any lengths to see it fulfilled. If ignored, the prick’s behavior escalates and causes more damage, just like cactus spines working their way deeper into the skin when not addressed and removed immediately.

In the garden of life, what impact do you want to have on those who visit your garden?

What will they remember your garden by?

Beautiful blooms whose alluring blush and captivating scent are enough to capture the attention and sere themselves into the memory of anyone who sees them?

Sweet fruits whose nectar and flesh satisfy the heart that hungers for friendship, connection, intimacy, and love?

Colorful leaves that remind us how beautiful it is to give up what is dead?

Sweet and sticky sap?

Fragrant boughs?


Or a thick stalk covered in spines that seeks only its own interests and keeps all those who can see its beauty away?

Choose to not be a prick.

Choose to share something beautiful with those in your garden rather than simply sucking up all the life you can and pricking anyone who tries to be close to you.

If you don’t choose to be anything but a cactus, no matter what other redeeming qualities you might be hiding behind your spines, you will always end up finding yourself living in a barren wasteland…


Don’t be that way.

PSA ~ Gwendolyn is an anti-cactus activist. She likes charcuterie and wine but doesn’t use them to lure unsuspecting guests to prickly succulent populated parties; no, she serves her charcuterie in the orchid filled greenhouse-y arboretum and aviary. She has at times hugged a cactus or two but has learned the hard way that there is no way to forcefully deprick a cactus without getting hurt.

Originally published 10 July 2018 at 9:10 PM, republished 7 August 2019

12 thoughts on “The Cactus Theory, or How Not to Be a Prick

Add yours

    1. Thank you, Kim! I ran across this quote and it made me chuckle and I kept thinking about the prickly people I keep having to deal with. Took me a bit to get it out and making sense (I’m in the hospital and meds make writing tricky), but I’m glad with how it worked out. ~ Kit

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: