People frustrate me.
Those of you that read this blog, way back in the day when I had the time and energy to post on it regularly, know this. I made a post about how I prefer to not be nasty to people if I have nothing in common with them, I much prefer to simply let us naturally drift apart. This works pretty well for most people.
Emphasis on most.
Kids, if someone hasn’t seen you in a while, the correct way to reconnect with them is thus: You send them a message, or a text saying something to the equivalent of “Hey! I was thinking of you the other day and just wanted to see how you were doing. Hope life’s treating you well!” What’s great about this is they have the option to not respond if they so choose. They also have the option to respond with a goddamn novel about their life up to that point. It’s low pressure and low cost energy wise to both parties.
The incorrect ways to reconnect with someone are many and varied, so let me tell you about the one most frequently used upon me: The Pounce.
I will be out in a store– grocery store, book store, clothing store, doesn’t matter– and someone will notice me. They will not say “Hey! Fancy meeting you here, how are you? Good? I’m good. We should catch up sometime, ciao!” and leave me the fuck alone.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s the polite reaction, is it not? You’re doing something, I’m doing something, neither of us planned this social call, we planned to do other things. By virtue of my being there and you being there, we’re ruining each others’ experience that we initially planned. Right? I thought so.
Instead, what I always fucking get is as follows:
“OMG, I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN FOREVER. HAVE YOU MISSED ME?”
I don’t feel comfortable appraising your social worth in front of you. It only leads to you being upset because, invariably, you’re not important enough for your tastes. “Er… hello there. Long time no see. How are you?”
Through out this, I will be steadfastly staying in my spot, paused in what I am doing. I will not turn toward the individual. I want a quick interaction. I give no indication of wanting any further conversation than common courtesy.
“I’M SO GOOD, YOU HAVE NO IDEA. ARE YOU GOOD?”
“Yes, I am, thank you for asking. I’m glad you’re doing well too!” I smile, nod, and go back to what I was doing. I thought, and still think, this is the universal sign for “end of conversation.”
Apparently, I am dead wrong.
“SO I’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU.”
Oh, here we go.
“OMG I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN FOREVER, WE SHOULD GET TOGETHER SOMETIME.”
At this point, I will have to take a step away, because invariably, they will find the need to intrude into my personal space to force my attention back on them.
“Yes, that could be fun.” Yes, I know it’s a lie. I shouldn’t lie. But I really don’t like being rude or out and out hurtful. That, and I really don’t like the fucking scene people create when you tell them to go away. They usually glare and huff and are a bitch to you the rest of the time you’re wherever you are, so invariably you have to make effort to avoid them or you have to leave. I don’t want to leave. I didn’t bring this goddamn interaction on us, they did. It’s their fault. Childish to assign blame, I realize, but all the same, one of us caused this. It wasn’t me.
Here, I will usually check my phone, or take note of something announced over the speaker if it is something like a store closing, special event, or other such excuse to leave. I’ll smile politely, and say: “It was great seeing you, but I hadn’t realized what time it was/the store’s closing/I don’t want to get caught in the crowd for the event/etc. I’ve got to go.”
Now, in reflection on these interaction, I always realize I should have firmly affixed a “Good bye!” here and turned on my heel and left. I view it as rude, but other people tell me it’s being “assertive.” I notice it’s only “assertive” when they do it, never when it’s done to them. Otherwise, it’s rude. Thus, I’m disinclined to follow their advice, because again, I don’t like drama, I don’t like scenes, and I really don’t like people texting me and messaging me and being dicks to me going “WHY WERE YOU SUCH A BITCH TO X?” But it’s also more than that: It’s not that I don’t like you. I just don’t want to have an extended conversation with you at this moment. Let me take a brief moment to explain something about introverts like myself on the extreme end of the spectrum:
We plan our social interactions down to the moment. We think “Okay, if I can arrive by this time, I can leave by this time without seeming rude.” It’s nothing against you, we don’t hate you, we’ll have fun while we’re there, even! But being around people is tiring. It’s tiring for different people for different reasons. Usually my problem is that with any given person, I have a set of conversation topics I can’t go near, I have a set of facets to my personality I cannot express, and I have to filter everything I say to such a degree it is mentally exhausting. “GET NEW FRIENDS THEN” you say. Well, I do. They’re mostly over the internet. Why? Because I live in a fucking place where there are almost no people like me, that’s why. I have to make do with what I’ve got until I can move elsewhere, like all the precious few people that are like me are. I do like some interaction with people. I get lonely like everyone else. So I have to make do with what I have. Thus, I have to put up with all this garbage if I want to interact with anyone other than my partner. Point is, I don’t like pissing people off because I can tolerate so precious few of them to begin with. If I want to fucking leave, it has nothing to do with you. Contrary to popular belief, extroverts, the entire goddamn world is not a reaction to you.
Now, to get back to that tricky “being assertive” by saying “goodbye,” I was raised that you don’t fucking impose yourself upon other people. Thus, if someone says they have to go, their body is angled away from you, and they look about to leave, you say “Oh! Sorry to hold you up. See you later.” I was, apparently, the only person raised this way in the last fucking half a century. If someone says they need to leave now, the correct response is:
“BUT I JUST SAW YOU, WE NEED TO GET TOGETHER. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE TO GO? I DON’T HAVE TO GO. I’M NOT BUSY. WE NEED TO GET TOGETHER.”
If you’re someone like this: Fuck you. Either you’re oblivious to both body language and verbal communication, or you’re outright ignoring it. There’s no excuse for being that oblivious past the age of thirteen or so unless you so happen to be actually clinically diagnosed on the autism spectrum. In that case, you get a pass, and I’ll adjust my interaction with you accordingly. If you’re a mentally healthy human being, you’re just being rude and inconsiderate. I’ve give you every polite indication that I want to end the conversation. I’m not going to tell you to fuck off, because I think that as another human being you deserve to have courtesy extended to you.
Here in the interaction is where I start to get truly upset at the person in question, for all of the reasons above. It’s even worse if I’m actually out with another person at the time– I’m not only upset you’re wasting my time, but you’re wasting someone else’s that I chose to be with and making us both uncomfortable.
“Some other time. I have to go, I’m sorry.” Why the fuck should I have to apologize to you? Oh yes, because I’m an idiot. And my idea that I should be polite to everyone is outdated, because the rest of the fucking world doesn’t follow it. I keep forgetting people are surprised when I tell them “thank you.”
And yet, I’m giving the other goddamn person an opportunity to realize they’re being a knob and exit the conversation gracefully. Fucking take it, you ass. Thankfully, about 50% do. The other 50% will physically follow me when I leave. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. Their response is:
“OH WELL I’LL WALK YOU OUT. WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING! DOES YOUR NUMBER STILL WORK? LET ME TEXT YOUR PHONE RIGHT HERE TO MAKE SURE IT GOES OFF AND STILL WORKS.”
Guys, I sincerely wish I was making this up. I’m not. After these interactions, when I finally escape them by going “No, I have to go, I’m getting in my car, I will talk to you later” I, frankly, feel violated. I had to physically get up and leave somewhere because another person would not leave me alone. That’s not a nice feeling. It’s no better than having to leave a bar because you’re being sexually harassed, being talked down to for your appearance, being made uncomfortable because you hold a different belief or value system than the majority at a totally unrelated event. I’ve been harassed in a lot of different ways. I worked for a call center. I’ve had men ask me to send them pictures of me, I’ve had people talk about their porn habits explicitly, I’ve had people call me stupid and horrible things. They all hurt and make me uncomfortable. It’s much of the reason why I quit. I’ve had people follow me from class to class and I’ve had problems being catcalled, on the street, in my car, and in any public space. I’ve had problems being sexually harassed by a guy on a loudspeaker attached to his truck while I’m in my car. All of these things make me uncomfortable and upset, and makes me want to avoid going out. I shouldn’t have to keep myself sequestered in my apartment to avoid having my personal mental or physical space infringed upon in an upsetting manner.
But all that, I can shake off. It may take me a while, but I can. Frankly, it hurts a whole lot more that someone that actually knows me and calls themselves my friend would make me that uncomfortable by forcing themselves on me. It hurts, because it makes me feel used and stepped on. And more than that, it makes me feel stupid because I was the one stupid enough to give you the time of day in the first place. That’s the worst part, I get told “WELL BE ASSERTIVE,” “YOU’RE EXPECTING THEM TO BE PSYCHIC,” “YOU NEED TO SPEAK UP!”
If you knew anything about me at all, I wouldn’t have to. You know when your friends are upset, even before they say anything. It’ll come through, even in their text messages and IM’s. Anyone does.
But I’m the one that needs to change here. I need to be assertive. It’s all my fault. Just like it’s all my fault for wearing shorts on a 90 degree day while I’m moving boxes to a new apartment and sitting in my car at a stop light with the window down. It’s my fault for giving you an opening.
Yeah, got it. Thanks.