Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Please Back Away Slowly

In recent years, consent has been widely discussed. What constitutes consent. What doesn't constitute consent. I've discussed with my son--in eye-gougingly (it's a word now, dammit) uncomfortable conversations--that consent is pretty much a completely sober, "Why yes, thank you, I would very much enjoy engaging in sexual activity with you," which is immediately negated if the person changes his/her mind. It's clearly illustrated in this British video about ... tea.

Thinking about it, reading about it, trying to come up with a way to talk to my teen-aged son about it sent my mind wandering into other areas where you can give and then withdraw consent. For instance, you meet someone and get along very well out of the gate. After a bit, you realize you don't have as much in common as you'd initially thought. In fact, you don't enjoy hanging out with this person much anymore and don't think that this relationship has a future. How do you withdraw consent, tactfully and without hurt feelings, from a friendship?

I imagine those of you who date or have dated are better--or at least more experienced--than I am at this. I have been dating the same guy for 26 years so, I rarely practiced, "It's not you, it's me."  How do you make the "I'm just not that into you" point without completely cold-shouldering someone?

Although I've had only one significant love relationship, I've had lots of friendships. I still have a lot. Some have transformed. Some have fallen to natural growing apart and life circumstances. And others to ... nonsense. While I am no expert, I can see more quickly now whether or not a friendship will work out.

A longtime friend and I joke about how we used to fall madly in love with people and jump into friendships with both feet. We'd throw caution to the wind, blindly surrendering our hearts and our time. Yeah, I don't do that shit anymore. I am far too protective of my time and energy and especially my heart.

While, I aspire to be warm, compassionate, and friendly, I don't cozy up as readily. I love to listen to people's stories, but this makes people feel disproportionately close to me. Since they shared a lot about themselves with me, they think we're good friends. However, I rarely reciprocate, so I seldom feel as close to others. Sometimes I share personal things. And I feel very close to some people. But since I tell all my secrets here, I am not so inclined to unburden myself to actual flesh and blood humans.

Recently Brad overheard me on the phone with a friend he doesn't know and said, "You tell her you love her?"

"Yes, I do. Why?"

He kind of shrugged and shook his head in the way he does when I tell him about dreams and spirit animals. The way that says, "I don't always get you, but I love you."

This time, though, his words felt judge-y, and I felt defensive. It's just an eight-count in the ongoing dance of, "I don't work for you, please don't boss me," and, "I'm not your child, please don't parent me," that results from spending many of our days apart playing roles other than loving partners.

I reminded him that while he's working in other states, I sometimes cultivate new friendships. With women. He doesn't really get my need for a tribe, but he doesn't need to. He knows that he wouldn't want to deal with the repercussions of me without my tribe. I wouldn't either. We don't always need to understand each other, but in order to be happy, we must practice radical acceptance.

Now, I've wandered off course, shockingly.

Over the past year, I've started backing away slowly when I realize that a relationship is not for me. My best friend advises, "Just don't engage." She does this masterfully. I'm not very good at it. It's hard for me; as a nurturer, my natural inclination is TO engage. However, when I have stepped back and observed from a safe distance, it's always been for my highest good.

I wonder ... Have you dealt with this? How would you remove yourself from a toxic friendship? What do you do when a friendship isn't going the way you'd thought? Has a friend walked away from you and you don't know why? How many friendships have you lost over the election? Just kidding. Mostly. I mean you can tell me if you want.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't Touch Me. ***WARNING*** This post contains graphic language.

I read a post recently on my brother's page regarding a controversial issue. Not shocking because my brother loves and encourages debate. He often plays the devil's advocate. What surprised me, however, is that people shared very diverse views in a respectful manner. No one insulted, attacked, or to my knowledge defriended anyone. It was remarkable.

Although I strive to be open to differing views and opinions, some really get to me, and I've hit the block button more than once after a remark cut too deeply.

I'll probably do it again too because I remain a work in progress. But, I've actually engaged in a few political conversations recently and didn't even feel my blood pressure rising. That's growth...or perhaps apathy, but I am going with the former.

I have seen more people defriend and get defriended over the course of this election, and it really is sad. A long-time friend of mine wrote a great blog about her personal experience with it. I listened to a TedTalk (which I highly recommend; it's about 10 minutes and totally worth it) about not being so tied to our beliefs that if we learned they were wrong we would go down with that ship rather than letting revelatory information enlighten and lift us to new heights.

When we attended church, lots of people gave us recommendations for businesses and so forth based solely on this fact: They're Christians. I have known lots of Christians. Some good. Some not so good. It always baffled me. Christians are followers of Christ; right? So if Christ hung out with thieves, murderers, prostitutes--people who were way different than Him--then why do His followers want to surround themselves with other like (or closed-) minded people? And how can you ever learn anything new if all you do is reinforce the same beliefs?

A key component to making this world a better place is empathy. Another is the ability to listen to differing points of view without feeling defensive. We don't need to agree, respect or even tolerate another's point of view--especially if it's ignorant and hate-fueled--but what if we could share and hear opposing views without feeling angry and wanting to prove our own point? Then, what if we could leap off that springboard and actually try to understand another person's experience in the world?

All of this nonsense about "locker room talk" really makes me wish men could truly understand what women experience. How it feels to have people ogle you, make unsolicited comments about what they want to do to you, and call you names. How it feels to have a person "accidentally" brush up against your body or put their disgusting hands on you. How vulnerable you feel when someone grabs your ass or genitals in a public place and threatens you if you reject them. Men can say that they've had similar experiences. Here's the difference: If a man rejects a woman, he probably doesn't fear that she is going to rape him.

I've lost count of how many times I responded unfavorably to a whistle or inappropriate comment or God forbid someone touching me only to hear, "Fuck you, bitch." Sometimes in front of my kids. Once my toddler son asked why a man whistled at me at a light. As, I tried to explain it to him, the man yelled, "CUNT!" because I didn't respond favorably to his unsolicited attention. "Mommy, what's a cunt?" It's not just me. Every woman I know can tell similar stories. Including my daughter.

To blow that off as locker room talk is to encourage rape culture.

I grew up with five brothers; I'm well-versed in locker room talk. It's not okay. It's not an excuse. It's disgusting. I've heard women say, "Oh that's just boys being boys." I find that deplorable. I even know women who take this sort of behavior as a compliment. I don't even have words for that.

In the meantime, I'm going to try--just try--to be the change by staying open-minded and loving all of you despite our differing opinions. I hope that you'll respect mine as well. Who knows, maybe we'll even learn something from each other.