Pusillanimity

This is an open letter to anybody I’ve ever bailed on. And trust me, that’s quite a broad audience.

To the perfectly nice boy who’s been asking me to coffee for MONTHS, but I always seem to have other plans. To the girl from high school who wants to catch up over dinner, but my car keeps breaking down, or I have to go see my aunt who’s last night in town happens to be this one, and can’t we try again next week?

To my old coworker who cheerily invited me to go jogging with her week after week when I started complaining out loud about my general lack of fitness, but I was always “too tired.”

To the genuinely good and nice and warm people who did nothing but request my company, but I wouldn’t or couldn’t show. To the ones I ghosted; too much of a coward to even offer a fabricated explanation.

I want to start off by apologizing. My tendency to inconsiderately back out on plans that we’ve made together at the last minute has absolutely NOTHING to do with you. In fact, I want nothing more than to have followed through on those aforementioned plans, and gotten to know you and perhaps even have had a little bit of fun.

If I may, i’d like to offer a bit of an explanation of what is going on in this anxiety-ridden noggin that the good Lord gave me. *If there is one*

I never make plans with someone that I don’t 100% intend on following through on. My intentions are pure, I assure you. I’m always eager to meet people and create new experiences with them and so forth.

But then, as we near our time to meet up, my anxiety elevates. Gradually, at first, and I start to have doubts about following through on the plans I’d made. “What if he/she doesn’t like me?” “What if they hurt me?” “What I’m uglier/dumber/less funny than they expected me to be?”

I start to feel unsafe. Not because of the person I have tentative plans to see. Not that, at all. It’s like a reflex, a constant need to protect myself from an unidentified threat. A lump in my throat and a sinking stomach. Thoughts that move at the speed of sound.

I slowly stop responding to your text messages. I pop a Buspar (a fast-acting anti-anxiety drug intended to prevent panic attacks). I convince myself that I’m much too tired to engage with others now.

You send me a “We’re still on, right?” text.

I don’t even open it. I turn your notifications on “mute.”

“M? You okay?” you inquire.

Ignored.

I probably end up passing out at 8 PM, and waking up to one or two more messages from you, with an air of either completely justified disappointment or frustration. And I ignore it. And then we likely don’t talk again.

And I feel alone.

The worst part of it is that it’s entirely self-inflicted.

I hunger for human connection constantly. Watching other people grow and develop amongst each other is devastatingly painful, because I can”t seem to allow myself to do the same. And I end up frustrating people I care about and want to be around, but I keep standing right in my own way.

In summary, I really appreciate everyone who’s ever reached out and tried to make me feel included and wanted. Even if you’ve ever just asked me to go on a walk in the park or get an ice cream cone. And I’m truly, genuinely sorry that I was unable to follow through. I’m sorry if I made you feel sad or mad or frustrated because I flaked on you. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve found myself struggling with this especially lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to return to therapy, and stay compliant on my medications, so that’s my fix-it plan. If you haven’t entirely given up on me, I’d still like to get that cup of coffee or see that movie with you.

Wish me luck, friends.

M.

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Remedial

I recently became a volunteer advocate at the Rape Recovery Center, a local nonprofit that provides counseling services, a crisis hotline, and hospital teams for survivors of sexual violence. In order to become an advocate, one must complete a 40-hour intensive training program. I’m at the midpoint of my training now, and while my experience so far has been one of empowerment, solidarity, and fulfillment, it’s also forced me to re-examine and really process (for the first time) my own rape.

I’ve come to realize that due to many contributing factors, I have yet to take the time to really process what happened to me, and how it’s impacted me physically, cognitively, and spiritually even now, a few years after the fact.

My initial response was one of damage control. Immediately after regaining control of my body, I sped to a pharmacy to pick up a plan-B pill, inquired a private feminist Facebook group that I was a member of about STI testing, and took the proper steps to ensure that my perpetrator would not be able to contact me again.

A member of the aforementioned Facebook group took it upon his (or her)self to notify my father of what happened to me. This member screen-shotted my original post about inquiring about STI testing, and emailed it to my father, which gave me more damage to control.

I’ve been floating around from day to day, somewhat numb, ever since. I’ve always been kind of a distant person, but since this occurred, I’ve been even more withdrawn, even less in-touch with my emotions and my ability to connect with people, especially men.

A guy that I’m not personally friends with DM’d me on Facebook the other day, and asked me if I was a rape victim.  I responded in the affirmative, and he proceeded to tell me that I’m so much stronger, and my spirit is more alive since I was raped.

I found this response both appalling and offensive, for a handful of reasons. First of all, this man does not know me. He didn’t know me before the rape, and he doesn’t know me now. How, then, can he feel confident in making such a statement? Furthermore, I was strong before this happened to me. Nobody needs to experience sexual violence in order to become strong. I had the strength to cope with this trauma before it even occurred, and I refuse to credit this incidence for giving me any such thing.

As for my “spirit being more alive,” I have felt quite the opposite. This incidence swiftly changed me into the cynical, numb person you all know and love today. I struggle with my emotionality every day of my life. I don’t know how to connect with people. I don’t even know how to process my own emotions without enduring a full-fledged panic attack. My sense of security has been breached, and I’ve realized that there are infinitely many things that are completely out of my control.

The man who made these comments did so with good intent. However, he does not know my experience, and therefore should refrain from telling me what it did to me. Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but I don’t feel like anyone is qualified to make such bold statements about an incident that had such a severe impact on my life except for myself.

Anyway, I am sincerely honored and excited to become an advocate in my community, and hopefully be the support that I so desperately needed when this happened to me. It’s going to be triggering, difficult, exhausting work, but I feel like taking it on will be a healing experience for me, overall. It will, however, force me to rely on others for support when the burnout inevitably hits, and discouragement sets in.

So I’d like to thank my amazing support system in advance, for helping me through this.

M.

 

Disconsolate

It’s 8:00 AM, and i’ve already had my optimism toward the world crumpled into a ball and thrown out the window of a high-speed train for the day.

I’ve already scrolled upon multiple problematic, and frankly, triggering posts and memes that devalue women, gays, and pretty much any other marginalized group you could possibly think of.

One of the most maddening memes of the morning was a pro-bulimia post that was shared by an individual whom I once thought was at least not contributing to the oppression of women. The post was a picture of a woman leaning over a toilet, and the caption said something to the effect of “Call your woman fat because you enjoy the gagging noises.” I wish I could find the original meme, but as of 15 minutes ago, I am no longer friends with this individual on Facebook, which restricts my access to his timeline.

Typically, I do my very best to be a saintly member of society, especially on the internet, but I took this particular post a little personally, as eating disorders just so happen to be one of the battles I have to face, so my impulsivity got the best of me.

“This is pretty offensive.” I commented on the photo.

Now, I know that the individual that posted this admires me visually, so he is typically pretty nice to me. Give or take five minutes after I commented, he sent me a personal message, apologizing for offending me. I explained to him that the content of his posts were harmful and actually pretty triggering to some individuals. His response was that not only does he understand that when he posts it, but that he knows that it will offend people, and that he will continue to do so.

I hit the “unfriend” button faster than you could say “misogynistic jerk.”

I am not sensitive. I completely understand the whole concept of “nobody can offend you without your consent.” I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart. But guys, if you KNOW that you’re hurting people, why would you deliberately continue to do so? I was under the impression that a lot of the marginalization and sexism in our society is ingrained and therefore, somewhat subconscious, but perhaps I was being a little too optimistic.

Am I naive and over-sensitive for being so disheartened by this? That somebody would intentionally be trying to hurt somebody else? Maybe.

A Perhaps Too Sensitive M.

PESTistance

Pestistance (noun): unfaltering continuance in persuing romantic attention from a member of the opposite gender, regardless of volume/frequency of rejection or negligence, thus becoming a nuisance to the rejector. 

See also: stalker, psycho, pest.

I will get one of my newly-coined terms in the dictionary one day. Mark my words. 

Now I’m sure you’re all DYING to hear what motivated the invention of my latest vocabulary word. And I’m dying to tell you. 

Because I am no exception to the psychological damage that social media has inflicted on its youthful participants, I admit to accepting users on Facebook that I don’t necessarily know from real-life. I’m willing to bet that a solid 3% of my Facebook friends are from Pakistan or Uganda. I have no ties to Pakistan or Uganda whatsoever. But what the heck, if somebody requests my friendship on a social network, who am I to deny them access to my exceptionally humerous status updates? 

However, the very first ever PESTistant person was not from Pakistan. Or even Uganda. No, he was from none other than my home state. Let me tell you, accepting his friend request is one of my biggest regrets to date. 

Here’s why: 

From the moment I hit the “Confirm” button on his friend request, this lad has been requesting to meet me in person. From what I could see from his profile page, he seemed like a very nice, sweet, clean-cut LDS boy. And I’m certain he is. He’s just an excessively-persistant, borderline-obsessive, sweet, clean-cut LDS boy. 

This cyber-chap has been consistently requesting that we “meet up” for weeks. Yes, multiple weeks. Most of his messages never even received a response from me. And yet, they continued. 

I hate how Facebook has enabled us to view when the recipient has read your message. Because when he sees that I read his message, he writes yet another one, claiming that he’s “done nothing wrong!” and demands to know why i’m “afraid to meet him.” 

What on earth would lead him to believe that I am “afraid” to make his acquaintance? Did he ever consider the fact that maybe I’m just not interested? You would think that after nearly a month of pure rejection, you’d just let it go already and move on to the next random chick you find online. 

It’s nothing personal against him, I’m just. not. interested. 

There should be no more questions asked, and he should really go find another host for his pest-like behavior. 

I have even clearly and directly explained to him that I have no interest in meeting him, and yet the messages have continued. But I am a very easily-annoyed pre-adult, and I have had quite enough. 

I hate to do this, but cyber matey, you may now considered yourself both deleted and blocked. 

Have yourself a nice day. 

M. 

 

The King of Condescention

I have met a male that is at least 12 times as “confusing” as the average female. I met this young man in none other than my Women’s Studies class, a class dedicated to stirring up its female-dominated audience against the patriarchy.(AKA my most favorite class I ever did take.)

From the first day of class, I would catch this gent staring at me from across the room multiple times per class period. After a couple of classes, I suppose he finally caught my full name, and found me on Facebook. We engaged in casual cyber-conversation after I’d accepted his friend request, and he attempted to flatter me by telling me how visually appealing I was to him.

The next day in class, the boy avoided any sort of visual or verbal contact with me. Things grew awkward really fast due to his deliberate “ignoring” of my presence. What? Was he embarrassed that he’d validated my suspicion that he thought I was cute? Naturally, I returned the favor, and, in attempt to increase the awkward tension, I avoided that boy right back.

The semester progressed, and so did the platforms in which the boy communicated with me, none of which included face-to-face interaction. One day, he found me on SnapChat. He then sent me a selfie with the caption, and I kid you not, “I want you. All of you.”

So here’s this kid who doesn’t even have the guts to have a face-to-face conversation with me. Telling me he “wants me.” These type of messages continued, and he repeatedly notified me of his desire to cuddle with me, kiss me, and most recently, go hot tubbing with me. It’s amazing how greatly your confidence increases when you’re safely sheltered behind a computer screen or mobile device. Because there is no way in heck this boy would approach me in real life and say ANY of these things in the hallway after class.

Don’t even get me started on the damage social media has done to our social skills.

Continuing on.

The other day, this boy wrote me a message on Facebook, asking a question on one of our assignments. I answered his question, to which he replied, “that’s what I thought.” I responded, “you thought right, champ!” to which he said “generally.” I sarcastically praised his humbleness, and in retaliation, he informed me that I was an arrogant brat.

At this point, I had lost my sh*t. I was infuriated. I went off, my fingers swiftly and forcefully pounding the keyboard. I told him that he had no right to call me that just because I’d damaged his ego in refusing to kiss, cuddle, or whatever else he wanted, with him.

He didn’t message me for a week or two after that little episode. Then, yesterday, I the following status: “GUYS. It is totally hot tub weather. Who’s in?”

Minutes after posting this, I received another message from this boy. He told me he’d “tooootally” go hot tubbing with me. I began listing reasons why I could no longer go hot tubbing. Somewhere within the conversation, he called me “sweetie.”

ATTENTION, EVERYONE: don’t you DARE call me “sweetie” if you wish to keep your larynx functioning properly. That is the most condescending thing you could ever say. “Sweetie.” That stupid pet-name is how mommies and daddies refer to and address their three-year-old offspring. That was an insult to my intelligence, age, and hinted that this boy thought he was either above me, or somehow a significant other who had the right to use gushy pet-names that supposedly indicate affection.

This boy, may I remind you, won’t even have a verbal conversation with me. What right does he have to call me anything other than my name? I am infuriated. And we will most definitely not be going hot tubbing together any time in the near future.

Don’t call me sweetie, or I will show you fifty shades of sour.

And also, if you think I’m cute, come tell me in person. I am the least intimidating person in the history of non-intimidating people.  Typing “ur cute” and hitting the “send” button means absolutely nothing to me.

M.