Tug of war

The problem with parking a manuscript for 6 months and then going back to it is that you realise how much of a twerp you were 6 months ago.

The good thing about parking a manuscript for 6 months and then going back to it is that you realise that you’re nowhere near as big a twerp as you were 6 months ago.

I’m trying to resurrect the “Creepology” manuscript that has lain dormant for the last 6 months. The reason for said dormancy is that I wasn’t making progress, I wasn’t having fun, and I wasn’t in the mood for self-imposed suffering. Having checked it out, it turns out that the problem and the solution are both simple: it sucks. It doesn’t need a resurrection, but a stake-through-the-heart followed by a bonfire, and intense dancing over warm ashes. Oh hum.

Here’s some stuff that won’t make it into the new book. There’s a reason why I’m making you suffer through it, I promise:

The word “creep” is not specific enough anymore. However, it still serves a very useful purpose.

In taxonomic terms, it helps to think of “creep” as the name of a genus – “Creepus”. Most of us can readily identify members of this genus because of some obvious characteristics, which in combination result in making us feel creeped out. However, the genus alone does not give us enough information to determine our level of danger, and definitely not enough to inform our behavior.

Identifying a creep is not unlike identifying a snake. Most of us are confident that we know what a snake looks like. However, that doesn’t tell us much about the problem we’re facing. Is it a venomous species? Is it perfectly harmless? Is it harmless to large mammals but dangerous to smaller creatures? Is it a snake at all, or a legless lizard we’ve misidentified? Is it a species protected by legislation? Is it a discarded garden hose, and we’re so horrified by snakes that the sight of it is enough to cause us panic?

We could decide that we don’t care; that all snake-like creatures are equally horrifying and as such they deserve being bashed with a shovel if they don’t scarper away immediately. And this may work well enough for us… until we do so in front of somebody who objects to needless carnage. Or a state representative fines us for violating wildlife protection legislation. Repeated episodes of shovel-bashing garden hoses, or even just freezing in terror at their sight, may also convince our nearest and dearest that we’re somewhat obsessed. As a result, they may fail to take us seriously if ever we find ourselves dealing with a real, dangerous snake.

I’ve been thinking about the garden hose thing, and the social capital we can accumulate and lose, and the tug-of-war between obsessed and oblivious. This doesn’t happen just around creeps, but it does happen a lot in that setting.

I see things my male associates don’t see. Sometimes they don’t see those things because they don’t happen when they’re around. For instance, a lot of pervs will elect to leave me alone if I’m surrounded by self-defence instructors. Even those JustSociallyAwkward© people who just can’t stop themselves from doing or saying inappropriate things somehow develop functioning filters when their front teeth are on the line. It’s uncanny.

Sometimes, though, my male associates are there, looking at the same situation unfold, and I see something and they don’t, or I register something as significant while they think nothing of it. And then, often enough, the tug-of-war commences. They’re convinced that I’m seeing X everywhere because I’m obsessed. I think I see X because I’ve had to deal with it so many times before that I am better at spotting it even when it’s in the distance or at a very low level or just starting to develop. Conversely, I’m convinced that they never see X, even though it’s clearly in evidence, because they’ve never had to deal with it and they’re blissfully oblivious. They’re convinced that they don’t see X because there’s nothing to see.

To me, that kind of situation is almost the opposite of a conversation. There seems to be virtually no communication going on beyond “no you’re wrong”. The longer the discussion continue the less optimistic I feel about being able to connect to the people involved. That’s on me; that’s how I feel when I don’t feel heard. But knowing that doesn’t help any.

I feel even less optimistic about finding solutions to this impasse. Historically, I’ve not managed to do it without incurring damage. Allowing events to unfold is generally not helpful. Aside from the fact that maybe I don’t want to get groped just to prove a point, if the naysayers are invested enough in their convictions, even that won’t shake them. It’s nothing more than a coincidence, which doesn’t prove that I’m right the rest of the time. It only happened because I led the guy on. I deliberately made it happen to prove a point. I’m exaggerating. I’m straight-up lying.

The sad thing is that they are definitely partly right. I am oversensitive to certain stimuli, because past events have taught me that noticing those stimuli is crucial. That doesn’t mean that I’m accurate; I could be seeing garden hoses and taking unnecessary precautions. However, I’ve been bitten in the ass enough times to prioritise early detection. I don’t see a problem with that provided that I don’t conflate it with preemptive striking. Having concerns about a person doesn’t translate to me giving myself permission to bring forth some kind of retribution-before-the-fact.

Maybe this it the thing that sucks the most; that when I bring up this kind of concern, I’m not looking for someone to help me hide the body, or for someone to make a body for me. I’m looking for help in balancing my views, in case I really am seeing things. I’m looking for an unaffected brain to help me think through solutions, in case I’m too wound up to think clearly. And yes, I’m also looking to see who’s in my corner if shit does go down, but the bulk of the times it won’t ever come to that. Sorting out my perceptions and my options is generally enough to prevent that. Those are the resources I’m looking for first and foremost.

Turns out that more often than not those resources are just not there, which sucks. What sucks even more is that however many times I go through the same conversations to reach the same conclusions, it never seems to smart less.


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