Apropos of nothing, here is a list of conversations that I don’t have anymore, on- and off-line. Nearly a year into kicking them, I find that not only I don’t miss them, but that the ability to fill the time they used to take with stuff that is good for me – stuff that entertains me, educates me, or uplifts me – has significantly improved my life and my outlook on it.
Them: “No, you don’t mean that.”
If you can run both sides of the conversation, please do so without involving me. It will save us both a ton of time.
Them: “But it doesn’t work like that for people.”
Dammit. I keep forgetting I’m actually a raccoon in human clothing.
“I don’t want you to think that I only get in touch with you when I want something, but I want something.”
This from people who only ever get in touch with me when they want something. I don’t know whether the intro is supposed to actually sway my memory of our past interactions or to somehow change the nature of reality, but it just doesn’t work.
“How about you do work for me for free so I can sell it.”
It’s never actually phrased like that, oddly enough, but this is a surprisingly common request. Sometimes it’s padded out with promises of ‘exposure’, sometimes not even that. The underlying psychology is a mystery to me: why the hell would I want to put time and effort into feathering someone else’s nest? Has that ever been a thing?
“I know you said you’re dead busy but gimme gimme gimme your time.”
I don’t fully understand this one either. If I really don’t have time for something, what’s the point in hassling me? I’m only going to say no again, and probably more loudly. And if I am lying and I have all the time in the world but I don’t want to spend it on a certain thing, what’s the point in hassling me? I still have to say no again to be a good, consistent liar. The only thing this kind of conversation achieves is to make me file people as potential consent violators. Seriously, there is nothing cute about ignoring people’s ‘nos’, and if the only way you get to have human interactions is by doing that then you have a problem, and a big one.
My favourite permutation of this particular convo is:
“Sorry, can’t talk, I’m busy”
“What are you busy doing?”
My second favourite permutation is when someone hassles me to do work on boundary setting for them. That’s so meta it hurts.
“I know you said you don’t/can’t/won’t do X, but I want you to do X.”
There are some activities I don’t engage in for a variety of reasons, the simplest reason being that I don’t want to. There may be more complex reasons underpinning that one, but anyone who doesn’t respect my original ‘no’ is unlikely to get to find them out. I neither want to do X, nor do I want to engage in hours of conversation with someone trying to rule-lawyer me into doing X. X, in all its aspects, is off the menu. It’s honestly not complicated.
“Hey so you needed help with something and I didn’t help you at all even though I said I would but I really really meant to, so now you have to do this thing for me.”
It’s not quite loansharking, I don’t think, but it’s near as dammit.
“Here is something you haven’t asked for, now you have to do what I ask.”
Straight-up loansharking. Not endearing.
“Hey so I don’t know you but here’s my personal life history, trauma highlighted, you better fix this.”
I don’t actually mind helping people out, if and when I can. I do mind being treated like a public convenience. Aside from the fact that the people who can’t say ‘please’ are generally also incapable of saying ‘thank you’, I am an actual person with an actual life that I kinda need to prioritise because nobody else does that for me. My existence isn’t entirely issue-free. I don’t always have the time, energy, and emotional capacity to handle the personal shit of total strangers. Oh, and there’s a reason trigger warnings were invented: maybe ask first, give details later?
For reasons entirely beyond my very limited comprehension, some people not only think it’s ok that the only way they participate in my life is throwing shit at me, but they seem to believe that I’m somehow obliged to let them continue to do so. Alas, I’m just not in the market for that. If the sum total of our interactions is negative, three strikes and you’re out. If so many of our interactions are negative that I end up dreading crossing your path, it might take longer, but you’ll still be out.
“A flock of seagulls.”
No, not the band. Some people are in themselves ok, but they are the human equivalent of a discarded bag of chips at the seaside. There they are, on a bench next to you, not particularly pleasant but not much of a problem in themselves, and next thing you know you’re getting attacked by a flock of screeching, pecking, shitting seagulls. There are a few people I know whose arrival on a thread ought to be accompanied by a horn, because moments later the
orcs trolls will inevitably descend. I could spend hours working out whether it’s their fault or just their responsibility or whatever… or I could just look at the effect they are having on the quality of the discussions they engage in, and more broadly on my life.
I’m not precisely famous for my reticence. I’ve been occasionally known to get into debates on topics that are dear to me, or that annoy the everloving shit outta me. That doesn’t mean that I want to get into every damn debate on all topics I might have an opinion on. Tagging me in conversations I’m ignoring doesn’t make me want to participate; it just makes me want to scream into the void. Re-tagging me because I ignored or removed the first tag makes me want to throat-punch people. Three-tagging me because I’ve left the damn conversation makes the block hammer come down.
“Your opinion is invalid, lemme mainsplain you the reasons why.”
There are certain activities and places which have traditionally been the domain of dudes. If you are into one of those activities and you’re a ostensibly a woman, then any opinion you might have on women’s participation in said activities is invalid because you’re an outlier. If you’re not into one of those activities and you’re ostensibly a woman, then any opinion you might have on said activities (including why you eschew them, or why you might have tried them and quit) is invalid because you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.
Sometimes it almost seems to me that being a woman is enough to invalidate your opinion in certain environments. Sometimes I even wonder whether that simple fact could be what is keeping women out of those environments. Thankfully there are plenty of men out there able and willing to explain to me that I’m wrong about that, too.