Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Flowery Journal My Sister Gave Me (Part 20)

More journal stuff.

Note: The blue is what was printed in the journal. The green is what I wrote (probably in 1996...because that's when I received the journal).



The story that sums up what I was like then-During the first few days at school, I decided I'd be so outgoing that I'd simply sit down next to a stranger at lunch. I took my tray and went up to a guy sitting alone and asked if I could join him. He seemed very shocked but said yes. Then he seemed uncomfortable and kept mentioning his girlfriend. I guess he thought I was trying to hit on him.

I wonder if my behavior would be seen as normal.

I mean in trying to be more normal-as in less shy-did I end up acting abnormally outgoing?

And would my actions be seen in a different light if genders were reversed?

I guess a lot would depend on the social expectations of a college cafeteria. Do people usually sit with people they know? Or alone if they have no friends eating at the same time?

Is there a difference between being brave enough to ask to sit with a group and asking to sit with a person sitting alone?

I wrote a post in 2015 about a man approaching me at an airline club.  He made me uncomfortable, and I feared I had been rude. But then I had concluded that he was the one that had been rude. He had put his drink down at my table in a way that seemed presumptuous. I decided:

It would be like going to an almost empty movie theater and sitting in the seat right next to someone; then striking up a conversation. That's creepy. I think the appropriate thing to do, in that situation, is sit several seats away from someone; and if desired, try to strike up a conversation from there. If someone at an airport club, wants to try to meet someone; they can simply say hello as they walk by. If the other person seems friendly, and in the mood to talk; they can stop and chat for awhile. If the chatting gets intense, maybe THEN make a motion to sit down.

So...

With that in mind, I would say I acted inappropriately in the college cafeteria. I was too aggressive.

I should have talked to strangers in line at the salad bar or while waiting to pay for our meal.

OR...

Now I'm rethinking.

Is it different in school cafeterias?  Do students sometimes meet each other by being brave enough to ask, Is this seat taken?

I'm asking Google now.

College Confidential has a message board conversation about it. I'm getting the idea that it IS okay to sit by strangers in a cafeteria; though one person says it's less okay if the cafeteria is almost empty.

If the cafeteria is crowded, you're going to have to sit somewhere.

I guess it's like being on a bus. If the bus is almost empty, it's creepy to sit next to someone. But if the bus is crowded, you're expected to sit with someone.

My greatest moment of triumph-was probably my grade point average which was probably not a big deal to some people but to me it was a huge deal, since in high school and elementary school, I did so bad. Well, not bad, but my average was 2.83. In college I raised that to a 3.8.

I think that IS something to be very proud of. And I'm proud of my past self.

I think it's one thing to get good grades because you're just naturally brilliant. It's another thing to change your study habits and put in a lot of time and effort so you can get better grades.

And most agonizing defeat-All the guys that rejected me, especially David. I guess because he seemed to like me and then he rejected me.

Also, Russ because he seemed somewhat below me, but he didn't ever show interest. I wonder if I had been more direct about my interest.

I think it's a huge mistake to see romantic rejection as a defeat. We shouldn't see another person as something to win or be conquered. They shouldn't be a goal.

As for Russ. What I meant was that he was maybe in a lower league...or as they say on Coronation Street, I would have been punching below my weight.

But that doesn't matter.  Someone could be a thousand leagues above us, and there's still no guarantee that we'll be interested in them.

I will maybe agree with my past self that not being direct enough was a defeat. Would Russ and I have gotten together if I had been more direct about my feelings?  Or did I just assume it was a defeat, because I saw myself as more valuable than Russ?  If I saw Russ as my equal or superior, would I feel such a defeat?

It seems maybe I was thinking, Well, Russ just never would have expected someone like me to like someone like him, so I should have told him! 

Other stories that need telling-I was walking and this guy started hitting on me. He asked for my number and I gave it to him, because at the time I was naive and thought I had to give my number to everyone who asked. Then he called me and during the conversation he said, "Never mind. I'm just being Jewish. I thought he was a fellow Jew, but it ended up that Jewish meant stupid in his book. Every one thought this story was so hilarious because of his embarrassment when he found out I was Jewish. I thought it was just antisemitic. 

I'm pretty sure I've shared that story before on my blog.

What has stuck with me the most about it is not the directly antisemitic guy, but the lack of support I received when venting about the story.

If someone complains that they've encountered racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, etc. and we laugh it off or trivialize it.  Well, guess what. Then WE are likely going to sound like bigots as well.

Though I think gently questioning whether an action or statement is bigoted can sometimes be warranted.

I can't see any context in which equating Jewish with stupid would be NOT antisemitic....or at least offensively ignorant.

But let's say that solo guy in the cafeteria rejected my request to sit down. What if he had said, No thanks. I prefer to sit alone. 

I call my sister Melissa and say, This guy in the cafeteria is such an antisemitic asshole. He didn't want me to sit with him!

I think it would be totally okay for my sister to ask, How would he know you're Jewish? Or How do you know he rejected you because of that? Maybe he's just shy? Or maybe he wanted to be alone. Or maybe he didn't like you for another reason?

But back to trivializing, because I feel that's the bigger issue...personally.

I think there are times that people act obvious about being upset, and their situation is trivialized.

Let's say a teenager is walking home and a man flashes her. She comes home crying and when she calms down enough to tell her family what happened, they make jokes about it. Because come on...it's not like she was raped or anything.

At the end of the conversation, she might be laughing too. On the outside.

A different teen might come home and blurt out cheerfully that she was flashed...as if it were some silly event.  Parents with a lot of psychological knowledge and skill might understand that she's masking her true feelings. But I think a lot of parents would purposely, or out of ignorance, deny the possibility that there is something darker underneath their daughter's surface reaction.

Last summer my mother texted me and asked if I wanted her to pick me up and take me to the lake house. I was feeling very angry and depressed at the time.  This is what I texted back to her: Thank you!!! Maybe. My emotions and brain aren't feeling well today so maybe best that I stay home. But if I'm feeling well tomorrow, I'd be grateful if you picked me up!!!!

My mom replied, Let me know if you want a ride. Love you!!!

On top of my already-bad feelings, now I was furious at my mom.

Where the fuck was the...Are you okay? OR  Do you want to talk about it? OR I'm sorry you're not feeling well. OR I love you and I'm worried about you.

My mom might have said she loved me, but I certainly didn't feel very loved.

I later vented to Tim about it. He tried to understand my mom and said that sometimes I act cheerful in text when I'm upset. So maybe she misread things.

I think some of us are worried about being labeled drama queens or Debbie Downers, so we try to diffuse our feelings with jokes and/or cheerfulness. Are we asking too much of people by expecting them to read between the lines?

Sometimes...probably. If we hide things too much.

For example. What if I texted back my mom, Thank you!!! I'm not sure yet. But maybe? I'll let you know tomorrow. If I do need you to pick me up, I'll be super grateful!

Should I have been mad at my mom for not being intuitive enough to know that behind that message I was feeling awful?

No. That would be unfair and irrational.

But if we say something serious with a bit of cheerfulness or add a joke, I don't think it should be assumed that we're okay.

Yeah. I know I've gone off on a total tangent here.

It's just something that's important to me.

I get annoyed at the "Are You Okay" campaign, because I feel too many of us already speak out and say we are NOT okay...before even being asked, and we're ignored. Or we're asked if we're okay and when we say we're not, the conversation ends. 

Are You Okay is not going to work in a society that's lacking listening skills, emotional intelligence, and compassion.

I think we'd need a few less hotlines if stuff like this changed a bit.