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Thursday, October 16, 2014

For Your Own Good

As a lifestyle choice, I find the strategy of slowing down to be a productive strategy. I've gotten so much benefit from taking a bit more time to do whatever I'm about to do that I fully endorse going slower. Mainly allows me to consider the way I'm about to do it.

Except at my current pace, it seems that I'm slowed to the point of irritating productive, functional people. I've been accused of being passive-aggressively slow, which is not what I intend. A former friend of mine declared I've slowed to the point of becoming a "Walking Stop Sign."

I do feel a bit self-righteous when I'm driving exactly six miles over the speed limit and in Hawaii I will still hold up a line of cars behind me who want to go fifteen miles over the speed limit. I can feel the anger of those who are tail-gating me. Then we pass a cop car and they all fall back, obviously thankful that me driving slower just prevented them from getting a ticket for wanting to speed fifteen miles over the speed limit as they usually would be doing.

I used to feel self-righteous about changing the level that my culture doesn't want to touch each other too - almost to the point of "forcing" or "training" people to allow me to touch them and to invite being touched.

There were many other actions I did that violated people's cultural expectations about autonomy, independence, personal space and respect that I inadvertently challenge by my very nature of not being affected as others are by social constraints.  I've had to learn so much about body language to be able to deal with feeling rejected, isolated and misunderstood. For instance, being near-sighted and not comfortable with glasses or contacts, I tended to stand too close to people when talking, encouraging them to back away from me or flee during a conversation.

When I finally gave in and accepted that it was OK that people in my culture did not want to be touched, I think others lost out on the value I could offer them about the importance of being touched.

Most people didn't seem to want what I had to offer them in that manner anyway. It was only in the expression of friendships that people would tell me later that they had misunderstood my overtures of wanting to be their friend; once they understood being affectionate was how I treated my friends they were happy to count themselves a member of my club.

But I had to be almost manipulative in a teacherly sort of way to "train" people to allow me to touch them. At first I'd touch people only when leaving them - on the upper arm. I'd do it when we were parting to communicate that their touching me back was completely voluntary and not required. It seemed to help if people with whom I'd like to invite closer to being friends with me would see how I treated my friends. I did this by touching those who were already my friends in their presence. Then they could say, "See, this is how she treats people she knows so I need to expect her to do that with me."

I got to experience being on the other end of how I irritated people by pushing their comfort zones recently. I have a friend who doesn't have much experience in social mores. As an unfortunate result, others do not want to be around her because she makes them feel uncomfortable with social blunders. But they can't quite put their finger on what she does that makes them want to exclude her if asked. One of the things she does is to stare at people. She does it because she likes them and is interested in what they're doing, but staring is also how she pays attention to what they're saying. Having her do that to you can really becomes irritating in a strange way. It begins to make you wonder if she's staring at you for her own agenda while she is making own judgments about your actions that she is sure to catchyou doing because she is watching so intently.

I make people uncomfortable because I'm so observant, even if I don't stare. Once people realize you have turned your attention to them, it's a bit unnerving to them how much you can successfully notice that they do not realize they are revealing to you.

There's a strange ripple effect in mentioning things that aren't often discussed too. In my past the mother of my stepson gave me this little talk about how the people closest to children are the ones who are most likely to be sexually molesting them. She got it from the news, so I could have merely cast the mention of the subject off as a media fad. But as time went by, I couldn't help but take what she had said personally. Her paranoia about what was not happening resulted in her six year old son no longer getting to enjoy being read to while sitting in my lap, or hanging out with the family and friends on the couch draped over each other in a puppy-pile. It was as if his mother was, in a roundabout way, trying to accuse me personally of molesting her son by cautioning him not to trust the grown-ups he knew about an issue which he had no clue what it meant at the time. Her actions really made me angry, because she cautioned her son in such a general way without giving him the real information about what was objectionable about it. But it also made me realize how an accusation like she made can so easily become the same as a foregone conclusion.

So I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and stop trying to get people to touch each other more often, along with not touching her son. It was a sad day to have to give up some of the true affectionate pleasures of taking care of her kid. It made me want to leave the situation and stop offering what I'd been doing for the family, but I imagined at the time that what she was saying was a reasonable request that had to be respected at some point anyway in her son's upbringing.

I think my decision at that time was a mistake, in retrospect. I should have negotiated that time in her son's life to do without parental affection to be when he was older, when he could have understood sexuality and how it could be twisted.

All these points seem related to me because how they are "for your own good."

At what point does an opinion or belief in a value (such as the value of being appropriately affectionate) become a coercion or a sales technique or proselytizing?

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