Aug 5, 2016

a thing that happened that was uncool


this is something that happened this week that i'm embarrassed to write about because it shows how naive i can be, but i think it points to a bigger issue and that is some people's (primarily women's) need to please others at the expense of themselves.

i was home sick from work wednesday when someone knocked on my door. you have to be let into the building to get to my apartment so it's very unusual for me to get an unexpected knock.

i walked toward the door and asked "hello?" i heard a man saying something on the other side.

"yes?" i asked.

"hi, can you um open the door so i can ask you something?"

i would've preferred to know his identity first, but he asked, so i opened the door and saw a man i didn't recognize standing in the hallway. there was nothing alarming about the way he looked and dressed and carried himself. 

"hi, can you feed my cat saturday?" he asked.

what he should have said was, "hi, i'm so-and-so from apartment 106. i'm leaving town for the weekend and was wondering if you're around, if you could stop by and feed my cat."

i could tell the guy didn't have some very basic social skills, but i don't believe he was being rude or creepy. that's all i can really say for myself -- my gut told me he was awkward but not threatening. 

seeing he was struggling, i replied, "sure! ...i have cats too!"

then he asked if i could come over to see the food setup now. which is when i did the second thing i didn't really want to do, and followed him to his apartment.

"i'm amber, by the way," i said on the way, attempting to normalize the situation. "oh i'm joaquin," he said.

i followed him into his apartment and he shut the door behind me. he shouldn't have shut the door behind me. i'm assuming he did this to keep the cat inside, but i don't care if your cat escapes -- you can retrieve your cat from the hallway. you should never shut someone in your apartment.

he showed me where the food was and told me how much to feed the cat. "what's your cat's name?" i asked, trying desperately to be a regular human in a neutral space with another human. "yoshi," he said, and i bent down to pet the cat. "oh you probably don't want to approach him from above, he doesn't like that and can get weird."

"ok well i'll steer clear when i come by saturday to feed him."

joaquin handed me his spare key and asked if he could leave me some booze as a thank-you. "nope!" i said, "you can just feed my cats for me someday!" i flat-out lied.

i walked back to my apartment, locked the door, and called my friend to relay what just happened. (saturday i'm bringing a friend along to go feed yoshi.)

here's the problem: i so badly want to live in a world where neighbors take care of each other. i want it so badly that i set aside all my discomfort in this situation to make it happen. but this guy -- and again i don't believe he had any ill intentions, he just literally did not know how to have a conversation -- put me on the spot repeatedly. i should've said "can you identify yourself before i open the door?" and "how about i come by later with a friend to check out the food?" but he should've known his questions, coming from a strange man to a woman alone, were inappropriate.

but what i'm most upset about is that i worked so hard for those few minutes to make that situation ok, and to make this poor guy feel like he wasn't messing up every step along the way, even though he clearly was. why? to be nice. i got nothing out of that interaction and i straight-up risked my safety for it. i'm embarrassed i did that and i regret it. it was dumb and dangerous.

i don't know know how to get to a point where i always stand up for myself as a default. i don't know how to stop prioritizing being nice over being comfortable. is it because deep down, i still doubt my comfort is as important as someone else's -- is as important as a man's? even a strange man who didn't even give me his name until i asked?

i'd like to think it's my inherent kindness that makes me naive sometimes, but i'm afraid it's deeper and more disturbing than that -- that i was raised in a society that teaches women to first and foremost be nice and take care of men, and despite years of educating myself otherwise, i still haven't broken free of that canon.

women, how do you stand up for yourselves? how do you learn to value your needs enough to request them every time, even if it makes someone else feel uncomfortable? that is the world we want to live in, right? it seems like it requires major brain rewiring, and i thought i'd made progress, but this interaction showed me otherwise. give a sister some help?

and men, realize every time you interact with a woman you don't know, she needs to gauge whether you're a threat to her or not. that is an unfortunate truth. so go the extra mile to assure her you're not, and don't be put off if she asks you to identify yourself through a closed door.

i'm hoping just writing this out is a step in the right direction, but if anyone has advice, please share it. i'm not looking for "carry pepper spray" -- i'm looking for advice on how to remember, in the moment, my needs are important.

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