Don’t Apologize

Ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal erupted and several Hollywood actresses have revealed that they, too, have suffered abuse at the hands of Weinstein or other men, the “me too” hashtag became prevalent. A surprising number of women have been abused or harassed or received some form of unwanted attention or advances.

It makes me wonder exactly what is considered “abuse” or “harassment.” I’ve been stared at lewdly before and even catcalled a couple times, but that was back in high school when everyone was immature and stupid. Still, it freaked me out even then. I wouldn’t necessarily call it harassment, though, because there wasn’t true evidence to prove that anything happened, but it still gave me a creepy feeling on the back of my neck. It still made me feel slightly unsafe, and I found myself watching my back a little more closely than I did before. So I guess if you feel icky about it, it doesn’t matter what you call it—it shouldn’t be tolerated.

Yes, it does help to set boundaries for the behavior you will tolerate, but those boundaries do very little good when it’s just some anonymous creepy guy staring at you who doesn’t even know you or care about whatever boundaries you may have. In that case, I guess I’d blame it on culture and male hormones and try to forget about it unless it persists or worsens.

Boundaries are more for relationships. I’ve heard it said before that most women and girls are hard-wired to please people. This may be something cultural that was learned in elementary school or some kind of in-born survival technique. I really don’t know. The urge to please and the need to enforce boundaries conflict with each other often and can even cause great confusion in discerning what is abuse, what is normal, what is “my fault,” what is “his fault,” what I “should do,” what he “should do,” and so on.

I read somewhere that one of the keys is that if you feel something is wrong or if someone does something to you that you don’t like… don’t apologize for telling them that you don’t feel comfortable with it. That is the hardest rule to follow, especially for someone like me, because I apologize without thinking if I do so much as sneeze too loud. Saying “sorry” is a knee-jerk reaction. However, not apologizing can also be incredibly liberating because if you refuse to apologize when you did nothing wrong, you are making the other person consider your feelings more deeply. You’re making ’em squirm and putting them on the spot. The other person is used to hearing “I’m sorry” and using that as a tool to put himself into a dominant position. “I’m sorry” is polite and deferential, but in certain situations, it can be seen as weakness… and the wrong type of person will take advantage of that perceived weakness.

Don’t compromise your boundaries by apologizing for them. Remember that they exist for a reason, to keep you safe, and other people need to respect them. Your boundaries are not unreasonable. Control your knee-jerk reaction and refuse to apologize.

Everything’s Changing

When I was a teenager, I used to listen to Avril Lavigne. One of her lesser-known songs was called “Mobile” and it went like this:

Everything’s changing
Out of what I know
Everywhere I go
I’m a mobile
I’m a mobile

Hanging from the ceiling
Life’s a mobile
Spinning round with mixed feelings
Crazy and wild
Sometimes I want to scream out loud

A little overdramatic, but when you consider that the song was written by a 16-year-old, it’s not that surprising. But it is my default song when I’m going through changes, and needless to say, it recently became applicable again.

The point of this post is to say that I’m getting back into my regular posting schedule (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) now that all the wedding madness is over. I missed writing so much that it literally made my head hurt, and I missed this blog. I changed both my website domains, so this is now “maajohnson.com” or “maajohnson.wordpress.com”—if you try to get to “maasmith.com” or “maasmith7.wordpress.com,” you will reach a very lovely error page. I tried to get the old URLs to redirect to the new ones, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work.

The secondary point of this post is to say that the wedding went well and was beautiful according to everyone who attended. I honestly had no idea what was going on because the whole thing went by so quickly, and I was so nervous I was literally shaking. The official pictures aren’t yet back from the photographer, so here are a few from the honeymoon. (We went on a Carnival cruise to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas. I had never partied so hard in my life… and by partying hard, I mean foolishly “dancing” to club music, staying up until 2 in the morning doing said foolish “dancing,” overindulging in food, and generally getting high on life because, you know, it’s not every day you get to go on a honeymoon.)

Crystal clear beach at Nassau… you can see a lighthouse in the distance
My husband in his natural habitat (there was a library on the ship)
Me in my natural habitat… staring out the ship’s window and waiting for ideas

Turning Points and Comfort Zones

I remember thinking, in the days leading up to high school graduation, that this was it. I would never come back here. My shadow would never darken the halls, my laughter and teenage angst would no longer fill them. I would never again see all of the spaces in the school that brought me comfort or reminded me of bad times. Never again would I run my fingers over the graffiti-covered tables in the vocational building. Never again would I run the track or race around the halls as I so often had. Never again would I stand on the balcony outside the cafeteria and wait for my crush as early morning light filled the courtyard and reflected off the windows of the school buses.

Similarly, I remember days leading up to college graduation, when I was stricken by a similar feeling. The “end of an era” feeling, the one that also contained hints of trepidation as I crossed into the unknown future. Part of me wanted to graduate; by that time, I was sick of writing papers, but at the same time, I knew I would miss it. In fact, I already missed the quiet “reading days” before exams, when I would wake up very early in the morning and go to the lounge above my dormitory (dubbed “the cloister”) just to write. I knew I would never again have that same purity of solitude.

The feeling came back again when I left my first “real-world” job in favor of the “better life” granted by a white collar job. I was there for only nine months, starting in August and ending in May, so it had that same “school year” feel. Hopefully, I would never again work in fast food, but I was grateful for the experience because it taught me more than I had learned in all my years of high school combined. The day after I left that job, I started my new job, where I am today. The world of fast food was so different from the world of office work that I felt like I was starting over again. The useless drama was gone. There was no clatter of pizza cutters and no messy soda spills and no customers threatening to come back with a gun if they didn’t get their discount.

The job is sterile. Everyone is just like me: quiet and reserved. If I pass someone in the hall, they do not regale me with stories of the sexual exploits they had over the weekend. “How are you?” “Good. And you?” “Fine.” And the occasional “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” “Yeah. I went to the art museum.” “Nice.” After working here five years, I have a strange feeling of simultaneous comfort and discomfort. It is my dream job. I sit at a desk all day and correct grammatical errors and meet my deadlines. I’m lucky if I speak to someone once a day. Ninety-five percent of communication is through email. No one reveals much about their life outside of work. Yet everyone is so quiet and calm that sometimes I want to scream and throw things in the air just to watch the chaos unfold that would have gone down at my old job every day.

Anyway, the real reason I write this post is because I am again at a turning point and moving out of my comfort zone. Today I’m getting married, which is still strange to me because I honestly never thought I would get married. But sometimes the person you are meant to be with just appears out of thin air. This is how life goes. This is growing up. This is change. I’m not whining that it will be hard because I know it will be hard. It will be fun and chaotic and quiet and calm and crazy and sad and happy and everything else because that is the nature of it. I have chosen, and I would make the same choice again if given the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong. I am joyful and happy that I finally get to take this step—and I get to take it with my best friend at my side, which makes it that much better. But I am processing the fact that my house is now “my childhood home,” where I will return on occasion but never again lay my head down in. I am processing the fact that I have to do things as a true adult with no real oversight (except by the government, but that can’t be helped—they’re everywhere). But the most important thing to process is that it’s no longer just “me,” it’s “we.” And that will take a lot of getting used to! 🙂