My Mental Exercises Should Be Sponsored By Mountain Dew

I’m evidently in a fasten-your-seatbelts-and-keep-your-arms-and-legs-inside-the-mindfuck-at-all-times kind of phase.

Most of you are familiar with the sagas of my mental musings… the stalker and the parents and the Jack and the Rick. It would not seem that they should all blend together and then get lumped in with my job, but somehow the elements of my life keep doing tricks worthy of X-Games entry and I’m all, “Oh! Well isn’t this an interesting development! Where’s the vodka?”

We had a staff meeting at work the other day to talk about some divisional goals. One of my boss’s suggestions was to increase awareness of our department and what we do by posting photos of ourselves, along with our names, professional contact information and a summary of our jobs, on one of the university’s websites.

Perfectly reasonable, really. As is legend for academic types, one must knock on their door, hand them a cup of coffee and personally tell them about everything, or they’ll never know, because apparently doing field-specific research renders them otherwise incapable of reading emails, looking at the front page of a university website or getting a text message to inform them of things like, “Yes, it snowed a little, but you have to work today.” So if you want to tell them what you do for them, you have to shove it under their noses and point their heads down.

I personally think it’s just smart not to circulate one’s name, workplace and photo around on the internet in general, if one is merely an ordinary citizen. But I blog anonymously, so of course I feel that way. My natural inclination these days is to tense up at the suggestion of my photo, name and location of employment being so easily available in a handy package, but I know there’s a degree to my sensitivity that’s largely unique because I’m the only real-life person I know who has had a stalker who went to prison for his actions and is now out. I don’t wish to inflict my sensitivities on others to a degree that might seem too far, in their minds. It’s actually a detriment, in business, to refuse this kind of PR. Still, when my boss, who knew nothing about my experience, made the suggestion, he happened to glance at me. He saw my reaction and I saw it register on his face.

So then I had to go into his office after the meeting and explain: he didn’t see me disagreeing with the idea or being critical of him. He saw my visceral reaction because I had a stalker.

Hate that guy. Keeps meddling in my affairs. Keeps making me feel like an over-sensitive attention whore who doesn’t want the attention. Very confusing.

So then what did I want to do? Well, I wanted to stop having a minor anxiety attack, for one. My anxiety level always goes up a little when I have to confront the stalker thing in any way, but the problem here wasn’t that; it was having to tell my boss a little bit about it so he would understand my response to his suggestion.

The other problem was this: I also wanted to tell Rick what had just happened. Not helpful. I’ve been telling myself and telling myself that I need to maintain a professional relationship with Rick and that’s all, not talking even a little bit about anything that pertains to personal lives. He asks me about how my weekend was and I’m like, Don’t ask him about his weekend. We don’t care about his weekend. That’s my intellectual awareness. My emotional awareness differs. Because of things like Jack’s engagement and my parents’ ignorance of why maybe my feelings about the stalker situation count more than theirs, I’ve found myself wanting to seek comfort from Rick. After all, this is the man I couldn’t help but like. This is the man who kissed like a dream and spent eight hours on dates. This is the man who sat with me for six hours in an emergency room, starving and covering me with cold compresses when I nearly passed out. This is the man who made my call for help for victims of crime a personal crusade.

Today, though, he made it the butt of a joke.

I had stopped into his office to talk with him about something that had come up in a meeting. He wound up bridging the conversation into whether I’d heard from his former boss, the state senator, to whom I’ve wanted to speak for seven months about further legislative proposals for victims’ rights. The senator, knowing he’d ignored several phone and email messages, had approached me after running into me at an event about helping him out with something in exchange for his willingness to listen to my ideas (though that’s not how he worded it, obviously). I made myself available. He hasn’t followed up. Rick wasn’t surprised and advised me on some other legislators I should approach.

He also, while conveying a story about something the senator had said, referred to his girlfriend.

Ah. Confirmation. He’s back with her.

Well, I had assumed that, hadn’t I? Yes. Yes, since the week before Mother’s Day when he made reference to going to see his mom, I had assumed that the reason he was no longer staying with his parents was because he was back with his girlfriend. This was the first official confirmation that I was right.

Dashed some of my hopes, though. I won’t lie. But it’s alright. I needed to know this for sure, and I needed  not to be the person who brought it up. I needed to be the person who didn’t react at all when he said the word “girlfriend.” With hesitation.

Yep. He hesitated. Don’t think I didn’t notice.

And then, minutes later, on another floor of the building, I nearly literally ran into him, and he said this:

“What are you, stalking me? You know there’s a bill about that in the senate.”

I think the look I gave him could have melted steel. “You should know better than to ever joke with me about that,” I said.

The apology landed in my email inbox two minutes later, sent from his phone before he even got back to his office.

Still, it felt like a betrayal of sorts. I mean, of course it wasn’t, but here I’d felt for two years like this man was my ally who understood. I never thought he’d make a joke about it.

Eh. Men are stupid.

When I replied to his apology, I made a point to say “thanks” instead of “it’s okay.” Because it wasn’t okay. But then I wound up mitigating my stern disapproval by saying that it’s already a touchy subject presently made touchier by recent repercussions.

He replied by urging me not to hesitate to let him know if I needed to vent.

You know what? No. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to try to be my friend after making an insensitive joke just to try to make yourself feel better. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to lean on you if all it does is massage your ego before you go home to your girlfriend. You don’t get to feel reassured that I still like you.

In case you’re wondering, the insurance issues have been worked out and I’m going back to see Ali Velshi tomorrow evening.

18 thoughts on “My Mental Exercises Should Be Sponsored By Mountain Dew

    • Honestly, when I threw the look over my shoulder at him (because I was walking away from him as he made the crack), he nearly stopped cold. He’s never seen that look, or anything near it, on my face. It made an impression and he realized his mistake immediately. I just want to make sure he doesn’t forget it.

      Really, though… it’s just disappointing. I thought he “got” it. But maybe it was just a lapse in judgment. I’m willing to forgive the first offense.

      • I’ve said stuff like that before, and felt just low as dirt after. But the truth is that other people’s sensitive spots aren’t ours; they’re just not on our radar the same way. And those kinds of jokes are just standard fair, things you say without thinking at all about what you’re saying. But it is disappointing that a joke like that would still be in his mental lexicon considering the work he did. It’s like it didn’t really sink in or something. That’s what makes me feel the worst if I do something like that – I care about that person, so how could I not have made their sensitivity more of a priority in my mind?

      • That’s the benefit of the doubt that I’m giving him. But he knew exactly what he was saying. He mentioned the bill. It was a tasteless joke and I’m willing to consider it nothing more than that, and I think he did feel bad. When other people crack jokes about stalkers, I leave it alone because I’m not going to be a killjoy and not everyone needs to know my sensitivity. He should know better – and he does.

      • Ok – I just automatically went back to a memory of when I said something to my sister that triggered a sensitivity of hers, that I didn’t even consider. I think I was defending myself more than him, you know? And he was inside that issue for a long time.

  1. Life is just complicated, isn’t it? We need people to lean on and talk to when our boogiemen push their scaley fingers up under our doors. Rick was that person for you for a while and sucks to lose that. But you’ve still got us!

    • You’re sweet, Stoney. I think, really, it’s just that I wanted Rick to be that person. He’s a port in a storm, and because my anxiety levels are up recently, I look for comfort from a satisfying figure. I have a lot of friends I can lean on, but I wanted a particular feeling. That’s something I have to be conscious of and work on, because that what leads me to fall for someone I can’t have.

  2. I have to agree with Michelle: ” But the truth is that other people’s sensitive spots aren’t ours; they’re just not on our radar the same way. And those kinds of jokes are just standard fair, things you say without thinking at all about what you’re saying.” I can SO see me saying something like that, thinking you’d be OK with it.

    The great thing is that you didn’t waffle or hem and haw, you let him know it was NOT OK. I think I would give him the opportunity to learn from his mistake and your reaction. If it happens again, then you know he’s an insensitive clod, instead of just being one of us folks who made a bad judgement call.

    • Stoney’s point is absolutely true. And it’s okay that not everyone shares the same sensitivities; in this case, I truly don’t want everyone to be sensitive to it because my sensitivity comes from a personal experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I think I mentioned somewhere above that I have friends who joke about stalking and I don’t say anything about it because it’s an innocuous joke from their perspective. They mean no harm. Rick didn’t either, but he knows better, both because of our personal relationship and because of the fact that he is the one who did all the work on my legislative effort. Thank you, Peg-O, for the credit you give me. And yes – I am giving him that opportunity, and I believe it really was a bad (and impulsive) choice of words.

  3. I’m not going to stand up for Rick … or even men in general, although I think men are stupid is a slight generalization. Guys with guys usually see anything as fair game for kidding and often forget it’s not the same with women. Shit, it’s not even the same with all guys. And as Michelle said, sometimes things just pop out before we think. I will admit, many of us are clueless, though.

    • Generalization tends to be a source of humor. 🙂 Yes, it’s generalizing. Rick has lately been acting like I’m a guy instead of a woman: calling me by my last name or some abbreviation of my first name that I never use or invited… things like that. But he should definitely know better. People (men or women) who don’t know my experience joke about stalkers and I never say a word. Rick should know better. But he’s apologized and he’s been forgiven.

      • In my men’s groups (one of which is nicknamed the Divorced Men’s Group), I get to know a lot of guys that are clueless with women. I think the experience has made me a little quick to defend us as a gender 🙂

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