Boundaries. I has them.

This week, I honed my “No” skills on the following razor strops:

1. The most uncomfortable “team-building” exercise in the history of ever. Our roomful of adult professionals was asked to stand up, find a person we didn’t know well, and silently gaze into their eyes for two full minutes. Then — still silently gazing — we were to take each other’s hands and reveal one of our “deepest fears.” Then, we were supposed to hug. This unwanted intimacy resulted, of course, in people giggling, looking away, and putting their hands in their pockets in an attempt to recover some personal space. The team-building “leader” started yelling: “DON’T LOOK AWAY! LOOK AT YOUR PARTNER; DON’T LOOK AT ME! NO TALKING! GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR POCKETS! HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO CONNECT WITH YOUR STUDENTS IF YOU CAN’T CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER!”

I looked at the “leader,” a guy who, to me, represents $42,000 we AREN’T spending on books this year, and sat down. Forced emotional intimacy is an ugly thing, and part of our job as educators is to maintain APPROPRIATE BOUNDARIES with our students. It would be inappropriate (maybe even actionable) to try to connect with them in anything close to this way. “GET UP!” he exhorted those of us sitting down. “BE BRAVE!” I stayed in my chair, because no way. No fucking way. No matter how much he tried to dare or manipulate me, my answer was no. Saying no felt so good, I was ready for

2. Last night, I met a few family members for dinner. One relative, delighted with his new iPhone, kept insisting I watch a “funny video on the YouTube. This girl got her wisdom teeth taken out, and she’s crying! Heh heh! Look at all these videos of crying girls!”

I declined, because I don’t enjoy videos of women crying and uncomfortable, filmed and watched by men who think it’s funny. This was triggering on a deeper level, because while I love this relative very much; while he’s brilliant and sensitive and usually funny, he has a tendency to laugh at women’s discomfort and embarrassment. I don’t think he’s alone in this, and I know he wouldn’t laugh at  real pain, but but but. I got up, headed for the restroom, and came back 5 minutes later to a sulking relative. After awhile, he brightened up and felt social again — but dinner was kind of ruined. I felt punished for saying no, and the message I received was that everyone’s discomfort was my fault. I had ruined dinner with my humorless jerk ways.

But, you know? It was worth it. I’m still upset about last night, but I’d be more upset if I’d caved and watched the damn video. I’d rather someone hurt me for saying no than hate myself for not saying it.

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15 thoughts on “Boundaries. I has them.

  1. You just won a couple of feminist battles, and if all women said NO to men when they felt this was appropriate, we’d have the revolution tomorrow.
    I hate it when men whip out gadgets and expect me to watch something. The answer is a clear no to that. Cell phones…. don’t get me going.

    I have noticed that men like Jay Leno take great pride in showing clips of little kids crying— creepy to have a larger context for this.

  2. EW! glad you were able to say NO, and hopefully no consequences for the school one? sheesh. fucking assholes. and that is SO GROSS that we have these forced-intimacy rituals behind the scenes at our schools, and that they are supposed to be practicing for what they are going to do to the kids. good to know.

  3. I agree with Sheila, this post needs a lolcat.

    But in all seriousness it does feel so much better to stand up for your own boundaries. I had a housemate in my studenthousing ruining our christmas house diner, because he decided that because he was one of the people who cooked, that other people must do the dishes at a time he decided was right. I still despise him for it, but eventually everyone caved to his haranguing.

  4. …find a person we didn’t know well, and silently gaze into their eyes for two full minutes. Then — still silently gazing — we were to take each other’s hands and reveal one of our “deepest fears.”

    I probably would have stood, with my hands clasped behind my back and stated that my biggest fear was telling a complete stranger my biggest fear while having to touch her/his possibly germ riddled hands that have been who knows where.

    I don’t get laughing at the discomfort of others. It seems to be a sick part of our culture since there is an entire TV show (discovered while trying to sleep late at night), America’s Funniest Videos (I think it is called) devoted to just that. People send in home videos hoping to win cash prizes. The level of laughter and enjoyment of any given video seems to be in direct proportion to how badly the person in the video was hurt. All I could think about is why is somebody video taping when they should be rendering aid.

  5. So glad you had other teachers sitting down at that horrifying “torture chamber”– oopps I meant “workshop.” As dumb and sexist as my work place gets now and then, nothing like that every happened to me that even comes close to that guy.

    Thanks for standing up for yourself Phona!! I love it when women say NO!! LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT…. LOVE THE KITTY TOO!!!!

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