Monday, November 7, 2011

"Why do you care what other people think?"

This came up in comments on an earlier post, but it's worth a post of its own: why do I care and fret so much about whether or not people accept my deviant sexuality/unfeminine gender/polyamorous relationship?  Isn't it just paranoia to be upset when people don't acknowledge the existence of people like me?  Isn't it just attention-seeking to demand that everyone approve of my lifestyle?  Can't I just do my thing and not worry about what other people think?

No.  I can't.

For starters, I'm not a wall of iron. I have human emotions.  Keeping important parts of my life secret makes me feel bad and being judged harshly makes me feel very bad.  This is not a personal weakness, this is not something for me to grow out of, this is not a challenge I must overcome.  Emotional support is a human need.

But getting frowned at is the tip of the iceberg.  I don't just need social cceptance for fuzzy-wuzzy reasons.  I need it for my livelihood and potentially my life.

For example, I could be fired or kicked out of school if the wrong person learns I'm a sexual deviant--it happens, and "perv" is not a protected class.  It doesn't even have to be about direct hatred from the administration; it can also be litigation-fear.  I mean, my program has a pediatrics rotation.  I don't want to think about the chances parents will be calm and rational if they find out a person with sexual deviancies involving consenting adults was touching their child.

When I was in high school, I got bullied for being unfeminine and dating a girl.  It wasn't just words.  I had obscenities Sharpied on my clothes, I had beer bottles hucked at my head, I had things stolen from me, I had someone spit in my lunch, and I just got straight-up hit a few times.  Once three kids threatened me with Bic lighters, which is a little hilarious in hindsight because with no fuel and tiny lighters I don't think they could have done anything worse than put little scorch marks on me. But I can't just "ignore the haters!" when the haters are threatening to set me on fire.

Here's a positive one.  Recently I went to get STI testing, and I went to Planned Parenthood and explained my relationship status--polyamorous and open--to them.  They didn't tsk-tsk, didn't lecture, just talked about condom use and swabbed my crotch.  Feeling safe there makes it much easier for me to get tested on a regular basis, which is pretty damn important for my health.  (Yes, I could overcome this by being a Wall Of Iron. But I shouldn't have to be.  Tender-delicate-flower poly people should have the same access to healthcare that tender-delicate-flower monogamous people do.)

These are examples from my relatively comfy middle-class-white-American life and my relatively mild deviancies.  Once you get outside that sphere (and sometimes inside it), people are literally killed for doing their own thing and not worrying about what other people think.

Caring what other people think isn't a weakness.  Being aware of what other people think, and seeking to change it for greater compassion and understanding, is a god damn survival skill.


  1. You're such an amazing person, Holly, and you should be proud of the work you do, online and off.

  2. I concur.

    It's one thing to "not care what others think" on a purely intellectual level, and then another when you're told to "not care what others think" when they're the norm and they hold sway in how you're allowed to live your life.

    So sure, there's a lot to be said for realizing that not everyone understands or agrees, but that responsibility stops when you can't walk to the store holding your partner(s) hand(s) without getting heckled, when you can't apply for work benefits for your dependents, when you might not be able to share as much as a household lease without employing crazy loopholes with endless and expensive legal help.

    If it was all down to the "deviants" whining about people disagreeing with them, I'd probably feel differently. But it's not. It's about how people live, in and out of the bedroom.

  3. You make some great points here. I still think there's a lot of value in "not caring what others think" in some respects, but like you say, there are issues of rights and safety that deserve to be addressed.

    There's also the fact that, even if you can and do choose not to care, that doesn't really justify the disapproval. Even if someone doesn't care what we think of them, we should still try to be better people and not judge other for things that don't matter. Of course, we can debate what matters and what doesn't, but I think you understand what I'm saying.

  4. There's not caring about what people think, and there's not caring about what people do. Unfortunately, people thinking things leads to people doing things...

  5. Quoted:
    with no fuel and tiny lighters I don't think they could have done anything worse than put little scorch marks on me.

    While not as bad as images of going up in flames, I dont think a few scorch marks is acceptable, either.
    Insert reference to your previous post: Just as consent shouldn't be a bare minimum for sex, NOT being lit ablaze by pyromaniac bullies shouldn't really be what we strive for.

    The point: what a crappy experience.

  6. Yes, this very much.

    It's certainly beneficial to develop some ability to repel unfounded criticism--to live the Eleanor Roosevelt "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent" lifestyle--but at the end of the day, people can make you actually inferior without your consent, and no amount of "feeling" will change the effects that has on one's life. If the law grants me fewer rights and makes me a second-class citizen, I can try my best to keep my head high and carry on, but it won't change the reality.

    And I challenge anyone, frankly, to keep their head high if they're friendless, jobless, homeless, etc. Even one of those things alone makes it incredibly difficult to just say "oh, well, I don't care what they think!"

    "I don't care what anyone thinks" is a nice slogan for teenagers wearing counter-culture t-shirts (manufactured in bulk, because, of course, it's really only one more culturally acceptable choice), but it's not actually useful against cultural divisions with real and serious consequences for those who buck the norm. "This has to change" is the only slogan for that.

  7. In Heinlein's To Sail Beyond the Sunset, he said it was a vital survival tactic to learn to rub blue mud in your belly button--provided all your neighbors do the same.

    Given that the novel was about open, poly relationships and extramarital affairs, this is exactly what he was talking about.

    Great novel, by the way. I learned more about being a happy, successful woman (and wife, and mother) from reading Heinlein (and this book in particular) than I did from any real life "role model."

  8. Yes THIS, so much.
    I mean, you kinda have to care what people think when those people are running your country and intimidating you practically every time you leave the house.
    Only privilege-dripping douchecanoes without perspective can afford not to care. Their obliviousness doesn't put them in danger.

    So yes, printing this out and stapling it to a few heads.

  9. This one is a big part of my life. I've been absolutely blessed with a father who takes things in stride and a mother who was fully willing to have the weird talks about the few things she wasn't yet comfortable with. I went to a weird, hippy school, and I have had weird, freaky friends, and it's all very NORMAL for me. All very healthy.

    And I want to be a teacher.

    I've gotten confused and upset when reminded by my loved ones that I should be careful. Should be anonymous. I struggled for years to reconcile my passion for teaching with my passion for (joyous, enthusiastic, educational, totally consensual) activities like hitting people with airline cable. Word gets out over my husband and I having a girlfriend, and my ass is fired before you can say "impressionable minds".

    I'm figuring out the ways for my interests to coexist (online schools don't make you as visually identifiable), but what sucks is that I DO wish they could combine. I wish --when I'm showing my students that you can be a geek, a girl, obsessed with grammar, and full-on weird, and still be badass, self-controlled, and a good person-- that I could also show through simply being there and being me that "freaky" doesn't mean "freak". That BDSM doesn't mean bad, and that definitions don't have to be limiting. I won't be able to do that. I don't think I ever will.

  10. Artistrampant - Really good point. "Not in front of the children!" attitudes hurt the children too.

  11. I'm really lucky that in the profession I work it, no one is doing to get fired for just about any kind of deviance, and I've run into people with all sorts. But that's not really the point. I'm certainly very lucky, but I have friends who aren't in nearly the same situation, which is a problem.

    There is an inherent issue in saying: "You can be X, just tell me about it" erases the people with X deviation. And that's about the most mild form of discrimination there is. The point isn't the people need to have thicker skins, the point is people shouldn't commit hate acts/crimes.

  12. I can hardly believe you had to write this. Humans are tribal animals. The need for the approval of others is hardwired in to us as a basic need!

  13. Black-Clad Dominant (The Taller One)November 7, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    "Not in front of the children!" attitudes hurt the children too.

    Yep. I tried/am trying to raise my kid(s) to be tolerant and accepting, in the hopes that they'll not only be accepting as adults, but also (with any luck) be better-adjusted, and perhaps then better-accepted themselves, if they show any 'deviant' traits.

    Hey -- on a vaguely-related note, I'm looking into going for STI testing in the Boston area pretty soon; care to share any more details for your Boston-area readers on how it went with Planned Parenthood (one of the places I was going to look into, and I'm assuming you went local)? I suspect that like a lot of folks, I'm vaguely aware that PP and other places offer testing, but don't know the details -- do you have to pay a co-pay (if you have insurance), is it free, what information do they require, what testing do they offer, do you pick what you want to be tested for, etc?

  14. You're right - it's not just about approval. I don't give a shit what random people on the internet think of me, but I do care when they post false or private information about me in a very obvious attempt to make me both unemployable and undatable.

    I've had blogs created by trolls using my real name that claim I'm racist (complete with made up quotations), that I've been arrested for sexual misconduct, and that I have STIs. In other places they've suggested that I want to be raped and that I enjoy getting beaten (very different from consensual non-consent and negotiated BDSM). I've also gotten anonymous emails with my and my parents addresses.

    I care what other people think when their hatred of me for being a woman leads them to threaten me and try to ruin my life. Thankfully my employer has been supportive.

  15. Who names a cow Hercules?

  16. very good post
    "don't worry about what other people think" or any variant of it is such a ridiculous phrase. People say when they don't know what they are talking about and/or when situation doesn't apply to them.

    "And I challenge anyone, frankly, to keep their head high if they're friendless, jobless, homeless, etc. Even one of those things alone makes it incredibly difficult to just say "oh, well, I don't care what they think!"

    Spot on right there.
    It's funny how people want to claim something doesn't matter or isn't important only after they have a firm grasp of what supposedly isn't important.

  17. It was a very large cow.

    And it was a unicorn, as advertised! (It was bisexual and dating a couple without making emotional demands... no.) I was very satisfied. They wouldn't let me take a picture inside though.

  18. When I was a kid, I was pretty awkward and shy, and the other kids made fun of me a lot. I'd go home, and my mom would tell me, "Do what makes YOU happy, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks."

    When I got into high school and realized I was queer as a $3 bill, my mother told me that it was wrong and unnatural. I was not allowed to go to the college I wanted to go to because it was an all-women's school, and my mother feared it would encourage that "unnaturalness" in me. That school would have given me a fuckton of scholarship money, encouraged my political activism, helped me make friends, and definitely would've kept me from dropping out of college as I ended up doing.

    My mother also berated me for my depression, self-injury, and OCD; it took immense amounts of convincing to get her to let me into therapy at all, and when she did, she grilled me after every session about what we'd discussed. I am now a grown woman who still - surprise, surprise - grapples with depression, self-injury, and OCD. Now I just happen to have a complex about asking for help, too.

    The people who say "don't listen to what anyone else says" - they're ignoring the fact that someone listens to what they, specifically, as a person, have to say. Someone cares deeply and very seriously about what they have to say. And when it comes down to continuing to care, and being injured, versus cutting off your emotions for someone entirely - it's fucking HARD. It's one thing to turn to some faceless bully, some fuckwad who you'll never see again after high school or after you leave this job or even after you just get off the bus, and to say "I don't give a fuck what you think." It's another to turn to someone you are connected to and say, not only "I don't give a fuck what you think", but "I don't give a fuck about YOU." That's a position people shouldn't have to put themselves in. No one should be encouraging anyone else to build walls between them and others; we should be looking at the people who want to build walls and asking them why, and trying to help them overcome those prejudices and internal wounds.

    It's not just about emotional support - it's about emotional connection, about how we grow together as people instead of apart.

  19. I think douchecanoe is my new favourite insult.

  20. Hershele OstropolerNovember 7, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    Unless you forage for food and live off the grid in a handmade cabin -- some lifestyle that doesn't require you to get paid by people or buy things from people -- you're going to have to care a little about what other people think.

    Because I occasionally apply for jobs with elected officials, I try (with mixed success, I suspect) to avoid saying anything about my sex life more scandalous* than that I have one (which is scandalous enough, really). "But Hershele, don't you live in New York?" Well, yeah. And I'm using a pseudonym, albeit a relatively transparent one.

    *Correctly spelled because I'm not a Moonie

  21. Thanks for this Holly, it's an important point you raise. And this 'why do you care? Just get on with it' attitude is not just present outside of the kink community, but within it too. I recently posted a question on the board of a kink community website asking about kink friendly medical professionals in the local area (having experienced some high-judgment and frankly humiliating treatment in the past). I was bowled over by the responses of 'just make up a fake name and get on with it - they can't do anything' from all who responded publicly (although privately people contacted me and agreed they would love to have such a resource). People laughed at my idealism that we might want to live in a world where a person can be confident that they can have a frank and open conversation with their doctor without being judged or hassled. I know that there are a lot of great non-judgmental healthcare professionals out there, but at the moment it's a lottery whether you get one of those or an ethical dinosaur.

  22. Rather then give you the "oh I had it worse" argument (because frankly I don’t/didn’t). I would like to share my experience in a STI clinic.

    Being the responsible young white male that I am I go and get tested once every six months or so regardless of my sexual activity simply because I think any partners I have deserve to know that I have a clear bill of sexual heath (or not should something unfortunate happen.)
    As I pointed out above, being “The major demographic” my problems are fairly minimal as the only "deviant" quality I poses is Bisexuality and that is not something that comes up very often, other then occasionally I hear people throw around words like "confused" and I grind my teeth in silent frustration.

    Anyway, the point:

    Going to the STI clinic is a harrowing experience for me because every single time I go there I’m treated like a cross between a Rake and a Leper. Like the only reason I am there is because I have been irresponsibly shagging my way through a stream of tee age girls and prostitutes and now I am wondering why my penis is an interesting shade of teal and appears to be singing to me, not to mention the string if illegitimate children I probably have. The idea that I could be a young man simply interested in keeping close tabs on his sexual heath doesn't seem to have occurred, it's much easier to simply assume I am some sort of Womanising Cad, who can’t even keep his hands of other men and now they have to clean up my mess.

    Normally? I don't mind, like you rightly pointed out, others get it a lot worse then me. But it is something your post made me think of, and that it would be nice to think that perhaps I’m a little less judgmental (not that I really felt I was) because of this ongoing experience.

  23. YES! This. All this.

    Everyone cares what other people think of them, at least to a certain extent. Having read that article I am frankly terrified that the career in academia I want could be threatened if the wrong people find out about my bedroom practices. Scary scary stuff. Even right now, I'd lose my job if my employers found out I was bi and/or poly, and if the kink side of things came out I don't even want to know what might happen. Despite the fact that it has no bearing on my work whatsoever.

    I'm glad you had a positive experience with the STI testing. I was terrified the first time I went but had a similar non-judgemental experience.

    And ugh to the things that happened when you were at school. My own experiences weren't that different, so lots of solidarity to you.


    P.S. I've linked to your page in the 'links' section of my polyamory blog, hope you don't mind? :)

  24. Black-Clad Dominant The Elder - I went to the Davis Square Planned Parenthood, which is very nice but unfortunately doesn't have sliding scale payment so it's a bit steep if you don't have insurance. Sexual health in the Boston area is really its own whole post. Which I ought to do.

    Anon 5:52 - Wow. That's really inexcusable in an STI clinic. When general practitioners do it I can sort of understand (it's still wrong though), but at the STI clinic, people at risk for STIs are all they see all day. It seems like good professional practice aside, they'd just get tired of judging thirty people a day.

    I'd strongly encourage you to try other STI clinics if there are any accessible to you in your area. :(

    Jess - Linking to me is always cool. :)

  25. Holly, at this time I am only a stranger to you and may likely never meet or even have a conversation with you, the details are unimportant but this one post has made the world of difference to me. Thank you.

  26. As someone who has tried the "Wall of Iron" route... personally it nearly made me a robot and/or suicidal because the only way to do this was to shut down big parts of my personality and emotional capacity. NOT and acceptable price even if one can survive it.

  27. Oh my gosh, normalizing STI testing experiences are such a good thing. Here in NYC there's some sort of program (I'm a little unclear exactly how it works, except that NYU is somehow involved) that does STI testing in certain bars and clubs. I literally hadn't been tested in years, and was more than a little terrified, but the guy who did my testing (and the obligatory questionnaire about my sexual history, which was very detailed and comprehensive) was so marvelously unfazed by everything that I was kind of delighted.

    The only comment he had was to point out I should find outside testing for hepatitis if I was going to keep doing lots of blood play. Which, in addition to being true, is the best possible reaction.

  28. So, what it comes down to is this: Are you (or anyone else in society) entitled to social acceptance?

  29. I think anyone who's not hurting anyone is entitled to social acceptance.

  30. Black-Clad Dominant (The Larger One)November 8, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Sexual health in the Boston area is really its own whole post. Which I ought to do.

    That was the seed I was kinda hoping to plant with my comment. :)

  31. "As someone who has tried the "Wall of Iron" route... personally it nearly made me a robot and/or suicidal because the only way to do this was to shut down big parts of my personality and emotional capacity."

    Me too! And now, trying to undo all that damage, the advice I constantly get? "You gotta stop caring what other people think."


  32. I went to an STD clinic today and I had a few interesting experiences. First, the woman who did registration looked at me like I was a piece of shit, and said something along the lines of "I guess you don't have a regular partner then." I looked her right in the face and I said "Actually, I have several regular partners."

    When I got to the testing room, there was this big pink poster on the wall called "101 Reasons for Monogamy." It was filled with the most bullshit reasons I've ever herd, like "only need to learn one favorite recipe" and "know who borrowed your T shirt." As though my partners are interchangeable. As though learning to cook for two people is too much work. As though as the woman, I am automatically the cook, and automatically the one who should be concerned about monogamy.

    A lot of the "reasons" were focused on self esteem, and most of them assumed that non-monogamous people are incapable of forming trusting relationships with good communication.
    Then something awesome happened. A nurse came in and I told her that the poster made me feel angry, and that I should be able to come to a clinic without feeling attacked.

    She agreed with me.

    That is why I care what other people thing. I need to be able to have an honest conversation about my sexual health, and part of that conversation should include sharing the full story about the people I sleep with. I shouldn't be so shocked to find a nurse who supports polyamory.I shouldn't feel "dirty" when I try to be responsible for my health... and my partners' health. I shouldn't have to sit under a poster which calls me a whore who "has to ask how to make the coffee" and reminds me that if I were monogamous then my "parents would know [my] partner's name."

  33. Anon - I'm glad that nurse was awesome! That turns the whole thing around.

    Also: Polyamory means you can get double mileage out of one really good recipe. :)

  34. I don't care what people think as long as they have no power to hurt me. I care a great deal what people *do* to me and to other pervs.

  35. Hershele OstropolerNovember 8, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    ^ Do you mean that in a sticks and stones way, or in a no thought police way? That is, do you count expressing the opinion that you're the lowest scum imaginable as "hurting you" even if it doesn't involve any visible injury or deprivation?

  36. Anonymous 7:43 – exactly. Perfectly put. I don't care what people think of my haircut or what color I paint my house. I do care if people decide to throw out "You must be a whore" insults if I admit I'm bisexual or say "Your safety isn't something anyone should be worried about, you're expendable anyway" if I let them know I don't belong to a majority religion.

  37. The thing I really hate about 'just stop worrying about what other people think' is the implication that the problem is you. If you were stronger, smarter, better, you would be able to stop caring. If you can't, well then it's your fault for being weak and lazy, and you'll just have to suck it up.

    Even if you could stop caring what other people think, who's to say that's necessarily a good thing? What kind of person isn't the slightest bit concerned about how their parents will react when they come out as gay? Probably not a good person.

  38. To me, it seems to depend, as do so many things, on context. (Note that I'm pretty young - in my last year of school, to be precise - and my experience must of course bear this disclaimer).

    When I was younger, I experienced what most people would count as bullying. In hindsight, that's what it was: I was harrassed because I was weird and it made people uncomfortable, so they tried to make me feel uncomfortable. The thing was, it didn't work. I only realise how serious it was in hindsight because at the time I didn't even think of being cowed: someone's being nasty to me? Be nasty right back! I was confident and argumentative and cleverer than the bullies, with the result that I just didn't notice.

    As I got older, I started wearing strange clothing (goth and now Lolita), which gets plenty of stares when I go out, and got yet more confident and argumentative. I had weird hobbies and interests - poisons, anyone? Half my teachers loved me, the other half hated me XD At first, the stares and pointed remarks made me uncomfortable, but after a while I just stopped noticing - and I discovered that even when I did notice, I didn't care. Do I know these people? No. Can they affect my life in any way? No. So why do I care?

    For years and years, if someone told me not to care what people thought, I would have told them where to stick it. It's impossible not to care! But then, sometime within the past two years, something glorious happened: I no longer gave one single fuck. I can't begin to describe how much happier this has made me. You don't realise how much you're bogged down by self-imposed social constraints until you stand outside them (and in my case go 'Red lipstick and bright pink and purple eyeshadow today? What an excellent idea :D'). But it's not something that can be taught, unfortunately: one day, you just realise that the opinions of strangers don't matter any more.

    This, of course, is all dependant on the fact that none of these people can hurt me. They are my peers, who have exactly the same standing as I do, and teachers, who I can discuss things rationally with (or, if not, go to my head of year, who is a deeply sensible woman who likes me and has no patience with bullshit). It's not absolutely perfect, since I'm still technically a child (and look about 14) and am thus at risk of being patronised and not taken seriously, but for all that I am lucky to be in such a position: for me, there is always a way out.

    If the law chooses to persecute me, it's a different matter. Operation Spanner proved that some high-ups are quite happy to ignore common sense in favour of moral outrage - and to think, the French used to call whipping 'the English vice'! As you say, when the law itself is against you, you can't just ignore it and not care what people say - because what people say can damage you in a multitude of concrete ways.

    tl;dr Not caring about people saying nasty things about you is a deeply sensible way to get through life - but when those people are backed up by the law, not caring is unfortunately no longer an option.

    /hopes that made some sense - Tacitus has fried my brain D:

  39. @Black-Clad Dominant

    I haven't visited that PP clinic for a few years, but that was my first experience with all such things. The waiting room was bland and full of pamphlets, but the clinicians seemed nice. I was getting a birth control implant, which without insurance (or much income) cost $200-300.

    I think a lot of my student friends in the area do STI testing through Mass General, rather than PP, because they can claim no insurance to keep it off their parents' radar.

  40. Black-Clad Dominant (The More Hirsute)November 10, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    @ princess charlie

    Thank you very much for the info; I'm currently leaning toward MGH, I've generally heard good things about their clinic.

  41. I care very much what others think, because others act on what they think, and I do not like being hurt. We recently had a work function with human bingo, and the coordinator went around the week before collecting one "quirky piece of information about yourself that nobody here would know". I felt like staring in horror, thinking "I've spent 27 years hiding my 'quirky' bits, and you want me to start cracking my armour for BINGO?"

  42. Hershele OstropolerNovember 11, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    That's annoying. There's a reason nobody would know it, surely.

    (Though, pace Holly, I'm actually not very good at socializing or small talk, and the reason may well just be that I've never needed to mention it.)

  43. "and reminds me that if I were monogamous then my "parents would know [my] partner's name."

    My parents know both of my partners' names...

    Kids threatened to set me on fire when I was at school, too, for being pagan and bisexual and butchy. And pushed me off of a wall (only a few feet off of the ground, but I was short and frail as a twelve-year-old) for being 'weird' before that. One girl tried to cut off one of my pigtails while my head was turned, except that a teacher noticed and stopped her.

    And then my parents wondered why I didn't feel inclined to hang out with people from school when I wasn't at school, and told me to 'just ignore' the bullies. Not if I want to keep all my hair I won't! - I'll be keeping a bloody good eye on them.

    And this experience translates far too well to adult life. -_-;;


  44. I hate "just ignore the bullies and they'll go away" almost as much as I hate "pretend you like it, and they'll get confused and stop bullying you."

    You know what "just ignore it" meant, for me? It meant spending recess every day in a corner, playing by myself, because otherwise I would be mocked. It meant not going anywhere outside school or hanging out with other kids, because I would be called nasty names. It meant that from the age of 5 until the age of 20, books were my only friends, because the kids who picked on me were just popular enough to keep others from wanting to reach out to me.

    That is not healthy. We need to do something about the bullies, not expect their victims to rearrange their lives for the sake of "safety."

  45. Heh. I tried the whole 'don't give a shit what people say' as an experiment. I tried to be out of the closet and hunt an apartment.

    No one would give me a place to live. The closest I got, they turned me out because multi made them uncomfortable. The moment I returned to the singlet closet? The first two people I interviewed with both offered me apartments.

    But tee hee, I'm just oversensitive.


  46. I think people who advise kids to "just ignore" a bully aren't realizing just what bullying might entail.

    Like...I guess verbal taunting might stop, sometimes, if the target looks like they don't notice or don't care. Maybe the bullies would get bored and look for someone who reacted in a more entertaining fashion (OR, maybe they'd up the ante trying to get a reaction out of that same person...I don't actually know).

    But when I told my mom that I was getting "picked on" at school, I was talking about verbal and physical stuff - and when she told me to "just ignore it", I ended up sitting in class, pretending to be absorbed in my math textbook while a bully slowly and repeatedly pushed the jagged end of a broken-off pencil into the side of my face.

    When I came home and told my mom about this, she got all freaked out: "you didn't tell me people were physically hurting you!" Well, Jesus Christ, mom, maybe when I said I was getting picked on you should've asked for more details.

    Also, most kids don't really have the acting chops to pull off the whole "ignoring" thing. In retrospect I realize that I didn't so much seem nonchalant and oblivious as paralyzed with fear - which must have been hilariously entertaining to the kids who were teasing me.

  47. i recently had my own first bout with this principle when boyfriend suggested an open relationship. i have mixed feeling about it, but the idea that my friends and peers don't respect that relationship choice (some don't consider it a real relationship, others think that it's a display of disrespect towards me-as-the-girlfriend, etc) and it makes one's social support circle a lot smaller when you can't be honest about your position.

    it's very sad and reminds me of the importance of being universally accepting of people's decisions in their personal lives.

  48. Of course I care what people think! If my gyno thinks trans men don't need pap smears, I don't get one. If my doctor thinks birth control shouldn't be prescribed to poly people, I can't get any. If mental health professionals think being trans is a mental illness, I can't get the therapy I need for my PTSD. If my employer thinks he shouldn't employ queer people, I can't get a job. If all I ever had to deal with was mean words (which are, themselves, pretty hard to deal with, since humans are social animals) my life would be a lot easier.

  49. I don't care what other people think; though sometimes I am annoyed when they give voice to their stupid beliefs. The worst thing about people is their herd instinct and empathy, it's repulsive and useless.

  50. V. Fournier - You think you're edgy but you're actually just a prick. (I love saying this to people who "don't care what you think," because, hey, it shouldn't bother you! You're too cool, remember?)

  51. @Holly, re: V. Fournier:

    V.Fournier: if you have some kind of mental condition (ASPD, psychopathy) that makes it difficult/impossible to empathize, I'm not trying to judge you or create some exclusive "empathy-feelers" club that you can't join. But just because you can't, don't knock people who can. It's a useful evolutionary ability, and there's nothing weak or shameful about it.
    I'm autistic with a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, and my social skills aren't great. But I try not to make fun of people who are very social ("ha, if there were no aspies, everyone would sit around making small talk and nothing would get done, lol"), because my way isn't the only way to be.

  52. This reminds me somewhat of The Frogman's view on bullying. Someone correct me here if I'm wrong. His view of bullying is along the lines of "the most effective way of reducing bullying is not to ignore them, but to respond to them with impeccable logic and humour". Of course his situation is very different and I'm pretty sure the bullying he experiences nowadays is only verbal but the similarity remains that ignoring them won't make them go away.