Challenge of the week: assert a boundary.
It was a rough weekend and the new week isn’t any more smooth.
I decide to just take care of myself and let the crises in my life sort themselves out. I order the medium instead of the default small. I let the dishes sit over night. I get a massage.
So I’m sitting on the subway, dazed in the after-glow of my first ever registered-massage-therapy-somewhat-subsidized-by-my-benefits-package-type massage. I’m foggy and loving it. My troubles are now merely hovering around me rather than burning and festering within.
I’m crumpled up, leaning against the window, staring out into the dark concrete rushing by. I’m wondering how long the massage-glow would last, how often could I go back before the end of the calendar year, and whether my partner could learn some of the technique. (Seriously, the therapist did this thing where she crammed her fist into my shoulder blade and then pushed my muscle all the way up to her elbow. Bliss.)
The train screams to a halt, and soon two guys sit down perpendicular to me. One instantly swings around and says “Hi.” They don’t scare me or seem particularly threatening. They remind me of the kind of goofy guys I grew up with. Harmless. Still, I do a quick scan of the car: locating the best exit, finding an empty seat I could move to, deciding which stranger might take my side if I needed back up, figuring how I’d handle it if I got off at the next stop and they followed. No biggie, just the usual “I’m out alone” drill.
Hi Guy seems a little tipsy, or just hyper, and starts to tell me some facts about him and his friend and their day, like I’d be all impressed and think he was really witty and charming.
Face still in hand, I don’t move a muscle except to turn my eyes his way. I aim for a neutral or maybe slightly less-than-amused expression. No questions. No giggling. No polite nods of affirmation. No fake interest or games to get me through until my stop.
Essentially I chart new territory.
Despite my lack of response, he tries harder to interact with me. He starts asking me about my day, how I’m feeling, where I’m going.
Without moving, I hear myself calmly, quietly, but firmly say: “I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Huh?” He looks genuinely shocked.
“I don’t feel like talking to you.”
The simple, terrifying, liberating truth.
He rolls his eyes, spins away, mutters to his friend that people in the city aren’t friendly and some girls are quiet on the subway and his friend is telling him to stop being so annoying.
I blank back out into the void, waiting for the surge of adrenaline, the fall out, the event that will have me running for the exit. But it doesn’t come. There was no way this doofus was going to crash my post-somewhat-insured-fist-to-elbow-awesomeness massage vibe.
I wouldn’t always feel safe enough to be blunt like that. There are times when my instincts would tell me that escaping is the best bet, or that I should play along until there is an easy, inoffensive way out of there. But why the hell should I sacrifice my peace and spend my limited energy because some dude decides it looks like fun to talk to me? For the first time I can remember, I opted not to be nice.
So yeah, I wouldn’t always put up such a clear, unmistakable boundary, but this time I did. And he backed off. I asserted myself, and I got exactly what I needed.
Maybe I’ll try it again.