Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Threat of New Men

This has happened a few times and I know it will happen again. I think I'm fine and enjoying my night, when all of the sudden he looks at me in a certain way. Maybe he says something that gives me the impression that he's flirting with me, or worse, he puts his hand on my shoulder. I avert my eyes, shutter, inch away, or make an excuse to leave. It's not any man in particular, it's every man. Anyone who didn't know me before or doesn't know me well.

At the time it's happening, it's not clear to me exactly what's going on. I might attempt to laugh it off and continue the conversation or immediately dismiss him as "creepy". Either way, a ball of anxiety builds in my stomach. I don't think it's out of guilt, it's out of repulsion. The idea of any man giving me attention in that way makes me panic. I can't handle it. I need it to stop.

In these instances, the men have been perfectly respectable people only trying to make my acquaintance. Instead of interpreting their friendliness as a sign of normal social behavior, it feels like an assault. How dare he look at me? What gives him the right to be nice, or God forbid, compliment me? And brushing my arm or touching my back in an attempt to get around me, what makes him think that's ok?

Only in hindsight have I been able to put the pieces together. I am coming off as a bitch, or cold, or anti-social because I'm terrified. I don't know what to do with the mounting stress pulsing through my veins so I lash out or withdraw. I need to do something, anything, to get this man out of my personal space. He can't look at me, talk to me, or touch me. 

To some degree, I feel like this reaction seems normal or even expected. But for the first time, I feel like my behavior is dysfunctional. Instead of viewing these strangers as a problem, I am starting to understand that I am the problem. They aren't the threat, the way I am processing their behavior is a threat. I need help. I have picked up on a pattern in my interactions and I need to put an end to it before it gets worse. 

Considering that I still view Blake as my boyfriend and am very much in love with him, getting romantically involved with someone new is completely out of the question right now. That's not what this is about. The issue is that I am unable to function in these social situations. I need to be able to meet new people without being debilitatingly afraid. I can't get by speaking to only girls and the guys I already know. I can't let my stress prevent me from making new conversations, experiences, and friends.

So I am owning up to it. Now that I am aware of how I've been acting and know that it's dysfunctional, I am going to get help. Until recently, I have never been called "cold" before in my life. To me, a cold person is someone who lacks emotions and affection for others. I refuse to let that become a valid adjective to describe me. 

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