I was talking to a man close to me the other day, and he said something that made me... well, very angry. Angry enough to shut down the conversation and walk away.
He was asking why we didn't talk more, and in a way, he was right to ask. He is, after all, very close to me - though the specifics are not all that important. We've argued in the past, and I withdrew somewhat because I tire of arguments where no consensus can be reached. We all choose the boundaries to our lives, and no one has a right to breach them arbitrarily - not even the people we love.
Things change, of course. I've already noticed that I'm introverted, in many ways, and like I said before, I'm not really all that comfortable with the language of social interaction. I don't know when I give offence, or if I should call someone to see how they are, or if this particular thing is appropriate or not. My better half had to remind me that we needed to buy a wedding present for a couple we know, which I can safely say would not have occurred to me in a hundred years.
So. I thought, perhaps, I could make an effort. Reach out a little. I sent him a link to this article, because we had been talking about feminist issues before. I want this person who is close to me to see the things I'm passionate about, and understand a bit of how I see the world.
If you don't want to click through, it's about Schroedinger's Rapist; the concept that women cannot know in advance whether the man that tries to talk to them or get close to them in a public setting actually means them any harm or not until something actually happens, at which point it's a bit late to do anything about it. So the natural reaction is to view unknown men with caution above all else, even when the man in question is a nice guy who only wants to say hello.
Men might get insulted about being viewed this way, but quite frankly, the statistics are not on their side. The reporting and conviction rate for rape is pitifully low, and in Ireland the victims of rape can expect to be victimised all over again by the friends and family of the man (it is overwhelmingly men who rape, of course). No one has the right to be insulted by the actions that women choose to take to protect themselves from that.
This gesture, however, wasn't enough. I sent the article, and I did hope a little bit that this could open up a new dialogue, with a new understanding of my worldview. Odd as it may seem, the article describes my old habits very accurately; that strange way of being hyper-aware of everyone around me, and the fear of doing or saying something wrong in response to their actions, that I still fall back on every now and then. Never in a hostile way, you understand - I didn't view other people as a threat - but I did view them as not-like-me, and getting over that and learning how to be comfortable around strangers still takes something of an effort of will for me.
To this, he replied that he didn't want to know. He didn't like being reminded of how rotten the world is, and he thought my effort was pretty poor as a gesture of closeness.
So, I failed in a social interaction. Nothing new there, even if I'm still trying to calculate the interpersonal arithmetic and inevitable fallout. But... he didn't want to know that bad things happen? I don't have words to describe how angry this makes me. How contemptibly arrogant, how utterly heartless! It's so easy, isn't it, to say that when the things that are happening will probably never happen to you!
I'm not sure how to parse this. Should I remain angry? Should I reach out again, but with what? I don't have many levels of closeness to offer; there is the one who shares my bed at night, and there is everyone else in the world, and those are the only two I know with absolute certainty. I'm still working out how to subdivide everyone else, and I know I don't always get it right.
I can't see how this will play out. All I know is I don't want to lose another friendship because of another social mistake, but if I do... is it his fault, or is it mine?