I don’t know why people are always so surprised at how willing I am to pull the plug on them at a moment’s notice.
I was planning to write a post like this based around a different story, but then this happened, and unfortunately it’s more immediately relevant right now.
Background information: I started chatting up this guy in class, and he told me about some free swing dancing lessons (!) he and some folks were going to be offering that Friday, so I showed up and worked on attaining dancing competence. It was… fun. Yeah, it was fun. I was planning to go again next time.
The relevant story: I work on campus, and this guy happened to swing by yesterday while looking for someone else. Hoping to rope more people into involvement, I got him to tell my coworkers about his dancing lessons.
So he told them about the group’s Facebook page, and then he told me that I was the only one who looked good in the pictures.
Wait, what? What pictures?
There were pictures of people taken during the dancing lesson and then put up on Facebook, as I found out.
Not only had I never agreed to any of this, I’m also rather uncomfortable with and opposed to any pictures of me ever being put on the internet, which is something I made known now that I’d been informed that it had already happened.
This was taken rather lightly, and the guy responded with a grinning “tough luck” approach and joked, “you belong to [club name] now.”
So I fired back that if that was how it was going to be, I wouldn’t be participating anymore.
My response took at least one of my coworkers aback, and she mumbled, “I think [ey’s] joking,” but I made no effort to confirm as much.
The conversation moved on, and I expected to eventually resolve the issue and keep attending lessons, but after mulling it over last night — and growing increasingly paranoid and anxious — I processed it enough to change my mind and call it quits. I liked the guy, still do, but what helped cinch the decision was recalling some other things he had said (nothing capital-b Bad, but enough to damage the prospects of us becoming friends). I don’t think he’s going to take me seriously if I try to negotiate the conditions of my participation. It’s easier to just ditch this.
To me, it seems like it should be common sense and common courtesy that you ask someone’s permission before taking their picture and before uploading those pictures anywhere.
But, as usual, I can anticipate my boundaries being seen as too much, too specific, too petty, too arbitrary.
Look, this is always a painful decision for me — deciding where to draw the line and when to cut ties. I’m probably quicker and harsher than most, and I can accept that. But it always hurts.
I know what I’m losing out on.
But it’s not worth it anymore.
I don’t know how appropriate it is to try and make this into a broader conversation, but I think there’s connections to be made in the way we think about “acceptable” and “reasonable” boundaries and the doubts we have about enforcing them. I want to confront the fact that writing about this feels whiny in light of more serious matters. And I want to provide the world with more examples of boundaries that feel petty and arbitrary that I’m demanding respect for anyway, to encourage everyone to be as petty and arbitrary with their boundaries as they want.
As boundary violations go, it’s small and silly and whiny, yes — but if I can outdo anyone in smallness and silliness and whininess, then that’s at least one person who can get the confidence boost of “well at least I have more right to talk than that kid,” and that’s enough for me.
Because I still think there’s some residual idea that objecting to a boundary violation is a privilege that has to be earned, a hierarchy with an acceptability threshold.