ahunter3 (ahunter3) wrote,

On Being Oblivious

I'm often oblivious to how other people perceive me. People can be nudging their companions and inviting them to check me out with a nod in my direction. I don't notice.

I don't internalize any observations about how a way of dressing or a way of behaving has generated reactions when other people do them.

I don't mean I don't notice patterns at all. I do. By the time I was in second grade, I had observed that there were differences in how girls and boys behaved. The girls were doing it right. The place where being oblivious kicked in had to do with anticipating or predicting how other people would react or how they'd think about something.

I didn't anticipate that anyone would have a problem with me deciding that the girls were doing it right, or with me choosing to copy the girls' behaviors and adopt their priorities and values and stuff.

I was also amazingly unaware of how folks actually did feel and react. It could be going on right there around me and I wouldn't notice anything except the most overt hostile behavior, and when I did, I didn't connect it up to any widely shared social attitudes. It was just Billy or Ronnie being a jerk.

I did, eventually, make the observation that I was lonely and didn't have many friends, and that I had the poor misfortune of getting stuck in classrooms with an astonishingly high number of crude stupid hateful people.

I kept expecting it to be different. New year, new classroom. There was no reason people wouldn't like me, after all.

You could say I wasn't getting it.

* * *

A couple years ago, I was on a message board where several people were debating whether or not it is sexist and horribly limited to think differently of a person's behavior depending on their perceived sex. One person said this: "If I were thinking about dating a woman, and it turns out she was violating all the expectations about a woman's sexual behavior, I'd have some concerns, yeah. Not because the same behavior is wrong or worse when it's a female person doing it, but because the expectations exists, and she's not giving them any consideration. So I'd wonder why she would leave herself open to the resultant judgment and hostility. That seems immature, not taking care of yourself and your own reputation. So I'd be concerned about what other kinds of common sense she doesn't have".

That is a conservative philosphy: for anyone who embraces it, it preaches conformity to expectations, not because the expectations are inherently good but because it's "for your own good" that you don't stick out and draw hostile attention.

In contrast to that, my way of being oblivious to people's expectatons is not just a cutely absent-minded cluelessness, it's a protective mechanism, an insulating blanket that keeps me from being too aware of what other people think and how they're likely to react.

It's a survival mechanism that I bet lots of marginalized people have employed in various forms. Learning to doublethink around the threats of social reaction. Learning how to take enough of those patterns into account that you are able to deal with the hostility when you have to, but without being any more aware of it than you need to be.


You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.

Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page


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Tags: backstory, like the weather, roles & rules, victim blaming

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