Thursday, April 2, 2020

Microstory 1334: Unwanted

Therapist: My receptionist reported that you sounded a little upset on the phone when she was confirming your appointment. Is everything okay?
Journalism Student: Oh, it’s not a big deal. I don’t even know why I was crying about it.
Therapist: You were crying?
Journalism Student: Just a little. Again, it’s not a big deal; barely worth mentioning.
Therapist: Barely worth it, but not not worth it at all?
Journalism Student: Forget it, it’s stupid.
Therapist: The other day, a client of mine came in bawling because he had just seen an ad on his phone in the waiting room for hummus. Apparently, he and his late wife met at a mutual friend’s party when another friend turned out to be allergic to peanuts, and they both volunteered to rush to the store to pick up alternatives. His feelings were not stupid, and neither are yours.
Journalism Student: It’s just this thing that happened to me two days ago. I was interviewing this guy who dropped out of my high school. He’s starting a drone courier service for the city. They don’t sell supplies or anything; they just carry items from other companies to people who work from home. I thought it was an interesting concept, and I thought it was cool that someone I once took Spanish with was making a name for himself, even though he didn’t graduate. Well, he remembered me from that one class, and evidently thought I had some sort of crush on him, so he started making the interview personal.
Therapist: He made you uncomfortable?
Journalism Student: Yes. He didn’t touch me, or anything. I mean, he didn’t even really say anything inappropriate. I probably would have shrugged the whole thing off, except it’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened.
Therapist: Yes, I remember the swim team captain who wanted you to interview him in the boy’s locker room.
Journalism Student: Yeah, he acted like it was because that’s how they do it in the major leagues, but I don’t think that was his reason. I don’t think he was planning on us, like, doing something together, but I bet he figured I might start getting ideas if I saw him like that, in that environment.
Therapist: Yes, that could be what he was thinking. Remember, though, we talked about presuming other people’s feelings, positions, and intentions. He might have genuinely wanted to pretend he was a pro athlete.
Journalism Student: Yeah, I understand.
Therapist: Did you talk with this drone guy about it?
Journalism Student: Oh no, I just rejected him politely, and ended the interview. It was awkward, though, and I may have asked him a few follow-up questions if he hadn’t taken the conversation to that place.
Therapist: Well, was it awkward for him too, or just you?
Journalism Student: How am I meant to know?
Therapist: Did it seem like he was upset too? Or did he act like it wasn’t a big deal?
Journalism Student: I guess he seemed okay. Like, he didn’t get angry with me. But I still felt weird, so I had to get out of there.
Therapist: That’s a perfectly reasonable response. I’m saying, if you still need more information to write your article for the paper, you could call him with those follow-up questions, and act like nothing happened. You can’t let what he did get in the way of you completing your assignment. Even if he didn’t do that on purpose, you deserve to do your job. You never know, he could be talking with his own therapist right now about how that interaction made him feel. If you treat him with respect, he’ll either be relieved that it didn’t seem to ruin your life, or he’ll be pissed you’re bothering him again, but still without giving him a chance at whatever relationship he feels entitled to. To put it another way, either you make things better for him—and I think for you too, since you can get some closure—or you force him to show his true colors. Either way, it’ll be good to get this resolved.
Journalism Student: What if he turns out to be a stalker, or something? What if engaging him again is just leading him on?
Therapist: [...] As a woman, everything you do will be scrutinized and interpreted. The fact is that you could smile at the grocery store cashier a little too widely, and make him think you want to have his baby. This is a dangerous world, and there are lots of dangerous people in it who are looking for an excuse to justify their thoughts. We can’t let them have that much power. I’m not saying don’t be cautious, but you have the right to write your article, just as much as you have the right to smile without also agreeing to marriage. You see what I’m saying?
Journalism Student: Yeah, I guess.
Therapist: We can keep talking about this as long as you want, but I do what to make sure we have time to discuss your former teacher’s death. This virus hit us all really hard, and I don’t want you ignoring the loss, even if you didn’t know her very well.
Journalism Student: Okay.

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