An open letter to The Pedant (that he will never see)

Right. So, you’re confused by my statement that you’re making difficulties where there are none. Let’s recap our text conversation, shall we?

I said that when I was panicky and anxious the other day you handled it absolutely perfectly and it made me feel closer to you than ever. And instead of thinking Holy shit, I have hit the relationship jackpot: my idea of slacking is her idea of awesomeness, you decided to go ahead and tell me “part of that was me simply not wanting to put the energy into dealing with it.” You went on to say that you can’t understand what anxious people go through. Exes have gotten mad at you before for this so you wanted to make really really sure I grasped that you will not ever really “get” me on that level. You’ve been clear about your lack of empathy since the day we met but whatever, sure, you wanted to give me the chance to fully comprehend The Real You and possibly run away, if I’m gonna.

So fine. I told you in no uncertain terms that I don’t fucking care if you understand my anxiety or not; I only care that you help me to deal with it when it comes up. Which you did. And I assured you that I would not run away and that as long as I’m getting my needs met in the relationship (needs that I will always be straightforward in conveying to you) I’ll be happy. There you go; your insecurities were addressed. There’s no issue here, right?

Mind you, I had insecurities. You did seem to be making a big point of telling me that your assistance the other day constituted you exerting the minimum amount of effort possible to shut me up, rather than actively trying to help me but in a tactful and low-key way. There was no mention of you caring about me. It felt like a warning. So I asked you outright: was this a warning to me not to get too attached to you? That you don’t really care that much? That my anxiety might drive you away? Did you actually want to be in this relationship with me?

You…completely ignored all of those questions in favour of telling me again that your exes have gotten upset by you not understanding their issues. That you don’t understand anxiety was allegedly the main point you were trying to make, and you made it six times:

“…trying to figure out behaviour which has never made sense to me”

“…I made it obvious that I don’t understand them”

“…Most people start to feel very alienated as soon as one makes it obvious that one doesn’t have the ability or inclination to understand people’s emotional states or issues.”

“…the chance to run away early rather than let them get the idea that their emotions resonate with me…”

“…I’ve got no frame of reference…”

“…An inability to relate…”

Fully four of those references happened after I said I don’t care if you understand or not, by the way. Hence: making difficulties where none exist(ed).

But hey…let’s count how many times in our text exchange you told me that people with anxiety exhaust you and/or you don’t want to deal with them and/or you’ll only help in order to shut them up:

“…not wanting to put the energy into dealing with it”

“If I had had the energy to deal with it…”

“…even acknowledging [emotional states] costs [me] a significant amount of effort (to the point that I have to force myself to hug someone who is clearly freaking out).”

“If I’m not put in a position of having to deal with [someone else’s anxiety], or if I don’t have the energy to, then I don’t bother.”

“My first reaction is to walk away if at all possible.”

“If I were to follow my first reaction, I’d have just walked away from every situation in which I ever had to even witness someone suffering from extreme anxiety. I’ve no interest in even bearing witness to it.”

“I only try to understand it when I don’t have the option of avoiding it, and even then it’s only for the sake of minimising it.”

“I don’t have the inclination to understand it unless that’s the only way to get things quiet again. There is a significant difference between that and trying to help.”

“In short: witnessing someone during any extreme emotional outburst exhausts me and if I can’t avoid seeing it I will try to minimise it…”

Nine. Nine times. You told me (and probably actually believe) that the topic of our conversation was “I’ll never fully understand what you’re going through, just so you know.” But you actually ended up dwelling far more on the idea that people with anxiety issues are intolerable to be around; that people like me are horrible to deal with and you’d walk away if you could.

To which I can’t help thinking: THEN WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T YOU?! Arguably, you were stuck with me the other day up until we reached the bus terminal, but at that point you could’ve been like “Okay well I’m going this way now. See you!” You said yourself that there were multiple bus routes that could have taken you home. But you chose to take the same bus as me.

Then when the bus reached my stop I kissed you goodbye – so, I was clearly expecting to proceed the rest of the way on my own – but you got off the bus of your own volition, using your actual legs and everything, and said that you would walk me home.

Your texts make it sound like you were trapped with a psychotic, dangerous freak and did whatever you had to in order to survive until you could finally escape. The reality is that – aside from the yelling incident – I was sitting there quietly and you noticed my thousand-yard stare and asked me if I was okay, thus prompting me to say that I was not doing very well. Then you opted to ride the same bus with me and you opted to walk me home. I never put a fucking gun to your head. So maybe let’s cut the bullshit.

By the way it’s flat-out hilarious that you made this long, earnest attempt to make sure I really know you. Bitch, I am operating on a level of emotional intelligence that you cannot even comprehend. I know more about you than you know about yourself.

I know that your shitty parents almost certainly gave you an anxious/avoidant attachment style and that this is why you’re prone to fits of bravado where you talk about how aloof you are and how you don’t care about people, and/or make cruel jokes about people who sometimes occupy one or two of the same demographics as I do.

I know that you’re really, really into helping people by connecting them with objects or services that they need (and since I process that kind of help as love, it means I am totally smitten with you just for doing shit you would have done anyway. Between that and me learning to tactfully ignore all the stupid bullshit that comes out of your mouth and focus on your actions instead, this is probably the easiest and most fulfilling relationship you’ll ever have. So stop fucking it up, you dumbass!).

I know that your insecure attachment style must make you feel antsy about trusting and getting close to people, and I think it’s no coincidence that you’re throwing a wrench into the relationship right after we spent time with friends of yours and you accepted my spare keys. You’re commitment-phobic and being stupid. It’s not the first time.

And like I said, I’ve been ignoring most of your blatant contradictions and occasional jibes, and gleaning most of my impression of your character from your behaviour rather than your words. But I don’t know if I can get past your words this time, despite you telling me – finally – that you do indeed still want to be with me. Because this time it wasn’t a juvenile fat joke or mental illness joke like you make when you’re trying to seem cool and detached. This time it was you telling me – over and over and over again – that you don’t want to be around someone with anxiety. You knew better than to outright tell me you don’t want to be around me, but you still said quite clearly that you’ll only help someone through an anxiety attack in order to shut them up, and really you’d rather just leave and not deal with them at all. So how the fuck can I continue being around you, now that you’ve said that? I’ll have a bad brain day in your presence eventually and when it happens your words will just keep on scrolling across my mind and I will be miserable.

You are full of shit, though. You say you have “no inclination to understand” anxiety and yet claim that if you’d had more energy the other day you would have asked me “rapid-fire questions” trying to understand. You imply that you’ll only guide people through an anxiety attack if forced, but nobody was forcing you the other day – and on other occasions I’ve texted you that I was in distress and you called to talk me down ASAP when you could easily have claimed to be “busy” until the dust cleared and I would have had no way to determine you were lying. You take great and obvious pleasure in helping people with all kinds of issues, including anxiety (see: the way you bragged about how perfectly you’ll accommodate your prospective roommate’s extreme food allergies when you move in; how avidly you searched for an older model BlackBerry for her once you found out she can’t use touchscreens; the way you were super keen to come out to the pub the other night because you didn’t want your friend with social anxiety to be alone).

YOU LOVE ME, you stupid fuck. You love me and you feel useful helping me when my brain goes sideways. Don’t even give me this bullshit about how you would’ve walked away “if it were an option.” It was always an option. I really hope you’re now somehow blaming me for your decision to stick around and help. I didn’t do fuck all. Didn’t ask you to stay, didn’t hint that I wanted you to, didn’t give you a pleading look as I went to exit the bus, nothing. Don’t flatter yourself that you have to help me or I won’t survive. I love you (most of the time; possibly not at this exact moment) and I very much appreciate the things you do for me, but I will never, ever need you.

Oh, and by the way, y’know who else finds anxiety exhausting? LITERALLY EVERYBODY. You did not need to tell me how awful it is to be around NINE FUCKING TIMES. You are not a special snowflake for finding this difficult and I am not so stupid that I need the concept explained to me over and over. Most of my exes have been super clear about how shitty and broken I am already, thanks. I don’t need to hear it from yet another person I love.

And how unfair is it that I assuaged your biggest fear (being ditched for lack of empathy) and you validated mine (that the people I’m close to secretly dread hanging out with me because of my anxiety/depression) at the very same time? Jesus, I had to ask twice if you even still wanted to be with me because you ignored me the first time in favour of telling me how horrible I am to be around some more.


This could all be fixed surprisingly easily. All you have to do is admit that you do actually get some satisfaction from helping me when my brain is fucked up. But I know you’ll never say this of your own accord and I’m afraid you wouldn’t even say it if prompted, so.


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4 responses to “An open letter to The Pedant (that he will never see)

  1. Sheesh.

    *hugs if wanted

    I think that would be an entirely reasonable letter to send someone in a situation like that. I also understand why you don’t.

    I also have this thing where both reading about your relationships and thinking about mine sometimes makes me go “ugh, men, why are they all acting like emotional toddlers?!” I know this isn’t true, there must be exceptions, but if I look around both my circle of current and ex lovers as well as male friends they sure are hard to find.

    Words, they exist, it could all be so easy if we could just use them.

    This is why we can’t have nice things. *sigh

    (Yes, that “we” is totally me talking about myself and projecting my issues all over the place…)

    • I keep stumbling over articles about emotional labour lately and it’s making me feel a bit bitter at how MUCH of that work I end up taking on in relationships by default.

      I mean part of this is no doubt due to a faulty selection process making me consistently fall for guys who have no idea what they’re feeling, let alone how to talk about it. But also I’m so self-aware it’s almost a superpower, and my chances of finding a guy who’s on my level that way AND with whom I mesh sexually and romantically are probably vanishingly small.

      And so I end up picking up my partners’ slack. Always. And I’m not sure this will ever end unless I choose to just be single instead.

      • minima whatever

        Yes, same here, also with the reading and such. Descriptions of the problem never seem to include and “and this is how to get out of this bs” section. Or an idea how men could start going about catching up on that socialization-induced capability gap there. Like all of my male friends are vaguely aware of this as an issue that exists, but then they want to talk to _me_ about it, instead of each other for example…

  2. minima whatever

    Case in point for me is this text, which most men in my life have at least retweeted when it made the rounds there, but I doubt many have actually read, and even less acted on it in an obvious-to-me way.

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