So, you may remember that The Pedant and I had a squabble via text that ended with him telling me to “drop it.” I was annoyed at being cut short like that, but decided no good would come of us trying to continue talking about it more at that juncture. I wanted to wait until he saw me in person to try to hash it out; I suspected we were misinterpreting each others’ tones and that it would help a lot to be face-to-face.
And The Pedant was slated to see me in the next couple of days. A few hours after our little blowout, I sent him a friendly text asking for confirmation of our upcoming plans. When he hadn’t responded the next day, I prompted him and he did confirm. Just with the word “yes,” which sounds kind of snippy maybe, but The Pedant is often brusque when he doesn’t apparently mean to be. I told myself not to get angsty about it.
Then I texted him that I looked forward to seeing him and he texted back with:
“Just out of interest, how low is your opinion of me that when I give you the most accurate response I can to something, you conclude that said response was some degree of personal attack?”
Okay, first off, holy shit. I’d hurt his feelings when I assumed he’d been disparaging me. This honestly hadn’t occurred to me as a possibility at all. Secondly, the idea that my reaction the other day meant I didn’t think much of him was totally alien to me, too. Like, no, dude, my gut response was that a man I adore apparently sees me as shitty and broken, and it’s killing me. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to think of him as lowly for saying disparaging things about me. Maybe that’s messed up but yeah.
Thirdly, he’s rarely – if ever – come out and told me he was upset with me before, and this actually always spooked me because lord knows I’m not perfect. I mean which is more likely: that he’s pretty much content with our relationship all the time, or that he has issues sometimes but can’t articulate them and there’s probably a big well of resentment building up? …So in a weird way this outburst was comforting to me. He’s capable of telling me when he’s pissed. Good.
And finally, it’s funny that the quality of cattiness is assumed to be uniquely female because look what a devastating, ice-covered snarknugget that text was. Like something Joan Crawford would say in a movie. And yet it’s a man who said it.
I responded, “Literally the second thing I said to you was that I know not to approach you at work and would not talk to you. You then went on at length about how I shouldn’t approach you and even – it seemed to me – implied that I have no idea how to walk around a store without somehow getting kicked out. If I misinterpreted that aspect, I apologize. But the fact remains that I demonstrated an understanding of your “office politics” right out of the gate and you explained them to me, anyway.”
He said, “The second thing you said also implied that you’d show up even after I said I couldn’t have visitors. In future, please don’t assume I’m being difficult when I give you an answer you don’t like. [Ex gf] did that to me, and I stopped talking her seriously as a result.” …and that’s when I realized how we must have been talking past each other.
The Pedant did say, directly in response to me saying “hey where are you working because I might come by,” that he wasn’t allowed to have visitors at work. But to me a “visitor” is someone who interacts with you, and I wasn’t planning to do that, so problem solved: I would not be a visitor, I would be a person who was in a store while he was in the store. And when I tried to tell him that I would not be a “visitor” per se, I guess The Pedant just saw it as me not accepting his “no.” For someone who claims to be blunt to the point of rudeness, not to take hints well, not to understand the nuances of how most people talk, etc., he sure does have a tendency to state things indirectly. I think “I’m not allowed to have visitors” meant “I really don’t want anyone I know coming by to see me in any capacity at all” but I actually do have problems interpreting hints so I took his words at face value: he couldn’t have visitors. But, again, I was not planning on being a visitor – I wasn’t going to approach him or interact with him, so……..
Anyway, I really wanted to explain all of this to The Pedant but not via text. I tried calling him but I couldn’t hear the phone connect or start ringing and I couldn’t tell if my phone was being glitchy or if I just couldn’t hear things because I was walking home from a gig at the time and there was traffic noise and stuff. I texted The Pedant that I really wanted to talk about this via a phone call but he needed to give me a couple of minutes so I could call from home. He responded that he had an early shift and needed to go to bed so it would have to wait – thus basically insisting I set my feelings aside and drop the subject for the second time in a row. I did not love that (and how can he even sleep when there are unresolved issues on the table?!), but I gritted my teeth and remained silent. I was supposed to see him briefly the next morning, anyway – he was going to drop off an overnight bag on his way to work so he’d have it here for his proper visit in a couple of days.
Later that night I remembered a time, back when Minx and I lived together, that I tried to slide past her (behind her, as she was standing) in close quarters and she elbowed me in the stomach hard enough to knock the breath from my body and trigger some kind of panic attack (maybe I have PTSD from the shit my male relatives and the school bullies did to me…).
Minx’s elbowing seemed over-the-top to me. Yeah, I’d startled her, but it’s not like I’d jumped out of an alley while wearing a ski mask. We were at home. It was just us there. Why did she set out to maim me instead of just jumping or twitching or whatever? I pointed out that if she’d been at work and her boss had come up behind her and startled her, I bet she would somehow have managed to rein in her Elbow of Death. So why did she feel free to be so violent with me?
Minx ended up yelling, “You always do this! You always assume that people are out to get you! Like there’s some big conspiracy against you! You just startled me. That’s all.”
I still think she wouldn’t have thrown an elbow at her boss (or either of her parents or her Church’s pastor or…) so she may have been gaslighting me there buttttt I do have issues with anxiety that do exactly that – make me assume people are thinking bad things about me or plotting against me or shit like that.
And The Pedant, by contrast, has never tried to gaslight me. He’s never said mean shit about me before re: my anxiety like Minx (or my ex husband) has, either.* He actually told me once that I handle my issues like a champ.
The next morning, The Pedant texted me that he’d slept in by accident and couldn’t drop off his bag, after all. I was intensely frustrated by this because there was something I badly needed to tell him and I’d hoped to do so in person.
But The Pedant couldn’t make it over and I couldn’t wait so I texted him: “So hey – I think I may have a tendency of assuming too quickly that someone is leveling a personal attack at me. I’m sorry. I’ll try (harder) to assess more carefully and not make assumptions.
“I think I have a certain amount of baggage from exes genuinely saying shitty things to me (and especially implying that my mental issues make me broken and not fit to be around other humans) but you are not them.
“You accidentally pushed on a bruise I have but I do trust you.”
He didn’t respond to that. I would imagine he didn’t know what to say. Gracefully accepting compliments is not his strong suit and I’d guess apologies confound him similarly. I half-expected him to scold me for bringing old baggage into our relationship (and if he had, I would have pointed out that he did, too – he was all “don’t act like that with me because my ex did that and now I can’t take her seriously”) but no, he just didn’t say anything at all.
Of course, the minute I hit “send” I somewhat regretted it. I felt like I was taking on the entire blame for what had happened when really, a big part of it was also that The Pedant wasn’t listening to me. I mean it really is kinda bullshit that I told him I wouldn’t draw attention to him or myself in any way and he…kept right on explaining about how I might get him in trouble by drawing attention to him or myself.
But you can’t make a nice apology and then add “…but you did stupid things, too, y’know!” and not look like a giant ass. Also, this was the first time The Pedant had pretty openly told me I’d hurt him, and he had a pretty valid reason to feel hurt, so I wanted to validate him. And so I somehow managed to just send my apology and then leave it be.
When The Pedant and I finally did see each other, everything seemed totally back to normal – I think my apology must have defused the hurt he’d been feeling. On the second and final day of his visit I did briefly bring up the subject again, to kind of explain how I believed we’d been talking past each other. He said he maybe didn’t process it fast enough when I said I wouldn’t approach/talk to him, and just kept texting along the line of thought he was already on without having absorbed what I’d said. I’m beginning to realize that it sometimes takes a really long time for shit to sink in, with him. Like it’s not even that he’s not paying attention, necessarily, he just doesn’t get things. Which is also why it takes him forever to respond to any email about relationship issues.
Anyway, crisis over. We’re fine. And I will do my best to set my trust in him on autopilot so I don’t jump to conclusions about him even when I’m having anxiety issues. I can do that, to a certain extent; decide to exempt someone from my paranoia. I just have to decide to do it during a time when my brain is relatively okay, and set it like a bookmark.
*He did make that huge, horrible speech about how he can’t stand to be around someone suffering anxiety. But he only ever spoke in general terms – never about me specifically – and that was all a bunch of bravado, anyway. He’d just finished escorting me home during an anxiety attack when he didn’t have to, FFS.