Yesterday afternoon I was eating pizza in my neighbors' apartment with neighbor Mikki, neighbor Jessica, and ex-neighbor Hailey who had come to visit. Hailey talked about some guy at work who's stalking her. I had already heard of him because when I was at her place a couple weeks ago for General Conference, her roommate's boyfriend, who was in the room at the time, texted her pretending to be this guy and trying to invite himself over, and she freaked out a little. It reminded me one summer in high school when I didn't even own a cell phone but some of my "friends" pretended to be me and texted this girl I'd made a fool of myself over in eighth grade, and I didn't even know about it at the time. Anyway, Hailey's coworker is overstepping all kinds of boundaries, not least of which is that she has a boyfriend in another country.
It then became just a conversation between her and Jessica, who said it sounds like this guy is autistic and not malicious, and that Hailey needs to communicate really clearly and tell him what behaviors make her uncomfortable, and that this will be awkward and feel mean but it's actually nice in the long run. Jessica said there's a big problem of women filing Title IX complaints against autistic men who don't know what they've done wrong, and she's into this sort of thing because her dad is autistic and her job right now is helping autistic people who, despite being phenomenal employees in many respects, have been fired and don't know why. She offered her services as a mediator. So she and Hailey were talking back and forth and I didn't have a chance to pop in with my input until they asked for it.
Hailey already knew about my previous situation where my former neighbors decided I was a stalker and immediately escalated to unnecessary and woefully incompetent police retaliation instead of communicating with me at all. (And I never did anything nearly as bad as this guy under discussion.) Jessica didn't know because she didn't live here when I talked about it, and Mikki didn't know because she was in her room doing homework when I talked about it, because she had no life back then. So I mentioned that again and told Jessica how much I appreciated her saying these things and asked why she couldn't have moved here two years earlier and saved me a lot of trauma. The conversation moved on before I got a chance to tell Mikki that I'm sorry I'm always going to hate cops even though her dad is one, but I'm sure he's a great guy because the bad ones are conveniently never anyone's relatives. And Jessica said she hoped she hadn't said anything wrong, and I didn't think she had but of course I'm not the spokesperson or an expert or anything.
I mean, the stuff she said hurt. That was inevitable. I'm very aware of how much I've been screwed by this society for my entire life, but I don't spend most of my time thinking about it, and seeing it in writing or hearing someone say it out loud just makes it real and fresh all over again. I wonder if women and racial minorities have a similar feeling when they read the statistics that validate their first-hand knowledge of their second-class status in the United States of America. I actually worried about that this semester as a teacher, when one of my students is a black woman and one of the readings I assigned is about a black woman who lost her baby thanks to apathetic hospital staff who refused to take her seriously and it mentions that "black women are 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than are white women." And yet of course I didn't want to single this student out and ask if she would be okay reading it. So I didn't do anything and I hope she was fine.
The truth often hurts very, very much, but ignoring it doesn't help anyone. I so appreciated Jessica's compassion and advice and whole approach to the thing. I'm grateful that people like her are working to make life less hellish for people like me.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.