friendship

My friends tell me that Phil is controlling and possessive; My first Pentecostal church service: They speak in tongues–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 6

My friends tell me that Phil is controlling and possessive

I kept the engagement bird up on the living room shelf because I had nowhere else to put it.  Phil told me to keep it.

Though tempted to break the bird into a million pieces, I dreamed that I did and began to sob over the poor bird.  It wasn’t its fault.  So I didn’t break or even chip it.

I later put the game Crack the Case, which Phil had put in my safekeeping, into a cupboard below the sink.

At some point, Phil told me on the phone about things people thought of me and the “advice” they gave.  I objected.  He said, “Are you saying that Dave doesn’t know you?  That Peter doesn’t know you?”

What?  Peter’s problems with me were old and very petty, and Peter said he treated me the way he did because it was hard to deal with his feelings.  He hadn’t seen me much at all since freshman year.

As for Dave, he barely knew me.  He hadn’t seen me all summer, and before that he only saw me for a few months and only every once in a while, when Phil and I weren’t alone together.

He saw me in Botany class and labs, but that’s schoolwork, and I believe I was more into the class or the lab than into being sociable with him.  I still don’t see why he said “we don’t get along” when he had only just met me and I thought we got along just fine.

Dave told all sorts of lies about me, while barely knowing me.

Anyway, Phil used his statement (“do they not know you?”) to justify what his friends said about me: party pooper, Bible beater.

(Peter said nothing to him about breaking up with me, though, because Peter only knew we broke up, not why.  I don’t know when he found out or how he heard.  I believe he said in late winter that he hadn’t spoken to Phil in quite a while after the way the family treated him in early 1994.)

I said these people didn’t know me so well.  Also, what they supposedly said didn’t fit me at all.  I didn’t go to parties with drugs, alcohol, or sex, but usually to parties with my own friends.  I had a great time, so who would call me a pooper?

What did “party pooping” have to do with our relationship or anything else, anyway?  Nothing!  Marriage is not about partying.  (For him to even think so, shows he was not ready for it.)

And he only just said that I wasn’t a Bible beater “like Pearl.”  Even if I was, so what?  I was a Christian, and that was what mattered.  My lifestyle had kept me out of tons of trouble, and eventually, my life would be very happy because of it.

Neither of these so-called “problems” were any reason to break up with a person, and there were many people who wouldn’t consider them “problems” at all.

Phil was probably talking to one of those boring partiers who just wanted to get drunk and do harmful things all the time.  I had no patience with such people, screwing up their brains instead of protecting and using them.

My response was, “Maybe you don’t know me so well after all.”

He said, “Do you really want to be with a guy who doesn’t know you?”  But this is faulty reasoning.  The point is to get to know a person over time, not necessarily to know them very well at the outset.  How can you?  It takes time.

Now I understand that this is triangulation, as I describe here, a tactic used to make you think you’re the problem and that everybody agrees.  But at the time, it just came out of left field.

Phil said on the way back to Roanoke that this was the best summer of his life because he’d been with me.  Then, a few days later, THE END.  How could I believe anything he said to me that week?

I went through almost two weeks of trying to fight away the misery and trying to figure out whether or not we were ever really married.

Phil now said we weren’t after all, that now he wasn’t sure he even believed in marriage anymore, that he no longer thought sex was wrong if the couple loved and were committed to each other, that he was getting desperate and thought it possible he’d sleep with someone in the heat of the moment–all things that crushed me.

****

I heard tell, and could see for myself, that the freshman class was about as big as the three other classes put together.  And now the lunch lines went all the way back to the opposite wall, then doubled up and went all the way back to the outside doors!

The line seemed to take different routes every year: Freshman year, the line would go into the Muskie.  I think at times it had even gone around the other Bossard walls.  I believe sometimes it would also double up over by the Muskie.

Anyway, you had to be careful what time you went to Bossard for lunch, or else you’d get stuck in this line, whatever way it went.  Sometimes we would just sit down and wait for it to get smaller, because it would, eventually.  And what were we waiting for?  School food!  Ugh!  (Though it was better than public school food by far.)

I loved goatees junior year, but senior year–I don’t know, I guess too many guys were wearing them now.

Sarah, Tara, etc. used to say, “PEO-ple! It’s PEO-ple!”  (That came from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, one with a tennis-shoed, orange-haired monster in a scientist’s castle.)  Now Tara got us all saying, “PEEP-hole!  We want a PEEP-hole!”

We wanted a peephole on our outside door for safety reasons.  The door didn’t have a window, and neither did that whole wall, so we couldn’t see who was out there before opening it.  When Mike came along and banged on it in his own peculiar way, we didn’t know if it was him or a crazed Zeta.

I loved the honks of the geese by the lagoon.  Though they would threaten me if I went near them, I considered them my friends: Their beautiful sounds consoled me.

Sharon said the choir director complimented her on never having “S– hair.”  S– hair, in those days, was big, curly hair.

****

Now my friends told me the many reasons why they didn’t like Phil.  I always thought they just found his jokes annoying.

I didn’t realize it was the way he treated me, that he treated me like a child, that he was too controlling and possessive.  A couple of years late, Cindy told me she witnessed him yelling at me, and later at the girl he married, and she hated that.

After the divorce, he said the drunk guys at the party called me possessive.  In reality, I only objected when he leered at–not just looked at–or made crass jokes about other women, and when he said he wanted two additional wives.

I never acted like he couldn’t be friends with other women.  It’s not “possessive” to be suspicious of someone who gives you good reason to suspect him.  Apparently, he was just projecting his own trait onto me.

My friends said nothing because they thought I could see it and was okay with it.  But I’d been too blinded by NVLD to notice the things my friends noticed.

I can tell you for sure that this was not just them comforting me after a breakup, like friends sometimes do, telling you all the bad things to get you over him faster.  As I describe later, one of my acquaintances–not one of my close friends–told a friend at dinner one day that she needed to “warn” Persephone about Phil.  I never talked to this person about Phil.

Even after I graduated and got engaged, and no longer cared who Phil dated, my friends saw a new girl date and marry Phil.  They saw him do the same things with her, hated him, even tried to warn her before she married him.

It wasn’t just our opinion, either.  Even Persephone later agreed that he treated his girlfriends like children.  “Sure,” she said, “he’ll be respectful to a girl when she’s just his friend, but as soon as they start dating, he treats her like a child!”  She said maybe it was because he considered his mother a child, and was disrespectful to her.

Dad said Phil was very unstable, and a yo-yo, always going back and forth.  In their talks together, Phil often seemed “stupid.”  Mom said he made too much noise at night, and that in all the time he spent with us, he never lifted a finger to help with the chores, or to pay them back for things they bought him for work.

My first Pentecostal church service: They speak in tongues

One day, I sat in my room thinking, I’m so depressed and I think I’d like to go to church this Sunday.  The phone rang.  Out of the blue, Anna invited me to her church.  I thought maybe she did have a “direct line to God,” as Latosha used to tell her.

The most likely date we went to the church is September 11 (back when that day had nothing bad associated with it).

Anna’s church in S– was noisy, spiritual and full of activity.  I didn’t feel comfortable joining in with shouts or claps or any of that, being a Nazarene (though Dad told me once that Nazarene churches used to be a lot like that).  But a Pentecostal church is the perfect place to go when you’re upset.

Rather than the preacher leading them in prayer, for a time, the congregation was encouraged to pray privately–but out loud.  Anna knelt beside me and prayed in tongues.

I asked her later what the words meant, and repeated what I remembered.  She said she didn’t know, but she always looked them up afterwards in a special dictionary for people who speak in tongues.

I saw my old suitemate Tom there!  After the service, a man told me, “When he came to us, Tom was a messed-up Catholic!”  Then Anna brought him to her church, and there he was that day–a Pentecostal and (as they called it) full of the Spirit!  I couldn’t believe it.  He was so different from the partying suitemate I knew freshman year.

People found out I was a Nazarene (sort of a sister church), so they kept trying to convince me to turn Pentecostal, and that their doctrine on speaking in tongues is the correct one.  But they did this in a nice way, so I was more amused than annoyed.

I must admit, their stories were surprising–like young children speaking in tongues–and I was almost convinced.  But not quite.

Someone gave me a new King James Bible, the church’s usual gift for newcomers.

Anna and I went to school brunch together and talked about the breakup.  I asked what she thought of spiritual marriages, if they were real.  Her answer surprised me: She thought they can be more real than many “legal” marriages that are just a piece of paper.  But she also said we should follow the laws of the land.

Then we went down the Campus Center stairs and saw Phil in the foyer.  Anna left me with him, gushing about how wonderful it was that he was there and I could talk to him.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

Fighting the Darkness: A little thing that made me almost tear up….

Richard once called me his “dear, sweet Nyssa,” so I called him “my dear, sweet [his old Forum handle].”  Back then we were still dear, close friends, or at least, he made me think so.  (Whether any of it was ever real, or just him playing me for narcissistic supply, I now seriously doubt.)  But it was a special name, held dear in my heart.

I have another Forum friend, made in 2011 when I needed support after the abusive friendship ended and I found out about Richard’s criminal case.  He came on the Forum during the couple of years I was away from it (2009?-2011).  Just now, in a comments thread on one of his many Facebook posts, he called me his “dear, sweet Nyssa.”

It caught me off-guard.  Now somebody else has called me this.

It was bittersweet: opening old wounds in one way, but healing in another…..

[Update: Unfortunately, this friend died during the first wave of COVID, in April 2020 while he was living in China and unable to get back home.]

I’m ecstatic to be back with my friends (the ones Phil hates); I meet Charles–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 3

On Monday, it was finally time to move my stuff into the new apartment on campus.  After I got my key card, Phil and I started unloading the minivan.

The doors were supposed to stay shut even while people moved things in or out of the building, and were not to be propped open (all the residence halls had signs posted saying this).  Since the doors had automatic locks, I was forced to unlock the door each time we brought something in.

So, naturally, I would go on ahead with whatever I carried, and try to unlock the door before Phil got to it.

But he actually snapped at me for not waiting for him before going to the door!

I said, “I have to go before you do so I can open the door with the key before you get to it!”

But he wouldn’t listen to reason.  I seethed inside.  It seemed no matter what I did or didn’t do, in his mind it was just cause to yell at me, even for being considerate and practical!

Sheesh, what a jerk.

But other than that, it was fun to see my friends again and hear their jokes as we went in and out of the apartment.  Mike was there, being his usual muppet self: bouncy, goofy, weird, loud, childlike, sweet, outgoing, hilarious.

(He danced like a muppet, and “muppet” just seemed to fit him in general.  Still does, 20 years later, especially since he loves posting muppet videos on Facebook.)

After we finished moving my stuff into my room and the living room (my room was too small to hold all the boxes), Phil may have left again for a little while.

Dirk lived in the same apartment building.  At one point, Phil and I walked away from the apartment, possibly going to the Campus Center.  Dirk yelled to us from his basement window.  (These windows were on the upper part of the lower-level bedroom walls; once you found something to stand on, or if you were on an upper bunk, they easily cranked open).

Phil talked to him through the window, and Dirk was surprised that I now had a fourth-level bard in Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).

I spent some time with my roommies and Mike.  We discovered the vents in the bedrooms were good sound conductors.  You could hear practically everything from the upstairs apartment.  Mike yelled up the vent to our upstairs neighbors, who were Phi-Delts we knew, and they yelled back.

We thought these vents could be a problem, because how much of our everyday lives and conversations would our upstairs neighbors be able to hear?  I don’t know if they even noticed, but I was often paranoid about this during the year.  And I think that, in my room, we did sometimes hear voices from their apartment.

It would be fun living there with my new roommies: Tara, Sharon and Pearl.  (We called each other roommies no matter who shared a bedroom with whom.)  I was happy to be back and with my friends again.

Phil and I had once spoken of marrying halfway through the year and then living in our own apartment on campus, since he heard they were supposed to be for married as well as regular students.  When my roommies-to-be and I looked at the apartment the year before while it was being built, I thought I would live with them for only part of the year.

But now, I wanted to spend the whole year enjoying life with my friends.

My roommie-roommie was Sharon; my roommies in the other bedroom were Pearl and Tara.

The visiting custom of the apartments was the same as for the suites: Anybody, anytime.  The only rules that applied were the ones your apartment-mates agreed on.

One rule we eventually made was that if someone wanted to let a friend/boyfriend stay overnight, she had to ask everyone else for an OK.  The friend would sleep on the couch and not with one of us, but it made people uncomfortable to walk into the living room in a bathrobe, and discover someone sleeping there.

A dorm newsletter stated what we Krueger residents knew last year: The cold in the dorm was not our imagination.  The newsletter read, “Last year the temperature in Krueger…Remained below 55 degrees during January.”

The windows were replaced, the steam heating system was repaired, and the floors were carpeted, all adding warmth to that cold dorm at last…after I moved out, of course.

Phil and Dirk discussed playing D&D that night and ordering a pizza, but I hadn’t decided whether to join them.  At first I wanted to, but they were already playing D&D, we had no directories yet, and I didn’t know where to find them.

So instead, I settled down to a fun evening with my new roommies, Astrid, and Mike.  Clarissa wasn’t there, because it was a day before move-in day.  Mike lived nearby in H– and the others were to be freshman orientation leaders, so we were all early.

We sat around the big, fake-wood dining table in this small but lovely apartment.  We played games, such as non-alcoholic Spoons.  I had never heard of it before, but was told it was a drinking game.  Our punishments had nothing to do with drinking.  I forget what they were; maybe you were “It” or something like that.  I also don’t remember how the game was played, just that it involved spoons.

Phil had made dirty jokes all summer and, with his influence, I had joined in on some of them.  Some were in-jokes triggered by certain words or phrases.  I heard some of these words while with my friends that night, but said nothing.

I noticed that Mike made few or no dirty jokes that night, and I found it refreshing.  I admired him for it.  (Not that this state of things lasted–Mike actually does make such jokes, especially now that he’s married–but this made my heart go pitter-pat.)

Finally, Phil came along and tapped on the glass doors, and we let him in.

I realized, as I later told Phil, that I was glad to be there instead of playing D&D with him and Dirk.  My friends had been my family at Roanoke, longer than Phil had been with me.  After dealing with Phil’s drama all summer, it was a relief to be with my friends again.

Maybe that night or the night before, Phil told me his mom made him give his summer money to her.  He’d saved up all summer to buy my engagement ring from a catalog for $300, but she used that money on Phil’s car payments!  We were both furious.

Phil told me to “Stay with your friends tonight” instead of going back with him to his house.  At first I wanted to go with him, figuring I would miss him.  But I soon changed my mind.

Before he left, I told him I needed a ride to go to the store and get milk and orange juice, since I had a box of cereal and would now be eating breakfast in the apartment.  I didn’t have to go to Bossard for a normal breakfast anymore, because we had a kitchen.

All the rooms had white plastic wire towers with drawers.  One wire tower was in the toilet room of the bathroom, and each of us took a drawer for various personal items.

I call it the toilet room because the bathroom was actually three separate rooms.  In the main room were two sinks; to the left of them was the bathtub with its see-through glass door; to the right was the shower room; and across from the sinks was the toilet room.  This was the handicap suite because of Pearl, so we had a huge bathroom.

Some time that first week, probably right around Tuesday, I discovered Hot 102 (dance) had turned alternative, so that quickly became my favorite station.

Of course, I recognized almost immediately that Chicago’s Q101 was much better, and that Hot 102 (now New Rock 102.1) was copying it.  The signal for Q101 didn’t cut out until we got close to Milwaukee, so copying it was easy.

New Rock 102.1 used the same terms and did the same shows as Q101.  Example: The Retro Flashback Lunch.  Another example: “We give the name and artist of every song we play.”  (That was a wonderful perk, but they stopped doing it in about 1995.)

However, New Rock didn’t play the same songs as Q101: I greatly missed “Millennium” by Killing Joke and “Insanity” by Boingo.  But they did have “Undone (The Sweater Song)” by Weezer and “Snail Shell” by They Might Be Giants.

Now to give you the view from my window.  The apartment was on one end of the bottom level, which was partially submerged by ground on one side (hence the high windows).  My bedroom was on the submerged side.  From my window, you could see the new parking lot for the apartments, a sidewalk, and the edge of Muehlmeier.  Venetian blinds probably covered the window.

On the opposite side of the apartment, by the living room, there were glass, sliding doors and a view of the lagoon, the geese, the adjacent apartment building, and the courtyard.

Our side of the building was next to the other building.  If you faced these glass doors, to your left was the wall we shared with the next apartment.

To your right was the kitchen and the back outside door.  The outside door led to a ramp-like walk which curved to the right, up the hill, to the sidewalk leading to Muehlmeier and the Campus Center.  Pearl kept her scooter inside this door.  From this door, we could see the woods on the outskirts of the campus.

We had another door, which led to the apartment mailboxes, the little laundry room, and the next apartment.  We went upstairs to get outside.

As I already mentioned, the door locked automatically and had to be unlocked with a key card.  We weren’t supposed to leave this door open, but during move-in days, people often propped it open anyway with a heavy-duty floor mat.

The place had that new building smell.

Pearl put her new stereo system in the living room for us all to use.  It had a radio, tape player, five-disc CD changer, and remote control!  Everything you could wish for–well, except for a record player, but none of us brought our records anyway.  Records were too hard to transport safely.

But the antenna was weird.  It was this black, plastic, boxlike thing connected to a couple cords.  I don’t know why it wasn’t the usual metal pole.  By second semester, there were five discs in the CD changer at all times, so we could turn it on and play whatever came up.

On Tuesday, September 6, it felt weird doing my natural family planning in the apartment.  Before, I did it secretly so my parents didn’t know about it, but Phil knew I was doing it.  Here, nobody I lived with knew about it.  I took my temperature while still in bed when Sharon couldn’t see, and stashed other tools in the toilet room in my drawer.

I set up my work schedule: On Wednesday, I started work, from one to three p.m.  Once again, I kept my weekends and evenings free from work, just as I always avoided 8:00 classes.  This left weekends free for laundry, cleaning, homework, relaxing, and sleeping in.

Junior year, Sharon got five hours done on Saturdays, but I preferred to spread out my ten hours over the five weekdays.  Sometimes I had to do, like, one hour one day and three hours the next, but my ideal setup was two hours a day.  It all depended on class schedules and other workers’ schedules.  The librarians wanted only two people working the desk at one time.

I soon gave a class and work schedule to Phil.  This is important later, because in my innocence of what was to come, I let him know where to find me all semester.

I didn’t know what time Phil would show up at the apartment that day, but I knew he would.  I wanted to see him, and knew he wouldn’t want to go a whole day without seeing me, his beloved wife.  Not only that, but he knew I needed milk and orange juice, which I couldn’t get on campus.

This new guy named Charles came to visit us, and sat in the living room while I unpacked boxes.  He was loud, tall and huge.  I didn’t know why, but I felt this strange attraction to him.  He wasn’t handsome and I didn’t know him very well, so that wasn’t the reason.

He said proudly that he was of Sicilian ancestry.  He had a strong, aquiline nose.  He was  24 but a freshman, having been in the Air Force.  He had a girlfriend named Trina, another freshman.  My friends probably met them in orientation.  Charles and Trina had only just met, but were already dating.  Trina was about 18 or 19.  She had glasses and dark, shoulder-length, kind of feathered hair.

Since many of my boxes had been put in the living room for lack of other space, I unpacked them within the first few days so as not to annoy my roommates.  To my surprise, everything fit neatly in the closets and wire racks.  I unpacked the porcelain bird as Charles watched, and told him, with a big grin, that it was my engagement ring.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

 

NVLD: I just don’t understand people

Sometimes I have to cut out advice columnists for a while, just as in the 90s I had to cut out talk shows (such as Montel), because they can be triggering.  (I had bad experiences in college which these talk shows occasionally reminded me of.)

However, this is almost impossible because my newspaper runs an advice column, and you can’t help but read it with the comics.  Because the advice column often has bad advice, I feel forced to go elsewhere–usually Carolyn Hax–for some sanity again.

So until newspapers stop running these things, or I stop reading newspapers, I guess I’ll keep getting triggered now and then.  Just as bullies and abusers in my life tried to tell me I deserved their abuse, I’ll read what seems to say, “You deserved to be abused!”

This is why I had to drop a forum back in 2008, because people who knew nothing about the situation made it sound like I deserved to be bullied and abused.

I’ll read somebody else’s letter in an advice column and the responses, and it feels like over again, somebody is telling me, “You deserved to be abused!”  Even though it’s somebody else, and usually the situation is very different, I get shaky and distressed, like it’s all happening to me all over again.

With NVLD (nonverbal learning disorder), which is sort of like Asperger’s (though not the same thing), I just don’t understand people.

I was reminded of this again last night while reading a recent Carolyn Hax column and the responses from readers:

I read the letter writer’s complaint at face value.  When she said it was “perfectly natural” to discuss work with a co-worker, I thought, yes, of course it is.

I could agree with her that the girlfriend seems possessive and insecure to get all upset over work conversations between her boyfriend and the letter writer.

So when Carolyn and even the many commenters, on Facebook and on the Washington Post page, started ripping into the letter writer, I was shocked.

I just plain don’t get it.  I get excluded from conversations ALL THE TIME.

Nobody does it on purpose; it’s just that I’m an introvert with NVLD, and most people are extroverts without NVLD.  So they’ll be going on and on about something I don’t know a thing about, or that bores me, or somebody else makes my comment before I have a chance to.

I don’t whine about it; I only notice because often somebody turns to me and says, “You’re so quiet!”  That annoys me.  If you want to include me in the conversation, ask me a question; don’t criticize me and make me feel like a freak.

It happens in cars, just like with the letter writer and her two friends.  The other two will be in the front seats and I’ll be in the back, which automatically excludes you from conversation.

They’ll chatter on and on and I can barely hear them; if I can hear them, either I have nothing to contribute, or nobody hears me when I do.

Richard and Tracy used to do this all the time, too, when they’d drive me someplace, and they’d be up front talking on and on about their right-wing politics or some other thing, and I’d be quiet in the back seat.

Or we’d be in my house or their house, and they’d start going on about things I wasn’t interested in, or politics I did not agree with, or people I didn’t know, or make comments I found appalling, so I’d just sit quietly and wait for the conversation to change.

(Which is why her complaints of feeling “snubbed” have always baffled me.  Nobody was snubbing anybody, and if it’s “snubbing” to talk about things she doesn’t know about, then she “snubbed” me all the time. 

(It was just the normal, natural progression of conversation, and if, when other people were around, I got a chance to talk to Richard about something I actually knew about and was interested in, it was so rare and wonderful that I was darn well going to take it.  Everybody else did it to me all the time in their house; it was my turn, dang it. 

(This is also why I preferred one-on-one conversations with him, because we had a rapport and interests that could keep us talking for hours, which is highly unusual for me except with a few people. 

(Because it is so unusual for me, I see it as a rare treat, a delicacy, the caviar of friendships and social interaction.  While extroverts apparently see it as Tuesday. 

(But unfortunately, Tracy had such strict control that it was hard to see him without her, except on occasion, so when we got together, I wanted some of that rapport again for 10 or 20 minutes.  The rest of the time, we usually all socialized together, playing a game or something.)

But back to the main point.  It happens when more than two people are sitting at a table and the others inevitably steer the conversation toward subjects I cannot contribute to, or maybe I could but I can’t get a word in edgewise before the topic changes.

Or they talk about something I have no interest in, or about people they know but I don’t.

That’s why I prefer one-to-one conversations, because I can finally get a word in edgewise and talk about things I can contribute to, by helping to steer the conversation, instead of other people doing it.

Or sometimes I prefer the larger conversations because I don’t know what to say, and this takes the pressure off me to contribute.

Especially if I make a friend who I can actually talk to easily, I like the chance to just sit and chat with this person.

Introverts are like this: We don’t do well in group conversations, and just end up watching and listening.  But one-to-one, we can do a lot better.  Well, can.  I don’t always.  Often with one person, I still just sit there not knowing what to say.

But sometimes “magic” happens that I can’t explain, and I can chat easily with this person, probably because of similar interests and temperaments.

As for getting excluded–I get excluded when sitting at a meal with a group of people.  Happened all through school.  My college friends would go on and on every day about choir or their sorority, neither of which I was in.

Happened in the SCA, especially if they went on and on about something like sewing or SCA stuff (I was a newbie) or some bit of medieval knowledge that I know nothing about.

Happens every time I go to a social event and people chatter about things I don’t know about.

Happens at church every week, especially since I go to a Greek church and the people my age often talk in Greek with their relatives and older friends.  If I go to the English-speaking table, they’re mostly 30 or 40 years older than me and I can’t relate to the conversation.

And you know what?  That’s just frickin’ LIFE. 

I know people don’t do it on purpose.  You just frickin’ deal with it and don’t tell people what they can or can’t talk about, unless it’s something harmful, like making fun of someone or bringing up topics that are painful to you.  That’s being controlling and self-centered. 

(Heck, the one time I asked Richard not to talk around me about some guys who sexually harassed me, he said no.)

I think that people generally expect you to fend for yourself in conversations.  If you don’t, you just sort of disappear.

The only thing that annoys me is when people turn to me and complain that I’m so QUIET.

So I’m baffled by the Carolyn Hax column, why people have so jumped on the letter writer and accused her of all sorts of horrible things for doing the SAME THING THAT ALL THOSE PEOPLE WOULD DO TO ME WITHOUT THOUGHT IF WE WERE ALL SITTING AROUND A TABLE TOGETHER.

I just don’t understand people.  This is why I “hermit” so easily.  Why I “hermited” so much as a kid, but actually enjoyed going up into my bedroom when the house was full of relatives, or being alone all day at home during summer break.

Because people don’t make sense to me.  Oftentimes I had/have to deal with bullies, too.

Just when I think I have people figured out, they confuse me again.  Cats are easy: Pet them and give them a warm lap, and they’ll be devoted to you for life.

The researchers found that the brains of children with nonverbal learning disability responded differently to the social interactions than the brains of children with high functioning autism, or HFA, suggesting the neural pathways that underlie those behaviors may be different. —New light shed on learning disorders

UPDATE 2:02PM:

Going through the comments some more, I am greatly relieved to see at least two people who DO get it and don’t understand why the letter writer is being vilified.  They are introverts and social misfits to whom exclusion in conversation is perfectly normal and just something you tolerate.

One extrovert scolded that they may not want to participate in the conversation, but extroverts do, so it hurts them.

Er…Excuse me, introverts WANT to participate, same as extroverts.  We just get naturally shut out, which is frustrating. 

But we do not rage about this or treat them as if they did it deliberately, because everybody does this to us.  Our circles are small enough without chasing away all the extroverts we know.

One introvert, justaguy22, even sees the girlfriend as possibly abusive, possibly trying to control her boyfriend’s friendships and conversations, especially if she won’t let her BF see the LW without her, where they could talk shop!  That’s how I might see it, too–especially if the boyfriend uses the “we must pacify her” tone.

In my case, I got a lot of “Tracy’s jealous,” “She screams at the kids,” “She has to approve my friends,” “She’s emotionally abusive to me,” so seeing her reaction as controlling and possessive came from that.

I saw it myself when we were roommates for six weeks, and saw her become very hostile toward me as well, just out of nowhere.  I had no clue why.

And I was given a whole litany of things I did “wrong” around her that I could not even remember.

I said I needed help, such as her using words so I’d know when she wanted to converse with me, because I could not recognize it.

But no changes or help came from their side to help me change on my side, so I was continuously in the dark.  She continued to be displeased with my behavior, but without telling me at the time what I had done, so I had no clue.

I did not monopolize the conversation when she was in the room, mostly letting them carry it; if he and I sat next to each other, I might chat with him for a while, but usually my husband was there for her to talk to, or she was on the computer or doing some other thing.

She did not start conversations with me.  She did not even try with me, but instead expected me to come up with conversation when I have trouble with this in the best of social situations.

Most of the time there was something else going on in the room, or she was talking to everyone or to somebody else or screaming at a kid, so I didn’t see it as a time for starting conversation with her.

She criticized everything I did.  She refused to accept that I was a shy, quiet introvert with probable NVLD, who had always been that way and always would be, that making conversation with her–especially with someone who bullied me and whom I had maybe just witnessed verbally abusing her husband, kids or somebody else–was practically impossible for me until she stopped the abuse and accepted me for who I was.

Feeling pressured actually closes my throat and cuts off my thoughts.

Even then, I needed to be accepted as a quiet person who will not say much most of the time, even among my best friends.

I tried to explain all of this to Richard, hoping that he would explain it to her and they would help make it easier for me to relax around her.  But nothing ever changed, while I got blamed for everything and continuously punished for not being extroverted.

Also, after we broke things off with her, I had symptoms similar to PTSD.  As I wrote in one of my webpages on the situation, I was afraid to make new friends, constantly felt on-edge, like people were judging me harshly for being quiet.

It was always a huge relief to be among people who did not even mention my quietness, did not call me horrible for it, did not keep their husbands from being friends with me for it.

Reading this column was like, after all that, people were saying to me, “You deserved the abuse!  You deserved PTSD!  You deserve to be lonely and sad!”

I don’t know, maybe it’s just that the Carolyn Hax column is an entirely different situation from mine, and far simpler than what I dealt with, so the letter writer’s actions get a different response from the public.

I know that my husband–who is allowed to disagree with me and give the other person’s side–saw Tracy as controlling, too.

Maybe this letter writer is monopolizing the conversation, while I generally sit quiet in a corner.

I’m not sure it’s so hard to talk about something other than work, but maybe it’s the only thing she can think of at the time.  We don’t really know from one letter what all’s going on, and every letter that gets written to an advice column can get completely misinterpreted.

It happens, as we discover when somebody writes in with the “rest of the story,” whether from the original writer or from somebody else.

I believe I will now edit the full story of Richard/Tracy some more.  Apparently readers need to be more educated on introversion and NVLD, and told up front that I did try to do what I could to not “snub” her but I’m a timid person who was very intimidated by her aggressive manner.

Otherwise, people will just assume you are well-versed in social rules, an extrovert, can read subtle cues, etc. etc., and judge you unfairly.

One of the commenters on the advice column, who is used to being around geeks, complained about this, because of how people remarked on the letter writer.

Someone may have suggested Asperger’s; if she honestly cannot think of anything else to talk about, that is a possibility.  Aspies can easily fall into talking about their obsession even when you’ve already told them not to, but it’s not meant to hurt you.

Maybe I should incorporate this post into the introduction.  This is what people all over are dealing with in social situations, not just me.  All we ask for is understanding instead of vilification and writing us off.

 

Carolyn Hax: You can’t tell your SO who to be friends with

Unhappy with significant other’s friend

Yet another reason why I love Carolyn Hax’s column!  She understands that you can’t tell your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend who to be friends with, except in exceptional circumstances (ie, abuse, child porn, etc.).  And even then, you ask, don’t demand.  You just don’t have the right.

This is what I tried to explain once to Tracy.  She thought she did have the right, and that your SO should “respect” your wishes.  But no, that’s not it at all: That’s a desire for control, which manifested itself in other ways as well in her behavior toward her husband and others.  I’m so passionate about this issue because I have seen firsthand how this kind of control ruins friendships and causes drama and hard feelings, where none were necessary.  I hope that through my posts, others will be spared this.

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