I try to pursue new experiences and activities in meat space, but what invariably happens is that I am the only non-American-born participant. Some people are weirded out by it; others are not. I don’t know if it is my intrinsic ability to annoy people, the accent, or both; all I know is that there is always someone in these little communities who is annoyed by me and doesn’t bother to hide it.
Let me tell you, it takes some expert-level temporary dissociation to work through these events. Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately — having been a woman in STEM all my life, I have plenty of experiences in environments where at least some, and often most, really don’t want me around. I handle it fine on the spot, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice or remember the hostility, or that it doesn’t bother me deeply once I am free to feel my feelings again.
This was true in my kickboxing classes, which I started and stopped many times. It’s moot now, with the social distancing and all, but every time I rejoin I am the only one with an accent and since the kickboxing folks are generally nonacademics, the accent freaks them out. Some people don’t care, but some do, and those that do aren’t subtle about wanting nothing to do with me (e.g., looking at me askance, ignoring me if I ask them something, being weird if we need to do a partner exercise together).
This brings me to my sci-fi book club. I’ve been attending about a year and a half and most people in it are nice. But there’s one woman who never fails to take a jab at me, and another man who doesn’t necessarily hate me, but definitely low-key avoids me. I’m one of the newest members, so the rest have longer histories together, and occasionally I feel like I should just do everyone a favor and drop it all. But then I remember I didn’t do anything wrong: I read the books, I listen, I speak up briefly (definitely don’t hog the discussion, which some others do), so why wouldn’t I have a right to be there? And it’s not like anyone asked me to leave; some people actually seem to like having me around.
I had a book club meeting over Zoom earlier this evening, so a very recent jab is fresh and painful. My husband says most people aren’t even fully aware of how callous they can be, how their needling affects others. I kinda get it, but not really, and, in any case, why does the jab victim always have to be the bigger person? It’s exhausting to always have to have my game face on, pretending I don’t notice.
Are any of you out there feeling sensitive to others’ annoyance and wanting to flee, blogosphere? Hoping to do a favor to yourselves and the people who clearly dislike you by disappearing?