Annoyability, Cont’d

A few days ago, nicoleandmaggie wrote about annoyance and wanting to spare people, and it inspired this post of mine. 

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? 

8 comments

  1. I have a noticeable accent, funnily enough people love my accent, seems having a slight british accent is sexy in the US. But I’ve had weird interactions with people either ignoring me (literally, it is bizarre, but then I lived in a rural conservative area) or disliking my foreign origin.

    I think they are slightly freaked out by anything or anyone that is an outlier to what they know. I really brush them off. I do comment it at home, but it doesn’t typically bother me. But I do have a quick temper, and if the comment is annoying enough I will answer back. I don’t feel compelled to be everyone’s friend, so if I lose some people over it, oh well, one jerk less in my life!

  2. Some people are jerks.

    Some people tease as a way to include. I don’t get it and I don’t like it, but it is a way some people interact with people they consider friends.

    You don’t know which is true so you can assume the second. Or you can bring it up either when she does it, “that’s not nice” or “why would you say that” or privately later, “when you say things like X, it makes me feel Y.”

    I have definitely disappeared from spaces where I feel I’m not wanted, but generally only virtual spaces. (For example, Modern Mrs Darcy has us on comment moderation because her assistant took offense to something one of us said about working moms being ok or something similar.). All of my other hobbies are solitary.

  3. Was given the advice recently that when someone says something vaguely hostile, I should respond with, “What do you mean by that?” I think this sometimes works… but I have trouble remembering to do this, and of course it must be delivered in the ideal, most non-confrontational way possible, or else someone is going to accuse me of being “angry” or “too sensitive.” Still haven’t found a good way to address the intentional excluding behavior, but that also happens and you’re not imagining it.

  4. I second the statement that some people are just jerks and bullies, and it really sucks to have a space that should be friendly become something that you dread. I feel like women in science are constantly getting the same above advice (which is good advice) in the work sphere – it’s both ridiculous and refreshing to remember that dickishness applies universally.
    Since it’s impossible for me not to add my 2 cents, you can also try talking to an ally in the group to see what their take on the situation is…maybe someone with a longer history with your dickish rando can get her to shut the fuck up.

  5. It has taken me 40+ years to learn and finally also really understand and realized that if you hide or run or just suck it up people will always keep pushing your boundaries. So either you really let it slide because you truly develop thick skin and honestly don’t care about them and their words or you need to speak up. Still don’t know whether I find one easier than the other but I am definitely done with sucking it up.

  6. I often feel like this too. My therapist then often explains to me that I probably also sometimes make people feel rejected and unwelcome, because I had a bad day, was thoughtless or judged someone unfairly. What also helps is to ask myself if I actually like the person I am trying to impress or appease, and often I don’t and didn’t from the start.

  7. biobrains: I feel like there’s never an acceptable way for a woman to show anger or hurt; people always end up thinking that’s she a bit scary and imbalanced and should be given a wide berth, even if she had every right to push back. Being a woman is quite the mindfuck.

  8. @xyk- we are allowed to follow specific gendered tropes– I channel “disappointed nun” as mine, with the occasional “preschool teacher”. (But yes, AGREED, and my class had a discussion on this very topic today along with tone policing about how women are supposed to handle their emotional reactions to Covid 19 based on one of those graphics going around– anger, of course, is not allowed.)

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