No, I Can’t Just Trust You
I’ve heard some kind of variation of “Why can’t you just trust me and do what I want” from people all my life.
I’ve heard it dating.
Me: Let’s meet at the mall or Starbucks.
Them: I was thinking someplace a little more private.
Me: Yeah, but I’m meeting you for the first time. I’d be more comfortable somewhere public.
Them: I’m not going to hurt you. What? You don’t trust me?
Me: I don’t know you, so no. I don’t. And now I don’t want to meet you. Thanks for playing!
Them: Tells me random fact.
Me: Really? I didn’t know that. I’m gonna look it up.
Them: You don’t believe me?
Me: It sounds interesting so I’m going to look it up.
Them: It looks like you don’t believe me.
Me: Ok. I’m still gonna look it up.
I’ve heard it with lovers.
Me: I thought you were bringing condoms?
Them: Oh, I forgot. But I’ll pull out.
Me: Lucky for you, I bought some just in case.
Them: Oh, you didn’t trust me to remember them?
Me: And look how that worked out. In fact, I’m gonna put this on you or you can fucking leave.
Me: Yeah, I’ve tried that before. I don’t want to do that.
Them: You haven’t had it like I do it.
Me: And I’m fine with that. I don’t want to do it.
Them: Just trust me. I know you’ll like it.
Me: No. Trust me to know what I don’t want to do.
Me: No and get out.
I’ve heard it from friends.
Me: Hey, when you do this thing, it feels like you are taking advantage of me.
Them: Why do you always assume the most negative intentions?
Me: Oh! So, when you did that thing, you didn’t mean to make me feel that way? Oh ok. But you did, so now what?
Them: I’m not responsible for what you feel but maybe if you stopped looking at this thing I do that makes you feel bad as negative, things would be better.
Me: Or you could stop doing that thing.
Them: Oh no. I’m going to keep doing it. You need to learn how to deal with it.
Me: Hmmm. Or we can just not talk anymore. Have a nice life.
I’ve heard it from coworkers
Them: Do this thing for the client.
Me: I don’t think that’s in the manual. Let me investigate.
Them: It needs to happen, so just do it.
Me: I don’t want to go against protocol, so let me look it up to be sure.
Them: Why can’t you just do the things I tell you?
Me: Because I don’t want to get fired for not taking the two minutes to look it up before acting on it. How about we focus on that.
I’ve heard it from my significant other.
Me: Let me look that up real quick.
Him: Why can’t you just believe what I say?
Me: Because I feel better double checking, that’s why.
Him: I don’t know why you won’t trust me on stuff.
Me: Because it takes 5 minutes to possibly prevent an expensive and time-consuming mistake. Feel free to double check my shit, too.
It’s a constant refrain in my life – the expectation that I’m just supposed to assume that your good intentions outweigh your potentially damaging actions. And that’s cool and all, but just to ensure we’re on the same page, I’m going to set some boundaries. That way, you know where I stand on some potential problem areas. Because regardless of your intent, if this shit happens, we’re gonna have problems.
It usually goes completely downhill at this point. Like, drop off a cliff, downhill.
As you see, I’ve had this conversation repeatedly throughout my life. It can originate with anyone who assumes that being friends means automatic benefit of the doubt, but I grew up learning that people’s words and actions often don’t align and that everyone is out for themselves. It’s not always at the expense of others, but a lot of times that is acceptable collateral damage. And I really don’t like being someone’s collateral damage when it’s avoidable.
Yet, try as I might to prevent it, I find myself in the same fucking situations again and again, because the pattern repeats whenever new people enter my life. I find myself being accused of being oversensitive and ridiculous for setting boundaries. I’m told that I’m making a big deal out of nothing when I clearly state my deal breakers. I find people become offended and upset at having well-defined limits on what is acceptable and what isn’t. Their feelings are hurt because I said I won’t do something they ask, regardless of how nicely I explain it. Regardless of whether I give a reason or not. I know this because I’ve tried this any myriad of ways, from the most impersonal, to providing a socio-political context as to why and regardless of how I explain, my boundary is a problem.
So, fuck it. I’ll be a problem. I’ve done this dance too many times before and I know where it leads. I know how it harms me. So rather than leave things nebulous and unclear, which for a lot of people keeps the door open for them to fuck around and claim they didn’t know that their actions were harmful, I tell you upfront where the issues are as they arise and you can figure out if it’s too much fucking work for you to respect my boundaries. When we both know where the line is, and you choose to cross it without speaking with me, without checking in with me, it tells me a lot about the person you are. It tells me a lot about how much you actually respect me. It tells me whether or not you respect me at all.
And if my setting a boundary hurts your feelings? If my saying “yeah, I’m not comfortable with this so I’m not going to do that” somehow fucking upsets you? You need to sit with that for a minute and really examine why that is. And I’m real fucking serious about that. If you want to hug me and I say no, it doesn’t matter why. If you want to give me something and I don’t want to accept it, that is my prerogative and I don’t owe you a reason. If I don’t want to participate in whatever thing you’re doing, you don’t have the automatic right to know whether or not it’s about my feelings about you. And you can feel however you want to feel about it, but you need to examine whether your feelings are about me saying no or your feelings of entitlement to my yes.
Misogynoir is the air we breathe, and our society caters to the expectations of men at the expense of women. Yes, all men. That means that you have expectations of me because it’s fucking “normal” for women to say, do, and respond in specific ways to the words and actions of men. Just like the way white people expect Black people to be submissive and deferential to them, men expect the same shit from women.
So, when white people and Black men get irritated with me and say I’m difficult, it’s usually because I’m not conforming to the behavior they expect from Black women. When white people and Black men say I’m opinionated and argumentative, it’s usually because I don’t fall in line and agree with their bullshit. When white people and Black men say I am intimidating and angry, it’s usually because they couldn’t get me to do something they wanted. And when white people and Black men say that I am uncooperative and not a team player, it’s definitely because I wouldn’t do something they wanted.
And that thing where you try to win my favor so that I’m more amenable? Yeah, I’m aware of that shit, too. Don’t do that manipulative shit cuz I’m not interested in playing that game with you, either.
Here’s the deal. I’m not going to agree with you to make you feel good. I’m not going to try to make you feel like the best and brightest in the room. If we’re competing, I’m going to try to beat your ass and if we’re debating, I’m going to ask for proof of your assertions. If we’re sharing information, I’m going to research what you said before I agree and if we’re collaborating on a project, I’m going to consider it and clearly define my role in that project.
What this all amounts to is that I am going to be an individual with as much free will as you in any interaction and if you don’t like me because of it, that’s not my fucking problem. And I won’t make it my problem because I’m not invested in getting you to fucking like me. I’ll survive regardless, as will you.
But our relationship? That’s always on the table. The question is whether there’s enough respect and cooperation between us for us to work on it. Because if that shit feels one-sided to me, I can tell you now, it won’t work out. And I’m fine with that.
But, as I said, we’ll survive. I don’t have to like everybody and everybody ain’t gotta like me. Nobody is entitled to my trust or my consent. And if that shit hurts your feelings, you need to figure out why you feel like any woman owes you anything that wasn’t clearly and openly agreed upon because it sounds like you are suffering from the illusion of white patriarchal entitlement, that ugly social hierarchy that I keep finding myself on the lower end of. So, maybe instead of focusing on why I won’t do what you want, you do some soul searching on how you engage and interact with Black women. Maybe you should take some time to work that shit out, because you aren’t actually the nice person you like to think you are.
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