[Click this for the previous post]
“So, Niharika,” you ask with a frown, feeling slightly uncomfortable at the outright hostility from Human Trash Post No. 1, “Don’t you think you’re taking this a bit personally?”
“You bet your ass I am,” I reply in a huff, rolling my eyes at the obvious connotations I had displayed in a fit of frustration. “You would be surprised by the number of people who haven’t mastered the basics of respectable human interactions in their twenties.”
“I think you sound a bit entitled, though.” you muse, and I nod in agreement.
“That is exactly what I sound like, you’re right. I’m being Problematic Type Number 1 and 2 and making the same mistakes in this vicious cycle of evolutionary development. It’s hypocritical and natural selection will come for me.” I say.
“In the meantime, I’d like it if people respect my boundaries.” I sigh and wait patiently for nature’s version of a grand piano to fall on my head.
Part 2 is about stuff that was just as obvious as in the previous part, but also includes some things I believe sort of mildly scarred me throughout childhood and definitely affected me in college.
For some reason, we believe that, because we exist in a place and time, our presence should grace every individual within that time and space because why wouldn’t you want to be around me?
The answer is that everyone has their shit to deal with without you interfering in their business. You are not entitled to anyone’s anything unless explicitly informed by subtext and social cues.
4. Respect people’s physical and mental boundaries. Pls.
I once had a friend who did not particularly like ketchup. In fact, he despised it with every cell in his body, from the core of his very being. I asked him why, once. He told me something along the lines of, “The smell makes me want to puke. I don’t even wanna be around it.” It was a weird explanation, for he was not allergic to any of the ingredients of ketchup. But I simply looked at him with narrowed eyes and nodded in acquiesce.
A few months later, I learned that he had gone on holiday with a few of his friends and had an unfortunate encounter with ketchup. One of his friends almost force-fed him ketchup and, when that did not work, somehow proceeded to have a ketchup fight that involved the rest of the group. The hostel manager was very confused, and mildly terrified.
Unfortunately, my friend did not make it back from the trip. I never saw him again.
He had died.
That last part is obviously not true. He was just super pissed about the whole ketchup fiasco, but the rest of the trip was quite nice, he said. He’s alive (on the outside), and we’re in touch.
What I’m trying to say, is that when someone has maintained boundaries, think of them as constraints in a product that a customer wants you to make. If the customer says they don’t want a giant poster with the Kraken* on it… maybe don’t make a giant poster with a kraken on it to gauge their reaction. The only difference between the random customer analogy and My-Friend-With-Ketchup-Phobia is that you get paid for one of them.
Is that what it takes to get you off my back about freaking ketchup?
Is mutual respect not enough?
The answer apparently, is no. When you tell people you’re uncomfortable with a Thing, their initial reaction happens to be smothering you with that Thing because now you’ve shown them vulnerability, and they’re on a minor power trip because they are giant assholes. They are the same kind of people who like making others cry, or riling people up funsies.
…So bullies basically. I just described bullies.
In their… defense? (Ha.) Humans are natural scientists: ever curious and reckless. We like poking and prodding and knowing irrespective of our fates in a haunted house. But that doesn’t excuse you from making another human uncomfortable because you think you have the right to do so. Cut that out.
I used to have a thing against people touching me. You know how I got over that? When people stopped touching me.
5. Karma is a thing apparently. You need to balance yours out, somehow.
We all get mad at the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time sometimes. Trying to constantly keep your emotions in check is exhausting, because half the time your brain is just a giant scribble of real-estate prices from an obscure country you decided to wanted to settle in 20 years from now, and Game of Thrones trivia. It leaves little room for compartmentalization, if you’ve never done it before. So you get angry, or sad, or any negative emotion in a public place with witnesses.
Say you lash out at someone. I get that you’re angry because of things possibly out of your control. But that someone does not, and they won’t bother to figure out your life story to gain context on why you made that one rude remark. They’ll just roll their eyes, call you an asshole in their head (aloud, if they’re ballsy), and move on with that impression of you for the rest of their life.
Karma’s sipping her tea, looking at you with an eyebrow raised and slowly, tauntingly adding a weight of something grey on one side of your scale. Unfortunately, the chains holding the scale are made of flimsy elastic-band material and have been stretched to the fullest. Karma sits back with a hand behind her head and waits for a total of 2.3 seconds before the grey side snaps back violently, throwing the weight off it and remains still. Empty of good and bad.
Somewhere on a different plane of existence, 10 pigeons decide to shit on your shoulders and the person you yelled at is laughing their butt off, taking a video of you and uploading it on their Snapchat.
I could go on and on with this narrative – as I’m now itching to write a story from Karma’s point of view – but you get the idea. So before Karma decides it’s time to unleash the wrath of a thousand pigeons on you, you need to balance your bad deeds out. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a terrible day that led you to that moment with that stranger. The result remained the same. So you can either avoid that kind of behaviour entirely (which is nearly impossible if you’re have multi-dimensional personality) or mitigate it by… saying sorry? Petting a dog? Calling up a friend and wishing them Happy Birthday? Baking a cake for someone having a bad day? I don’t know. The choice is yours.
And I also understand that constantly watching your karma isn’t easy, and to be fair, rather unhealthy if your only motivation to do good things is the fear of terror birds smiting you. But remember that you’re a part of a cohesive society, and trying to make an effort to contribute to it is ultimately our goal as humanity. I don’t want to explain to the next few generations why every inch of the earth is covered in bird poo.
6. Sometimes people’s ignorance is not malicious. Don’t make them feel like shit about it.
This is an official call-out post to all the people in the education sector and generally smart folks. Listen, I have zero knowledge on how the human brain works, but after much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that not everyone is as intelligent, knowledgeable, or adaptable to the things you are.
I myself, am quite… how do you say it? Stupid. And not very knowledgeable at all. I know some things. I know how to Google, which – au contraire – makes me knowledgeable in just about everything, so don’t worry about me. However, the world is filled with communities who come with different backgrounds in education, lifestyles and cultures. They will not always know what you are talking about.
A lot of people still don’t know what feminism is, for example. And it’s not always due to the lack of trying. There was a time where they did not need to know this, because they had not seen this as an option. That doesn’t mean they are against the concept, just lost.
So when they ask you a question that you believe should have a fairly obvious answer, ensure your reaction is not to respond like Snooty McSnoot. Explain to them like you would want to be explained to, and do not put them down. In about 5 years, you will be just as ignorant as they will, what with how quickly we’re developing stuff.
Which also brings me to the next point: “I don’t know” is a pretty valid answer if you ask me. The person who asked you the question will not think less of you, because there’s no point of reference for them. So if you say I don’t know, the only thing it will do is give you both a chance to find out together. Which is a good thing.
Just be nice, man.
7. There is a line between being honest and being rude. We all prefer you being the former.
Remember that thing I mentioned about being an Edgelord in part 1? This point is pretty synonymous to that, but in slightly different social contexts. It’s quite self-explanatory actually. And since I’m too lazy to write anymore, I’ll leave you with this tweet.
And thus ends the How to be a decent human series. Or as I’d like to call it: It’s been a shitty couple of weeks and I need a hug.
* Turns out the Kraken lives far too close to my current place of residence. Guess I’m leaving.