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Those difficult emotions; Boy Friends

At the moment, if I'm quiet, it's because I am vacillating between writing here and writing in my paper journal; at this point, as at most points when blogging, I am writing more for myself, but I am still hoping that my words may be helpful to others.

Yesterday, while looking for that prior post about Zack, I wound up digging up another old post about an erstwhile LJ person, crume, who became a Phoenix-area friend through azjournal (also pretty erstwhile, hrm). Reading through that old post, I couldn't help thinking that to the casual reader it might sound as though D and I were in some sort of budding romantic relationship, which couldn't have been further from the truth (blech!). Then I thought, how would the situation have been read if D had been a woman instead of a man? The main thing that would have changed for me is that there would have been less internal and external pressure to define that relationship as a friendship, despite the fact that the dynamic with a woman also could have gone either way.*

This is a hard thing about being a bicyclist and a scientist; I operate in two male-biased environments, so this male-female dynamic is a constant part of my everyday life. It gets to be exhausting - there's a cost in terms of the emotional overhead. I was incredibly happy to be in an all-girls high school because I didn't have to deal with it so constantly. And I'm discovering that I am SO MUCH HAPPIER in the current Biology department because the gender-power balance is LEAGUES better than it was in Texas. Even better than Arizona! I took refuge with the other women in Arizona, too, for a similar reason (there's a reason the phrase "Social Insect Boys" exists). Even when the guys are pretty nice, there's this subtext about the potential for an underlying agenda, and it's draining.**

One of the negative emotions that cropped up repeatedly with S is jealousy, specifically tied to this male-female friendship dynamic. For some reason, he hasn't been jealous of all of the time I spend with, and all the delight I feel for my female friends. I'm going to let the personal details rest at that, and instead turn to this specific negative emotion, jealousy.

What does one do with one's feelings of jealousy? I remarked, the other day, that moving to a new location really forces one's personality through a keyhole, as I've strongly felt that effect four times now, in moving to Boston, Tempe, Bryan, and now Lincoln. The move from Tempe to Bryan remains one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. One of the things I had to address in myself was powerfully strong feelings of jealousy over all of the wonderful and fun and interesting stuff that was continuing to go on without me, in Tempe (that yes, S could dip in and out of as he pleased, with little effort on his part). I would feel myself getting angry (in a physiological way, even) when checking Facebook. It wasn't until I learned a simple mantra that things got easier: Realize that you're not missing out. It wasn't about S, it was about ME.

I needed a more lengthy explanation of that mantra at the time, and it wasn't a perfect fix, but it helped me tremendously to come to grips with the changed life that I had to live that was immediately in front of me. It taught me that jealousy is the responsibility of the person who is jealous, not the responsibility of the object of that jealousy.

Recently I have also been mulling over something KA remarked upon, ages ago (maybe a decade back?). He said that he hated it when his female students would show up to his office hours and start crying, because he said that it meant they were trying to make him their "emotional prisoner" - the crying would make him feel bad and he would do things that he would later regret. This, more than anything else, has made me hate crying, because I don't want to make other people my emotional prisoner (what a horrible way to try and keep people in your life!!). I recognize that crying is an important emotional release, no denying that, but I guess I get concerned that it can be interpreted incorrectly.

I don't want to push my emotions on others, but I am sad that I am not having this conversation with S directly.

*I think I'm more strongly attracted to men, but as with many women, it's not a unilateral situation.

**I was SO RELIEVED to find several other women who are strong riders here and willing to eyeroll with me at the mens' silly antics on a "group" ride. I can't even tell you. The equivalent ride in Arizona was 98% sausage-fest, which gets old quickly. That said - I might still show up for that ride because the ass-kicking is useful, but I think I'll find the Gravel Girls rides much more fulfilling.


( 12 remarks — Remark )
Mar. 21st, 2015 04:45 am (UTC)
I dated one woman who cried because she was sad, and another who cried because she was furious, and man it was critical to react intelligently to the difference.
Mar. 21st, 2015 06:55 am (UTC)
Hoo, yeah. And now I wonder if I am particularly terrible to read there, because I can cry under both those circumstances, as well as "noble self-sacrificing death in movies" and "didn't eat enough while exercising", heh. And other than the movie thing (totally cried at "Beauty and the Beast", yes, the Disney one), I try really really hard not to cry in public. I haaaaate feeling that vulnerable, so if I failed my save roll there I am probably all I DO NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT until I can get home or somewhere more private. Heh. Self-documenting, and yet still probably pretty spectacularly unhelpful until I've got myself together.
Mar. 21st, 2015 04:05 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that crying as a response to a range of emotions is ... better? more reliable? because it's a signal rather than a specific emotion.
Mar. 21st, 2015 07:58 pm (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree.
Mar. 21st, 2015 12:12 pm (UTC)
If I am feeling relaxed and mellow and safe, I will sometimes get a bit weepy for sad reasons. Mostly, though, it's condensed frustration, and OMG I hate it. Hate, hate, hate.* But I think context and body language usually makes it obvious - certainly, the "still spikey, fer gossake don't try and touch me" bit seems to come across.

* It's so much more likely to happen when I'm in a lot of physical pain, but there were years when that was all of the time.
Mar. 21st, 2015 03:58 pm (UTC)
Condensed frustration, yeah, I think that's exactly the right description.
Mar. 21st, 2015 07:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, condensed frustration is often the cause, when crying around other people in particular.
Mar. 21st, 2015 06:50 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know what you mean about the mostly-male hobbies and avocations. It bothers me sometimes that the field I've made my current career in and all of my major hobbies are heavily majority-dude. (No wonder meeting women is harder than it used to be!) But even with a concerted effort to focus on things that my female friends also like, still most of the time it's me and the guys.

For me, I feel jealous when someone else has something I want, and I don't have it. (Kinda definitional, but at one point that was a total freaking revelation to me, heh.) So when I feel that way now, yeah, it's a signal to me to work on the place where I am unhappy, not by taking away from the other person, but in trying to find a way where I can have what I want too. Sometimes that's possible, sometimes it's not. (About half the time when I have felt that way, it's "I would like $foo relationship with X, X wants $foo relationship with Y but does not feel that way about me and is unwilling to change it... welp, at least now I know and can try to be graceful about it". Getting over feeling jealous there more turns into accepting loss, but if I didn't at least ask, I would never know whether what I wanted might have been possible or not.)

I think everything can be interpreted incorrectly, but I think "emotional prisoner" is kind of... dude, read some Captain Awkward and realize that you can assert boundaries, that you don't HAVE to feel that way. You can be compassionate without giving away all of your own cope. So I would be horrified too if someone said that they felt that I was making them my emotional prisoner, but that would be much more "never ask that person for support ever because they don't know how to say no if they don't want to give it", and not "I am a terrible person for crying at you". So I would probably retreat to an "only good things!" style of polite interaction with them, friendly, affable, but I'd take a lot of my own depth off the table *with them*. I would not restrict myself so severely in general.
Mar. 21st, 2015 12:24 pm (UTC)
This about the emotional prisoner stuff.

Yeah, some folks are like that. (ObFeministRant - it certainly helps that there's a lot of societal support for the idea that women's feelings and emotional expression are icky and unwholesome and it's okay to pathologize them.*) But, y'know, maybe that's about them.

* While it's hard to pull out the societal factors, especially considering the accounts of transgender folks, I'm willing to work on the assumption that yeah, women are just more likely to cry.
Mar. 21st, 2015 08:05 pm (UTC)
I think in some cases the crying causes an other person to retreat, emotionally, versus getting too sucked into the emotion. Maybe it just brings out how well or poorly different individuals handle difficult emotions expressed by others?

I tend to be pretty empathetic to those who are crying, so it can also be hard when I am crying and my emotions aren't acknowledged or are dismissed, regardless of the motives of the person not acknowledging or dismissing me.
Mar. 22nd, 2015 02:13 am (UTC)
"Maybe it just brings out how well or poorly different individuals handle difficult emotions expressed by others"

Ding ding ding!

IMHO, there's something really twisted about people who, when they see someone crying, assume it's a manipulative tactic rather than an emotional response. I find it usually but not always correlates with deep misogyny.
Mar. 21st, 2015 08:06 pm (UTC)
And regarding both dude-hobbies and jealousy, YES.

Although, this Biology department here is the closest to gender-balanced of any department I've been in so far, which is AMAZING.

Edited at 2015-03-21 08:07 pm (UTC)
( 12 remarks — Remark )

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