30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 2 – Never Forget

Write something someone told you about yourself that you never forgot

“You need to learn to lighten up and take a joke!” – my brother

His voice rises with anger when he says this, and it’s usually after he’s done something abusive or something that made me uncomfortable. He doesn’t listen to anyone, and that can particularly unsettling when you want him to stop doing something. For example, I loathe being tickled, especially around my feet or neck. I tell him to stop repeatedly, only to lash out as a reflex when he won’t stop touching me. I kick out and when that isn’t enough, I aim low. He gets angry and insists I need to learn to take a joke.

He doesn’t realize he’s violating my boundaries by not stopping when I’ve made it clear that I’m uncomfortable. You may be thinking or telling yourself “Well, she’s overreacting.”

Consider this instead: Sitting (or standing) in a room, listening to music, minding your own business, when, out of nowhere, a pair of hands wrap around your neck. How would you react then? My reflexes usually respond by yanking away or dropping to the floor depending on what position I’m in. I cower away, my breathing is frantic, and my heart pounds as I look at my own brother standing above me, claiming it was just a joke. I’ll grant him the fact that he’s never (to my knowledge) tried to choke me, but I also haven’t given him the time.

To this day I hate it when people touch my body unprompted, as anyone would, but my anxiety spikes when people touch my face, neck, shoulders, or feet without warning. Even my boyfriend forgets sometimes when he tries to tickle me, but he stops immediately when I tell him and apologizes. That’s the difference. He’s aware of when he’s violated my boundaries, and he does his best to right the situation by apologizing and not continuing the activity. He never gets angry at me. He never guilts me into feeling sorry by claiming it was just a joke.

It’s something my brother, and unfortunately, many other men have yet to learn. Respect everyone’s boundaries, especially when it comes to their body! When they tell you to stop something that’s making them uncomfortable, unsafe, etc. stop immediately and apologize! Do not continue under the guise of a joke!

All of this being said, my brother’s statement isn’t even close to the truth. Anyone who knows me knows it’s much harder to get me to stop laughing than to get me to start. I’m way too easily amused by the simplest things. My boyfriend comments on how bad his jokes are and always asks why I laugh at them. My brother has told me often that I need to “chill the fuck out” when I’m in the midst of laughing so hard I’m gasping. I make God awful noises when I laugh too hard for too long, my body hurts, my face turns red, I cough, and my laugh changes constantly. It’s embarrassing, really, but it’s the way I am.

I know my boundaries, and I react when they’re jeopardized or violated. I have triggers, yes, but after having so many situations where I’ve felt unsafe or uncomfortable, they were bound to form. All this being said, I love to laugh and probably do so way too much. I’m me, and that isn’t going to change.  

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