This weekend, D is coming to visit, and I’m nervous about it.
I’ll have to share my tiny room with another person, to deal with someone else’s stuff cluttering the floor, someone else’s smell permeating the air (okay, this is not an issue with most people, this is just an issue with D), someone leaving bread crumbs and footprints and other dirt on my floor, someone breaking unwritten and unspoken rules I keep to about where to put and keep things and how to handle them. I’ll have to diverge from my usual routines and mold my life around him in some ways, to consider someone else’s needs, to deal with the uncertainty and spontaneity that automatically comes with being around another person (with some exceptions – I never feel that way around my father, curiously). I’ll have to cope with being observed almost constantly, and with the inhibitions that inevitably brings: about food, movements, how aware I am of myself and how much I keep in control of my face and gestures and actions. I’ll have to cope with the increased amount of noise – breathing and chewing and moving and burping.
And there will be touching. Given our less-than-stellar record at good consent practice, I’m also nervous about that. There will be situations I won’t be able to escape – a narrow mattress to share, mostly (put on the floor where it doesn’t belong, because my bunk bed doesn’t handle our combined weight too well, getting dirty and being in the way), and there will be many situations in which I’ll technically be able to escape but might not be able to in practice.
It seems so easy in my imagination – just say “stop”, or “not right now”, or “no hugging please”, or “I need a bit of breathing space”. But in reality, so much happens so fast and so often, and before I even find my voice my head is already filling up with fuzzy white cotton and pushing through all of it to get the words out seems like so much work and isn’t it much easier to just wait until it passes on its own?
It may be easier, but it’s not right. I am an important person in this world, too. My desire not to be hugged is no less important than his desire to hug me, and standing up for myself is no less important and valuable than standing up for someone else. I need to have my own back, here – I need to be the voice speaking out for the voiceless part of me.
And I know that this will benefit me, benefit him, benefit our relationship, make this weekend a vastly more enjoyable experience, pave the way for future equally nice or even better visits, build my interpersonal skills, develop my character in the way I want it to develop, and improve my mental health.
There are good things I want to happen this weekend. I want us to go swimming. I want us to have food and fun with friends. I want to practice driving (and drive without another person sitting at another brake for the first time, which is scary but exciting). And I want to relax during all those things, to breathe easy and speak freely and have a clear head devoid of any cotton clouds, to feel safe in the knowledge that if anything I don’t want happens, I will speak up for myself as clearly and as often as needed, and it will stop happening.
And dammit, I will make this happen.