I've been thinking about politeness. I think the intended function is to make social interactions move more smoothly, I think we try to be polite because it's a busy planet and we're going to bam into each other and it's nice to try to not do that and to say "excuse me" when we do; we don't intentionally set out to hurt anyone, most of the time. And of course if you do hurt someone and don't say excuse me, that makes the hurt seem intentional.
Many years ago, I threw a party and some people didn't come and I was hurt that they didn't come and I was hurt by the alternate absence or flimsiness of some excuses to an extent that I ended some friendships over it. Because I felt like: those are people who are not interested in watching out for my feelings.
But generally speaking I understand that they weren't interested in the party, and they couldn't think of a way to say so directly without hurting my feelings and they didn't understand that the last minute sudden memory that they needed to wash their hair was actually much more hurtful. Unless the intention was to indirectly communicate that they didn't think that highly of me, in which case: mission accomplished, buddy.
Other times I've been scolded for not inviting people to do things and I think: but you regularly don't do those things when invited, so what could I do but assume that you didn't want to do them? So is their scolding (now that the event is past) a kind of politeness? Why does it seem to me that it hurts more than if they would just say "Oh, sorry I missed it" and move on?
Also of course why do I feel responsible for decoding other people's feelings? When I was younger and would ask people to do things with me and be refused I would agonize over why they didn't like me. Agonize. Now I just think I'm trying to spare everyone all this coded conversation and if you don't return a call or two I assume you're not interested and I move on. I mean it hurts but it's not agony. See, I'm working on it.
There are people whose company I don't enjoy, much in the way that I imagine these people who don't accept my invitations don't enjoy mine. And so based on having been on the receiving end I would like to be able to say: I like you but not that much. I'd like to give them the directness that I would like to receive.
The scene in Tootsie when Jessica Lange, having told Dustin Hoffman that she wishes a man would just say he wanted to have sex with her, throws her drink in his face when he says so.
Why is it hard to just be direct? Last night I spent the bulk of my evening at a party finding excuses to avoid a person I actively dislike and who doesn't take subtle hints. Why do I feel like the fact that I picked up my drink and moved multiple times was Real Progress for me? I felt like I was being polite and at the same time that I was doing a better job of expressing myself than usual. Me who usually freezes, hoping that they'll just go away eventually. The deer frozen in headlights, afraid of the damage it will do to the car. But honestly, why not throw my drink in their face, after all? So conditioned to season even my scorn with pity that I cannot imagine it.
And the times that I have said "I don't want to hear from you anymore" have ... not ended well, generally. Could be part of it. I mean it's not just not wanting to hurt someone else; there is a fear of being hurt, myself.
Last night I dreamed I was trying to explain what it feels like to weigh my own discomfort in the moment against the discomfort that may occur if I express that. How it feels to sit very still flooded with a feeling and drowning in the fear of expressing it. Of making things worse. So partly it's a fear of hurting someone but let's be clear that there is in the background also the fear of getting hurt, a constant barely audible high-pitched whine. Even explaining it was too hard. I woke in tears and no clearer in purpose. Still not.