One of the things I’ve been working on with my therapist is learning to slow down, so my response isn’t laminated to my reactions. We can’t control our reactions; we can control how we respond to those reactions.
On Monday I took the bus downtown to meet up with some friends. I sat toward the rear, facing forward, and wore earbuds (which are bright blue). A few stops later, a man got on the bus. He came to the back and sat across from me, on a bench that faced the middle.
I could almost predict what would happen next. I turned toward him, and he started talking to me.
Him: “Hi. Didn’t I see you on the bus yesterday?”
I pause the podcast I’m listening to and take the earbud out.
Me: “No. No you didn’t.”
Him: “So I couldn’t have met you before?”
Me: “No. No you couldn’t.”
Him: “What’s your name?”
At this point in the conversation, my stomach starts to clench. Because I know this is coming. And every time a man asks me, I tell him. And then I hate myself for it. But I am learning to pay attention to what I want. And what I want is definitely NOT to give him my name.
So I say, “I don’t want to tell you that.”
I’ve disrupted the social script. He doesn’t know how to respond. He falls silent.
I turn away from him and face the front again. I turn my podcast back on. A stop later, he moves up a seat. A young woman sits next to him.
I like being friendly. I like talking to people. On the bus, even! But for the short duration of a bus ride, no one needs to know my name. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends my story.