Prompt on Twitter: “When did you first notice feeling confused by social expectations?”
I don’t remember “first”, but… story time! When I was in fifth grade or so, the bully wanted to beat me up. I told him he could, but only if it was after school where nobody could watch. I told him that we’d wait fifteen minutes after school.
I picked the meeting place and he agreed that if anyone showed up, he’d make them leave. We met. He started punching me. Other kids started showing up. I yelled at him to chase the other kids away, but he just keep punching. So I just started walking away.
Two of my friends followed me, insisting I go back and finish the fight. The bully himself just stared, too confused to follow me. I couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t kept his end of the bargain. If what he wanted was to beat me up, then I was giving him that.
I wanted it to be transactional: He gets to beat me up, but I didn’t want the public shame. Why couldn’t he, or my friends, understand that? Anyway, after that, he never bothered me again. He started bullying other kids instead.
Oh, and no, I made no effort to fight back. Why should I? I was destined to lose, I wanted to make it quick. My friends thought I should have fought back. Again, why?