I dream of being appropriate.

I’ve just quit a job–the first adult job I’ve ever held!!!–and part of the reason is that toward the end it was that I was being bullied by other employees and a good part of why I was targeted was because I was not always “appropriate”.

I’ve always had trouble with “appropriate.”

Why? The rules are easy! They are listed right here in the corporate handbook!

The truth is that the rules are much more complicated than anyone is willing to admit.

I like that article. It outlines exactly why I want to strangle everyone who tells me in a slow cheerful voice what the rules are like I am a dumb child who doesn’t understand, so should just do as she’s told.

No, asshole. You simplifying the rules doesn’t fix my problem. Why?

Because my biggest struggle is when the rules change and no one acknowledges it or even acts like the rule was ever different. It seriously screws with my brain.

I once alienated an entire friend group with calling everyone over and over to talk to them because that’s how you did it in the days of landlines. If you didn’t reach them you called back in half an hour when they might be home. Now that we can be reached 24/7 you call once, leave a message, or you text. They get back to you when they get back to you. Oh. It makes sense that this rule changed. But it took A friend, years later, explaining the rule change and the reason before I fully comprehended it and stopped hating myself for making that mistake. Before her, everyone just kept telling me the new rule and acting like I was an idiot for not knowing it already.

I honestly thought I was going insane because everyone was pissed off at me for acting the way I’d always acted before.

Why is it so important for me to understand the why? Because these rules are so slippery and changeable, if I go off a list of hard social rules, I will go insane. I will make constant mistakes. I will be the town pariah.

The things that offend one person are the things that are required by another. And both will announce these rules like that are obvious and only a monster doesn’t know them. I hate it when people give me rules for socializing. If you don’t give me the logic behind them they are less than useless.

If you give me a big hard list of social rules for everyone or all time, I know you are at best too stupid to be of any help socially because you clearly suffer from the delusion that these rules are universal, and unchanging. At worst you are manipulating me so that I’ll be less trouble for you and you don’t care that this is going to spectacularly blow up in my face when the rule shifts and I can’t keep up. Like with the calling etiquette.

The Neurotypicals who help the most (because few of them ever comprehend the reason for these rules, and most just go with the change without even registering that it happened) are the ones who explain things from their own perspective.

“It would bother me if you did that because-”

Or

“I wouldn’t be offended by that, but I know some people who would be.”

Because when you tell me your experiences I can put it in my ever expanding treasure trove of human data points, and use the information to extrapolate the rules myself. That way I’ll actually understand them and might be able to anticipate the shifts myself. Also, I’d much rather know what bothers you specifically. If the rule is specific just to you, then it can be super rigid. It’s easy to follow a rule with one person.

But if I followed all the rules everyone gave me all the time, I’d never leave the house, have friends, or talk to anyone.

If I lived my life in fear of making a social mistake, I’d be a lot more socially inept than I already am.

Because in my experience, people are waaaaaaay more forgiving than most people give them credit for.

If you sincerely care about people, are honest and genuine, and make a valid effort, nearly everyone will trust you and work with you.

What about those that will hold a grudge, punish you, and bully you?

Well I don’t have a solution for them. But I refuse to live my life in fear of them. I’ve been bullied my whole life, and at least they can’t beat me up or throw me in a locker for an afternoon like the kids in elementary school.

Sometimes I need to remove myself from the situation for my own mental health. I was becoming so paranoid about not offending anyone that I was constantly apologizing and afraid to do anything on my own. I was becoming crappy at my job.

Sometimes I need to ignore them. That can be effective in a few cases.

Sometimes I need to stalk them online, find out they have a warrant in another state and report them to the cops. Standard social coping techniques.

I don’t consider my time there as a failure. I know I want to work in this field. I’m still learning some of the niceties in the “professional” persona that everyone else puts on readily. But I have faith that I will do better next time, and now I’m going to school.

I am choosing to be hopeful.

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