“Approval” is a Four-Letter-Word

About maybe 3 months ago or so, some old friends of mine revealed to me that they were looking for houses in Minneapolis to put offers on, and asked if I would like to be their roommate.  I would have to pay rent and help with utilities, of course, but I also wouldn’t have to live in my parents’ house anymore.  I told them “yes” without much hesitation.

I want to be clear.  I love my parents.  They’ve done so much for me, supported me, and helped pay for my college tuition.  They’ve let me live in their house.  They’ve at least tried to understand some of my own opinions about things.  So I’m trying to be as generous as I can in acknowledging what they’ve done for me and accepting that we have differences in opinion. I’m not trying to absolve them of things they’ve done and said, but I am trying to have a relationship with them.

But to return to my story: I said “yes”, and in March sometime I hope to be moving out and getting some roommates in Uptown Minneapolis.  As much as cities are things that I’m not especially fond of, I think I can get used to Suburban Life™ with time and training and a lot of curtains so I don’t feel like the entire world can see me putting on my pants in the morning.  Truthfully, I’m quite excited to get this next stage of my life rolling.  Who knows what might come next?  At some point I hope to live in a small house in Japan, but this is a good first step, I think.

Or it would be, if a certain relative didn’t keep pestering me to find an apartment with a male roommate.  For the purposes of this blog, and in the interests of maintaining a certain degree of anonymity, let us refer to this individual from this point on as “Relative X”, somebody that I’m very close with in my nearby family that I see on a semi-regular basis.

Now, I want to make some context clear, which is that the friends’ that I’ll be moving in with are a married couple and they have been for some time.  I feel like this might be a somewhat unusual situation, but my experience as a hooman beeng is short and still fairly limited.  I’d accepted their offer because, based on what I know about them, I felt that their extension of hospitality had come from a place of genuine friendship and caring.  It didn’t matter to me that they were married, and it was Relative X who had first suggested to me (probably from a place of caring) that living with a married couple as “a young man” was an extremely bad idea and would inevitably incur the wrath of the man when me and lady-person inevitably started messing around.  Because, you know, that’s just how that works.  Never mind that sex is probably like the least-important thing to me in any romantic relationship.

I am doing my best to avoid putting words into Relative X’s mouth, asides from things that I vividly recall them saying.  I truly believe that their attempts to caution and warn me come from a place of caring and concern for a treasured family member.  This is a person who all their life has had close family fight and shout and hurt each other and sometimes just up and leave.  They cling to every familial relationship they still have, desperate to hold onto people, and I happen to be one of those people.  But I feel like telling me these things is Relative X’s peculiar way of trying to suppress what they view as the insidious, inevitable onset of the toxic masculine identity that apparently exists within all men and has the potential to spring forward at any given moment.  So I guess their heart’s in the right place?

Like, I hopefully don’t have to explain what’s problematic about this.  Relative X is worried that I will cause ruptures in another couple’s relationship (me, a monogamous, bisexual, demiromantic who asks for consent to use somebody else’s glasses, let alone to have sex with them) because of my uncontrollable male urges, so the natural suggestion is to seek living quarters with… other men.

jackie-chan-wtf

Your words.  They make no sense.

See, I had thought that living with a couple in a committed relationship, talking to them about their situation, asking them about how they sort out their differences, would’ve been an extremely valuable experience.  Sure, there are times when people fight, and that’s never fun to witness, especially for somebody as unconfrontational as myself.  But I’m gonna have to deal with people not getting along no matter where I live.  I deal with it at my parents’ house.  I’ve dealt with it at friends’ houses.  Christ, I just broke up with somebody that I cared about a great deal (but perhaps not as much as they did), a break-up that I initiated.  I can’t be sheltered anymore from the unfortunate reality that people miscommunicate all the damn time.  It’s FAI for humans.

And then when I bring up some questions to Relative X—when I ask them “well, what about transgendered roommates?”, “what about non-binary people?”, “what about gay people?”—all they can do is storm off with angry, clipped judgment.  What am I supposed to take from that?  What am I supposed to assume that, just because I brought up some legitimate questions, all that this person can do is turn around and leave?  What does that tell me?

Those are rhetorical questions.  I dunno if answering them will actually do me any good.

It’s probably inevitable that we discover that the people close to us hold some kind of toxic beliefs that they haven’t yet examined or that simply haven’t been challenged by outside perspectives.  Ignorance (willful or otherwise) doesn’t excuse toxicity, but it’s still hard to face down somebody you care about, who cares a lot about you, and tell them that you think they believe some very problematic things.

I’ve heard it said that “if they actually care about you, they’ll respect your opinions,” and I would dearly love for that to be true.  But there are some things that it seems impossible for people to reach consensus on.  For many, many years I wondered why it was so hard for people to just let other people live their own lives, but today I live in a country that has just elected a man to presidency that I fear will destroy the lives of many people I care very deeply about (and if not him, then the people he has willingly accepted into his cabinet almost certainly will).  I would love to be proven wrong about this man, but I think that would take either a very large miracle, or very many tiny ones.

gty-womens-march-washington-4-jt-170121_12x5_1600

Honestly, though, I’ll take a bunch of tiny human miracles over one divine one.

I love Relative X, I deeply care about them, and this is why their treatment of me and my opinions cuts so deep.  I’m very naturally an approval-seeker, and knowing that there’s somebody I care about who treats me this way because of my beliefs is heartbreaking.  I can’t help it.  It’s just the way I feel.  I struggle with it every day so I can allow myself to actually believe and uphold the things I believe, and not just to be a people-pleaser.

But I don’t need anybody’s approval to ask questions.  I don’t need approval to feel good about myself and what I want to do with my life.

And that’s why I wanted to apologize to Relative X for saying things that I think might have hurt them in ways that I don’t fully understand or appreciate.  But I will NOT take any of those things back.  I will let them linger in the air (watering as needed) until I get solid answers.

They don’t have to be answers that I like, but they do need to be truthful.  I would much rather hear a legitimate opinion or grievance than a sweet nothing that earns my approval.

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