“Watch yourself”

He was a middle-aged man. We had not spent much time together. Now we were outside walking through an overgrown area where plants blocked the path. He walked in front of me and as he passed various shrubbery and branches, instead of holding them aside or saying, “Watch yourself” or some such, he let the branches and stems fling back and hit me. Once I realized it, I slowed my gait and fell behind slightly so that the branches stilled before I reached them and I could easily move them aside for myself.

This small action on his part spoke volumes to me. He was not doing it on purpose – trying to make foliage hit me the way someone might do if they were trying to be either playful or rude – as much as he was oblivious to what he was doing. He wasn’t thinking about me, the woman walking behind him at all. I instinctively knew he’d had no one teach him the little niceties of interacting – or he’d had no interest in learning – and I further knew I wasn’t going to be the one to do it now. There were already too many other things about which I had deep reservations.

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37 thoughts on ““Watch yourself”

  1. Art Girl

    It is the little things that mean volumes! As I grow older, I realize I have no patience for these things. I know I cannot change someone and have no interest in trying to do so. They are who they are. I think women are continually tweaking themselves to become better human beings. Men? I wonder…..

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      That is exactly how I feel. The men in my dating range already ARE the men they became; no more building-on-potential nonsense for me. My bar is high and sturdy. Too many middle age men have hit “coast” and plan to ride out their days in grooves already etched. Not me baby! Great comment – thanks. –Colette

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  2. Maggie Wilson

    I’ve been on that same path. Literally and figuratively. Sometimes I try to justify the apparent lack of courtesy “he’s deep in thought” but sometimes I just need to bellow. “Hey! A little consideration, if you don’t mind!”

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Does it work Maggie? I am just so tired, I think, of trying to teach/show people the most basic stuff (Decency 101); I don’t want to do it any more, I don’t want to hear myself any more, I don’t want to jump around & wave my arms (mostly figuratively) any more.

      Say… how’s the moratorium on bad news, especially at dinner, going?

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      1. Maggie Wilson

        Does it work? Yes and no. In my case, yes it worked when I angrily confronted him after he allowed a door to close on me when I was following immediately behind, with both hands full. “It’s your job!” I declared. Meaning, wake up, be aware to someone other than yourself for a change. He got the message and ever since is very good at holding doors. This is not, by the way, some demand for chivalry or being careful of the “fairer sex” . This is about common courtesy to ANYone.
        But his new-found skill did not transfer to other circumstances, like walking through the woods and allowing branches to smack the person following. I’ve learned to stay several paces back. But then, that kinda kills any chance for conversation or feeling together.
        I get tired, too. Sometimes I despair and/or rage. Sometimes I can accept it as part of the human dynamic. Sometimes I play the “it is what it is” tape and take some comfort.
        Of course, what works for me will not work for the next gal or guy. I suppose it would depend on so many things, the most fundamental being the nature of the two players involved.
        The bad news moratorium needs refreshing every now and again. But it appears to be working fine for the moment, thanks for asking!

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          Maggie, sometimes I have found myself asking of someone, “Didn’t your mama teach you this?” Like, did they learn and forget? I did not get the impression you were asking for something other than acknowledgement and courtesy from him; “It’s your job” is pretty benign when one considers all the possible and colorful options available!

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  3. John Callaghan

    When we are on a sidewalk I make my wife walk on the inside lane while I walk on the part closest to the road. My logic being that if a car goes out of control and careens up onto the sidewalk I’ll take the brunt of the collision.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I have long heard a man is “supposed” to do that but I think in the versions I’ve heard the rationale, while still about a courtesy to the woman, was different. However I’m drawing a bit of a blank on “why.” To protect her from cars splashing water? (p.s. I’m curious what she thinks of the gesture?)

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      1. John Callaghan

        She says as long as the car hits me in the head, which is like a block of concrete, I should be fine. But seriously I think she is fine with it. I fuss a little too much though. I don’t think she pays enough attention to her surroundings where I am always on alert for potential threats.

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          1. John Callaghan

            It’s not so much that I think it’s dangerous as I have developed a keen sense of protection from working and being friends with people who are developmentally delayed. Now my wife is intillectually brilliant but physically she is quite fragile. So I am always cautious when we are out and about. If you are vulnerable in any way and you are with me you not be hurt or injured by anyone or anything.

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            1. writerinsoul Post author

              I appreciate what you’re telling me, John, I do. You are protective (as am I). And you are fierce when it comes to your wife. I was just thinking that your background might factor in too. I meet people who surprise me with how carefree they seem regarding potential dangers – leaving doors unlocked and so on – and I imagine they were taught the world is safe and/or they needn’t worry about such things. Just a thought.

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            2. John Callaghan

              I think you are right about that. Survival was vigilance and being prepared was insurance of a tolerable day. I think sometimes though it gets a bit much. The world is a wonderful place and my life is good so there is no point in continuing to wear a life preserver years after being rescued at sea. I’m starting to learn a healthy balance. Finally. But it is something I still need to work on.

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            3. writerinsoul Post author

              I get it. You are a very smart fellow. Excellent metaphor on the sea & life preserver. I stay in the better-safe-than-sorry camp. My instincts have served me well so far. I know I will never be la-la-la carefree.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I remarked it! I even tacked on “to me” after “speaks volumes” in the post because I know not everybody would judge it as harshly – but the more I’ve thought about it in the years since, the more I knew I was right.

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  4. Andrew Davis

    Consider your walking partners. It isn’t hard. Check in with them, since they certainly have the choice to be with you or not. I used to think I was being considerate walking on the street side of the sidewalk. Then my wife began adjusting her grip on my hand, passively. I asked her what was wrong. She told me she liked holding my right hand, not my left. Walking on this side definitely clears her of the many 3-D shrubbery attacks from neighbors’ unkempt yards.
    Everything works so much better between us when it is collaborative!

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Exactly. People should consider others’ preferences especially in voluntary social interactions and contracts, but they have to be paying attention in the first place (like you were). Another part to this is I don’t like having things forced on me in the name of courtesy/chivalry/or-whatever-someone-is-calling-it in lieu of what I’ve actually requested. I get taken aback how often someone thinks they’re going to do something independent of whether I like it!

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      1. Andrew Davis

        That is something in my life still very much a work in progress. As I previously blogged, I am a sweet, considerate, chivalrous, door opening saint of a guy- that still checks in with himself on controlling behavior masked as considerate. And the best way to know the truth is to ask the person how they feel. That helps to take me out of the controlling state. Like you said, the person may not want things done for them. Sometimes not doing is more considerate… once you check the temperature of the person.

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          I remember that post. It’s so good you want to pay attention to your own motives in addition to paying attention to your wife’s wants. I have been on the receiving end of controlling attempts like you describe… it usually doesn’t go well…Distant memories of me saying things like, “You don’t get to decide what I like.”

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          1. Andrew Davis

            You don’t get more assertive than that! And men that hear women say that often get defensive. I still get the “I’m feeling controlled” statement by my wife, but she does it sensitively, as a warning when I have apparently busted through several mental road blocks.

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            1. writerinsoul Post author

              Well, to be true, I know if someone gets defensive easily with me, it’s just not gonna work, as I have a straight-shooting, no b.s. manner. Not for those who scare easily! Heh.

              Your wife is wise to not dance around and to just tell you. You might want to notice, if I may presume and you aren’t already doing it, how often she feels moved to say it.

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            2. Andrew Davis

              It’s funny you say that, Colette, because recently, based upon body language, I sometimes sense something is wrong and say, “you’re feeling controlled, aren’t you?” And she will say yes. It becomes better the second we both know this has become a problem. Then we can eidetically trace the issue and make adjustments for the future. I say “we” but a lot of it is “me”. Just to clarify.

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  5. vanbytheriver

    Common courtesy is really not so common, and has to be taught young, especially by example. It shows up early if done right..even in teenagers. If you’re an adult, and you don’t “get it”, you probably never will. Sad, but true. I am grateful every day for the gentleman that taught my husband how to be one. 💕

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      You probably wouldn’t have picked Jim if he didn’t have those qualities and you’re so right about where they’re learned (or not). Great example: my older brothers learned how to treat women from our father (not good) BUT my younger brother learned more from his older sisters and it made all the difference in his later life.

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