Posted by: Marie | January 17, 2011

(492) Just a mere pissant

Post #492
[Private journal entry written on the afternoon of Saturday, August 28, 2010]

I’ve been mulling over my options concerning Father Jim. I keep flipping between feeling like I’m being overly reactive and feeling angry about his insensitivity, lack of empathy and flippant dismissal of my boundary.

Now, I REALLY don’t want him hugging me.

I have come to the conclusion my concerns about his possible dishonoring of my boundaries are very justified. His last email validated and intensified my initial trepidation about him. The red flags are whipping wildly in the wind. I feel as if I’m reliving my final interactions with Mark.

Photo by Martin Chen

I get that Jim was an executive officer of a major corporation in a former phase of his life. (He made sure I knew this.) I am aware he is used to people answering his beck and call without question. But, this is my studio and my body. He isn’t the chief here; this isn’t his kingdom.

I shouldn’t have to explain my boundaries. He should honor them simply because I have established them. But, maybe that is expecting too much from him – from most people. Maybe, unlike with Mark, an explanation will help . . .

I’ve decided to give Father Jim one more chance to change his tune.

This afternoon, I sent him this email:

Hi, Jim –

I’ve been doing some more thinking about the “hug” matter . . . and about your response (“If I accidentally hug you, please forgive me in advance.”)

I guess I should have been more direct in my request.

I am still in the process of healing from events occurring earlier in my life. Those events include physical abuse and multiple sexual assaults spanning the first 30 years of my life. During that time, it never dawned on me I didn’t have to be silent, compliant and/or complacent about what was happening.

Now I know I have other options. And now that I have started exercising those options, I am no longer willing to silently tolerate being touched at times and in ways I don’t want to be touched.

When someone initiates a hug and I am not comfortable with the idea of hugging that person, I am put into a position of having to choose between complacently submitting to the hug or actively resisting it. A purely motivated but uninvited hug can still be very triggering for me. It can trigger several days/nights of flashbacks and night terrors.

Can you see why this is a big deal for me?

So, bottom line . . . I don’t want you to hug me. Accidentally hugging me is not acceptable.

If you want to do business with me, you have to refrain from hugging me. If this means you need to put a sticky note on the front of your piano book to remember, then so be it.

I really do want to work with you. I think it would be very cool to work with you – but only if you can honor my boundaries.

Can you do that for me?

– Marie

So . . . we shall see. My money is on this thing going the same direction things with Mark went . . . I’m having a hard time believing my explaining will make any difference.

I appreciate the timing of the publication of the following two posts in other blogs because they have given me some language to express what I’m thinking/feeling about this situation:

Negotiation 101 from One Angry Daughter:

“The professor gave us this assignment to illustrate there are some instances where you come to an impasse – where neither side walks away with what they intended to achieve. However, it is not a total loss. Recognizing a no-win situation allows both parties to walk away with no less than what they brought into the negotiation. Forcing a deal would require one party to give up much more than what is on the table.”

“. . . it is an illustration of how I am willing to overlook my own standards to solve someone else’s problem. It is part of my rescuer complex – I get satisfaction out of being able to save the day for someone else at the sacrifice of my needs.”

“Being the rescuer all the time without discretion is a problem. It is not only a blurring of my boundaries, but a poor reflection of what I think about my negotiating partner. It is me coming in there and saying – I know this is your fair share of the responsibility, but here, let me shoulder it for you since I think I can handle it better. In the end, I get more stress and none of my needs met. Meanwhile the other person gets cut a huge break.”

Narcissism’s One-Track Mind from Sanctuary for the Abused:

“They are God, so they can’t dispretend that by owing you anything. That would be a comedown from their grandiosity. Nor can they be in the wrong in any matter with you. They are perfect, and you are relative dirt. And EVERY SINGLE THING THAT HAPPENS MUST PROVE THAT.

“God can’t apologize, because God can’t do anything wrong. God can’t thank you for anything, because no mere piss ant can do the great God a favor.”

Amen, ladies. Amen. Thanks for putting it into words for me!


  1. I’ll be interested to read his reaction.

    I thought your letter was most gracious (much more than mine would have been in similar circumstances I think).

    • So . . . assuming you would have some offbeat reason — some small glimmer of hope — for believing writing such a note would have a positive impact, what words would you have used?

  2. It all depends of course, but something like:

    Dear X,

    I need to make something clear. One of my boundaries is no hugging – this includes ‘accidental hugging’. If you can’t guarantee to not hug me then I am afraid I can not give you lessons.

    This is due to events in my past, which I hope you can understand.

    Looking forward to working with you,


    • Ooooo . . . I love it! It says everything I said but without the sense of an inappropriate and emotional vomit.

      I have bookmarked this for use in the future! Thank you!

  3. I read your note, and flags went up in my own mind for you. I mean this in the kindest of ways, Marie, but don’t give people information about former abuse. It feeds fetishes, fantasies, and increases the other’s sense of power.

    I think you are a charming woman who has no need to point out or explain vulnerability. Don’t do that to yourself. Please! I am fifty-one, now, and so age is in my corner (in addition having a very benign ‘icouldbeasociopathforallyouknow’ silent stare that ends most inappropriate conversations), but I had many, many years of believing that it was rude not to be accepting of physical, social connections.

    I would leave out any reason-giving other than, NO means NO! (yes, I know, this is too blunt… but don’t reference previous experiences. Seriously–this could put you in a position of greater vulnerability)

    My best,


  4. Marie,
    So glad to see you carried through on re-stating your boundaries to this guy. It’s great practice. Could you state it more clearly and with less “detail?” Sure, but I think however you feel comfortable explaining to people is your business.

    Another thing that you’re obviously working through is what feelings or responses are “justified” and which ones are over the top. The bottom line is, whatever you decide is necessary for you is justified and necessary. It doesn’t matter if someone else thinks you’re being unreasonable–it’s none of their fucking business, pardon my french.

    • Hi, Aaron,

      Having read your comment, I want to dial down the angst in my first reply. My dad was a perp who thrived on having all kinds of information because people were reluctant to assert their boundaries with him. He was a professional, he had standing in the community, and he used these things to his advantage. I felt the same kind of fear for Marie that I felt when I saw my dad engage other young women.

      My apologies.

      • Hey, Meredith –

        I wanted to respond jointly to your two comments . . .

        I never substitute someone else’s judgment for my own (or at least not knowingly), so I’m not inclined to take what you or anyone else says as gospel. However, we all bring such different experiences that when the input of many has a common theme (like giving out details and history is not a necessary part of boundary setting in non-intimate situations), I think it bears consideration.

        So . . . I’m glad you wrote with such passion in your first comment . . . it is your experience and you are only looking out for my best welfare. I’m glad you wrote boldly!

        And, I’m glad you are willing to consider such a strong stance might not work for everyone. All of your input is very welcome and much appreciated!

        And, like I wrote in response to Aaron’s comment, I tend to agree now as I look back.

        Thank you!
        – Marie

      • Hey Meredith, Just to be clear, I wasn’t at all trying to attack or undermine your comment. In fact, I sort of agreed with you in principle (about giving less detail being generally a better way to go).

        • Hi Aaron; I think we’re good. I learned a lot from this experience. I thought about it a lot. And thank you for your perception. This kind of experience is very healing for me. I think more broadly as a result of this entire exchange.

          It was all actually kind of neat, in the end.

          Thanks for your note. That was tight.


    • Hey, Aaron –

      The good news is that, after going through this and now having hindsight, I find myself agreeing with you. I think I needed to go through it to learn the “best” way to handle it . . . recognizing that “best” for me would likely be different from “best” for others. These types of experiences are so different for each of us. But, I learned a lot going through it and I have learned even more reading through the blog comments. I really appreciate everyone’s input!

      – Marie

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