No kids of my body, but loved this bit <3
I just completed our required three days of DOC In Service and my ass may never be the same. I don’t remember the chairs being so hard last year, but maybe they were. This is my third In-Service and it was less terrible than the other two, for which I am quite thankful.
But I’ve noticed something unexpected, now that I’m back in my office and with my students. After spending three days with DOC folks (Medical, Security, and BHS), I feel oddly disconnected from my students. It’s almost as if the collective DOC aura rubbed off on me, building an invisible barrier and forcing me to see them as inmates, not students.
It’s a strange sensation, a kind of double vision. I see my student or clerk working or talking to me and, at the same time, there’s a faint overlay of “Inmate” where there wasn’t before. I don’t like it, it feels uncomfortable and disorienting to suddenly have this imposed vision of “Other.” These are my worlds, colliding, and it doesn’t feel good.
I always know my students are inmates (or Adults in Custody), but I don’t give that label priority billing. I work within the rules and boundaries, but their primary identity is themselves, not their inmate-ness. Today, their inmate-ness is more present, and I know it’s a result of three days of hearing others refer to them in that way, being in the mind-fields of those people, knowing that my approach and relationship with my students is so much different than theirs – as it should be. I assume that if some of them saw how my program works, they’d think I was crossing all kinds of boundaries and making lots of mistakes, but they would be wrong.
I just operate differently, the women relate to me in a different way, and I see them first as people and women, not as inmates. I hadn’t realized what a difference it makes, that it makes working here bearable for me. If I had no option but to treat them always as inmates, I couldn’t tolerate the work. It’s good for me to be reminded of the mindset of so many of my co-workers, but that’s not a path I want to walk.
That’s how much time until N, former student and assistant, paroles. It’s such a bittersweet moment for me, their parole date and all its attendant excitement and anxiety and uncertainty. The only thing that is certain is that they are leaving, prepared or unprepared, and the nature of our relationship changes with their freedom and newly recovered autonomy.
Now, they have the freedom to stay in relationship or not, and that is as it should be. We should all have the freedom to choose our relationships but, in prison, that freedom is removed. Even though I try to be someone they want to listen to and learn from, there’s always the underlying question – would they be doing this if they didn’t have to? Would they be so cooperative and willing if they had a choice?
Most of them don’t stay in touch when they leave, or they stay in touch only briefly. That is sad, but I think it is also right. They need to live their lives and make their choices on their own – rebuild their confidence, and trust in their decisions without my support. While part of me would love a regular email update, the other part of me thinks “they need to take the lessons they learned and move on, find new teachers and mentors, and create new futures for themselves” and that can mean they completely break their ties with friends and staff.
It’s all part of the ritual of leaving. The promises to keep in touch that are only sporadically kept, giving away belongings, parties and sharing spreads, making beautiful, elaborate goodbye cards – all sentimentality at its finest. But the grief is real, the loss is real, even if the gratuitous displays of emotion are a bit much. I’ve spent so much of my life leaving or being left, and it still feels as if I am standing still, while the person leaving is accelerating away, faster and faster til they’re just a speck in the distance.
I feel a “happy loss,” I suppose. I understand and accept the change, with both a sense of loss and hope for their better future.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been in the online dating world for a long time. I’ve had one or two successes, but it’s mostly been an ongoing hot mess of inconsistency, erratic behavior, and completely unexplainable and confusing communication. There have been many, many times where I was so confused by some man’s online behavior or communication that I genuinely thought I was going crazy.
I have no explanation for this phenomenon, especially not for men of my generation. I understand you younger folks approach dating differently, blah blah blah, but I don’t get the guys around my age, or within 10 years or so younger. I mean, what the fuck is happening?
The years of inconsiderate, impolite, mean, and inexplicable behavior is slowly pushing me to believe that no man I meet online is trustworthy, honest, mentally healthy (in the most basic sense), or even human. This creates a real sense of personal turmoil because I know it can’t be true. I can’t quite believe that any man who is online is a worthless human being because I interact with many who are exceptional humans.
But there is an extremely strong cognitive dissonance that I can’t resolve or explain. It may be that these encounters are strictly dating-site related and that something about the anonymity of online dating brings out the worst in these men, but I can’t tell.
I have wondered for years (years!) if it was me – if there is something so wrong about me that I instantly bring out the worst in every man I meet. I suppose that could be true, but I have many healthy male friends and they don’t get all bananas just because I’m in the room. Even still, I’m willing to accept that there could be something about me that isn’t appealing, because that’s just true for all of us.
By now, you’re probably wondering if this post was motivated by a recent “encounter” and the answer is yes, it was. The brief version is this: John Doe contacts me, charming and complimentary, strings together a couple of sentences and appears intelligent. I am surprised but cautiously optimistic and a little flattered. We exchange messages, move to regular email. After a few of those (he continues to be flattering, thoughtful, complimentary), I’m both skeptical and wondering – could this man be real? Does he really dig me as much as he seems to? Finally, he asks about meeting. He wrote:
“I thought cupid was seeing if two people wanted to meet for coffee. [Yackity Yackity yackity…..] It’s unspoken understood that either party breaks communication at any time before they meet, after they meet people usually show more courtesy. Your hopeful suitor,…”
– and I said sure, let’s make a coffee date. Guess what happened next? Total radio silence. Thunderous silence. A complete absence of response silence. For those of you familiar with online dating, if someone doesn’t respond with in a day or, at most, two, without explanation, it’s a good sign they’ve ghosted out. 36 hours went by and nary a peep, and I discovered that he either no longer has a dating profile or that he blocked me.
Aside from a massive eye roll and now this post, this whatever it was is done. But the bigger question is – why did it even start? What would prompt someone to put time and energy into making a connection that they almost immediately end – abruptly and rudely? I’ve been trying for years to understand and I just can’t get my head around it. People give all kinds of explanations, about the individual and about online dating in general, but none of them satisfactorily answers the question.
I been unable to understand this type of behavior and I probably never will. I don’t see the motivation nor how they hope to benefit. There was a time, probably not that long ago, that I would have been much more invested in this exchange and the ending would have stung. I’m grateful that I’m in a better place now and all it gets is a blog post.