Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's not about you

So I’m in Massage Therapy class, and we’re talking about abdominal massage. Basically, rubbing the stomach. This is a specialized technique that we won’t learn until next semester, but there was a question regarding abdominal massage on our final exam for this semester.

When performing abdominal massage, effleurage strokes should be applied
a. Clockwise
b. Counter-clockwise
c. Inferior to Superior
d. Medially to Laterally

The students were miffed. Once we finished the exam, and everyone had turned in the test, we asked our instructor to tell us which was the right answer.

She told us that abdominal massage should be performed with clockwise strokes, because this is the direction in which the intestines move. Light massage over this area can aid digestion and elimination, if your client has problems with that.

One of our students got very upset that our instructor wasn’t emphasizing the benefits to a woman’s menstrual cycle. “WHY aren’t we talking about that!?” she screeched.

The instructor simply blinked, looked at the student, and said, “We will. Next semester.”

I told a friend of mine this story. This friend is my mother’s age, and is also a teacher. She always seems calm.

“Well, for those of us old enough to remember such things,” she mused, “Schools didn’t used to discuss women’s reproductive health in any fashion. Your classmate may have suspected a deliberate exclusion of information on the part of the instructor.”

“But WHY,” I huffed, “would my fellow student make that assumption?”

“Didn’t you say your classmate is from the south?” My friend asked.

“Yes,” I replied, a bit disoriented. “South Carolina.”

“Is it possible that the schools she’s been to previously would have taken exactly that biased, exclusionary attitude?”

“Yes... I guess they might. She has a lot of stories about the mentality of the people she used to live around.”

“Well, this might be a hot button with her.”

We all have our hot button issues, and people can bring them to mind without realizing it. I used to make assumptions about people’s viewpoints and motivations based on things they said all the time. I was right occasionally, but I was usually wrong. Worse than that, when I spoke up about it, and I was wrong, I made myself look like a fanatical idiot, creating adversaries out of thin air.

I stopped filling in the blanks, reading between the lines, and putting words in people’s mouths. I started thinking carefully about what I had just read or heard, and exactly what those words were. I started considering the source of the statement. How well did I know this person? Did I really think they held the views I feared? I realized that my own sensitivity to certain issues caused me to pick fights where they were inappropriate, and caused me to mis-hear certain words and misunderstand phrases. I expected to be confronted with negativity… so I created it where there was none.

I want to say I thought I was being smart, or tough, or protecting myself by being alert and aware. That’s not the case though, and I don’t think it is for most people. My expectations of hostility and insult were simply a gut-level, learned reaction to previously experienced hurt. Sort of like those Vikings in that commercial who don’t know what to do with themselves, now that ransacking is out of fashion.

You have to learn what is about you and what is not. You also have to realize when you’re championing a cause because of a legitimate need in society, and when you’re tilting windmills because you need a way to vent your frustration. Both courses of action are ok, as long as you’re up front about it.

When I was in college, some friends of mine were telling blonde jokes, and we were all laughing. A buxom blonde friend of our walked through the area while we were doing so. She turned around, came back, and asked “Do you know why brunettes and redheads tell so many blonde jokes?”

“No,” we asked, enjoying the twist we knew was coming.

“Because they don’t have anything else to do on Friday and Saturday nights.” Our blonde friend smiled and went on her merry way. We convulsed with laughter.

I learned the next day that one of my brunette cohorts in that room had approached said blonde at a party later that night, and picked a nasty, vulgar, violent fight with her. Many names were called, hair was pulled, and the neighbors threatened to call the police when the fight spilled onto the front lawn.

We were all joking. If our blonde friend could take it and dish it out, and I could too, I guess our other friend couldn’t.

I saw my blonde friend at a departmental meeting a week or so later. “Hey, Red!” She called out across the room. “What, Blondie?” I called back. “What did you do last Friday night?” She asked.

“I bleached my hair and got engaged!” I shot back. We both laughed, and so did half the room.

“Oh yeah?” She retorted. “I dyed my hair red and had an orgy!”

We quit before the faculty yelled at us. The whole room was laughing.

I miss that girl.

1 comment:

Dr. Zoom said...

Have I told you lately that I love your posts? Gosh. What good reading.

This, particularly, struck me as so wise.

You have to learn what is about you and what is not.

One of the things I learned in college ... perhaps THE thing that has stuck with me MOST ... is that if you receive negativity when communicationg with someone, you are only a fraction of what that person has experienced in that day, and it is just as likely as not that their negtivity has nothing to do with you.

The egocentric among us (mind you, I dodn't say "egotistical") have great difficulty with this and, as a result, accumulate a helluva lot more worry lines.

Just ask my mother.