Most of us hate crowds. Our stimulus barriers get overwhelmed by the sensory overload – too loud, too noisy, too much movement, too many smells, not enough space to move without physical contact, etc. – and we start to feel trapped. It used to be that no one noticed us. We took pains to be invisible and move around unnoticed so that getting through crowds was easier and less stressful.
But that doesn’t happen anymore. This year’s goal to stop hiding has made moving through crowds unnoticed much more difficult. Even though most of us don’t want to admit it, our physical appearance is attractive and attracts interest from males. Dressing in clothes that fit and feel good brings attention too because of the confidence that shows in our body language. Most of the time, it can be ignored or brushed off as harmless. But not always. And some situations are particularly anxiety-provoking because none of us have the experience to politely cope with flirtatious, young males in mixed-company groups of 10 or more.
That happened yesterday. It was annoying more than anything else until I got off the train and felt them staring at me as I walked faster and faster, almost running in my haste to distance myself from them as I tried to get to my destination. Then later that evening as I passed groups of people sitting outside and eating at public tables on my way back to the train station to get home, I heard them call out to me with insults meant to get my attention by angering me. “You’re not as beautiful as you think. And you’re not very friendly”, etc.
I never know how to handle this because my past experiences with come-ons and flirtation were forced and not consenting. Also, I inherited genetics that make me look up to 15 years younger than I really am. One woman yesterday told me she thought I was in my teens. Most people at work think I am in my early to mid twenties. Truth is I am in my early thirties; fast approaching mid-thirties. And those of us (alters) who are interested in sexual relationships are not interested in young, college age males. Or older males (close in age to the donors and other abusers) either.
So flirting and meeting interesting males within my/our age group in safe places is not exactly easy now. For one thing, most popular places are filled with college students in the fall. For another, there’s always the chance of running into people from my past in places like that. And the crowds make relaxing and acting “normal” a challenge. It’s a conundrum. How many of the alters want to have a more active social life? Will the non-sexual and easily triggered alters be able to cope with these changes? How do we all maintain our safety and self-care while exploring different kinds of social interaction?
And how do we politely and firmly deal with hecklers like the young males who cat-called or made rude comments to us as we walked by – our body language and facial expression clearly stating that we are not interested – without escalating the issue?
Oh well. Another aspect of recovery to explore.