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On access, intimacy and vulnerability

IntimacyFINALFear of appearing desperate and the risk of rejection leads many of us to be hesitant in asking for what we really want or telling another person our true feelings, writes Creatrix Tiara.

11 June 2011

It’s all about vulnerability, isn’t it?

So many societies demean desperation; if you come off as “desperate” no one will help you. The ones that get most of the help and support are the ones that look like they least need it (hence the rich getting all the freebies).

If you dare ask for something you need, God forbid you’re not in the lowest of the low. There will be people who will try to find some reason to scorn you, put your request down, make you feel like a horrible monster for even asking, as though you were imposing yourself on others, as though you were such a burden.

To have your request be legitimate you have to qualify it with a million reasons for why it is worthy, before people even ask you for it. Just look at grant and sponsorship applications: everything must be qualified with budgets and income streams, quantifiable benefits to “the community”, “what’s in it for me”. Saying that it helps you, and if you’re helped then you’re in a better position to help others, is unacceptable. It’s selfish, it’s rude.

Why would anyone want to fund your vacation? Why would anyone want to pay for your fun? This says a lot about how people value rest, solitude, fun, holidays, breaks: we need them to sustain ourselves and survive, we need them to live, and we’re sorely lacking in them, but yet daring to do something that isn’t work work work for something other than yourself is seen as a waste.

Try having an invisible disability: the daily struggles to justify your disability, wondering whether you really are disabled or you’re just lazy, wondering if you have the right to ask for help. I know I have them all the time.

Or when you have a mix of privileges and marginalisations, some of which help to combat the other, but only a little bit.

I have just enough in parental support to be able to briefly offset the downsides of being on a bridging visa and continually finding it difficult, if not impossible, to find regular jobs or other sources of financial support. I’m yet to be in a position to really need homeless services or anything like it (and then be totally screwed because chances are they don’t serve people with bridging visas either).

The wealth/class privilege doesn’t travel very far, and doesn’t mitigate everything, and I do still find myself needing assistance to survive the rest of the month (I’ve run out of money already) or to afford something that will allow me to take bigger steps to support myself or to finish off something I started.

But when I do ask for help, often I get, “Well you’re a rich kid, why should I help you?” Because being on a student visa meant paying full-fee and obviously the only international students here in Australia are multimillionaires.

Because obviously our parents support and approve of everything. Because we find ourselves caught between relying on familial financial support just so we can live even though they don’t support our life choices – or the humiliation and tension of not being able to be as financially independent as we want to.

And that’s just me. I’m not the only one.

There have been a few articles going around on the internet about the myth of independence and building a culture of interdependence. But that’s not going to happen while we still shame people for being “desperate”, when we judge people for their choices and desires, when we wait till someone doesn’t ask for something or turns things down before they are worthy of receiving.

When we demand “humility” in the guise of “Oh it’s ok, I don’t need it really”… and then scorn anyone who even tries to acknowledge it.

So far most of my article has been about material vulnerability, but this goes for other types of vulnerability too. Asking for a relationship, a lover. Who else has been told that if they seem desperate no one will go for them, and so end up trying to balance between making their desires open and not being creepy or too forward?

Or even just telling someone “I love you”… how many have struggled to say this out of fear of the other person running away? How many have had people run away because of this, because they conceive of the statement as something else?

Or asking for recognition, respect, acknowledgement: How many else have been told to “be accommodating”, to just take it in stride if you are ignored, to not draw attention to yourself “unnecessarily” if it’s going to end up causing a rift? (Thanks mum.)

Or asking for a job: So many rules and requirements on how and when to contact and not contact companies. Be pushy or not pushy? Polite or not polite? How are things different based on your race or gender? When do you draw the line from “persistent” to “annoying”?

Using “attention-seeker” as an insult. I don’t need to say more.

How, where, and when are we able to really feel safe in our vulnerability: the people who will not judge us for making requests, for being the mix of rabble and rouse and rapt and rapport, for not being perfect? Where can we feel free and open to show the holes, to ask that holes be fixed or filled?

What sort of demands do we place on other people and how does that affect what we expect of people towards us? (I’ve had many times where I’ve thought, “Well it’s ok that this person treated me like crap, I treated someone else like crap too so it’s only fair.”)

There’s this joke about wanting to share your deepest darkest secrets to the world wide web, but I don’t think that’s too far from the truth.

I write tons on my blog because it’s not to any one person; anyone can pick up and let go, no one has to read the entire thing, and it’s not even a fraction of what I feel or go through.

But being this open to one person, or even a small group? Scary.

Creatrix Tiara (formerly Tiara the Merch Girl) is associate editor with The Scavenger. She blogs here.


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