Let me just start by saying the same thing I’ve mentioned in my previous posts: I’m an introvert. I am not good at small talk. I do not enjoy striking up conversations with strangers. I don’t like when a random person on a bus or plane decides to talk to me.
But our society is kind of obsessed with politeness. I am expected to smile and engage in the conversation, even if it makes me uncomfortable. I am expected to put the feelings of others above my own.
I’ve been binge-listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder lately, and one of my favorite quotes from the show (besides, of course, “Stay sexy, don’t get murdered”) is “f*ck politeness.” There are so many stories about serial killers and murderers who target women and start acting creepy, and the women don’t say anything because they didn’t want to be rude. Maybe she thought it was weird that a random guy offered her a ride home, and then locked his car doors as soon as she was inside, but she wanted to be polite, so she didn’t speak up.
I have a friend whose family member actually ended up in a car with a serial killer. She tells the story way better than I could, but basically this guy was hitchhiking, and got picked up by a man. The man locked the car doors as soon as this guy was inside, and then offered him a drink from an opened bottle of Coke. The guy could tell that something was off, and managed to unlock his car door and get out at the next stoplight… and then saw on the news way later a description of a serial killer that had just been caught, which perfectly matched the description of the driver and the car that had picked him up.
IF YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE, PRACTICE SELF-PRESERVATION.
It is perfectly okay to leave a situation that is making you uncomfortable, even if it might be considered “rude.” It’s okay to disengage in a conversation with a stranger. After all, why should you be the polite one? Let them practice politeness by respecting YOU. You are not obligated to put other peoples’ feelings above your own safety and sanity.
Self preservation is arguably the most important part of self-care. It is the foundation for all the other fragments of self-care to build off of. There will be no bubble baths in your future if you decide to be polite and end up in the car with a serial killer. Obviously, that’s an extreme example, but here’s a more likely one: if I drain my social battery by being polite and engaging in an uncomfortable conversation with a stranger that I don’t want to have, I won’t have any socializing left in me for my friends. I’ll need to make up for it with extra self-care and alone time to recharge my battery, when I could have just used self preservation and decided not to be polite.
Let me be clear; I’m not condoning being rude in every situation in the name of self preservation. I am simply recommending politely disengaging from situations that make you uncomfortable; situations that society has told you that you just have to deal with, in the name of being polite. When you’re on the bus with your headphones in, and some dude tries to chat you up, rather than “being polite” by taking out your headphones and responding, I’m giving you permission to point at your ears and say, “I’m sorry, I’m listening to music right now.” When you get into the car with someone and they lock you in, I’m giving you permission to say “This makes me uncomfortable, I’d like to get a ride from someone else,” with 911 on speed dial in your right hand.
Speak up. Speak your mind. F*ck politeness.
Be happy. Be healthy.