Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Basics of Boundaries

Hello darlings! Pretty Lady has had a lovely vacation, thank you so much for asking!

She hopes that none of her dear readers will take offense at the notion of her offering a wee treatise on the subject of Boundaries. Rest assured that all of Pretty Lady's friends have a solid and intuitive understanding of the concept; she has taken good care that those who do not, are no longer part of her intimate circle. She still feels, however, that a clear delineation of the subject, with examples, might assist in providing a modicum of Peace and Greater Understanding in the world; at the very least, it could enlighten those of you who are still wondering why Pretty Lady never returned your phone calls.

So. Pretty Lady has often thought, as she grows older, that there are two types of people in the world; those who respect the boundaries of others, and those who simply Have No Clue. The clue that they are lacking is this:

Every human being is entitled to basic sovereignty over certain crucial aspects of Self.

"Every human being," in this instance, means every human being. Not "every human being except my children," or "every human being except the ones who have something I want" or "every human being with the same beliefs, tastes and traditions as myself" or "nobody except me." Or, come to think of it, "everybody except me."

Note, further, that this sovereignty begins and ends with the Self. It does not extend to others, because those others have it in the same degree as oneself. This, of course, seems perfectly obvious to those who have a grasp on it. Unfortunately...well, on with the particulars.

Crucial aspect #1: Every individual has a right to regulate access to his or her physical self.

This means that if you happen to be a police officer monitoring a Critical Mass demonstration, you may not tackle a bicyclist, fling him to the pavement, handcuff him and prosecute him for disturbing the peace, unless he was actually blocking traffic and trying to run you down, instead of attempting to veer out of your way as you moved aggressively into his path.

This means, similarly, that you must wait until your girlfriend is at least partly awake before attempting to copulate with her comatose form. "If you're in bed with someone you must have sex with them" is not a valid assumption. Sexual intercourse is an act of mutual participation, not a game of boink-the-corpse.

Crucial aspect #2: Every person has the right to his or her own religious and/or spiritual beliefs.

Evangelicals everywhere, Pretty Lady has some news for you. If we do not subscribe to your beliefs wholesale, it's not because we don't know what those beliefs are. Most human beings, in this day and age, are literate. We have access to the Bible; we have heard about Jesus Christ. We have had hundreds of pamphlets thrust into our hands on busy city streets, and have answered the doorbell to innumerable Jehovah's Witnesses. We have caught snippets of holy music while spinning the radio dial, and have flipped our TV channel past Falwell and Robertson. Moreover, we have the minds God gave us, with their diverse faculties for assimilating and assessing this information.

The states of our souls are thus our responsibility. Not yours.

Crucial aspect #3: Every person has the right to manage his or her personal relationships, with a modicum of privacy.

If one is living in unavoidably close quarters with another person, one must at least pretend not to be listening in on their phone conversations; still less may one stand over her roommate babbling, "Is that Lulu? I want to talk to Lulu! Give me the phone!" One does not assume that one is included in all social plans made in one's vicinity; one does not read emails over a person's shoulder uninvited. One does not interrupt phone or email conversations with trivial blather without explicit encouragement to do so. One does not read other peoples letters or journals until after their demise.

Crucial aspect #4: Every person has the right to his or her own opinions, tastes and preferences, independently of motive for holding them.

In vain, Pretty Lady has continuously argued in favor of separating the fact of one's holding an opinion, with the surmise of one's reason for doing so. Facts may be acknowledged as such; surmises are merely that. If one persists in mistaking one's casual imputation of motive for another person's actual character, the potential for grave slander exists.

For example; it is a fact that Pretty Lady prefers cats to dogs. She has no particular animus against dogs; she just likes cats better. These are the facts.

It is an unsupported surmise that Pretty Lady is therefore an immature, immoral, anti-American Satanist who is plotting the downfall of all God-fearing dog-lovers on the planet. Satanism, immorality and anti-Americanism may be linked in your mind with affection for cats, but there is no intrinsic, objective, causal link among these things, when the matter is placed under scientific scrutiny. One may not say with certainty that Pretty Lady's liking cats means anything more than that she likes cats. Period.

Moreover, affection for cats is an ethically neutral opinion. Pretty Lady is not a Bad Person for liking cats; she is not a Good Person for liking cats. Liking cats is simply an inconsequential but probably inalterable nuance of her scintillating personality. Get over it already.

In conclusion: It seems to Pretty Lady that the most egregious boundary violations occur when one person mistakes another for an object, to be manipulated on the behalf of a private agenda, instead of a mutual and sovereign entity. All the former friends, acquaintances, stalkers, and roommates-from-hell who had to be forcibly ejected from Pretty Lady's life due to their demonstrated inability to follow these simple rules had one thing in common--they seemed to dwell in a miasma of Roommate-From-Hell-Land, wherein the entire universe was colored with the needs, desires, opinions and perceptions of their particular Hell, with no inkling of the existence of other perspectives.

In fact, this inability to perceive the sovereignty of others was so pervasive that Pretty Lady isn't sure why she bothered to write this; it is certain to go unregarded by those who require it the most.


Anonymous said...

PL, if only you WERE a satanist or a witch or some such. I need a laying on of hands or an exorcism or some kind of juju voodoo. You know I'm living in Roommate-from-Hell Hell.


Pretty Lady said...

O, note the phrase 'had to be forcibly ejected.' A word to the wise.

The Aardvark said...

Reminded me of my past ruminations on boundaries:

Ayyyyyy-men. mostly.

Your link under #1 is wonky, and I was SO curious, too.

"Boink-the-corpse". RIOT!

Under #2: "Most human beings, in this day and age, are literate." It's so cute when you're an optimist.
I keep threatening to do a "Jehovah's Witness Protection Program" shirt.
It IS possible to share concern for another's spiritual state whilst maintaining boundaries. One of our elders (who happened to be a rocket scientist, as well) would ask "Would you like to talk about X?". If the response was negative, he would not press it. If "Yes", then the door was opened. The business of buttonholing people with a spiel is obnoxious in the extreme. And yes, it is each person's responsibility.

#3. I do not understand you you have avoided committing Murder Most Foul. I sure wouldn't convict you.

#4 But are the CATS anti-American Satanists? I note that you avoided that little issue, you clever thing. We have 12 cats (yard cats) and pinning down their affiliations can be tricky. I suspect one of being a John Bircher.

Be well.

Pretty Lady said...

Oh no! The link is here. It is well worth the watch.

The Aardvark said...

Wow, that was VERY strange. Large cop does a Random Thing. Makes no sense whatever in the context shown.

Pretty Lady said...

It makes perfect sense, Aardvaark: TESTOSTERONE. Testosterone licensed by the state. A very scary thing.

Chris Rywalt said...

I was with you until you stated that affection for cats is an ethically neutral position. It is not. Cats are evil bastards. As Craig Ferguson likes to note, if you die in your apartment, your cats will eat you. The only thing keeping them from eating you right now is they're too small.

Affection for cats is therefore a form of insanity. Look for it in an upcoming DSM.

Pretty Lady said...

Chris, I have two words for you: Donner Party.

Are we thus to conclude that since humans will eat each other under certain conditions, 1) humans are necessarily evil and 2) affection for humans is a form of insanity?


Chris Rywalt said...

You missed an important point: Humans don't avoid eating other humans merely because it's difficult. Cats, however, avoid eating humans simply because humans are bigger than they are. Witness how many people are killed by tigers, lions, pumas, panthers, and so forth.

Also, affection for humans is a form of insanity. Isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Promise to eat you last...