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How to Get Rid of Intruders

How to Get Rid of Intruders

Recently I was cornered in the hallway of the new condo building I live in by an overly intrusive lady. Perhaps it’s partly my fault because I have this new rule that I say hello to everyone I meet in the community so that we can start getting to know the neighbors.
Little did I know that I would be pulled into an uncomfortable conversation. All I said was hi, then this woman starts asking me: “what’s wrong with you?” She points at my knee replacement scars and asks: “were you in a car accident?”

My spidey senses started tingling with the feeling that I wasn’t comfortable where this conversation was heading. But, I explained that I’d had joint replacement surgeries due to rheumatoid arthritis, and backed myself a little away because she was encroaching on my personal space.

“I never heard of such a thing,” she said. She stepped close again, intruding on my space and reaching out like she was going to touch me without asking. I could tell that she was about to ask me more questions, and so said I had to leave and went on my way.

I know that my tone grew cold, that my body language screamed: “you are getting too intrusive!” but this woman was not noticing or didn’t care. I’ve seen her again in the hallway and don’t say hello anymore. I don’t want to get to know someone so disrespectful, even if she is a neighbor. Just seeing her gives me the creeps, like she is spying on me.

It wasn’t the first time I had an intruder into my business, and I am sure it will not be the last. I can’t say that I have a perfect response, but I definitely hold my ground on setting boundaries.

While I am open about having rheumatoid arthritis, going through joint replacements, using a wheelchair, and living with disabilities—that does not entitle perfect strangers to ask intrusive questions or make judgments about me. I generally will answer questions and don’t feel troubled by genuine curiosity. I usually don’t mind explaining to children (within limits). But this interest must be genuine, by someone who knows me or wants to know me better. I will not feed creepy fixations or satisfy gossips.

Often I just find a way to exit the situation as politely as possible. But I also think it’s perfectly fine to say: “I don’t want to discuss that.” Or: “I don’t know you well enough to share personal information.” Or even: “It’s none of your beeswax.”

Just because I stand out, doesn’t mean that I’m on public display or can be interrogated like I should not have any privacy. These incidents are very likely because I use a fire-engine red wheelchair and have observable joint deformities. People notice and have questions. But I don’t want to be made to feel like a curiosity or zoo animal. I am not a rolling freak show providing entertainment.

No, I am a person and expect to be treated that way. I demand courtesy. Maybe my health story is fascinating and complex (indeed, it is!), but it is my personal story and I won’t tell it to everybody. My struggles are not for entertainment value, but have helped to define the contours of my life.

I’m of the age when I can tell very quickly if people are uncomfortable with my disabilities, fascinated, or creepily interested. There’s a wide spectrum of emotion and response, but I can feel it. My hope is to always be treated as a person first, and maybe never as an interesting specimen. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. For the people who need time to get comfortable, I am OK with that. But the people who think they can get all up into my business before we have barely spoken, need to learn that is the fastest ticket to trouble.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • tckrd
    1 year ago

    How true how true. Some people don’t really want to know.

  • mimir
    2 years ago

    To speak so harshly about the older woman “scrawny fingers”.when all was needed was for you to touch her hand and say “NO”. Then tell her you hurt too much. She was attempting to help you,in no way was that an assault. I spent decades working with Ophthalmologist’s and Optometrists as an A.B.O.Optician and waiting patient’s DO share health issues and self help idea’s. Her massage was a gift to you,perhaps at great cost to herself as you noted knee issues. All it would have taken is a simple “no thank you”. Living a life of never ending pain for the past 44 years has taught me there are many caring people in the world and I will remain one as long as possible.

  • mcadwell
    2 years ago

    When people have done that to me I bluntly ask them, “Why?”. Either they get confused and I can bypass the question or they explain why they asked and I can choose to answer or not.

  • Nina Winterbottom moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi mcadwell, it sounds like asking “why?” is one way to figure out if the person has good intentions and really wants to understand. Thank you for sharing this approach with us and thank you for being a part of this community!

    Best,
    Nina (RheumatoidArthritis.net)

  • Patricia
    2 years ago

    Maybe it is because I’m Southern, born and grown up in the South & live in a small Southern town where people speak to everyone, greet each other with a smile, often hug each other and express concern for each other; but that encounter would not have bothered me. I understand it did you, but she was probably simply attempting to be friendly. I certainly wouldn’t have found anything scary about what you described. But that’s me and the way I’m used to living.

  • mimir
    2 years ago

    I so agree,snarky responses? Just what’s the point. With RA and other hard to discern conditions often no one can tell why the look of pain is so clear on your face, a leg is dragging,an arm is clenched in a muscle spasm and walking is so obviously difficult. So when a stranger asks if they can help,it need not be viewed as a challenge,but perhaps just what it is,help to one that may need it. I am fitting my pride,rather use my cane than the walker my doctor wants me to use–I am failing a bit to often. I told him “you first”!

  • Nina Winterbottom moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Patricia, we are really glad you shared this as you bring up some great points and perspectives. Interpreting other people’s intentions can be tricky, as you say, because it depends on what we’re used to and how we like to communicate. Thanks for being part of our community, we are glad to have you here!

    Best,
    Nina (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    2 years ago

    That is why when people ask how I am? I usually say angry. If they don’t pause. I keep walking. If they do pause, I decide if I will laugh or not. Otherwise, I wait for them to speak.

    I call it the anger index. Oh unless you think otherwise. it is not scientific.

  • Patricia
    2 years ago

    I am sorry, but I really found that sad. Maybe you live in a large impersonal city, and that’s why.

  • 2mra
    2 years ago

    That lady would’ve scared me. I do agree with you. I do not mind being a specimen to medical professionals or their interns/assistants though.

    I was upset 3 weeks ago, same topic. At my Ophthalmologist, I was getting stiff and sore in the waiting room. I had only been sitting for 10 minutes. So I got up to flex my knees since both are painful and need to be replaced. This Asian woman sitting a few chairs down asked if my knees were in pain. I said “Yes”. She comes over to me and
    sticks her scrawny fingers deeply around my knee joint. Boy!! Did that hurt! I couldn’t understand most of what she was saying but I did notice that she had what looked like rolled up cloth around her knees under her pants. Thankfully, the Nurse called my name and I left.

    I call what that lady did, Assault!

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