Daily Archives: June 8, 2011

Spider Smiles

Standard

It’s always “fun” to wake up to this kind of spider-smile leaning over your bed:

A spidery-looking Other Mother leans over Coraline with a creepy smile.

[Image description: From “Coraline”, a stop-motion movie. The main character, a girl named Coraline, is standing there as her “Other Mother” (a spider-like monster pretending to look like her mother, but with buttons for eyes) leans over her with a creepy smile.]

…and then have to let the person, among other things, wash your private parts. And to know you pretty much have to let them, because you don’t want to get a reputation for rejecting people for no reason (or “not good enough” reason).

And no, it’s not a sexual kind of creepiness. It’s more like a weird power dynamic, where the person thinks everyone loves her and that she can do no wrong, while running roughshod over everyone, human or otherwise, even above their vocal objections to her invasiveness. You can explain it to her calmly, or shout “No! Stop! Stop NOW!” and all she’ll do is giggle and keep doing whatever she’s doing, whether it’s barging into your bathroom while you’re on the toilet, trying to touch a pet who doesn’t want to be touched, or otherwise violating people in various ways. After awhile the giggling and smiling gets more and more creepy, and happens with more frequency the more you try to assert yourself. I think the spider-like component — which another client of hers has described as an “I’m gonna eat you” smile — comes from the tendency of people like this to “feed on” imaginary gratitude and the like (see My Contaminated Smile for something similar).

This kind of behavior is especially damaging to anyone who (like me) is so used to these boundaries being crossed that I often don’t think to defend them. As Dave Hingsburger explained in a video I saw once, that leaves us open to serious forms of abuse because abusers look for people who don’t push back the minute we experience invasion. It also erodes the boundaries between your own home and institutions. It’s a lot more damaging — especially after each “little instance” begins to pile up into something enormous — than any one instance would look on the surface to most people.

And I suspect a lot of people think it doesn’t matter when done to people who aren’t going to experience a whole lot of bodily privacy anyway. Wrong. I used to think it didn’t matter so much because I was used to lacking privacy and was very late to develop body modesty anyway, until I heard that explanation about how being “used to it” primes us for later abuse. Ever since then I’ve tried to create privacy in various ways when possible, even though I’m not used to it and don’t automatically “feel” some of those first levels of invasion the same way other people do. (I’m trying to build up to where I do feel them, with some success so far.)

One time she explained to me she was incapable of abusing power, because she was a Christian. I would love it if the world really worked that way (for any religion or lack thereof). It would be a much better place. But meanwhile she goes merrily on her way, dispensing really disturbing (but not technically against any rules) experiences with a big creepy smile and a chirpy sing-song voice.