I don’t get put off by people so much as places, partially because so many are built with certain people in mind, for them to congregate, mingle and be alike.
It is a circuitous anxiety, as most are: I know that I am actually not trying to avoid any one place. I know this. But it is also the case that places built with certain people in mind must therefore exclude other people from the forefront of said mind. Must therefore consider them not quite people. Fancy places, exclusive places, everyday places in which life’s simmering tensions and pro forma injustices get played out in the most banal and outlandish ways.
Places – any place – that renders you lesser because of your very presence there. Places where everyone, theoretically, can belong. But not anyone.
See: That Philadelphia Starbucks.
See: My elementary school.
See: Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook (etcetera).
The trick, if there is one when it comes to these places, is to go with someone (preferably someone coded as the kind of person who is sought after in these kinds of places; someone who would be, rather than suspect, welcomed). Further, it is imperative that they go in first. At least, at first. A scout sent in to assess the situation, a decoy and then a port for which you become proxy then agent,* a literal human shield to dive behind to avoid or defy prying eyes and then, if need be, to sacrifice as you make your own backward escape out, away.
The sacrifice, of course, is mostly yours, not quite theirs. It is their privilege, after all.
I am not kidding. I have done this. I have lived it.
The other Thing to do is to avoid these places altogether, the idea being to starve them of your patronage. But when such places already exclude you, or work to do that in the myriad ways at their disposal to do so (by providing cold, cruel service, by inflating the cover, by labelling you “difficult” or “aggressive” at what they deem the slightest provocation), that seems a hollow victory, a rather shallow high ground.
I think maybe it is not so much a problem to be addressed, as undermined. You don’t have to avoid these places, since anyone can count as everyone, but you don’t have to go to them either for any other greater reason than because you want to. I mean not just you, and not just me. Anyone, anybody. Everyone.
Presence of mind is a place. It counts.
And if only it were just that easy.
* Need it be said? You are always agent. For good or bad, yours or otherwise.