Stop Looking At Me Because You Probably Are

Until I began blogging, I thought that I was weird but had no idea why or how.

Why did I feel awkward around other moms? How did I survive this long without being arrested?

These questions plagued me, and blogging has truly helped me to hone in on the problem.

I’m paranoid. Militia paranoid.

Like when my neighbor doesn’t wave to me EVER — I think back to the thank you card I gave to them. It was written on that back of our Christmas card. I had extras. We had just moved. I think: Is that why they’ve never spoken to us again? Or was the gift that they dropped off supposed to make us conservative as well as welcome us? Or maybe he has a bad wrist?

Or when I come to the coffee shop multiple mornings in a row — are they judging how much I spend? Is $6 plus a $1 tip enough to justify 2 and a half hours? I never stay when it’s crowded. I tell me friends about the place. But do they KNOW that? I’m thinking of tallying it up and leaving it in the tip jar. I’d title my excel sheet: WE’RE EVEN, RIGHT?

And my paranoia is even in the simple things — I can’t leave my wallet, iPhone or computer at the coffee house table when I have to pee. And I have somehow developed an 80-year-old’s bladder so every 30-60 minutes, I pack up all my belongings except for one thing that I’m okay with the other patrons stealing (because if I don’t leave that they will totally steal my seat), and I hustle it all into the bathroom. I pee. I come back to my seat, and I unpack everything. I even wonder if someone will spit/spike my drink, but bringing my coffee into the bathroom is even weirder than wondering if someone will spit in my drink.

I often ask myself whether I should just leave my stuff behind like exposure therapy for spiders and snakes, and I will eventually become desensitized to the paranoia.

And then I picture my life without my computer and I’d rather be paranoid.

But I do appreciate my friends’ efforts.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

35 thoughts to “Stop Looking At Me Because You Probably Are”

  1. I think I am finally at the stage in life where I’m ok if not everyone likes me. But then I feel bitchy being ok with that.

    1. I think that it depends on if you are at peace with it or have an attitude about it. I struggle with picking up the attitude to replace the caring about what people think of me.

  2. I’m super paranoid too. I wouldn’t leave my laptop in a coffee shop either. When my roommate isn’t home, I check the entire house for intruders, including closets and even under the couch. Sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep, I have to keep opening my eyes, just to make sure a zombie isn’t standing right there. (Not kidding. I almost didn’t write this because I think it’s ACTUALLY CRAZY. But I thought you might enjoy it.)

  3. See, I’m always worried that I’ll get roofied if I take my eyes off my drinks for more than 15 seconds. Thanks, dad. Glad you worked in intelligence for awhile, that’s really helped my paranoia….oh God who’s going to read this??

  4. I cannot leave my stuff, either, so I risk wetting my pants instead of getting up to go to the bathroom, because I’m too lazy to pack up my stuff. I imagine everyone really would be looking at me if I wet my pants…

  5. I used to work at a coffee shop, and I didn’t mind if people hung around- I mean isn’t that the point of a coffee shop? One of my coworkers said she hates it because the people who hang around take up spots that could be for customers. Umm, but aren’t the people hanging around customers? And isn’t the opportunity to hang around bringing in MORE customers?

    I also wouldn’t leave my stuff either. I doubt anyone would take it but the one time I do leave it would probably be the one time something gets stolen. Better safe than sorry.

  6. *snort*

    Ok, similar story, except it’s at the beach instead of the coffee shop. I have my whole little “Abby camp” set up, complete with chair, towel, umbrella, bag filled with food, iPod, book, camera, cell phone and a packed lunch.

    The urge to swim strikes me.

    So I ignore that urge so I don’t have to leave my iPod, camera and phone unsupervised? Do I trust the nice looking couple with 2 kids nearby to ensure no one goes through my stuff while I’m playing in the waves? Or do I just bite the bullet and head for the water, and hope no one tries to steal my valuables?

    You’re not alone, my dear. Trust me!

  7. My friend Sharon and I had a whole joke in high school that we were close because we shared the same paranoias. I mentioned it again, years later and she responded with “oh, that was before I really knew you, you’re crazy.” As in, it’s not something we have in common because her paranoia is on the normal human level.

    I’ve come to embrace it.

  8. I’ve given up on getting people to like me. I just don’t have the time or effort and I’m done trying to be someone else for the sake of someone liking me — who I then realize I don’t like much. (Think about it, it makes sense, I swear!)

    Any case, I’m no less paranoid than you are. Possibly more. The fear of someone spitting into my drink would totally drive me to pack that up and take it into the bathroom along with everything else.
    I used to meet with a group of knitters at a coffeehouse (you can guess which one) and even with the whole group sitting around — ladies I trusted — I still wouldn’t leave my stuff behind if I had to use the restroom.

    I’m pretty sure if you looked up the word ‘paranoid’ in the dictionary, you’d see my face there beside the entry. :p

  9. So. I have these neighbors down the road a bit and twice they have come, knocked on the door, bestowed gifts to my kids and left. Later, I go down, knock on their door, knock again, see that their cars are there, the TV is on, ring the door bell, stand, knock and leave the cookies or (too expensive) chocolates on their front step and hope they at least sneak out later and pick them up before the ants get into it. What’s up with that? Is it too creepy to give back to the givers? Am I forced into be a lifetime givee? Do they think my kids are underprivileged because we don’t have cable? How do they know we don’t have cable? It’s because I’m a writer, isn’t it.

  10. Oh Alex, this is why I love visiting your blog. I feel the same way, plus I am scared of snakes (read sticks). But for the record, your crazy militia paranoia was not obvious to me from meeting you in real life. I think if you are socially awkward then I must be socially retarded. Maybe next you can teach a class for the socially awkward/paranoid on how to seem normal? But not leaving your phone or wallet on a table alone in public is not paranoid it’s smart because people steal.

    1. I like to scream when a leaf falls on me (because it COULD be an ant).

      And I felt TOTALLY awkward… I must be like a Shakespearean actor. Which makes me a guy dress like a girl. Okay, I need to stop typing now.

  11. You know what? I’m paranoid, too. I like to take the approach that the old Nirvana song was right, “Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you…”

    Ultimately, I think paranoia is a good thing. Keeps us out of trouble or dangerous situations.

  12. I want to be friends with this a_mowrer person for regular reminders that I am not crazy. I have major paranoia too and it’s nice to know I’m not alone or maybe you are not really paranoid and just made up this whole post to make me think I’m not the only one.

  13. I don’t think it’s about people liking you – as some have commented. I too have the same paranoia. I think it’s about people thinking you are someone or something that you aren’t and you don’t want them to think of you that way. I’m that person – I replay emails, actions, conversations in my mind thinking I did or said something wrong. Even if it is with total strangers and I will never see them again. It’s such a terrifying way to live.

    Oh, and you aren’t paranoid or crazy to pack up your stuff. People will steal it. Because they know that coffee shop customers leave their stuff out. My hubby does information security and he is shocked at how many people are completely stupefied that their laptop was stolen from their table when they went to the bathroom.

  14. All shockingly normal. I am currently worried about my neighbors who have set a tent up in the backyard for no reason. I think they’re planning something and if I recall you are very stealthy with the spying. You could come over and we could be paranoid together.

  15. 1. It would never, EVER occur to me to leave my belongings at my seat while I go to the bathroom. EVER. I even take my purse into the bathroom at the movie theatre where no one is likely to steal it, but there might just be someone who cases dark movie theatres waiting for an unsuspecting patron to leave her purse while she runs across the hall to the bathroom.

    2. I simply pretend that everyone likes me. And when my neighbor doesn’t wave back, I just pretend they’re from another culture where waving is reserved for those you DON’T like. Which then makes me think twice about waving. I would hate to offend them.

    3. I sleep with a baseball bat, pepper spray, my cell phone and my car keys. Good think I have a big bed.

    4. I one time tweeted that I was home alone and then spent the next four hours googling myself to make sure my address didn’t show up so my stalker (of which I must have at least four) didn’t know that it would be the perfect night and opportunity to kill me.

    5. There’s a small possibility that I might be paranoid too.

  16. My husband is like that, it drives me a little crazy sometimes. I am the exact opposite and try to see the good in everyone and am extremely trusting. I get hurt A LOT.

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