How Love Works (part 3): Acts of Service

A few winters ago, when I was digging my car out after a particularly vigorous snow storm, using a dust pan because I live in an apartment and never figured that I would have any use for a shovel, I had a particularly lovely day dream in which I awoke on a similarly snowy day and trundled out to clean off the car, only to discover that the task was already completed. On the cleared windshield rested a note that read:

“Enjoy your day.

I didn’t actually know anyone named Oliver at the time (I still don’t, in fact), so I’m not sure why the note was signed such, but the point is that such an act would make me cry and probably ruin me for the rest of the day. This wouldn’t mean that I would expect “Oliver” , whoever he is, to show up outside every time there was wintry precip, and if he never cleaned off my car again, I would be just fine with that… I would remember that he did it once, and that this “Oliver” person really cared about me.

I consider myself to be a fairly self-sufficient person… and the rest of the world seems to agree.
Apparently, I look like I could chop down an entire forest by myself.
Now that I think on it, I probably could.
Not being of particularly fragile appearance, people have rarely seen it necessary to swoop in to take care of me, nor do I expect anyone to, which is why it’s always a mind-blowing experience when someone jumps in.

The funny thing is that not every act of service means a lot to me. People that know me are aware that there are certain areas in which I do not need, do not want, and will not (graciously) accept assistance.
The number one area is my kitchen. It’s just not big enough for 200 people to be in there, and I like the dishes handled a certain way.
In the middle of a party, I haven’t the time nor the inclination to show you how I like the dishes done, nor do I want to break the party up by treating guests like kitchen staff or doing the dishes myself.
Therefore, I like to leave them until everyone has departed, a decision that I find thoroughly logical all things considered.
This is usually the point in which I hear something like, “But I’m family.”
Oh, how I love you… and we’re not related.
Get out of my kitchen.
When I’m at work, sifting through a project, I do not want help. I know about team building and bonding exercises and all of that, but seriously… I don’t want help. I’m not being a martyr… if I actually thought that I needed help, I would ask (perhaps grudgingly… but I would do it).
You know those people who actually snatch things out of your hands, with comments such as, “I’ll do that for you” or “Don’t worry about it”?
Yeah… NO. Snatching things is very rude, and I would prefer to be asked before you assumed responsibility for one of my tasks, and I’m not at all worried about it, but thanks for worrying about my worrying, whiskers.

It’s not the act of having things done for you that is pleasing… it’s knowing that someone is paying attention to what you like and what you need and what you do. Someone who, knowing how I feel about cars (KILL THEM), volunteers to go with me to get the oil changed, or the tires rotated, or the… things… I don’t know, plugged or whatever,  is demonstrating affection in a way that I respond to, whereas giving me a gift certificate to Midas would not particularly register (it’s very nice… thanks… but I still have to go to Midas by myself and sit there and feel dumb). It’s watching someone step in in an area where I’m clearly deficient (again… cars), or simply recognizing that during times where I’m busy, there are certain things that they could do to help (but knowing me well enough to see where my toes are and not stepping on them). When I see that someone has done something based on what they actually know about me, not based on any assumptions about what women of my ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status and religion are rumored to enjoy, that means something.

I said yesterday that the whole touching thing was complicated.
This is equally complicated.


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