I may have mentioned before that J is a career engineer, as well as an engineer by personality and mindset a lot of the time. I never thought of myself as an engineer…I’m not into machines and physics and math and shit like J is. I mean, dude’s leisure reading is computer code and vehicle maintenance manuals. Not kidding.
And even after all this time and intimacy with J, I’m still not mechanically inclined or particularly interested in cars or computers beyond, ‘This machine takes me from point A to point B,’ or, ‘This machine lets me write books way faster than notebooks and ink pens.’ But I have learned SOME things about engineering practices from J, and when I think about it, maybe I am an engineer in mindset. I’m an engineer of sorts when it comes to the things I write, considering these principle practices, and I’m *definitely* an engineer when it comes to my relationships with other people. And I don’t think this is bad or wrong, even though that seems to be a popular claim to make.
I’ll try to explain myself…
See, when J sets standards for the things he’s working with; that’s a part of his job, and it’s an important, VITAL part of his job. Having standards. For real, lots of people would get hurt and lots of shit would take forever to work out right without some standard setting in engineering if it was all just a free-for-all; no regard to safety or efficiency or practicality or time. This example is super basic, because again, CAREER engineering? Not my area. But here goes anyway…J says, ‘I want this piston to move this distance, this many times, at this speed…that’s optimum performance to make this part at its ideal size and strength.’ (Or whatever.) The point is, J has some standards in mind for how this thing should work, because he knows the result he wants, and he’s absorbed past data and theoretical data and extrapolated what he needs out of that machine or part or program to get his desired result.
I do this with people. I have standards. And somehow, in many people’s opinions, this makes me bad and wrong. I get it. That’s fine if someone thinks my standards are unreasonable…that I don’t have enough *tolerance* for them to deviate from my standards. That’s fair.
I learned about tolerance from J too…not the ‘accept people who are different from you because let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya’ variety…I learned about that as Very Tiny Jen and I’ve never forgotten that lesson, as evidenced by my hatred of confrontation and the Sunshine Girl slant to everything I write and my eternal undying optimism in the face of an increasingly fascist dystopian landscape. I’m talking about scientific, engineering tolerance. That’s the kind I mean here. That kind of tolerance is…you need to be within .5 millimeters or 3 tenths of a second or 2 repetitions (or whatever) for the machine/product/process to work properly. Things that fall outside the tolerance have to be rejected. These kinds of tolerances are tested and there are good reasons for them to exist. If a seatbelt doesn’t hold human bodies within a certain tolerance in a crash situation, people die. If an airplane engine propeller isn’t a certain thickness and curve, engines fail and planes fall out of the air. That’s not good, obviously.
I think that standards and tolerances work the same way in my life with people and relationships. Other people have different standards and tolerances, some are more stringent and some are more lenient than mine, and I’m not here to say someone else’s standards and tolerances are wrong. I’m not them. I don’t know how their machine/product/processes work. Maybe they really do need to have zero people in their lives who aren’t Christian…or who aren’t white…or who aren’t cisgender or heterosexual…or whose first (or only) language isn’t English…or who have tattoos or wear baggy pants or bikinis or dreadlocks. That’s not for me to say. That’s up to them to set their own standards and tolerances, BUT…here’s the thing with that…they shouldn’t be able to have the power and control to determine MINE for ME.
*I* get to say what my own standards are and *I* get to decide what my tolerances for those standards are. That’s not wrong for me to do. It’s only wrong when I tell someone else what theirs have to be.
When I make a statement like, ‘I don’t want you in my life if you don’t believe in a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body,’ or, ‘If you don’t think rape culture, institutional racism, misogyny, ableism, and white/male/cishet/able-bodied/Christian/English speaking privileges are real, don’t debate me…don’t comment on my writing…don’t interact with me on social media…’ that’s not me forcing you to conform to my standards and fall within my specified tolerances to live your own life. You have your own standards and tolerances…you, as they say, do you. I’m not asking you to change yourself for me in any way. What I am saying is that you don’t meet my standards and tolerances and I don’t want you in my sphere of influence or inner circle or interactive spectrum, because *I’m ALLOWED to have standards and tolerances.* That’s how I work at my ideal.
I don’t have to adjust my tolerances to accommodate a person who hinders my well-being and productivity and safety. I don’t have to abandon my standards to accept all comers. I have standards for the people in my life. That’s not wrong. I can think people who have differing standards than mine are wrong; just as they can think mine are wrong. But my standards and tolerances aren’t affecting anyone else’s existence, or basic human rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness). My standards and tolerances aren’t trying to control other people or exercise power over them to conform or forcing them to do anything against their will and judgment. My standards and tolerances set goals and limits for MY OWN LIFE.
As far as I know…that’s still allowed. I don’t have to be friends with everyone. I don’t have to talk to and interact with everyone. I get to choose who I invite into my world and who gets to interact and associate with me.
It’s my life. So they’re my standards and tolerances. They’re my choices.