I'm reading this collation of comments about emotional labor
and thinking. One of the segments is titled "Bonsai human"; it brought to mind the moment when the bloom finally came off the rose in my relationship with Greg. We were biking together in Black Rock City at night, going out to a party before finding out what was happening in the rest of the city. He had paused on an empty street to fiddle with his phone -- he was trying to get a wifi signal. I looked around, a little bored, and my eye lit on a camp off to the right.
"Ah, that's where Animal Control is this year," I said, cheerfully.
"What?" He looked up irritably and removed his headphones, which I hadn't realized he was wearing.
"I said that I found the Animal Control camp," I repeated patiently, and pointed.
He looked like I had just said that Martians have three heads. After a moment, he said, "Can I just... not listen to you unless you say something important?"
I couldn't think of a reply, and he went back to his phone. Still speechless, I left him to it and took off to find my own entertainment. I doubt he missed me.
Every time I think about it, I'm just flabbergasted that any caring human could say something like that to someone close to them. But he was so wrapped up in himself, he saw no reason to accommodate me. I would listen to him rattle on about whatever amused or entertained him, even if it was stale or uninteresting to me, because I wanted to show that I cared about what he had to say. Even if it was unimportant in my eyes.
Emotional labor is always extending yourself to listen and empathize. It's a slap in the face when it's not just overlooked, but they make it very clear that they will not do the same for you.