Sunday Morning ~ I’m Speaking
Cenjere-cenjere sakupha nsomba, akupha nsomba n’kombe. ~ Being boastful does not kill the fish, it is the net which kills the fish.
~ Chewa proverb
October 11, 2020
One of my biggest frustrations as a kid was not being allowed to speak. If I were upset by some injustice, I simply cried. Making a point while crying is very inefficient. My mother would say, “I’m not going to listen to you if you are crying.” as if crying were the problem not the complaint. I’d feel like exploding and walk away, crying. On a good day I’d muster my strength and come back with my tears safely beneath the surface. On other days I’d just hate myself as I cried. As I got older and didn’t have answers to make a rational argument, I couldn’t bear the rebuttal or the humiliation so would cry in frustration. Later, in romantic relationships, I was told I was too angry, didn’t know what I was talking about, or the conflict was my fault. I’d cry, withdraw back into my shell and the world of self-loathing. Crying was a good release for frustration but was just so ineffective for communicating. I’d scream, “I’m trying to tell you something!!” I looked like a maniac. I hated that I was behaving that way, and often resorted to breaking something instead of hurting myself or someone else. To this day I mourn the loss of my favorite platter. It was the perfect size, the perfect green, the perfect target of my fury. I kept a fragment of that platter to remind me never to destroy my own stuff again. What was the point of that? It only reinforced that my anger was out of control while he sneered with an I-told-you-so look that made me want to smash his face. I’d walk away, crying.
I needed a coach. I needed someone to guide me to the sweet spot of point-making without the violent need to smash something to announce that I AM SPEAKING! Well, really I was yelling not speaking, but only because when I was speaking he wasn’t listening. Or he was listening, heard it, and didn’t like what I was saying. Fair enough. We’re all allowed. But then the taunting would start, “You don’t know what you are talking about,” or “Here you go again, same old argument.” in that dismissive tone that was sure to escalate the encounter. His message: “I’m nice, you are angry and unreasonable.” Same old same old. Be quiet, do as you are told, don’t question me, go back in your shell. This is what I heard. This is the flashback I had during the debate on Wednesday. I felt that same fury as I watched that smug man belittle both the moderator and his opponent with his insincere gratitude for the question. The way he said her name in his initial address with the superior expression that screamed, “I am white, I am rich, I am male, I am beyond your reach.” Then, I watched another women, from another culture, wiser than me, navigate an insulting encounter under pressure and confidently state, “I am speaking.” in a tone that commanded respect. It was regal, confident, alluring, beautiful. Two simple words. Damn girl!
I’m of a generation that missed the boat of early girl empowerment. Our childhood was filled with sappy role models succumbing to the male savior. Even as a kid with rich fantasies I knew that would never be me. Maybe that’s why I loved the Nancy Drew books, until we were told those were no good to read anymore. Something about the way they were written. I never did understand what that problem was. I often wistfully fantasized how different life would have been, growing up female knowing from the beginning of time that your voice matters. You wouldn’t have to yell, or cry, or stamp your feet, or break things. You could just say calmly, “Excuse me, I’m speaking.”
Love to all,