Silence is not unkindness

I am not a morning person and don’t like talking in the morning
(those who know me would call this a RADICAL UNDERSTATEMENT concerning my real feelings about the morning). Especially at 5:30am and the moon is out and all I want to do is go home and go back to bed, and would you kindly leave me the f* alone. I wrap myself in silence and hope no one tries to catch my eye prior to 10am.

I have been riding the same bus to work for years, and when I first started, like a true Seattleite, I never talked to anyone and always wore headphones. Those were glorious days. The latest bus driver we have been assigned went out of his way to stop me and introduce himself when he was new, and I was game to do the same because he’s in charge of the bus, so it’s in my best interest.

Recently a local man started riding my same bus, getting on at my stop, and is one of those guys who feels that all women must board the bus before he does. I get chivalry, but when you’re between me and the door to the bus, yet insist I go first, it borders on creepy-no it’s not the end of the world, but I don’t need that kind of nonsense in the morning. Just get on the goddamn bus, I promise I will successfully board the bus as well, as I have done for years, and we will all get to work just fine. He also tried to say “good morning” once, but I eschewed that as well.

Now, I have never, ever, exchanged words with this man. All I have done is wave off his insistence that I board the bus first, and remained silent the one time he said “good morning”, although I most likely gave him a head nod as I am wont to do in place of verbal communication. This morning I stopped to talk to the bus driver because I wanted to see if he had noticed the man across the street pushing his motorcycle up the hill. It was an out of the ordinary occurrence. The man who gets on at my stop turned around with a scowl on his face said to me: “why are you nice to him and not me?”

So, I gave him my top few reasons: “If you are inbetween me and the front door of the bus, I don’t feel the need to get on first” and “I don’t like talking in the morning and I don’t know you”. Of course he moved on and took his seat, since it’s the relatively polite thing to do. But here I am, triggered and shaking, angry and scared, listing off reason after reason why I don’t talk to him. Not why I’m “not nice” to him, because I have NEVER been “not nice” to him, but I get what he most likely means.

So, here goes the list that I have come up with, that I will print out and hand to him tomorrow, in hopes it opens his little pink eyes to the world in which I live.

 

Why don’t I talk to you?

because…

before the end of this you will probably still think i’m overreacting, too sensitive, or come up with defenses for why you feel justified and reasonable

it’s my right to retain my privacy

being private is not being unkind, and i have never been unkind to you

i rode this bus successfully without you for years before you arrived

although he loves me dearly, it took my husband 8 years to realize that i was not fucking around when i said shut the hell up in the morning-i’m not a morning person

i haven’t had any coffee yet

somehow you have equated not saying the words “good morning” with being specifically NOT nice

i’m tired and it’s still basically the middle of the night at 5:30am

i don’t owe you company, niceness, explanations, or apologies

it is NOT a good morning

i have exactly 45 minutes on each bus to and from work to myself; the rest of every minute i am awake is dominated by people who need me to be “on”, they need me to answer their questions, do things for them, interact with them or respond to them-when I get home my family is needy too and those bus rides are the only time in my entire day where I am not obligated to answer someone who attempts to engage me.

i shouldn’t have to reassure a stranger for any reason

i am not obligated to participate in social norms, whether or not they are expected behaviors

once you have offered someone courtesy, and they decline, insisting is not nice

if i was a man you would probably not think i was obligated to interact with you, and it’s even less likely that you would stop me and ask me why i am “not nice” to you

making me feel bad about not talking to you is wrong

pleasantries are not obligations

i suffer from depression and mood swings

i don’t know you from Adam

where I grew up, you didn’t want people to know your name, or where you live

i used to never talk to Andrew either, but he stopped me, told me his name and made it akward for me to continue on with my business without answering him

if i cultivate a relationship with him then he might let me ride the bus when i have no money and need to go to work to make ends meet, which has becoming increasingly difficult to do since i support my household on less than $15 an hour

aside from that 1st time he has never pressured me to be “nice”-or I would completely ignore him day in and day out

he is an authority figure and I cultivate a relationship with him to enhance my personal safety should something go wrong on the bus

i am not looking around for new friends, and have a hard enough time maintaining functional connections with the friends i already have

i am not good at building healthy relationships so it takes a large amount of personal effort and investment to make and keep a friend

i don’t play well with others and have frequently been called a cold and unfriendly person-you aren’t the first.

i’m stressed out about my job, my financial life, my kid, my marriage, and my future

when people meet each other they almost immediately start spewing their lives desperately seeking shared values, and I find that exhausting

i do what i want to do

if i had a nickel for every time a man thought he was entitled to my attention…

i am minding my own business

riding the same bus as you do now slightly frightens me, since I know you are spending time and effort concerning yourself with my life

my mama taught me that if i don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all

i’ve got a lot on my mind, enough things to worry about and could give a shit what’s going on elsewhere-it’s hard enough trying to keep it together

you wouldn’t be the first or the last man to start a conversation with a normal pleasantry, but only talk to me because he thought i was a possible dating prospect

there’s nothing that you have that i need or want

you probably didn’t think i was rude until you engaged the other woman at our busstop, and she responded favorably-so you wondered why i didn’t

i’m just trying to get to work

how many people am i obligated to spend time with?

in the past i have been propositioned for the sex trade, despite my clear lack of interest in makeup, fashion, or appearing overtly attractive in general-but that proposition made me think that if i said No he might take it for free. he towered above me in height the way you do. and was obviously stronger and faster.

somehow i think you’ll survive without my attentions

i can’t believe i have to be subjected to that question at all

I don’t owe anyone anything

recently a few “friends” on the bus made it clear that they feel entitled to judge the lives of others without context or proof, and i don’t have to participate in that- but if my original conversations with them asking them to open their minds to other possibilities proved fruitless, their confusion about my displeasure simply isn’t going to be alleviated. they’ve chosen not to hear what i brought to them, and now i’ve had to cut those relationships off at the knees to avoid further strife in a public situation and i still have to see them everyday or purposefully avoid them

because i don’t need this kind of stress before my day has even started

if i had my husband with me you wouldn’t think i needed to talk to you or anyone else and that’s sexism

when i’m actually not nice, you’ll know it

where the hell do you get off saying this to me? what gives you the right? who do you think you are?

i don’t need to educate you

at this point in our relationship you have been more rude than i ever was to you

because you can ruin my day with one sentence

because i’m shaking, planning, typing this out, and it’s been over two hours since you said this to me

i can’t stop thinking about this and writing about it despite the fact that i’m at work and i need to concentrate

sexism just reared its ugly head here in this ‘day and age’ and in this ‘progressive’ town

now i have a headache and want to cry but i’m at work and you’re not worth all that anyway

if i give you this paper i am running the risk of dealing with ongoing petulance, resentment, or worsened behavior from you

no one has to meet your expectations in order to live their own life

i don’t want to do this-any of it

i wish i had the energy to capitalize, bold and italicize certain words/phrases/paragraphs to make it easier for you to understand my emphasis, but that would take more time than i have already spent on this and i’m done.

 

Update: never handed him the 4 pages worth of reasons, but I talked to that fuckwad again this morning and he had the nerve to start calling me a crazy bitch. This is what the fuck sexism looks like.

 

 

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Afraid to be feminine

In the course of conversation the other day, an acquaintance said what was probably meant to be a passing comment. I had said I am not fashionable (she didn’t realize I abhor fashion and firmly believe it is detrimental to society and the individual). Her response to me was “you don’t have to be afraid to be feminine”. She said it in that way that showed she felt assured that this was empirical fact, like it wasn’t news to anyone. It reminded me that someone else had once told me I don’t always have to be “tough”.

Not many folks think I’m afraid of very much in this world. Because I’m not. I almost laughed right in this woman’s face when she said it because it seemed surrealistically hilarious. Afraid? I’m not afraid to walk in the worst part of town alone at night or talk back to bullies twice my size or go above my boss’s head when I need to. Why the hell would I be afraid of being feminine?

But that’s not really my issue with the statement. My issue is with her definition of femininity. She and I have discussed gender roles, gender normalization, and sexism in the past-and she largely agrees with me. But she also comes from a culture entrenched in machismo and marianismo; the two sides of the gender coin are established and reinforced daily in almost everything they do. She may be all for equality and respect, but she still thinks femininity is dominated by sexuality, insecurity, and vanity; all parts of man pleasing.

The funniest thing for me is when I bring up the definition of femininity and watch even those on the far left try to carefully explain to me how it’s broadly accepted that the definition of femininity is associated with nurturing, forbearance, pleasing appearance or demeanor, and moderation. These aspects are actually a quite narrow definition that comes from an even narrower subset of humans in the scope of history.

The concept of the “tiger mom” may be familiar to you, but if not, do look it up to get some context for what’s next: femininity in my world has always been and always will be associated with strength, resilience, independence, and self-assurance. Where I come from women are fierce, and proud of it. We own our femininity in its totality, without bowing to some notion of subordinacy.

Where I come from, being feminine means protecting your family, your way of life, and your resources. It means providing for many and sacrificing for the greater good through determined and committed action. The women who raised me taught me that femininity was taking responsiblity for our own lives and making decisions based on what needs to be done to make this life better for everyone. For us, being feminine means being a competent and contributive member of society.

I hear rebuttals and rationalizations buzzing and I haven’t finished typing yet. But would we argue over a definition of masculinity that transcends their sexual role and discusses their societal role? the definition of masculinity seems to have already avoided being confined to the realm of sexual roles, and is dominated by the male role in society as a whole – why shouldn’t the definition of femininity do the same?

This topic touches the culture wars in a significant way because “western” or “modern” culture is an amalgamation of and collaboration between ancient cultures, it takes elements from other culture groups in fits and spurts, and disregards the pieces that are deemed unnecessary. The result is that we do, as contributing members, absolutely have a say in the definitions we use for our own roles in society. The roles of children, the elderly, outliers, and misfits have all changed drastically in the last generation. Gender roles have continued to evolve and grow as sexual identity and self actualization have become more important to society.

My femininity is not up for debate because I define femininity every day that I live my life. My contribution to the betterment of society starts with defining myself as I see fit, and then showing the next generation that we need not be afraid to be feminine, because we decide what that really means anyway.

Didn’t mean anything by it

Using qualifiers like

unapologetic

openly

brazen

shamelessly

publicly

deliberately

Sets up a clear picture of this action flying in the face of convention, and judges the action to be outside of morals, standards, expectations, norms or patterns.

By definition it excludes the action from legitimacy and assigns guilt as a given.

Accusing a lack of remorse is used as a tactic to further condemn a supposed wrongdoer.

It ensures continued emotional distance between the action and the audience, and denotes a marked separation that keeps people from identifying with the action or person acting, making the scenario seem different, other, outside, or unusual.

 

Being who I am because I can be no other is not an act of defiance.
Shouldering the burdens of adversity and systemic disadvantage is not subversive.
Using those terms makes doing what is right look wrong, and by extension paints our world as inherently and unavoidably unjust.
It normalizes injustice and marginalizes truth.

 

Perpetuating judgement and shame culture is weak, cowardly, and malignant.

I’m not brave and strong

I’m not brave and strong, I’m doing what’s right.

Working full-time going to school rearing a toddler getting married to her father and dealing with deaths all in the same breaths, was hard, but not brave. I did what needed to be done.

When I feel completely abandoned and exhausted, used and broken, and I go on, I’m not being strong-I simply have no other choice but to continue to exist. It’s not being brave, it’s being trapped.

When I can’t afford to take time off, get sick or hurt because not only I but everyone I know is tapped out, and there is no  reserve anything, anywhere, ever, it’s not brave to go on. It’s survival.

When I speak in my own voice without raising the pitch, lowering the volume, performing submissive body language cues or equivocating, that’s not being strong. It’s being myself.

When I speak my mind about social issues, politics or values, that’s not brave, that’s what people should do, with mutual respect.

When I wear clothing that is not considered flattering, feminine, or fashionable, I’m not exhibiting strength, I’m choosing for myself what’s best for me.

When I highlight subtle parts of culture that perpetuate damaging behaviors I’m not being brave, I’m doing the right thing.

When I disregard the social structures that dictate so many people’s lives, when I stand proud of who I am without believing media that tells me I am less, this is not a time when I am being strong or brave. It is a time I am loving myself wholeheartedly.

I’m only strong and brave by comparison.

Gratitude beyond measure

Where are you, oh my gratitude?

I have been searching for you.

Pursued by would-be enthusiasts and well-meaning followers you went running and hid in the mist.

Ethereal and and uncertain, you waver at the periphery of existence.

 

So many others know why the caged bird sings, and I think to myself on some

moral

  existential

principled level, I must too.

I reassure some that I do know how well-off I am.

Of course I know

it could be so much worse

I have so much to be thankful for

 some day it’ll be better

 especially if I try harder.

 

Why shouldn’t I be happy with the trimmings, the soft fruit, the leftovers of this “great” society? How can I be so ungrateful to throw down the gifts bestowed upon me by trickles and degrees? How dare I suggest that help go beyond giving a man a fish in a crowded harbor?

How small am I in a vast promised land that was, as we sung in childhood,

made for you and me?

I AM ungrateful of those sickening systems and the poisonous roots that feed them.

Built on the backs of my brethren, Babylon holds nothing to be thankful for.

 

My gratitude is not for sale, not for granted, not obligatory.

What it is not can fill a library, but what it has become is so much more.

 

This sense of warm gentle appreciative loving kindness shared connection together is real.

Cannot be feigned or conjured on command.

By nature, gratitude is whole and pure; it honors the true sense of what it means to know the suffering of another as your own, and feel the humbling glory of another doing for you of their own being.

It is an expression of compassion and mutual understanding that redeems humanity in all its frazzled fray.

 

Shy and reserved, my gratitude never could stand the light of day (neither proud nor boastful)

My gratitude is not about me, it is about

you

 and the incredible treasures you have brought to this world,

 of the most beautiful parts of yourself.

My gratitude plays a quiet song of strength, serenading your generosity with the gentle caress of a lullaby.

Always close, my gratitude can tell when it’s time to be known, and when it’s time to run home.

“I work in back, I see no smiles”

I don’t put much stock in smiles. I find that they are rarely a sign of contentment, appreciation or even warm feelings.

Many of the worst atrocities committed on this earth where done by a smiling person.

People smile and say something is a joke, socially forcing others to smile with them or be caught in a trap designed to make them the butt of the joke or entirely excluded from the situation.

Smiles typically mask fear, and show the desperate nature of insecurity rearing its ugly head.

Smiling is often used to patronize people and make them feel inferior.

When someone has a smile on their face I often wonder if they’ve gotten away with something they know is wrong.

Asking for a smile is often a tactic to control a situation or a person, especially women.

Smiles often accompany ass kissing and other forms of social grooming. These smiles are often disengenuous, and always calculated to improve the smiler’s situation-it’s using a human connection with the expression to garner favor and secure their own position.

Smiling and laughing are used less to express and more to shape the social landscape than most folks are willing to admit.

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