Author’s note: This is the first in a series of essays I’m planning to write about all the things that really matter to me. I thought that in the month of November I would be writing a novel…but then all the hatred in the world, and in this election, hit me square in the face, and I realized there was a lot I needed to get off my chest. Things that have happened to me, things I’ve learned, things I believe and things I know. Things I want my children to understand. Things I’m still trying to make sense of.
I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
The Weight of Memory
I can remember clearly the first time it gelled in my mind that, when it came to my knowledge, opinions, and beliefs, my body would always be part of the conversation. “Up for grabs,” if you will.
I was in junior high. At the park, with a group of kids my age, doing what 13-year-olds do, which is usually, if I remember correctly, trying out opinions and beliefs and facts to see which ones fit best. I remember doing this with a lot of the pop culture we were just starting to imbibe: discussing movies, music, stars, news, etc. Quoting them, singing along, agreeing or disagreeing or wondering what they were really all about.
And this day, I had an opinion about something. And I said, “I just need to get this off my chest–” as I was about to speak this opinion. But before I could say another word, a male peer cut me off.
He said, “You don’t need to get anything off your chest, there’s nothing there to begin with!” And he pointed, and he laughed. And my opinion was very effectively silenced.
I was so ashamed. I was so angry. I had no more words. He stole my words! But also, I learned that it was better to let them weigh me down than to risk sharing them. After all, I needed to have something on my chest to make me worthy, somehow.
I’m sure there were many moments leading up to that in which I was slowly indoctrinated that women’s looks were much, much more important to society than anything they had to say. And I’m sure that there were other ways that I learned that no woman would ever really be enough, no matter what she did or how she looked. But that’s the day that I remember sharp as a movie scene, the day that plays on in my head as the day I learned to silence myself, to try to hide instead of speaking up, to try to avoid the wrath of men who didn’t want to listen to me.
At the time I thought they didn’t want to listen to me because I wasn’t good-looking enough. But over time I learned that there was no such thing. I see now that, although beautiful women get more time in the spotlight, still their words are not important. Society is never eager to listen to them, only to look at them, to consume them.
Over the last few years, I’ve fought hard to bring my voice back, and I’ve finally got it. I’ve discovered how important it is to speak up and speak out, and how empowering it is to no longer care what anyone things of the vessel from which it comes.
As it turns out, there is still a lot that I need to get off my chest.
So here we go.