I started and titled this post thinking about how, at the end of the date that wasn’t, my friend tried to kiss me several times because he thought I was being coy and “cute.” And how that was bullshit, but I was too lazy to set him straight. But it led into something more important and unrelated:
I’m a stoic person. When conflict arises and people anger or disrespect me, the poker face comes on. My eyes glaze over and my facade is rock solid–literally paralyzed against my free will. I’m beginning to think it’s a survival instinct for people who fear confrontation. We just shut down or go into cruise control, acting out the “proper” motions engrained in us while we file the situation away into our memories to seethe on at a later time, in solitude.
I’ll always be that chill chick. I can zone out at the drop of a penny–no substances needed–and when it happens I can almost see the battery in my upper righthand corner charging. While this lack of emoting means I’ll probably hit 60 without nary a wrinkle in my face, it can suck. Sometimes it leads to huge misunderstandings with people I care about. Mostly it just saves me the trouble of getting incensed with people who (my body has apparently decided) are not worth the energy.
One of the most challenging classes I ever took in college was Poetry for the People, started by the amazing June Jordan. I’ve never had a class where I was encouraged to write about myself in great detail and embellishment, and then read it out loud with soul power to a group of peers. I couldn’t pass this class while staying in my comfort zone. I couldn’t carry on in the “silent but deadly” ways I was known for.
Every week I forced myself to participate, and it turned out well. I got the grade. I saw the other side, and didn’t much care for it. Most of the people in my class were perfectly in their element. Loud and attention-seeking. You always knew what exactly was going on in their minds and personal lives. (What’s the fun in that?) One girl in particular mentioned that I’d really come out of my shell that semester, despite how meek I was.
It was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever heard said about me. I was fucking pissed. But again, I was too shell-shocked to respond–I might have even thanked her. Clearly, it struck a chord because “meek” has highly negative connotations, and I was terrified of being perceived as such. And I felt like she didn’t just insult me, but my entire culture, which is ironic considering the class we were in.
I’ve worked so hard to fight my natural state of being because I keep seeing how undesirable it is in American culture. Every time my dad tells me to be less like my family (including him) and more extroverted and bubbly. Every time I see the loud classmate earning praise for shouting out an answer everyone knew. Every time some drunk girl starts talking about her vibrator in a bar and makes every guy perk up.
For so long I’ve tried to fake confidence and learn to express myself more, and some of it stuck. There are advantages–creative freedom was the biggest reward. But now I want to give a shoutout to my quiet side. You could say, I’m loud enough to stand up for my silence now. People should have the freedom to be introspective and modest without being called meek or feeling pressured to change. There are whole countries out there where introversion is the majority. What American culture calls normal is what they see as maniacal.
I say be “meek” if you want to–if you want to store up your fighting power for the people and causes that matter. We have no idea what “meek” people have gone through. Maybe it was beaten into them as a child. Maybe it was the only way they could cope with their surroundings. Maybe they watched society put down and hold back their family for generations, and they lacked a strong role model. Let them be. I wish that’s what I’d said to the girl in my class. But I learned my lesson since.