Last night, at my weekly self-help meeting, I gazed back at the well-intentioned man who stood before me, trying to help me start some announcements. He was right; my quiet-when-in-a-group voice wouldn’t be enough to call over the crowd. But his statement brought up a thousand hurts.
“Be a strong woman!” I was told by the aggressive female professor at the University of Hartford after I met with her, uncharacteristically struggling in an English class.
“Don’t worry; Alan will get rid of your shyness,” said the girl I huddled offstage with as we worked crew for The Battleship Potemkin freshman year at Hartt.
“Oh, I admire someone like you, who is shy and still tries,” said the asinine former supervisor at an outpatient counseling clinic, as he signed off on my clinical hours.
The message I received over, and over, and over again:
You are not enough.
You are not enough.
You are not enough.
Until I received the message that I was too much.
First of all, the hilarious thing is, I’m not typically quiet. My mother, my husband, my former voice teacher, anyone in my inner circle could tell you – I’m opinionated, emotional and snarky. I’m quiet in two scenarios: when I’m in a group, and when I don’t trust you. And here’s how it all began, and how the eating disorder commenced: I was taunted daily by classmates for my weight, for simply being. I learned early on that the more quiet you were, the less space you took up, the less people noticed and the less likely they were to
sexually harass tease you for wearing pants that weren’t so in style. So it became a protective thing.
So to me, it was never a shy thing. It was more like, I’ve got my eyes on you. I see right through you. I can tell you’re not trustworthy so I’m shutting down.
So I’d say nothing, I’d tuck my hands under my legs as I sat, and I lost weight.
Until I got tired of restricting myself and started to binge. My body ached for food, for things I craved, to be satisfied for once. And I would go overboard. This bled into alcohol in my twenties. When alcohol was put in the mix, there were no holds barred. I could be as carefree, loud and crazy as I wanted because I didn’t have to worry about you judging me as too something. And oh, was I loud. Was I obnoxious. Especially the night I tried to punch the bartender for giving me a glass of water. Or the night I stole my best friend’s date. Because fuck you.
I’d wake up, dehydrated and unsure of what happened the night before. I’d receive angry, incredulous phone calls from friends. And I was confused, partially because I couldn’t remember the night, and also –
Isn’t this what you wanted? For me to be loud? To not give a fuck and be your version of strong?
And on that note. I find it incredibly alarming the average person thinks that a loud person is strong. Trump is a great example of the idiocy that comes from this theory. God forbid we have people who think before they speak. God forbid we have listeners who observe.
And – the punchline to the joke? Now, there are people who judge me for putting this stuff out there. I suppose I’m too loud, too much, too emotional for them.
To all of those who thought or think me meek, I would say this:
Sure, I guess I’m not strong in that I’m not physically loud. If that’s your definition, I guess it makes sense. I mean, I only went on to get my Master’s Degree and become a licensed mental health counselor after working on my own alcoholism, eating disorder, and depression, in addition to surviving some pretty intense sexual and emotional bullying in Littleton, and growing up in an alcoholic household where the police frequented and I ran screaming from the house because I was afraid of who was going to be hit. I only went on to tackle my own trauma history and successfully emotionally parent a child of my own despite going against habit. I only screamed in the face of a 6’4″ man in a Somerville gas station, because goddamnit, he stole my spot.
But you know, I’ll be louder next time. For you.