By Katie East
I’ve never been one to have an issue with speaking my mind. When it comes to people I respect and love; I am always ready to dish out my opinions. However, when it comes to strangers or people I don’t care for; I often have to grin and hide my feelings. When I need to shout my opinions the loudest, I cower behind inherent Southern politeness.
Call me a bitch, many people do, but I think the biggest insult is just to tell someone what they want to hear. You’re making an assumption about the other person, and you’re not doing anyone any favors by holding back. OK, it never helps to tell a friend her outfit is lame once you’re already at the club (kids still call it that, right?) But besides aforementioned fashion choices, honesty is the best policy.
When I’m around my friends and family, I never bite my tongue. To me, that’s natural. Some might argue you should try to be the most polite with the people you love most and respect. I remember one ex-boyfriend who promptly, and secretively, moved out of our apartment after our first big fight said:
“You don’t yell at the people you love.”
That’s not true, right guys? Don’t you only yell at the people you love? Most people simply avoid or put up with the people they hate. And what jerk is yelling at the people they like?
“Hey Karen, I’ll see you at the PTA meeting next week. And also GO TO HELL FOR NOT MAKING EYE CONTACT WITH ME AT ALBERTSONS!” said no Mom ever.
I find the times I need to stand up for myself the most, I don’t. Sure, yelling at a boyfriend or loved one until they question our relationship is easy. But speaking the unequivocal truth out loud to a stranger? That seems rude. I worry so much about how I will sound or what other random people will think of me, that I usually stay silent.
When I lived in New York City, I remember once waiting for a train at 2 a.m. I had just moved to the city and hadn’t yet formed my protective “Don’t mess with me” stance. My ears were sans headphones and I looked ripe for a catcall.
I glanced around the platform and was notably nervous at the riffraff and sketchy men that were boarding the same train car as me. Luckily, there’s was another young woman around my age who I kept making eye contact with.
“We’re in this together,” her eyes said to me, without her actually saying a word.
Then, the second the train pulled up in front of us, the girl looked left, looked right and bolted as fast as she could to another car closer to the conductor. I was shocked. For an instant, I was too stunned to move. Then, I thought, “Now’s your chance.” I had a narrow window to run and I froze. My next thought was: “That would look terrible if we both ran.”
I defied nature with my politeness. I had my fight or flight response and instead of fight or flight I froze because I didn’t want to seem rude to some men I would never see again. Then, I had to sit in silence and terror for the 30-minute train ride.
The funniest thing is the men on the train never reacted to her running away, which was my ultimate fear. They never made a joke of it or had a look of: “Wow, so she just assumed we’re all rapists?” No, they all just kept with their creep stares as if to say: “Pretty smart of her, where’s the next victim?”
In the pilot episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Matt Lauer had the best quote:
“I’m always amazed by what women will do because they’re afraid of being rude.”
I’m not saying the inability to stand up for oneself is exclusively a women’s issue. This is a problem for shy men and women alike. But I, my friends, am not a shy woman. I am an intelligent, independent, sassy woman who constantly lets strange men say horrible things to her because she feels it would be socially awkward to call them out. This is what convinces me there’s a greater issue.
And men aren’t always the perpetrators. What about that old racist lady you know? Do you ever say boo to her? No, because you feel like it would be rude. In actuality, that old white lady is the rude one for being hateful and we should all be calling her out. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks if you don’t even try.
Recently, I did a stand-up set and had to deal with a very mean heckler. I didn’t have as good of a comeback as I normally do and I was thrown off my game. After the show, he had the audacity to find me and give me some “advice” on how to fix my act. I rolled my eyes and seemed disinterested, but I should have all but punched him in the face. At the very least I should have said:
“While we’re on the topic of fixing things, let me give you some advice on how to not be an ass of an audience member. 1- It’s not your time to shine, guy. You don’t have a microphone. Your job is to sit down, shut up and hopefully laugh. 2- You’re not “helping” things or making the show funnier by interrupting the comedians who work hard at this for years. 3- You are a sad alcoholic and if eight drinks and a comedy show can’t make you happy then my set list should be the least of your worries. GOOD DAY!”
Instead, I sat there and listened silently to a man who deserved no respect and fought back tears. Next time, manners be damned. I’m causing a scene.