I wasn’t always this person. In fact, last year I wasn’t even this person. Speaking up, especially on topics that run the risk of making anyone anywhere the slightest bit uncomfortable, is not my thing. Or wasn’t, anyway. It seems it just might be, now.
I can’t say exactly what the straw was that broke this little camel’s back was, but I know there were quite a few of them piled on there. Until one day, I said, “Fuck this shit.” and did something about it. It wasn’t instant leadership skills and activism know-how from there, I still feel like I do very little. But it’s better than nothing. It’s not just scared silence, as I had been previously excelling at. (Just on touchy subjects, that is. Still thought-sluttin’ it up about everyday bullshit on the regular.)
That unwillingness to remain silent and bear my shame, paired with a hatred for controlling, manipulative, narcissistic douchebaggery is how I came to find myself toting around no less than 4 tubes of lipstick for the past week. I have remembered to wear it every day, and try to make sure it’s fresh and fiery before going out into public. I mean, I wear it around the house too, but as far as that whole conversation starter aspect goes, it’s far less successful there.
My son and I did discuss why I was wearing it the first day, however. He was telling me how they were watching a video in class about a guy who had been bullied and tormented in school because he was gay. The principal had told him he should’ve expected it, because he acted so flamboyantly. My tiny little optimist was shocked that this would be something one human says to another. I told him this also happens to sexual assault victims frequently. They are blamed for bringing it on themselves because of what they were wearing, where they were, or how many drinks they’d had. After a bit of stunned silence, he said, “Mom. If I ever hear anyone say something that stupid to someone that’s been hurt, I will punch them right in the face.” I told him we don’t use violence if at all possible, but inside, deep in my little Mom heart that’s only concern is the well-being of my precious little homespun star, I danced around like nobody’s business. Then I told him I’d break my own rule if he ever violated anyone’s personal boundaries in such a way. Dude, I’m doing the best I can, consistency isn’t something I’ve started advocating for yet. Gimme a minute.
I’ve had a few more opportunities to say my piece. It gets a little easier every time, but it’s still difficult. I still hate making people uncomfortable.
Just judging from the looks I’ve received alone (it’s noticeable when most anyone wears bright red lipstick. I have rather full lips, so it’s even harder to miss.) it seems to make women far more uneasy than men. They don’t often comment, but they do glare, shake their heads, cringe, look me up and down with raised eyebrows, and make little “tsk” noises if my son is with me. I try to smile back. A genuine, real smile. Because I get it. There was a time, when I was lugging around my straws in silence, that I did the same. “What is she trying to prove?” I’d think. “Poor little slut, just needs attention from wherever she can get it.” Why? Because I was angry. The few times I’d tried to find my voice and speak up about the terrible things that had happened, nobody had listened. The adults, the people I trusted most, had ignored me, or turned it back on me. And I believed them.
I’m the adult now, and I’ve learned a thing or two getting here. I won’t be ignored. I’ll be here, red lips blazing, eyes straight ahead, fighting for all of us to have our voices heard. Because seriously. Fuck this shit.