So I wanted to share with you guys, what I did last weekend. I, for the first time ever in my entire life went away completely by myself. Like totally alone, to a place I hadn’t been before, had to make my own reservations and everything. (I’ll wait for the applause to subside…) I know right!? What a brave, inspiring woman I am. Now, you are probably thinking, ok give me ALL the details, walk us through every solo step of that “Mom-cation” and I will; just not right now. I hate to think that I got your hopes up, and let you down, but if it makes you feel any better, I wasn’t expecting this blog to turn out this way either. I whole heartedly assumed that I would access a deeper part of myself on this trip, get in touch with my intuition, and share how rewarding it was to do something that was solely focused on self-care. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are true, but the moment of the weekend that left the biggest impression on me, had nothing to do with what I thought I was going there “for”, but it changed me in a way that I don’t think I can ever turn back from.
It was Saturday night, about 9:30, and I had just finished dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant. I decided to follow the suggestions of the house manager at the Inn I was staying at, and walked the 4 blocks to a wonderful little bar, equipped with a fireplace, cozy chairs, and a really comfortable vibe. I intended on reading over what I had been writing in my journal that day, and sip on a glass or two of wine. In my head, this was already the perfect end to a really wonderful day. However, the moment that I stepped into the bar, I was immediately met with a woman’s annoyed glare. She sat two seats away from the door, and was perched next to another woman. Although this exchange felt really strange to me, I decided to continue on my path and order a drink. It just so happened that the only place that I could stand and wait for the bartender, was a stools length away from said Staring Sally. I did my best to pretend not to notice that she hadn’t released me from her glare, but after what felt like 20 minutes of waiting to be served, I couldn’t continue to avoid her. I casually scanned the room avoiding her eyes, and then I went in for the “now that you know, that I know, that I see you, you can chill now” look. Well let me tell you, my girl was not about to start picking up on social ques. If anything, she dug in deeper, literally scanning up and down with a look of absolute disgust and utter annoyance. As if I had just interrupted her loved ones eulogy so that I could take a selfie on the church alter. Shit was intense! My insides were screaming. I had never in my life felt so uncomfortable, so vulnerable, and so desperate to be anywhere else but where I was. But I decided to stay, I ordered my glass of wine, and I hurried onto higher ground, squeezed into a seat, and started to breathe deeply into what had just happened.
My first thoughts raced to ‘I mean, what did I do to her?’ ‘Is this a local bar, and she knows that I am a tourist?’ ‘Did I remind her of someone that she hated?’ and a million other attempts to rationalize how “she made me feel”. I went around in my head for about 10 minutes, and felt all types of feelings, before I got still enough to get some value out of the moment. I started to write down the emotions that I was feeling, without a context or a story, just the rawness that was going on in that very second. Vulnerable, afraid, angry, confused, judged, sad, I could have gone on for half a page. But I stopped and I wasn’t sure why, but when my pen stopped writing, I had a huge and sobering realization. I had never in my almost 31 years, ever felt any of these emotions after simply walking into a room full of strangers.
Never, in my 11,132.5 days on this planet, had I ever encountered the sheer agony of disapproval for simply being who I was, where I was. And please, let me say as clearly as possible, that what ‘happened’ to me, is absolutely 100% my interpretation of that moment. I am acutely aware of the privilege I was born with 30.5 years ago, and it is that very privilege that affords me the safety net of trusting, that this was simply my own interpretation. I was never in fact in any danger, for all I know, she was 3 sheets to the wind and thought I was cute, but had a strange way of showing it. You see, I am a middle class-ish, red-headed, white skinned, heterosexual, no obvious religion, stay at home Mom, with a husband and a daughter who don’t stray too far from that physical description themselves. I quite literally have never had to think about how I looked before entering a building, kissing my husband, boarding a plane, or typing and publicly sharing my opinions. But god dammit, if that brick house built on unrequested privilege didn’t fall on me in that very second.
As I was going over in my head, how I wanted this blog to sound, when I knew what it was going to be about, I couldn’t help but hear my mother’s voice, when I was writing about the way the woman at the bar grilled me. “Well who the hell does she think she is? I would have gone right up to her and asked her what her problem was, that is ridiculous that she made you feel so uncomfortable, what a bitch!” Makes me smile, because I know that feeling now, that overwhelming urge to protect and keep your cubs safe. To remind your babies that it doesn’t matter what other people say or do, you are beautiful and worthy of love and you have the right to feel safe. And then I thought, how many times has my Mom actually been put in a position to have to protect my siblings and me? In all honestly, not very often at all. But what about the Muslim woman boarding the plane today, wearing her hijab? How many times has she opened up to her mother and shown her the emotional scars she carries from all the years of post-9/11 Islamophobia? Or the group of African American teenagers who harmlessly walk into a convenience store and are followed and eyed suspiciously while they look for their favorite candy. How did their parents prepare them for what they knew was inevitable, without passing down the years of their own unjust pain and judgment? Or the handsome gay couple who walked into the corner bar for a quick drink before heading home, only to be met with disgusted rolling eyes and slander, after they dared to kiss each other in front of strangers. I can only hope that they still have their mothers to call and cry to, and that their families didn’t abandon them because of who they love. And that is only one perspective.
I was lucky enough to walk away from this experience with a new found perspective. But I can only imagine how exhausting it would be to mentally prepare myself for that experience every day that I left my house. Whether you are willing to look at it or not, let me tell you that it is happening. It is happening to people who are exactly like you and I, who have families and friends who love them, who have jobs and responsibilities and the stresses of everyday life. Who simply want to find out what their purpose is, and live the fullest life they possibly can.
So the next time that you find yourself in a glaring moment of vulnerability. Take a snapshot of that feeling and reflect back on it when you can. Be honest with yourself, was that interpretation, or was there a real threat in front of you? In that next moment, remember that you didn’t have time to fully process that answer in the moment. Understand, that it is our past experiences that shape our perspectives. So if you are lucky enough to be one of the people who doesn’t have a history shrouded in unjust judgements, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the list goes on; please remember that you are one of the LUCKY ones. Not everyone has the privilege to walk around without fear. So be gentler, be compassionate, stop being so god dammed scared of everything that doesn’t look and talk and believe like you do. We don’t have to like each other, but we should try our best to love each other. We know what comes from hate, let’s see what can come from love.