For as long as I can remember, I’ve let anything mean and hurtful said to me stick. I’m like a 5’5’’ strip of flypaper that has been hanging from the ceiling for 41 years. There is barely a space where there isn’t something, long dead, that I’m holding onto.
See? Over here by my eye are the vicious words of 11-year-olds who had learned, at the feet of their activist parents, that all white South Africans are racist and, therefore, this little white girl in a new country must hate them and their Maori skin. Their words are glued there by the thick spit that they lobbed at me before running away.
Woven between my toes, are pink ribbons from my dance teachers. “Such a beautiful point. Such expression. Graceful arms and rhythm.” The ribbons cut into the wounds caused by an overheard conversation; my mother to her friend. “She’s not going to be a ballerina. Look how she’s built.” Middle-aged hands held out indicating breasts and hips. Up until that point, I thought I was a ballerina.
Here, on my stomach, where I grew two babies, in a body that was barely adult, the cruelty of the man who said “well, at least I can close my eyes and remember what you used to look like.” Those words are stuck there with breast milk and tears.
So, when, at a recent writers’ forum workshop, I asked a question and the answer was a personal attack, I immediately looked for a place to pop this one. I could see the words, typewritten, tapped out a letter at a time. I looked for a place to bash “where did you get your education, the internet?” into my skin.
But, I couldn’t find a permanent place for the humiliation, although I’ve tried.
It seems I’m full up.
So, I’m going to leave the words here because cruelty is cheap, easy and chickenshit. It doesn’t deserve my energy or engagement. (Brene Brown, page 21, “Dare to Lead”).
Besides, I’m going to need that energy for dancing.