Bear with me as I tell you a little story. I have a point.
Last year, about halfway through the year, I popped out to our local grocery store to pick up some fruit, with which I wanted to make smoothies. As is the usual way of my life, I was not dressed to the nines nor particularly made up. I’m a writer. I write. My butt is in my chair most days and – some days, if I’m lucky – I don’t have to be beautifully turned out because I don’t need to attend meetings. This was one of those days. I was committing a allegedly heinous “fashion crime”. I was wearing leggings as pants.
As I picked through the bananas, grapes and melons, a most charming fellow (that was sarcasm) leant across to me, quite conspiratorially and smiled as he said:
“Leggings aren’t pants”
Because I’d had my coffee that morning, my head was in the right space to respond. If you know me personally, you’ll know that – sometimes – the words tumble out of my mouth before I can configure them for public consumption. I’m not proud of what I said in response, but in some ways it had to be said:
“Well, asshole isn’t a personality”
It had the intended effect: he turned and left me alone to peruse the fresh produce, after giving me a sneer.
Here’s the thing though – so what? What right does he have to police what I’m wearing? In fact, what right does anyone have? In hindsight, I giggled to myself, and immediately texted my friend Jane to tell her of my witty retort. We laughed over it and moved along in our conversation.
That incident though, has played over in my head a thousand times since. I have a million questions over what gives people the right to tell me (or anyone!) that. I really don’t care what your feelings on fashion are, but seriously, channel your energy towards something useful instead, thanks.
I’m still not at my point. It’s coming.
I have found that, over the past few years, I’ve policed myself. I’ve held back on responding to something that affected me, or tried to find less direct ways of responding. The experience left me uninspired, and almost fearful to say something. I was frustrating myself to such a point, that I ended up feeling disconnected from people. I’d policed myself into a corner and I didn’t like it very much.
For this year, I’ve decided to try and “unpolice” myself. To say what I mean with purpose, and to stop apologising for having an opinion on something that has affected me. So far, it’s been interesting. I’ve been told I “used to be a nice person” and had many a barbed insult catapulted at me. One person called me hysterical for typing a tweet in capital letters, and another asked me if I was “perhaps hormonal”. It’s been an interesting experiment in speaking my mind and just letting the words tumble out.
There’s another reason why I’m doing this.
My daughter is going through an interesting time in her life – where she begins negotiating and mediating her relationships and friendships with other people, without mummy making all the decisions for her. Call it part-letting-go, part-personal development, but we regularly end up reflecting on her friendships together, and I use examples from my own life to help her out when she hits a sticky spot. The biggest piece of advice I can give her? It’s this: Always speak your mind, so long as you are not hurting anyone.
I am, by nature, a shy person. Put me in a room of people I know, and I’m fine. Put me in a room of people I do not know, and you’ll get more conversation out of the water jug. I clam up, big time. She’s like this too, but it’s an area of self-confidence that I want her to feel better managing than I ever have. The one tool I’ve found to help me feel more settled in a room of people I don’t know is speaking my mind and asking questions. Being investigative and interested is half the job of feeling okay in a room of unknown territory. Nobody gets across the desert without looking at the Sun for some sense of direction.
So this year, I’m looking at the Sun. In a world that’s determined to tell me what pants to wear when I pop out to buy some bananas, I need to keep looking at my Sun for direction. And that’s why, this year, I’m not policing my speak.