“So these days I apologize a lot. Everyone tells me all the time that I don’t need to, that I have nothing to be sorry for, that I shouldn’t be so insecure, but in between they tell me how likable I am. How personable. How pleasant. How I set people at ease.
“Apologizing is a survival skill in a society where women are penalized, personally and professionally, for being abrasive, for speaking their minds, for not smoothing their sharp edges down, for not fitting in. Apologizing is a way of saying I know I’m smart but I don’t mean to be. I know I take up space but I’m trying not to. I want you to like me more than I want to be right.These are things the world demands from women. If you don’t provide them, it punishes you. Before I started apologizing I heard all the time, secondhand, that people hated me. That this girl or that girl thought I was a bitch. That I was too aggressive and guys were scared of me. I never hear that anymore.
“People tell me that higher self-esteem would help me apologize less. I think No, you don’t understand. I have to apologize because I can’t let people know how awesome I actually think I am. The world is not kind to women who love themselves as much as I do — certainly not fat, queer, socially awkward girls. I am not supposed to have confidence. I am not supposed to think my opinions matter.”
Friend and fellow martial artist Jan Parker has been teaching a long time; she was already a master teacher when I was a mere novice two decades ago. She’s seen and heard more than a few wacky reactions when strangers and acquaintances find out what she does. And she just blogged about one such instance at a friend’s party years ago. The perennial question that most martial artists invariably encounter. Here’s an excerpt:
. . . [A] young man heard from someone else that I was a martial artist. Boldly, he came up to me to make sure what he heard was true. “So, you’re a martial artist?” I nodded, noticing the drink in his hand. He continued, “Soooooo . . . What would you do if I just hauled off and hit you in the face?”
Before you read on, what do you think her reply was?
Might she have said, “Yeah sure, I’d like to see you try”? Or how about “I’d hit you back harder”? Would she call him an ignorant jerk of an a$$hole? Perhaps she would have jumped straight up in the air and, Bruce Lee-style, executed a perfect flying side kick right into his nose!
“I would charge you with assault. What do you think I would do?” “For crying out loud,” I said, “we’re at a party, why in the world would you hit me in the face?”
Surprised, at my answer, he walked away.
She called that a success story. And so do I. She assessed his intent, decided this silliness was not a situation to escalate, and gave a response he was so totally not expecting. Perfectly disarming self-defense.
Of course you can read Jan’s re-telling on her blog JanJimJam.org. Jan Parker, you rock!
You know, those people hanging out on street corners, clipboard in hand, collecting signatures (and sometimes money) to save the children, the whales, the unborn, the undead, . . .
Apparently in downtown Seattle some canvassers are getting too aggressive. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is considering a law to do something about it.
Hear about it, and some opinions, on KUOW-FM, where yesterday Mr. Rasmussen and others answered questions posed by host Ross Reynolds and listeners who called and emailed in. http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=24293
Sure some canvassers are annoyingly aggressive. However, I don’t see the need for a law to deal with them. A simple “no thank you” and walking on should do the trick. (Yes, I do teach that, and other verbal safety skills, in some of my self defense classes.)
For instance, I am walking around Westlake Mall (seems to be Canvasser Central these days) and am approached by a young man (or woman) asking for just a few moments of your time to save the children. I will make a snap decision: to give them some of my time, or to say “no thank you” and walk on. Either choice is fine, as long as it is MY choice and I’m not just getting sucked into it because that’s what good folk like us do. My choice would be to say “no thank you” and walk on, secure in the knowledge that I’m already doing the right thing because have a charitable giving plan already in place. If that canvasser then feigns shock that I don’t care about the children, I will WALK ON. I do not feel I need to answer to him. I owe him nothing, and will not get sucked into a time-wasting, energy-draining conversation web.
Remember the sage advice of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It’s up to each and every one of us to spot emotional manipulation and deal. It’s just the right thing to do.
|In classes for teen girls I’m often asked what to do when some guy, either a stranger or someone they barely know, approaches and begins asking overly personal questions. A simple “I don’t want to talk at this time” is certainly polite, and right to the point. “I don’t give out that information,” said in a neutral tone, is also direct and sets a boundary without being nasty.
But some girls still take issue with a direct response. Because it’s “rude.” And I hear from some adults who work with girls that it’s just “who they are.”
Who are you, really?
Are you always the person you wish you could be?
Food writer Ruth Reichl faced similar questions, but in a different context. As the restaurant critic of The New York Times beginning in 1993, Reichl knew that her reviews would powerfully influence the rise and fall of restaurants big and small; a great review could mean vastly increased revenue and prestige. Restaurant kitchens, she found, had Reichl’s picture plastered on the wall and a reward for any staff member who spotted her. Reichl’s clever solution was to come up with disguises for her dining excursions. And her disguises went beyond wigs and makeup — she envisioned what kind of person she’d become. With the help of an acting coach, she transformed herself. And it worked, sometimes too well. She found herself falling into her roles–often to the delight, but sometimes to the dismay, of her dining companions.(Reichl details her escapades in her charming book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.)
“Chloe” was a blonde bombshell who seemed to know precisely how to intrigue men. “Brenda” was warm, funny, kind, and approachable. Elderly “Betty” blended into the furniture, and was treated as a castoff. “Emily” was brusque and bitter. All different personalities, yet along the way Reichl recognized them all as elements within herself (and she decides she wants more Brenda and less Emily). Reichl had the epiphany that controlling how others treated her could be as simple as changing the way she dressed and projected herself. She tested this out, and for her it worked.
Reichl was able to effectively reconstruct herself for a slice of time, over and over, in different guises. She got her job done.
Do you know precisely what you would do in any given situation? Do you ever do things that amaze you? That disappoint you? Do you ever say things you wish you could take back the minute it came out of your mouth for all the world to hear? Do you ever wonder how you had the presence of mind to say exactly the right thing, and wish you could do it more often?
That’s resilience in an uncertain world. Grace under pressure. Cool, calm, collected. What’s not to like about those qualities?
As I tell my class participants, self-defense has a performance component. Regardless of who you believe you are, you all have the same job to get done, of keeping yourself safe. You can act. You can project yourself as a skilled, confident person on your own mission, and pity the fool who tries to mess with you.
Personally, I believe my time is valuable. I feel I should choose with whom to spend, not squander, my time. Otherwise I’ll end up treated as someone else’s entertainment, emotional barf bag, or — at worst — victim.