Sometimes I forget myself. On halcyon days I forget about the bump on my nose or the extra jiggle at my waist. I forget that my unretainered smile is growing crookeder by the minute. I forget that I’m not quite good enough or smart enough, or pretty enough to do the things required of me each day. I forget that I’m not quite living up to someone else’s expectations.
On these day of forgetfulness, I carry myself delicately. Like I am knit together with the finest yet most unbreakable thread. My cheekbones catch every prism of light. I treat myself with the kindness that few others afford me. On these days no one has to remind me of my posture as my shoulders and spine find their natural erect place. On these days I stand like I’ve got a pair of large, glittery wings on my back .
On this particular day of forgetfulness, I wore a polka-dotted peplum dress; my hair affixed in an oh-so-high bouffant puff. I was indomitable. I was a force field. I was fierce.
There were about 20 people –both employees and customers–in the checkout area and every single person stopped what they were doing to stare at me. It was like they were playing “red light, green light” and someone yelled “red light” when I walked into the store. There was no sound– no movement, no nothing.
The shock of so many people standing so still and staring at me shook me out of my forgetfulness.
I remembered all of the those labels that people at my last job kept trying to stick to me: intimidating, loud, incompetent, too big of a personality— the list didn’t stop at those four. There were so many other sharply-bladed words that had been thrown at me — words that still come for my neck when I am only at the supermarket for a bottle of water, or singing along to the radio in the seclusion of my car, or merely existing.
You see when I forget myself, when I allow my hair to curl as high as it will go, when I am not trying to meet someone else’s expectations, when I step to the beat the marching band in my heart plays then I am unapologetically myself. The distinct, one-of-a-kind woman that God created me to be.
And that is scary to a lot of people. It’s so much easier to take the path of least resistance, to wear the just like everyone else mask, to accept the limitations that others would impose on you. But something inside me won’t let me rest in that facade, something inside is not satisfied with some alternate version of me.
I don’t think the people in Food World felt or were directing any animus towards me. I think they were truly surprised by my hair and outfit choice of the day. And so we ended up in a stalemate, a bit of a 12 o’clock showdown where they stared at me mouths agape and I stared back, hip cocked to the side and smizing. In the end, I laughed, shook my head, and kept marching.