after watching bird box, an odd film on netflix, a male friend of mine messaged me and said, i can easily see you naming your kids boy and girl so as to not get too attached. radio silence. i was taken aback at his declaration of fact and fired back, when i am insulted i remove the gloves, go bareknuckle, and swing until i get my apology. he apologized, but i don’t think he comprehended the extent of the offense. the brazen attack on me as a woman, on my maternal capacity, on a past of which he knows nothing.
his words stung. i was stunned. hurt. and angry. first of all, he doesn’t know me well enough to make such an egregious statement about my character. we’ve shared many things about ourselves, but nothing intimate, personal, close to the vest. we talk about work, finances, professional goals, but never much about family and parenting. he has never seen me with children and has only heard me say i don’t want kids, but he has no idea why, and he never asked.
when people make unfounded statements they have no idea the effect their careless and caustic words have on the recipient. people discard words like lose change, without regard for another person’s worth. what if…miscarriage. failed attempts at pregnancy. stillbirth. ovarian cysts. this man has no clue what i have or have not endured in my life and yet he made a statement (not a question) of what he sees as my truth.
the hurtful part is that i now know exactly what he thinks of me: because i don’t have children and have not expressed such a desire i must not be maternal. how foolish, trite, and wholly ignorant to presuppose such a idea about a woman you hardly know.
his message came just hours before another man (who i met on a few occasions) asked if i have kids and to my response inquired, why not? yet again i thought, do you have any idea how many women desire to have children and cannot conceive? suppose i had uterine cancer or fibroids and no longer have a uterus? your callous question demonstrates your utter lack of (emotional) intelligence.
men (and many women) assume that possession of a uterus means that one must bear children. i beg to differ. sisters, that is NOT the mark of being a woman. we are quite confused about what womanhood is and how to be one. the mark of a woman is when she can clearly declare her agency, when she can confidently walk in her truth, and when she can shake off the bullshit commentary of every naysayer and press toward her goals. frankly, men are wholly unclear on what it means to be a man as evidenced by the seeds sown and discarded leaving women to sweep up the chaff.
the anger comes from thinking that we were building a friendship. for the month of december i opted to stop eating sugar and drinking alcohol. i’ve hit the gym faithfully and purchased green chef keto meals. this man is surprised to find that i am still on my journey and tells me he doubts i can make it without sugar for the month and (knowing that i have declared january to be sugar and alcohol free) he is certain that i will fail next month as well. (for the record, i have not failed, this is not my first rodeo, and yet another mark of a woman is when she declares what will be and sets out to make it so.) i challenged his assertion, you doubt me? and he said, yes i do. i think sugar will be your downfall. where does any of that behavior or commentary suggest friendship?
my anger further stems from the fact that i cannot abide a black man speaking doubt into my life. haven’t we faced that enough from “the others” to now apply the same self-defeating speech to our own? it is maya angelou who is oft quoted saying, when people show you who they are, believe them. this man showed me who he believes i am and i see that as a reflection of who or what he is not. if your will isn’t strong enough to deny what the tongue desires, then make self-control your focus and not the destruction of the house i am painstakingly building.
sisters, i face self-doubt every morning. i have to tell myself that i will not give up on me, my dreams, or my goals. i remind myself that i have a right to be here, in this house, in this neighborhood, in this seat, at this table, at this job. that i am fully capable of leading, of being the director, of completing my MBA. this is a daily mantra that i must repeat, a part of the armor i don before i enter a workplace that is largely dominated by white males whose uncertainty of my ability is drawn on their faces when i speak. the same white men who later acknowledge that they now see what i have been saying and the words are squeezed from their thin lips almost indecipherable, but i hear it “you were right.”
i worked with a woman who said, don’t mix your doubt with my faith. when people declare their aspirations and have the courage to share them with me, i am their biggest cheerleader and defender. i don’t seek to sabotage their plans with negative commentary or trips to places that will cause them to question if they can finish what they’re started. if your goal is weight loss, i will not invite you out for ice cream. my role as your friend is to champion you, encourage you, and fight alongside you until you plant your flag on whatever mountain you’ve been trying to climb.
sisters, we cannot take back hurtful words once they are spoken. if you’re going to tell someone what you think of them, be thoughtful. speak words of life, strength, encouragement, insight, and hope. there are enough people all around who will tear you down, attempt to kill your dreams and cause you to second guess yourself redirecting your steps to a path that seems right but wasn’t meant for you. find your tribe. those who notice when you are down and seek to build you up; those who recognize your greatness and live by the scripture, iron sharpens iron; those who have been where you are and are firmly planted, extending a hand to assist you on this arduous journey.
when the hurtful words are spoken, and trust they will be said to you and about you, learn to quickly shake them off. don’t allow them to fester. you don’t have time to nurse the wounds inflicted by people who haven’t earned the right to speak anything into your life. your time is better spent reminding yourself of who you desire to be, crafting and executing the plan that will get you there, and bringing others along for the ride.
proverbs 27:6 says, wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. make sure you can spot the difference.