I was never a people pleaser. Just very timid. Thanks to my size, I think.
I remember always being scared that if I disagreed, it would lead to a shouting competition and then escalate into a fight. One I’d easily lose because, well, my size.
Here I was, this skinny, fragile girl. It never took much for them to remind me.
How “they’d break me in two if I didn’t step aside” or “a pinch on the cheek was all it would take to make me go red”.
Interesting thing was, it wasn’t the slurs on my ‘size’ that hurt. It was the compromises I was forced to make because I was too timid to shout back.
My principles were the dearest thing to me and since conforming was slowly killing me, I learnt to walk away. Keep to myself. Avoid situations that would put me on the spot.
But sometimes when you’re on your own, trouble comes looking. Then I learnt to “take the high road”. Show that I was the bigger person. Walk away. Again.
A big sister situation was all it took to realize I was fooling myself.
I remember telling my brother as he sobbed, “If they shout at you, shout back. They won’t slap you. If they do, you know where to find me..”
A mocking little voice in my head had laughed.
I’ll never forget the first time I shouted back. She was a classmate in secondary school. A huge girl with a big ass.
Notorious bully, though we didn’t use that word. We simply called her ‘Crazy chick’.
I was in tears as I yelled. But my voice came out, loud and shaky. I saw the surprised look. Then the usual threats came. I faltered, for a second.
Then I cleaned my eyes and told her, as quietly as my sniffles could let me, that she could try.
It was the first of many times. Overbearing ‘friends’, rude guys at the ATM gallery, a project supervisor who crossed the line, a chauvinistic male ‘corper’ who tried it and then wondered why girls from the South were so troublesome.
It’s not the surprised looks on their faces that thrill me. It’s the relief I feel after I let it out.
This morning, we woke up to an incident involving my brother and some neighbours. One that would have been averted if he’d not tried to please everyone.
Amidst the shouting, my dad asked why he couldn’t borrow a leaf from me. Be firm. Refuse to take nonsense. Like his sister did.
“Your sister has always been strong. She may be quiet but she is strong”, he said.
“No, I haven’t. I wasn’t always strong. But I am now”, I replied, before I turned away so they wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.
Tears that held memories of a person I sometimes try to forget. Tears of gratitude for the one I’ve become. Tears that would leave my brothers gaping because “we thought sister didn’t know how to cry”.
I’m still skinny. Still hate to please. Fragile? Nah.
You cross me and I’ll use my words. I will make sure you remember me.