Maybe I shouldn’t write this. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s petty and not that important, but it has to be said. It really does. And I’m really not good at being quiet about things that need to be said, this often gets me into trouble. I remember someone telling me once that my tongue would get me beaten. Well, then I guess I’ll just have to take a beating.
Just today, my roommate and I were in a “Let’s Have Fries for Dinner” mood and just so you know, when girls get into that mood, only fries can get them out of it. So, we went to get our fix. Unfortunately, the place that sells the fries on campus, is the same place the heavy drinking takes place. You know, the kind of drinking that involves very cheap, badly made liquor that always ends up violent. Usually, we go in quietly, try to go unnoticed and leave as quietly as we came. That was actually the plan tonight. We got in quietly, made our order and we were busy with the going unnoticed part when this guy came behind the booth.
“Mnataka kuuziwa,?” he asked. So, naturally, I thought he was helping the vendor. And I replied, “Ni sawa, tumesaidika…”
You would never think that such an interaction could spiral downwards and straight to hell in a matter of seconds.
“I was joking. I wasn’t planning to sell anything to you… You actually fell for it?” Then he starts laughing by himself.
(Please, if any of you see the joke he was trying to make feel free to explain it in the comment section, because I may be losing my flair for dry, vague humour.)
It was my turn to talk, “Uh, okay. Then why did you ask?”
“Mbona unaringa? I’m just trying to start a conversation…” Then he went on to say something that told me he thought I thought I was better than him.
I don’t like being bullied. Never have. Never will. And what I said next proves it…
“Excuse me, I really don’t think you should make assumptions. I was standing here minding my own business and you decided to talk to me. Then now you’re trying to rile me up. Please leave me alone…and maybe go hang on a tree somewhere.”
He stood there for a while, as he processed what I had said to him, I watched his face turn all offended and he looked at me with this Who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are glare, and I just knew it was going to get ugly.
“Fucking! Ugly! Bitch!” Yes, he went and said it. (Forgive the French, but that is actually what he said.) I wasn’t surprised though. He looked like the type to take things really personally.
He then carried on and on, explaining in his limited vocabulary of expletives how he would “show me” who he is. He kept telling me to “just try” and I would see. At one point he got out from behind the booth and was really close to me… as he kept telling me all the terrible things he would do to me. All the while, repeating those three ugly words. But I think what bothered him most, was that I kept looking at my phone and minding my own business. What bothered me though, is everyone else in the bar all of a sudden began acting like they had something to do. You know, like their lives all of a sudden had turned into this ultra-interesting thing requiring their full undivided attention. I won’t lie, inside, I was losing it. I thought to myself, this is the day a man hits me in the face, again, seeing as I’ve already been through that experience. (Not fun.) I was freaking out, because I really did not understand how I was in that situation when in my mind I hadn’t really done anything but stand up for myself and asked to be left alone. However, I’m mostly fed up with being punished for standing up for myself and for other people.
Here’s the thing: This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. In fact, it’s been happening all my life. When I was in class 3, I told my classmate to stop bothering me, he pushed me back on my chair and threw my desk on top of me for good measure. He was punished by my teacher though. When I was a prefect in Class 7, I told one of the boys to be quiet, he got mouthy, I told him to stop being rude and he threatened to do something like strangle me.
Then there was that time in Form 2. We were at the Provincial competition for the National Music Festival and I was with my friend who was our drummer. This guy walked up to her and started to bother her…and she clearly didn’t want to be bothered. So, I told him to leave her alone. I remember everyone, my choir-mates, my classmates, even my teacher thought I was the stupidest thing to exist since the Three Stooges. The boys sent one of my schoolmates with a letter to our choir, telling me to “watch my back or they would show me”. After that, I remember the choir officials having to make sure I always walked with someone when we were at the Festival. They almost succeeded. At Nationals, they sent their little minion Form 1 boys to chase me, when it had gotten darker. I had lost my walking partner, quite foolish of me, and I was trying to make my way back to our bus as fast as possible when I heard a shout, “Ndio yule…ebu mshike!” Then I heard fast feet behind me… I looked behind to see a group of approximately ten boys running after me. I knew it was those boys from that school that had planes to “show me”. I took off, well, kind of took off, since I was pretty big in Form 2 (What? I was a growing girl. I needed to eat.), so running didn’t really happen at a fast speed. Some of them caught up to me and let me just say I got touched in places that shocked and terrified my 15 year old self. I kept running though and when I was almost at the bus, I saw one of our Teachers-In-Practice and half-jumped on him, big as I was then, in relief.
I began college and I was and all the irreverent drunks would come banging on my door. I would tell them to leave me alone. There’s one who banged my door so hard, I thought it would break down and I opened it, holding my shoe in my hand and told him to get lost. The next day, I received the message: I should be careful. Next time, he won’t let me provoke him like that. He would show me. I got lucky…because I’m a woman. Or that guy who just invaded my space as I was trying to buy dinner (and why are they always interrupting me when I am trying to get to my food???) …and when I say invaded, I mean, invaded… He walked up behind me and actually pushed me into the wall in front of me with his body. It took me about a whole minute, asking him to not touch me, and right before I was about to scream, he left me alone and went to break bottles to express his feelings towards my reaction. Again, everyone else, just got super busy as if they couldn’t see me trying to get the guy off me.
Then I grew older, and I still had this irritating disease called “Being Honest and Speaking Your Mind” that a lot of men I would run into simply labelled as “horns”. Then the story became, I needed a man who could “de-horn” me… (Yeah, what a way to make a woman feel like an old bull.)Then the story about how women who are lawyers can’t really be picky about men, because we have a sell-by-date and we’ll expire on the shelf. (Really??? The last time you looked at a woman did she happen to resemble a perishable vegetable in the grocery store?) Oh, and how about this one: “One day, Ebby, you’ll meet a man who will nyamazisha you…” That is, a man who would shut me up. So, clearly, a lot of people around me will never believe I’m with the right person unless he shuts me up. Then the time someone told me they were wary about asking me out because “hataki kukaliwa”, that is he does not want to be sat on. Brother, will there be only one chair in that house we will have that I will have to sit on you??? I was even given a stinging “ I can’t stand you and the way you talk…” right before I was unceremoniously dumped for being non-compliant and difficult. I’ve been called an “activist”, a “feminist”, a “man-hater”, “ hostile” “cold-hearted”, “violent” and some things I won’t type here because, I’ve heard and typed my fill of expletives today. And what is it with men always threatening to rape or beat me for standing up for myself???
I’m angry. Can you tell? Why can’t I just say leave me alone and be left alone? Why can’t I just have my preferences as to what I want to do and who I want around me? And really, why must I be in line for whatever punishment it is just because I tell you “No” or stand up for myself? I mean, what is it they are teaching you in those Manhood Classes you all seem to be attending? Am I just meant to “sit there and take it”??? Does anyone else hear how wrong that sounds??? And what’s with people just standing there watching women be terrorized for saying “Thanks, but, no,thanks.”?
So maybe one day I’ll get beaten for speaking my mind and asking that my wishes be respected. Then I guess, I’ll just be beaten. I won’t stop speaking up, though. Deal with it.