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I Have Paid

authentic voice eloquence Jun 07, 2020

Speaking Up

I have paid.  

My whole life, I have paid.  

I only realize it now, mind you.  As I approach (what I hope is) the middle of my life, as I stand on the fulcrum of the past and the future, and I look to either side, I see it so very clearly.

I have paid the price for having a voice.  A real voice.

For the longest time, I thought that so many things in my life were attributable to attractiveness or intelligence.  

If I was skinnier, had a less-flat ass, had bigger boobs, better skin, better teeth, better hair, a tan, long nails, a better profile, no double chin, a thinner nose, I would be chosen.  

So, I did all of that.

Nothing.  

OK, then it must be my intelligence and - get this - I worked on hiding my intelligence, so that I was more ‘approachable’.  

Ladies, I’m so mortified to say this: I dumbed myself down to get guys to like me.

They didn’t.  And I couldn’t.  

I couldn’t (and can’t) flirt.  It’s honestly like watching a flailing circus clown.  Not a good look.  

I went through the subjective so I was forced to look at the objective.  Or at least try.

I looked around me - there were plenty of women, bigger, smaller, more attractive, less attractive, smarter and less so (whatever all of those things actually mean), better at flirting, and worse.  

I just could not figure it out.  What was WRONG with me?  

I was, by most objective measurements, perfectly acceptable.  Yes, I am driven, and ambitious, and demanding, and strong.  But surely that isn’t the problem….is it?

Turns out, when you couple it with brave vocality, it just might be.

‘Brave Vocality’?  What the hell?  That just crept out of my fingers, into the keyboard and on to the digital page.  

I mean by this that I have spoken up.  Over and over again.  

And that’s why I’ve paid the price.

Oh, I’m not talking about the Gloria Steinham or Virginia Woolf or Michelle Obama level of ‘speaking up’ - clearly not, because you don’t see me on stages at major public and cultural events or even on the printed page.  Yet.

I’m talking about the everyday, mundane ‘speaking up’ - the correcting of the kindergarten teacher, the speaking out against the bully in Grade One...and Two...and Three…., the telling the teacher that the assignment doesn’t make sense or the telling the age-peers that chasing a boy that was mean was foolish.  It was every time I spoke up in class, every time I questioned peoples’ actions, the challenging of parents, relatives, community members, peers, siblings, then professors, bosses, co-workers, guys in bars, friends whose boyfriends were assholes, clients whose expectations were unreasonable, my husband when he defers to the bullies in his world...the list is seemingly endless (I just wrote that list, stream-of-consciousness style, so you can imagine!).

Here’s what you’re probably thinking:  well, it’s just easier for you - you’re naturally stronger, good at it, had support, a bitch, don’t care what people think, have privilege, and so on.  

That’s where you’d be wrong:  it has never been easy.  It’s been terrifying, lonely, painful, humiliating, shame-filled, ostracizing, and myriad other things.  Sometimes simultaneously.

Yet I’ve done it.

Why?

It’s not some sick compulsion, I assure you: I have felt sick beforehand, during, and after.  But you know what?  I have felt even worse when the fear or social stress has stopped me.  Sure, there’ve been times I regretted my choices, both the speaking up and the choice to not - but the number of times I’ve regretted having my voice heard are utterly miniscule compared to the times that I have been able to shift the needle just a little bit (and sometimes a lot) in favour of what I believe in - and, incidentally, I’m NOT driven by what only benefit me.

It's Only Now

It’s only now, standing on the tipping point of before and after that I can see all of this - the lifetime pattern that has led to this moment, where I believe - indeed, I know - that I would be less, I would have less, I would be capable of less, if I didn’t pay.

This is the price of authenticity.

And of eloquence.

Worth every penny.