no one cares what you think, girlie

Two people recently told me I come off as intimidating at first. One had just met me. The other knows me well. Actually, one of them used the word "mean."

First I had to get over the laughing. I'm 5 foot tall. Who the hell would I ever intimidate?

Then I felt this surge of... unholy terror. I'm the slightest bit of a public figure. (I've argued that we all are public figures, thanks to the Internets.) I'm about to become more of a public figure. And I don't want "intimidating" or "mean" to be a part of my image. I don't really want it to be a part of who I am at all.

It set me to thinking. I know. Dangerous stuff, thinking. But I thought "I'm not intimidating or mean. I'm opinionated. Confident. A competent user of the word "fuck" in all its forms. A thinker (!)."

Hell, I'm a writer and most of the time I have to blindly assume someone wants to hear my opinion. Otherwise, why bother? Other than it's a fuck-load of fun. So is sex. So are lots of things. But I don't feel the urge to shove all that on other people. Really I just want to shove the writing, which equates to me thinking and sharing what I'm thinking.

What would make me come off as intimidating? I mean, seriously. I'm nice. At least, I think I'm nice. A lot of times I really go out of my way to be consciously nice to people, though sometimes I regret it. And a lot of times I chose not to speak, too, toward that effort, though sometimes I regret it. Sometimes I'm standoffish, too, but that has a lot more to do with me than the other person. If I'm feeling insecure or unsure, sometimes I choose to withdraw.

And then it occurred that people might consider me intimidating because I'm a woman. I wonder if my FB page had a man's name on it, would people think me intimidating or mean? Or would they just accept what I say cuz I'm a guy and no one questions them, really. Oh sure, people argue with men, but no one really questions that he will have an opinion and share it, even if it's a stupid opinion.

And then I wondered, if I were a guy, would I even give a shit what other people thought?  I'm not sure I would. I mean, I already don't, a lot of the time. But this stuff got to me, this people thinking I'm mean or intimidating or somehow stuck up or something. It, in a word, made me feel like shit.

I'm definitely confident. I like my writing. I like the way I think, generally. But I'm humble, too, I think, because I know the bloody fucking work involved in being who I am, and I know what I've overcome to be who I am. No one else knows, except my husband. But the whole episode reminded me that a good part of what I've had to overcome is being a woman.

I'm generally uninterested in women's rights in the same way I'm often not interested in politics...if no one's all up in my face about it, then my mind wanders to more important things, like my writing and feeding my kids and making love to my husband. WAY more important things. I wandered along happily, spouting off what I thought when I wanted to, and not when I didn't want to.

And then I got this comment from two people. Two women people.

Maybe women are the ones who do ourselves the most damage.


Margaret Yang said...

Yep. Pretty much this.

I get the "you're so intimidating/stuck-up" comment a lot, mostly because I'm an introvert. Extroverts are used to getting to know people quickly. Innies take more time, and therefore can seem like they are looking down their noses when actually, they are just warming up.

On top of that, if innies have close friends, they can be quite warm and friendly with those friends. That makes extroverted people think we only like our inner circle and are too self-important to talk to anyone else. It's not the case, of course, but that's how it's perceieved by extroverts.

As you can tell, I think about this a lot.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Oooh, interesting. I think I'm friendly with lots of folks for lots of reasons. Generally I like people. When I go into a social situation I am VERY social. I try hard to cultivate new friendships. I sort of use it all up, though. And then I have to regroup alone, later.

I have close friends but I'm introverted and untrusting enough to never share the deepest stuff with anyone.

Another thing I've thought a lot about lately, that I do that. And I wonder if it's cuz I'm a girl. Or because I tend to respect men's behavior? hmm.

Anonymous said...

You're a person, it takes time to get to know you, but so worth the journey! Stacy

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Aww, thx Stacy. :)

Sheila said...

Been thinking about this since I read it yesterday. Because I've also had people tell me I'm "intimidating". Personally, I think I'm about the least intimidating person you're ever likely to meet, but it still happens.

Then I got to thinking about the times I (and other people I know, including my Beloved Husband) have been told we're intimidating. And it strikes me that every time it has happened to me and to BH, at least, it's been just after we've spent time talking to people on subjects about which we are passionate.

In BH's case, he was discussing some of the finer points of medieval calligraphy and illumination with some newcomers to the SCA. He's studied the subject a fair amount, and has some passion for it. Watching him, I was entertained to see how animated he was, how eagerly he brought out examples to prove the point he was making, how much fun he was having.

But afterwards, someone pulled him aside and told him he was "too intimidating." Really?!?

The times it has happened to me have been similar circumstances--someone asks me a question that touches on something I'm passionate about, and I respond by wanting to share what I've learned about the subject, often in great detail and definitely with great enthusiasm.

I can see that you'd also be passionate about the things that matter to you. So I wonder if it's so much a matter of "men's behavior" vs. "women's behavior" as it is someone being overwhelmed by your display of enthusiasm for your subject. Something to think about, anyway.

By the way, since I have met you, I have to say that I don't find you particularly intimidating. I do find you to be well-spoken, energetic, friendly, and yes, passionate. It does make me wonder about the women who found you to be intimidating, though....

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Hm. Interesting. I've been told I look "intense" and "intimidating" when I'm just walking around. Like I've got somewhere to be, damn it, and get out of my way!

And I very rarely feel that way. Sheesh.