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.