Today I was going to blog about eating disorders, but then I had an experience that changed my entire outlook on life-and all that it means. While I do not have everything figured out, I need to explain a lot of background first.
I’m taking a lot of “human” classes this semester. Human Variation (or the study of genetic differences in humans), Communication Theory (how humans communicate with each other),Women and Democracy (how women come into play in things like government, politics, and social contracts) and Human Sexuality (the theory and practicality of humans and sex). And there is a lot of overlap in these classes, namely in what it means to be a woman in several contexts. Now, having lived my entire life as a woman, I thought I knew most everything. I carry my keys like weapons, I have a self-imposed curfew, I know what it means to vote, how the basics of government is run (thanks to my high school government teacher!) and other bits and bobs I’ve picked up over the years. But I have been incredibly fortunate to never be in a position where my power over self if compromised. And that is where today comes into play.
Now, a note before I continue. ***This is the most easy going, least violent way possible that my power over self was compromised. And I want to explore the thought process behind it more than the actions.I am NOT AT ALL comparing this to situations where bodily autonomy is forcefully taken away in any capacity. I just want to talk about the thought process, as I said.***
I went to the mall with my husband, because we were out today anyway and I wanted to walk around. I enjoy the mall, often find little things to pick up and usually find it a fun place to be. As we were getting ready to leave, a woman at a kiosk stopped me and handed me a free sample. Not wanting to seem rude, I took it and said thank you. She asked if I had a moment, to which I replied we (my husband and I) were already running late and I couldn’t stay. She said it would only take a moment and so I followed her to her station. She asked me to sit down so she could show me her line of hair straighteners. I have hair down to my shoulder blades, and I NEVER use straighteners or curling irons on it. My hair is so thick that it has a mind of it’s own and several stylists have refused to work with it because of that. I’ve dyed my hair so much that it fries my hair too hard to straighten anyway. So she inquired about the colors and told me her straightener didn’t damage hair and was a 2-in-1 product.
I didn’t want to seem rude, so I silently took down my hair and let her show me.
I could see the steam, I could feel the heat and although I was fidgeting uncomfortably the entire time, I said nothing. My husband watched patiently. She put clips in my hair and I felt trapped. I had planned on just bolting, but I didn’t want to run away with her clips in my hair. So as she kept talking, I sneakily took the clips out and laid them on her station. She kept talking jovially about how my hair was so soft and she took the comb up my hair to frizz it and then tried to calm my cottonballs hair once more. She stopped for a moment, having done about a fourth of my hair and asked what my favorite color was. I barely made eye contact with my husband before I said:
“I told you I was running late. Thank you.”
And I ran away as fast as my shaking legs would carry me.
Now, afterwards, I met up with a friend (who works a kiosk) and explained to her what he happened. I also found out that my husband had been listening to my pleas of self-confidence and hadn’t wanted to barge in and make it seem like he was in control of me (which I thanked him for). My friend said she’d also had a similar experience and that she had bought one of the hair straighteners for $250!!!!! She then told me that it really does burn your hair and isn’t worth the price.
As we were leaving the mall, my husband made the astute observation:
They didn’t have a sink, wipes or sanitation instruments. When did they wash the combs and clips? What if I got lice?
So we had a deep, philosophical conversation on our way home about all this and that is when it hit me.
I’d been in an uncomfortable situation because I didn’t want to seem rude. And instead of immediately getting out of it, I stayed put because I thought:
I sat down and this is all my fault. I got myself into this mess and now I have to deal with the consequences. And on top of all that, I didn’t want to be there, but now I might have a parasite.
I feel like I just stumbled onto the key of understanding. While I may not know and understand the full implications of being held against my will, I now understand why women feel like they have to blame themselves for the bad things that happen. This is where our culture is letting down women. We are teaching them that it’s to be expected that being polite at our own expense. We are expected to internalize the blame, even if it really isn’t our fault.
And for the record, my hair IS burnt. And it smells like vanilla got lit on fire and then sprayed onto my hair. My hair is a disaster . If I do end up with lice, I’ll be finding a lawyer. Because I may not have violently said no, but I never asked to have my good health in jeopardy.