So, last week I took a bit of a break. The week ran away from me and I didn’t have the chance to blog as much as I had planned, but this is a new week full of new blessings, new experiences, new challenges, but I’m writing about something old, of course.
In my circle of single
and ready to mingle sisters, we often talk about dating, men, shoes, food, church, life experiences and the like. Being in the dating season of our lives (and maybe I need to learn to blog about something else because this is soooo not a relationship blog but maybe that’s what my life is coming to right now?) we often rehash flops and victories and never should have happened’s. We laugh, sulk and wonder what went wrong or right or what just didn’t sit well with us.
I can remember one instance where I was completely disrespected – nearly pushed out of a cab during a rainy day in NYC after an argument – and actually spoke to the guy afterwards. In hindsight, I was teaching him how to treat me. And he continued to treat me as less than. While re-telling this story to a room full of mirrors which all reflected that I had made a foolish mistake, a friend interrupted me.
“Sepia, you teach people how to treat you.”
And just like that it happened.
I had an epiphany. Every situation, good, bad, or neutral had been shaped byanother person’s reaction to me or my non-reaction to them. Not that people can’t treat you in a less than desirable manner due to their own hurts and hang-ups, but your tolerance of disrespect says “sure, run right over me.”
The biggest mistake we’re taught as little girls on the playground is this: “Little Sepia, he just threw that sand in your braids because he likes you. No, the cute little brown boy who drew you that picture, he doesn’t like you. He’s just being nice. Nice guys don’t like you, they’re just nice. If a boy is mean to you, he really secretly loves you.”
Fast forward twenty years. Who wants a guy who’s physically abusive? Exactly.
So, back to the lesson at hand. In tolerating other people’s negative behavior towards you, you’re saying, “yes, that’s okay.” Consequently, when you say, “Um, no, it’s not okay to yell at me” or “Yes, I expect you to open my door and pull out my chair”, you’re saying “Respect me. I’m worth it.”
Create a teachable moment the next time you’re out (if necessary).
Last month I taught a class of middle- and high school age girls. We were talking about setting standards and one of the girls said, “I can pull out my own chair, my hands aren’t broken. I’m independent.”
Me: “Being independent is one thing; being respected is another. If a guy is taking you out he is anything less than at least a little bit courteous, he should pull out your chair and the such.”
Some rolled their eyes. Others called me old-fashioned. I let it slide. When I was 13-21 I had no idea that chivalry was a real word. I likened the ch- word to a purple unicorn with diamonds for eyes.
I explained to them that setting the bar high will teach others how to treat them; namely the boys or men they’ll date in the future. It will also weed out the bad seeds early on.
“So, Sepia, if he doesn’t open the door, what do you do?” one of my students asked.
“Stand outside until he gets the point.”
“What if he doesn’t open the door for you?”
“Simple. Don’t get in.”
Sure, pickings are slim. Sure everyone won’t hold up to your standards. Sure you may have to wait
a very long, treacherous time until He sends him. Sure it will be worth the wait. Sure you can teach someone who is an otherwise good guy how to be gentlemanly. Sure. It’s possible. Sure you’ll encounter some bad seeds but this is life.
I’ve been on both sides of the coin. Having been blessed with chivalrous men who open the door at every chance and also having to teach others that yes, even at Wal-Mart, you should open a woman’s door.
Creating teachable moments is empowering and allows you to demand respect without being too demanding. Now, I’m not telling you to cut someone off because he doesn’t open the door or isn’t gentlemanly, but it should let you know what he thinks of you. Granted, he may not be “there” yet but after a while and he’s not treating you with the respect and adoration you deserve, ummm, ontodanext!
In all honesty, I haven’t always been the best at teaching others how to treat me. Sometimes I’m very brash about the way I won’t be treated. But there are also moments when I’ve let too much slide. It’s all a balancing act.
How have you allowed yourself to be treated? What have you taught or been taught?
Share with Sepia
Until next time…