Disclaimer: “loud” is not limited to volume. I use it in reference to being opinionated as well in this piece. Enjoy.
It’s a long-standing belief that children should be seen and not heard. As children get older, the dynamics of this notion change. The boys grow up being taught that they should show out. They are encouraged to get out there and experience the world, take risks and to be as bold as they want to be. Girls, on the other hand, are told that they should be demure, bashful…refined. Oh, how I love the way they spin these things as if they are positive attributes all around. No offence to those of us, male or female, who are bashful or demure- some of the best people are. But to force someone into a box and stifle their expression of self based solely on their genitalia is bull.
I grew up very quiet, worryingly so in fact, if my father’s stories are to be believed. No one forced me to be. I simply was. I would observe the world around me but not get pulled into it because I was to absorbed in my own or too busy escaping into the worlds painted with words on the pages of books by authors I felt were my friends. Authors like Enid Blyton. She was my penpal who I never wrote back and she never made a fuss. She just kept writing stories and sending me secret messages. For instance, she was the one who revealed to me that my stuffed animals and toys all came to life whenever I slept. Before this tidbit was shared with me, I never thought twice about the fact that they were almost never in the same position that I left them before I went to bed, when I woke up.
And then I started changing. Not prompted by any event in particular but I started owning my voice and sharing it with others. And they liked whatever I had to say. So much so that my mother was told by my teacher in the fifth grade to ensure that she nurtured the leader in me. Mom shared this story with me when I was much older. We skip along to high school and this is where my light burned brighter. I was no longer keeping one foot on the side of cautious while dipping the other over the line into the sands of tenacity. I met others who were similar and we enabled each other in a way only teenage girls bonding through puberty could. We bounced ideas, thoughts, feelings and expressions off each other and we journeyed into the land of young womanhood with our vocal cords strained from the volume of our expressed glee and enthusiasm.
And then we hit a wall. Societal expectations. Like hands clasped around our throats, we soon learned that being free with your words is a privilege not afforded to “ladies” and the ultimate goal of any female is, of course, to be seen as a lady, right?
I felt confused and out of place but no more so than I did navigating the other aspects of my life so I did not think much of it. Until I began to feel the sting from the rejection and ridicule that others doled out when in my presence. It hurt most when it came from an object of my affections. Somehow I ended up picking someone who felt it pertinent to explain to me that being “loud and opinionated” would get me nowhere, not just with him (let’s not focus on the fact that he was already my boyfriend of many months) but in general. “People don’t like loud women”. Oh, ok. Thanks for letting me know. No, really.
So I began the course down the rockiest and most discouraging road I had taken in my life up to that point- the road to being ladylike (read: quiet). This much I can tell you- I tried.
But my being would not have it. I wondered why I would feel so small in the presence of some folks and I assumed it was because I was just not quite getting a handle on how to be acceptable. Wow, was I wrong. I felt small because my persona was so busy fighting this façade that only a minute portion of me was left to present to the world.
And it hurt. It sucked. It broke me. Nothing is worse than not being true to you. That acceptance you crave will not fill the void. Trust me. How can others accept you when you haven’t accepted yourself? How can they love you when you don’t show yourself the love you deserve?
It took years. It took trials. It took tears and screams and fights. But finally, the loud girl has been heard. I don’t know how she must have felt, not being heard by her own self. Actually, I do. I mean, I am talking about me albeit in the third person. But we have made amends. I have apologized and she has forgiven me. I put myself back together.
There are still moments when I battle with being a more subdued version of myself. Not nearly as much as before though. There are still people who do not take kindly to my loud personality. I get also that in today’s world, it’s still difficult to find a partner who can tolerate, encourage and love how me and women like me with all our “muchness”. But the amazing thing is I have found so many who love it- almost as much as I do (Narcissistics Anonymous just paged me. Oops!). The most important lesson was that I should change to suit me first. There is a place of belonging for everyone and sometimes you have to be forced out of the place you want to be so that you can stumble into the place you need to be. I assume I will change as I grow older. I will learn maturity and self-control and I will become secure with myself in a way that only age can bring- that is me saying old people have zero cares in the world and it’s admirable…..most times (don’t nobody like a rude ass old person. Ugh). I am not sure if I may become quieter in my day-to-day interactions but I know I will not become less opinionated. Take it or leave it.
I get it- loud people make others uncomfortable especially if they are disagreeing with them. But most of life is uncomfortable. Many equate loud with obnoxious. That’s okay. I’m smart enough to know they are not one and the same (check any reputable dictionary and thesaurus) and, even more, there are plenty of quiet, obnoxious people and acts in the world. Work on fixing your approach rather than seek to change another. So long as no one is being hurt, no one need be reprimanded. I don’t tell you to stop being quiet. Don’t tell me to stop being loud.
This is dedicated to my friend, Karen Lloyd and my fellow loud girls and women. Don’t be silenced.
P.S. I know about time and place when it really matters. Check me in interviews, adequately reserved and professional. In classes? Quieter than a mouse. Haha!
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