“If you can dance and be free and be embarrassed, you can rule the world.”Amy Poehler
I was getting ready for a work dinner with some important grownups a couple of nights ago. I had my hands and thoughts on an extremely colourful, tea-length boob tube dress. I knew everyone else would be wearing suits.
“Is this too much?” I stressed. Maybe I should wear something more subtle. Maybe a typical work dress or something. What will “they” think? What if “they” think I’m too much. In the exact same mind was the thought, I don’t want “them” to think I’m wearing this because they want me to.
Did you grow up with the specter of “what will people say?” I did. It wasn’t so much a thing at home as it was in life in general. It was a community thing. The up and down side of being a member of our generation is that we were raised by a “village” so we absorbed the village norms as well as the nuclear family norms.
Delivering something for my mum to a group of unfamiliar colleagues, I kept my eyes on the ground. I was painfully shy. I still am. It’s just not painful anymore. It’s comfortable. One of the nurses
shouted said “why are you not looking at anyone?! What will they say when you get married. They will say you are dishonest.” I was probably fifteen. The other nurses chimed into the critique. I looked up and looked her in the eye. My skin was on fire. I didn’t want her to shout at me. I didn’t want “them” to think I was dishonest. You know… the people I had never met.
“What will they say?”
It was used to shame. It was used to cajole. It was used to threaten. It was used to warn.
“Don’t play with boys. You might fall pregnant. Then, what will people say?”
You better learn to cook a good pot of sadza otherwise what will people say?
It’s the young woman I know who was told not to visit home at Christmas by her mother lest people find out she is divorced. What will people say?
In my university days, a tailor once said to me, “I am not making you that design, what will people say?” It was just a fitted halter neck dress. I know I shouldn’t explain. I really don’t have to. But, if I don’t, gosh, what would you imagine? See what I did there? See what they did there. See what we did there? Are you “they?”
Are you the person whose judgment I should be terrified of? Who are you? What are your credentials? Did you crack the life code? Do you have Jesus on speed dial? Unlikely. I have this sneaky suspicion that you are not the draconian judge you are made out to be. You are a mere mortal. A plebeian like me. So, here is the big question: who vests this power in you? Is it me?
Oh wait…My God. Are you me? Have we perfected self-judgment to such a degree that we self-police. God. Look at your children. The ones you freed from bondage but they happily rebuilt their own cages.
Steven Furtick resonated with me deeply in one of his sermons when he said, the trouble with “they did this” is that only “they can change it.” What he meant was externalising an issue disempowers you. You can not resolve something if “they” are the problem. Because for that paradigm to work, you must truly believe that only “they” can fix the problem.
To truly sit in the driver’s seat of one’s life, one has to start thinking “I.” For the first time ever, my response to myself when the specter of “they”rose up was “but do I want to be too much?” A sign of growth perhaps…
What is too much anyway?
If colour and an unusual cut are too much? Then I absolutely want to be too much. I want to be the home of the colour-clash, the unusual cut and the all the quirk.
If kind but firm honesty is too much. Then “too much” is my middle name. It’s actually Victoria but you know what I mean.
Honey-brown-copper hair? Tick. Any other colour I set my mind to? Yes. That too.
If making people laugh till their bellies ache is too much. I am all the “too” in too much.
Traveling? I’m the “solocation” queen.
Touch rugby. Horse-riding. Boxing. Babies. Lawyering. Saying no when I mean no and yes when I mean yes…. clearly… using words. Loving with an open heart. Boundaries. Being in touch with my sexuality. Is that too much perhaps?
Kissing my babies. Holding them. Cuddling them. Watching TV with them. Walking with them. Riding bicycles with them. Life with them. Yet sometimes being without them without guilt or stress. Is that too much?
Fitting comfortably inside my skin? Loving myself but also being insecure sometimes. Knowing myself better than anyone else and being comfortable with that.
Therapy. Diligent and consistent therapy.
I’m not sure if all this is what too much is. Is this what “they” will have something to say about. Maybe. I am sure of one thing though. I am absolutely sure that it is me. It is who I am. It’s who I want to be. It’s who I love to be.
So it follows naturally that I absolutely am too much. You see: it’s a free world. “They” can absolutely have an opinion if “they” so wish. They can say every little thing they need to.
The magic in all this is simple: It turns out that I get to decide if “they” have a vote in who I am and my decision is in: “they” do not.
I am too much and I love it. I am bringing my whole self to the life experience in living colour just like Bozoma Saint John said.
Bring your whole self to the experience. Because the more we do that, the more that people get to see that, the more comfortable everybody’s gonna be with it.”Bozoma Saint John