Mansplain, verb: (of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing
(Source: English Oxford Living Dictionaries)
Last night, at a client event for my internship, I found a chocolate fountain. I couldn’t resist dipping a second stick of extra-puffed marshmallows under the melting deliciousness, and I paid for it by staining my white top.
With an escape to the restroom and quick wardrobe innovation involving my kimono-shawl knot-styled to cover the mess, I was right back to find my girlfriends (the ones whom I had originally left for the chocolate fountain).
I approached them with a how-ridiculous-does-this-knot-look hand motion and skeptical facial expression inquiry, to which a nearby male interjected, “You look great, that looks awesome.
“It’s her outfit,” nodding at my friend, “we were making fun of.”
His initial comment was telling enough– despite the event’s complimentary Prosecco (or maybe because of it) our two energies were not aligning.
“What’s wrong with her outfit?” I snapped. Besides nothing. My comment was a misfire however, considering he ignored it to continue talking at me and in my direction:
“I have to say I’m not a fan of that necklace though. Maybe because I’m a guy, I don’t know.
“But you know girls only wear necklaces like that to impress other girls, right? You know that’s the only reason why girls do that, right??”
“Are you trying to tell me what I may or may not be doing intentionally?”
“I mean it’s not for us guys, it’s for each other, you must know.”
Is this what that socioculturally-derived 21st century term mansplaining was all about?
“No, no,” I interjected.
“Are you telling me, as a man, about something that my entire sex supposedly does? Are you trying to mansplain to me my own intention behind wearing this necklace?”
The complimentary Prosecco was getting me a little bit feisty, and I knew my new rooftop-friend wasn’t prepared to get such backlash.
“Mansplaining,” he scoffed. “Yeah– yeah, I was mansplaining!” he retorted back, matter-of-factly.
With a Champagne flute in hand and a knotted-kimono covering my chocolate stain, the words well don’t flew off the tip of my tongue, spicy and sharp, and I glared into his eyes until he got the hint and turned away. I faced my new friends, almost uneasy about how they might handle my moment of fiery spirit. They thanked me, and we continued laughing and dancing about.
Though we had moved on, the man came up to me minutes later.
“I’m sorry,” he said, passing by.
“Thank you,” I said curtly.
It was my turn to speak matter-of-factly.
I share this story as a reflection on the way I could have better handled this situation. I got the man to apologize, yes, but aside from temporary egotistical victory, what good is that really?
Sans the mind-alternation of the complimentary beverages, I could have helped this man see that his insight was not only unsolicited, but unjustified and even condescending.
That maybe, this was my favorite necklace and I wasn’t wearing it for anyone but me, regardless of a male or female audience.
And that at the core of it all, he wasn’t speaking from a loving place, or to me as his equal. I could have agreed that he had every right to have his own opinion, but shared that his extended, entitled, so-claimed awareness over a population of humans whose experiences he could never empathize with was unjust and unfair and even ignorant.
And if I could have connected with him and helped him understand that in a calm and loving manner, I could have engaged in healing with just one person; healing that would ripple in his future engagements and in mine, too.
I reflect back on this interaction last night as a lesson of mine in patience and boundless love. A lesson in embracing courage and speaking my truth yes, but doing so in a kind, constructive and empathetic manner.
It appears to me that with every pained, frustrating or instigating experience, there is an opportunity for healing. Life will continue to present us with chances for healing, though they don’t often show up beautifully upon the first glance. I am learning to pay attention to the triggers, for they are some of my best teachers in this healing journey.
I hope we meet again, rooftop party friend. Because next time we do, I’ll be wearing one of my many flashy necklaces, and I will welcome you with a hug– or at least a cheers to healing.
You and your partner will never be able to rescue each other: but there is someone else who can and will.
This is a story about an ego-love: a love that you love to hate and hate to love.
An audacious, fiery, carefree, exhausting love. A try-hard love, a defensive love, an I-swear-it love and a not-enough love. A love that drives you crazy and makes you second guess and pushes you away and keeps you coming back. A love where you’re never on the same page, because when one of you is up, the other is down. A love that you found, or perhaps, it found you, to prove something– to rectify and fix something. It arose to try and save you, to save them, or to save each other. This is a story about a rescue.
I wanted to save him, to heal him. Because in doing so, I was proving that I, someone like me, was deserving of and capable of being saved, too. Losing him, losing the battle of ‘saving’ him (because you will always lose in an ego-love), was the ultimate death and torture of my ego and the self-devised narrative of this worthiness-rescue game.
I was always on my toes with him. I knew from the very moment we began that he would outrun me. He would exhilarate and exhaust me, for as light and reckless as I wished to be, I had a passionate heart that weighed me down and an always-at-it-head that grounded me. But I ran. And I kept up with him, for a little bit.
I learned to play the games: to return not-so-playful and all-too-true jabs, to be a little more careless and a lot more competitive. I learned to love the way he knew how to love. But I never unlearned my own ways of loving. And sometimes, I would sneak in droplets of my love-water, biting the bullet of ego-jabs, to try and nurture his garden with encouragement, support and faith. I so badly wanted to help him grow and reach his sunlight. But his walls were solid and his knives sharp, and my efforts to drop barriers and release my light left me unarmed and burned. Despite it all, my hope and I remained desperately devoted to him.
After the failure of “us”– after the failure of my rescue– I fell into a deep depression, suffering withdrawals from my pain-addiction to him and clinging onto a dear, toxic, unhealthy, false sense of life.
I fell sick for two whole weeks when he finally left. I lost my voice. I became incapable of speaking this very trauma-induced pain of him, this pain of my own mind. In fact, I had lost my mind.
I went to all of the dark places, because I convinced myself that that’s where I needed to go to find him. And my ego and I would pull us both out of there, into light, into safety, into love.
I know now that he’ll never come back to me. Not that I need him to, in my healthier state of self-love. For he knows he’ll never be able to give me what I need, even if I sometimes forget it. He won’t respond to, address or hear my attempts of reaching out or reminiscing, because he knows that I’ll come around and one day, once again remember he can’t love me the way that I can love myself. And that will hurt him and guilt him all over again.
When he finally left me, for the last time– emotionally, mentally, physically, psychologically– he looked me in my eyes and said, “You are a beautiful person.”
And after all of the hurt, the heartache, the mind games and the ego-pain, I felt like maybe, a small shard of my love did really get through. Maybe, after it all, a piece of me was able to reach him.
That, I will never know. But I will remember that moment forever, because it marked the first day of my next and final rescue. The only and the most important one: the rescue of myself, from my own mind. And I knew then that I would be the only one to carry myself into salvation– into love– and that I was the only one standing in my own way. And I knew then that I would be victorious. I will be my own savior. And he will be his own savior. And we will both be beautiful.
This week’s #humpdaypoetry goes out to all of the brilliant flowers in my life, and in the world. To you flowers, who have learned to seek your own light, nourish your own soul-soils and cultivate your own safe spaces of self-love. Happy #InternationalWomensDay! May we always be blooming.
Part 2: How I’m Embracing, and Remaining My Inner “Yes Woman”
The waves were small and the water was chilly. The air was 50 degrees when my alarm went off at 7:20 a.m. I wanted so badly to snooze a little more until waking up to spend my day typing cover letters. But my surf partner and I went out into the ocean anyway.
And the universe rewarded us. Also playing in the small, friendly waves were none other than a pod of dolphins. After a solid five minutes of me slapping the water in disbelief, cupping my jaw-dropped face, paddling out closer to them, inquiring if their presence indicated that sharks were also around, whispering, “oh my god,” incessantly, and wondering why these so-called-waves had to be in my viewing way, I decided to do like my finned-friends and try and catch one, only to paddle back out and repeat the process.
I continued on this way for another 10 minutes. My poor surfing partner was probably experiencing his own disbelief in that someone could have such a reaction to a wild animal, but he tolerated it all the same.
There were few others in the water to witness my enamor and accept the sea’s smaller feat, but after the dolphins left, one nearby surfer caught my eye. He was seasoned, with a white beard, turquoise eyes and tan, weathered skin. He paddled on his long board only on his knees and pursued each small but promising curl in the same manner he would have as if it was the biggest wave he’d ever seen. He reminded me of my father.
After a few catches and misses, I called over to him.
“That’s quite the paddle, I’m not sure I’m there just yet.”
The man laughed and told me it took years of practice. “You should turn next time,” he told me, in regards to my last attempted ride.
I learned that while a self-proclaimed surf-bum now, he was also an avid skier and climber in his years, and had worked as a guide in Switzerland, set rock-problems all around the U.S. while living out of a van for two years, has his Masters in Chemistry, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and now has it under control and spends his time living in San Diego funded by his work as a researcher and online course professor at Vanderbilt University.
Darrel looked back at me and though beginning with, “I’m not sure I’m good for dishing out advice…,” he continued, letting the gentle ocean-waves wash over his surfboard and nostalgia-waves wash over his memories.
“Don’t get into debt,” he said after a moment. “Don’t fall for the illusion of things. Don’t spend your money on a big, fancy car… You don’t need stuff. I had a fancy home and things all back in Nashville. I even have a closet of fancy things here that I never look in. I don’t miss it.”
A wave rolls by.
“Do it while you’re young. Be good to your body. Don’t drink hard alcohol, it takes a toll. If you want to have a beer every once in a while, all right. If you want to get high, smoke weed. But don’t smoke it, bake it. Bad carcinogens.”
We float over another set of baby ocean-movements.
“Get a lot of skin.”
“As in tough skin?” I interjected, in due parts because I’m soft as a flower petal and because I wasn’t sure that’s really what he meant.
“No. You know,” patting his wetsuitted-arms, “affection, touch, love. That’s science…
And if you don’t like something, don’t do it.
“And this.” He looked at the water around him and ahead of him. “Do more of this.”
And whether he had more to share or felt he was done, I’ll never know. Because my transfixed state broke when Darrell spun around faster than I might ever be able to to catch the wave that was upon us. I made it over and looked back to see if he had caught it. He must’ve, I thought, going after it with the same energy of a pro at Maverick’s.
But he hadn’t. And it didn’t make a difference to him, because he was already on his knees paddling back out to catch another.
He didn’t need to put that last lesson into words after all: go after life like you want it badly. Go after it with full force. Pursue it and lean into it wildly. And if you miss? Get up and try again.
So living my new life in San Diego, I will go outside. I will walk around alone. I’ll look up. Smile at people. Make eye contact. Engage in conversation. Say “hi” to strangers. Accept invitations. Invite people.
I will say yes. Say yes to life. Because when you start saying yes to life, life starts saying yes to you.
And just like that: magic had happened.
Be sure to check out the prequel to this piece– Part 1: How I Found My Inner Yes Woman.
Part 1: How I Found My Inner “Yes Woman”
This is how magic happens:
Spontaneously. Unplanned. Unexpected. Without searching for it.
Since uprooting across the country to San Diego on my own, I have expanded healthily into my personal courageous form of “yes woman.” I suppose we could reference the Hollywood film involving Jim Carey, but I’m not too exposed to pop-culture in that sense (though I do love Drake, some tropical house music and Game of Thrones) and I thoroughly enjoy molding my own, experiential meaning into things.
“Yes woman” is a form I have embodied wholly in my young adult life just once before. I was reaching the conclusion of a 4-month South American backpacking journey with my adventure-partner when it was time for our paths to part: he returned home, I went on alone to Brazil.
It was my first time traveling alone internationally, and while Brazil was the country I had been subconsciously journeying toward, it was a complete surprise and self-learning moment on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro when I burst-morphed unexpectedly and excitedly into this mentality and state of being.
It was a spontaneous and eye-opening moment of lying on the beach in the city that I had always dreamed of visiting and the revelation that I was indeed looking at the small ocean-islands of vegetation, the inland hill-mounds hosting favelas, a boardwalk of sun-kissed, active sunbathers, and Brazilian vendors selling bathing suits, Caipirinha’s and crawfish. I had done it.
And I decided in that very moment, in utter joy, that I was going to do everything. Try everything. Taste everything. I was going to dive into my experience and live it fully. Granted, my day did end in a tourist police station with the Brazilian cop ordering me dinner, but that’s a story for another time.
Morphing into one’s version of “yes person” usually occurs when one realizes and accepts that they know nothing. One who has lost sight of, discarded, and removed oneself from everything that is familiar and close to them. Every direction is equally the “right” direction to take, because one has no destination, and nothing will leave one any worse off because one just doesn’t know any different. One no longer has the comfort and luxury of knowing. And that is when the magic happens. The magic of not knowing, of trusting and of welcoming. The magic that can never be planned.
Now, let me disclaim here, for the sanity of my parents and others who care about my well-being, to enter a state of “yes woman,” or “yes person,” means accepting every opportunity that comes, within one’s own safety. It requires a great deal of courage and flexibility, but even more-so, self-awareness, the willingness, ability and practice of self-exploration and knowing and setting personal boundaries.
Alas, in this Sun Diegan stage of my life, I am once again, “yes woman.” So when I received an invite to surf this morning after having planned to apply to 1,023 jobs, I said yes. To justify this, I determined that I would start my morning earlier, healthier and more clear-minded if I allowed the ocean to humble me. And I did. And it did.
And that was when the magic happened.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!