My mom keeps reminding me that a woman in her forties cares less about what other people think and usually gets more assertive and confident. As a woman on the verge of forty (oooh deep breath, Daria), I feel that change brewing inside of me. I get so annoyed if I don't stand up for myself when I should and too often worry about hurting someone's feelings at the expense of my own happiness.
Perfect example. I went to the movies today with my birthday boy husband. After the movie starts, an older gentleman sits down next to me. Instantly I smell the most awful smell exuding from this man. I think holy cow WTF is that? OMG it's his breath! Really really yucky, like rotten teeth medical problem horrible room-clearing halitosis of the worst kind. PLUS he's a loud nose breather and I can practically hear his nose hairs moving in and out. Eeeeewwie!!! What do I do? I lean closer to my husband and try to not think about it. But, boy, it was hard not to go there. When the movie ends (180 minutes later yikes!) and the man finally leaves, I turn to my husband and vent my pent up eeewwwiness. Not one to ever mince words, he says "OMG that's what that smell was?! I thought someone sh!t their pants. That guy had terrible sh!t breath like he ate a sh!t sandwich. WHY DIDN'T YOU MOVE SEATS?!"
My answer, well, I just don't know why. All I had to do was get up, walk around to the open seat on the other side of my husband, and sit down. Not a big deal. I should not care if the man gets embarrassed or offended. I am sad for him having this problem, but he was offending me and affecting my enjoyment of the movie. I was frozen with no balls. Darn it! Argh.
Oh, I remember another good one. I pick up my kids from school and we were just about to exit the parking lot and a fellow mom and her older daughter are walking out and then suddenly stop to talk to the driver in the car in front of me. They start engaging in a full blown "very important" conversation. I keep thinking any minute they will soon say goodbye and we can all leave...me and all of the twenty cars behind me. But these people keep talking. And they keep looking at me and smiling like it is funny. Talk about passive-aggressive. Geez. I just sit there and put up my hands in a WTF motion, and they just wave me off like ha ha silly lady whatever. Finally another car honks and she looks at me all annoyed like I did it, KEEPS TALKING, then after what feels like hours later casually and slowly starts walking away. Now why in the world did I not open my car door and say "Excuse me, but could you please carry on your conversation somewhere else?" She was being rude, but yet I was worried about coming off as rude to her or having an uncomfortable confrontation. Dumb. Argh.
Sometimes I wish I could get some of my police officer husband's ability to be calm under confrontation, protective over his safety and happiness, and blunt and polite but not rude. And, I am certainly not wishing to be forty tomorrow so I can somehow magically gain more of that ability. Yikes. Maybe for now, since my forties are years and years away (ha ha ha), I just need to practice more. I teach my kids that the only way to get better at something is to practice practice practice, give it their best, and not give up, so I'm pretty sure that will work for me, too.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a perpetual wallflower doormat. Well, not usually. I'm not above being assertive, like when I recently helped orchestrate a four mom meeting with the school principal to address bullying issues in class. Waaaaay out of my comfort zone. Big change happened after that meeting, both in the classroom and in my self-confidence. Oh ya! I think I do much more every day but I just don't realize it. Instead, I kick myself on those occasions that stand out when I don't do anything because it just doesn't feel good. Okay, it sucks.
I need to be less hard on myself, but also realize that sometimes it's necessary to light an internal torch for change. Don't I wish I could rewind time like a dvr and redo the dreadful sh!t breath incident, but I'm learning. I'm practicing. I want to be a good example to my kids. I want to be a stronger woman. And, honestly, I'd rather experience those uncomfortable moments of awareness than be oblivious or ambivalent or overtly rude.
So watch out sh!t-breath-loud-nose-hair guy and rude-passive-aggressive mom - there will soon be a more assertive almost (gasp) forty-year-old woman in town, ready to politely assert herself to defend her honor and dignity. Hooray!