I wasn’t sure whether to write about what happened last night. Partly because I’ve been spending most of the day trying to forget it happened, but mostly because there’s a knot of shame in my stomach that I don’t really understand… I’m not one to be confrontational for no reason, I like to assume people are generally good. Some make stupid comments or do silly things but I’d prefer to believe people aren’t vindictive unless provoked. This theory is a hard one to wrap my head around today.
Last night I was out with a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen properly in far too long. We were on a solid wave, laughing and joking whilst walking down stokes croft when I feel someone touch my hair. It’s not a foreign feeling; someone decides they have a right to stick their dirty hands in my clean hair because ‘they want to’ but I wasn’t going to let it annoy me. I was surprised when I turned round to see it was a black guy that did it.
I kept my cool, “Come on man, don’t touch my hair. You of all people should know not to touch a black girls hair.”
Not aggressive, not rude. I even smiled to show no hard feelings. We walked on. An hour or so later, we walk back past the same guy and his two friends.
As we go past his mixed race friend shouts, “Oi you, you told my friend he couldn’t touch your hair”
“Yes I did, why would you touch a stranger? That’s not cool”
“Cause you think you’re nice. You think you’re so nice, you think you’re a ten innit. Listen, you’re a five at best. Nobody wants a black woman, you know that yeah.”
“…. You know you’re mixed race don’t you?”
“Don’t worry about me, we’re not talking about me, I’ll be fine. We’re talking about you and you’re nothing.”
Horrible as they were, it’s not the words he said that upset me because clearly his self hatred ran deep, but I couldn’t contemplate these imagined assumptions he was throwing at me like they were factual. Like he knew anything about me – we were literally strangers. I hit him around the head with my umbrella, called him a dickhead and walked away in shock.
After a a few seconds I realised my friend wasn’t with me, I looked back and saw her; tiny and blonde and livid, shouting at this guy on my behalf because she was so angry he would speak to me like that. He spat in her face. She kicked him in the balls. I ran back, started whacking him with my umbrella, he spat in my face. I hit him a few more times. He laughed, and ran.
He fucking laughed.
When I woke up this morning, I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness which has stayed all day. Why did that situation happen in the first place? Did I do something to provoke or exacerbate it? What was his reason for attack? Is it literally because I told his friend not to touch me? Can that really be the only reason? Why didn’t I punch him in his misogynistic fucking face?
I would have been less humiliated if he’d just punched us but he spat on me and friend like we were worthless. Because I didn’t want his friend to touch me. I actually cannot fathom the arrogance it would take to treat another human being like that.
What makes me angriest is that I don’t think that altercation would have occurred if a guy was with us, but because we were two women alone, uninterested in him and his mates, he saw vulnerability and spat when challenged.
My hands are shaking even as I type because I haven’t felt that sense of helplessness in so long. Even though I know what happened is a reflection of him and not me, I’m angry I didn’t do more in the moment. Sitting here thinking about all the cutting, witty things I could have said instead of standing there shocked and confused. It’s easier to rationale racism when it comes from those who don’t look like you…but this was coming from someone literally the same shade as me. It didn’t have anything to do with race really, that was just a bit of quick ammo. It was about humiliation and that is what’s proving difficult to shake off.
Normally when I write blogs I like there to be a solid conclusion…but there isn’t one in this instance. Guess the reason I’m writing it is because I know there will have been times in other women’s lives when they’ve been belittled for not acting the way they ‘should’, how others want them to. So I’m putting this out there to say, fuck that. Fuck them. I’m putting him behind a door in my mind and will try to never think of his smug little face ever again because my thoughts are what he wants.
What I will remember from that night is tequila shots, pipe dreams, laughing till I cried and dancing like a dickhead to disco, because that’s who I am.
As my lady Miss Ella Fitzgerald would sing, “They can’t take that away from me”