On being 'nice'

I was thinking about how I would start putting this down. Then I had a conversation with a friend. She had an encounter that was bothering her. As she told me what had happened, I asked when it occurred. She replied, a few hours ago – and she asked, ‘is it because   I was nice?’.

For the last couple of weeks, I have grappled with a personal encounter.  I have replayed it all in my head – asking myself if I had brought it upon myself. I am reminded that I am in a situation where I am finding it hard to forgive. Before it all happened, I was, and still am a strong independent woman. But I will be honest, nothing prepares one for a real life experience that happens so fast. I have asked myself if it is the circumstances under which I met this individual that gave him a green light to assume I was interested in more than being friends. But I thought I had made it clear that I was not, and to my knowledge the evening was going so well and proper, with the both of us respecting each other.

I have received apologies for the unfortunate events of that fateful evening. My city is busy – there are always people coming and going – potential professional contacts mostly so I am almost always open to meeting up for a discussion. This was not supposed to be any different but it spiraled down to that. A semi-business dinner was followed by a brief outing as a friend of a friend insisted we go out. I agreed to the plan.

Things changed. I now belonged to this person who did not know me very well; kept on pulling me away from conversations with others – even colleagues. I had it and pushed, yelled when my arm was in pain because someone more forceful than I, was pulling my arm. When it all calmed down, I found myself at the centre of another unpleasant encounter. A guy from a different table was now too close to my face. Again for a split second, I pushed this guy away and walked out. I sat in my cab waiting for the friend of a friend. Now this guys jumps into the car and insists I give him my phone number. I refused – he yanked my phone and grabbed my neck at which point I used all my might to push him away. He got out of the car when my cab guy whom I trust with my life came towards the car and asked the guy to get out of the car.

All of this happened so fast, and within minutes of each encounter. I find myself processing what happened – I am angry and find it really difficult to forgive.

Recently, I listened to Chimamanda’s speech at the 2018 Chatham House London Conference where she talks about women’s feelings and how these are interpreted to be signs of weakness, failure and lacking of common sense. She said,  ‘in  our world, a man is confident but a woman is arrogant’. Well, the fact that I find it very difficult to forgive, does this make me arrogant? The fact that I pushed these two individuals who made me uncomfortable away, would their reacting the same make them ‘assertive’ and me ‘aggressive’? The fact that I  was nice, does this make me ‘manipulative’ and therefore very okay with whatever  was thrown my way?  It does not, and should not.

In as much as    I believe that I have been, and that I am capable  of taking care of myself – I  was angered, confused and still grapple with the concept of forgiving. Not long before that I watched an episode of She’s Gotta Have It where Nola (main character) gets attacked by a stranger on her way home at night – on a street that she knows so well. Her reactions afterwards I can relate with – the anger that she cannot describe but can only   show through her art.

Some day, I will probably learn how to forget and to forgive this incident, maybe because these things  do tend to leave a mark; one that leads to multiple questions, of course lingering around self-blame and all manner of ‘if only-s’. At the back of my head, there are echoes that I  could let it go but in my own time, when I have processed  it all and have come to terms with the questions and answers. I will probably hear that I need to let go the more I speak about this, but this will probably strengthen my grit to be angry even more. Chimamanda says it all – maybe this will make me ‘annoying’  as this is how my feeling is likely to be conceived; at the end of the day ‘the characteristic or the behaviour is the same’.

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