As a kid, I was embarrassingly known for being a crybaby. I cried when it was appropriate, but I also cried if it was Monday and a little too sunny. It was kind of like a nervous tick similar to the way small dogs pee on the floor when they’re nervous or overexcited. It was excessive, to say the least. On top of this, I was incredibly shy and a little bit sensitive. So I developed a defense mechanism that I still use to this day when confronted by authority figures, touching moments and sunny days.
More often than not, I use a scowl as my perfunctory introduction. I never really mean it though. This grimace is just my version of an icebreaker. If you really wind me up, I might shoot you the side eye and (politely) let you know something about yourself, but that’s about how heated things will get. I believe in chivalry to a fault and the gender neutrality of it. I might be a lady but I will treat you like a gentleman, and if you don’t’ like it, I will apologize profusely.
Beyond the creepy quiet, overly polite thing I have going, I’m the softest person you’ll ever meet. I hardly ever address my friends without a pet name usually reserved for small animals or children, and true to the nature of my crybaby youth I sometimes cry while watching YouTube commercials.
However, I’ve tamped down my excessive emotionality since that fateful day an old history teacher of mine called me delicate in front of the whole class. I was mortified and consequently resented him for an entire eternity. Not because he was wrong, but because being delicate shouldn’t be a cautionary descriptor for a person. It also shouldn’t feel like the end of the world if sometime tries to use it as a putdown.
As a woman, my stigmatized duty is to embrace all things that make me feminine. Right? Yet I seem to have been fighting this uphill battle against everything that would out my softness as to not get chewed up and spit out by a society that believes any display of emotion is also a sign of weakness.
People are often revered in the business sphere for being cutthroat and unemotional, as if those qualities are somehow markers of being a levelheaded and competent worker. Whereas those that tend to be more sensitive are chastised or mocked. I get it; a loose cannon in the workplace is a bad business move. It can cost you time and money if your coworkers or employees are constantly losing it over scones, paperclips and other stuff you might have in an office. However, my understanding is that emotions aren’t so sharply divided in the real world and there is a difference between being emotionally unstable and being able to feel emotions.
Putting sensitivity and the act of experiencing emotion on a list of things not to do contradicts a major facet of existence. Before people ruled the workplace, we did stuff in caves and probably talked about our feelings. Besides, the empirical data I haven’t collected over the past several years proves that people who kick ass in shutting down their emotions also kick ass at having WSHH worthy break downs.
Delicate is an adjective with at least a thousand meanings ranging from fragile and easily damaged to exquisite. Most humans fall into the umbrella of delicate. I know this because people are not bulletproof, stab-proof, fire-proof or heartbreak proof. People shatter over losing jobs, lovers, opportunities and even cats, which is something I’ll never understand because I hate cats.
The ability to fall apart and regain your composure is one of the reasons humanity has persisted. Could you imagine if people decided to quit living every time something went wrong? Evolution would reverse, the big-bang would un-bang and my old teacher would have never had the chance to sneak diss me.