Confessions of a push over.
I wish I was better at confrontation.
Whenever something - or someone - makes me feel uncomfortable, I don’t respond the way characters in books do. I don’t offer a whip-smart retort, roll my eyes, or curl my lips into a snarl; instead, I typically fall back on something childish and weak like a giggle, or a befuddled smile.
At the football on Saturday night, an older man approached me at the ticketing gate and said he enjoyed “watching me twirl” while I was scanned by security. At first, I looked at him blankly, confused as to why a stranger had approached me mid-meat pie, and innocently asked him to repeat what he had said. Then, instead of squashing his grossness under the heel of my boot, I chuckled as if we were friends who had just shared a private joke.
Recently when a toxic person re-entered my life, and meticulously reignited the flame of my anxiety upon their intrusion, I watched them light the match and said nothing.
When a relative made a cruel joke that offended me, I examined my fingernails forensically, as if they were concealing a secret.
I’ve never been good at this stuff like Zara is. Last week, when a tradesman leered at us on the street with a long, drawn-out whistle, I pretended I was invisible. She stared at his face and coolly demanded “seriously?”.
I bloody love her for stuff like that. She's quick and clever whenever a situation demands it. I, on the other hand, acquiesce like it’s a competitive sport.
In my head, I can carefully script sassy replies to any situation. I fantasise about what I might say - what I should say - if another gross guy at the footy implies I’m pirouetting for him and not the metal detectors. Only, I know these exercises are futile, nothing more than daydreams. In reality, I’ve spent 25 trips around the sun avoiding conflict.
Is it really, truly possible to get better at something like this? I feel like our on-the-spot reactions are so indicative of our makeup - almost on a cellular level - that the way you cope with confrontation can't be taught or learned. Sure, I could have walked back to that leather-skinned tradie and given him my four-minute TED Talk on cat-calling and sexism, but the impact wouldn't have been the same. If you don't call out that behaviour on the spot, in real time, is it worth calling it out at all?
I watch the fierce women around me deal with everyday confrontations like seasoned pros; expertly shaking off the discomfort others try to place in their hands. Unemotionally and without hesitation, these women look at the situations unfolding around them and say "no thank you, that's not my weight to carry".
I desperately wish I was like them, but instead I'm too busy giggling at other people's bullshit, thinking, "wait, why am I holding this again?".