Thinking about words that hurt


I was reading a post over on Ruzele’s blog titled I am fat and it got me thinking about my own past experiences and struggles with dealing with difficult words from people and wanting to not be affected by them even when I knew I could not escape that.

It made me think about how much power words have. I am an introverted person and I treasure silences,  mostly because when I am out among people, it seems my ears can’t help hearing what others are saying. I wish it was just a hum that I could ignore. About 5 years ago I almost got run over by a taxi, the driver, one part relieved and three parts pissed off leaned out and yelled an insult. He spend on and I stood in the island and tried to catch my breath. I would never see him again and even if I did I wouldn’t recognise him. I brushed off what he had said. It was three words in a local dialect that meant I was a dumb person because of my hair. A more direct translation would be that my hair had sucked all the sense out of head.  It was crude and delivered with enough vehemence to make a person wince. I did not. because I am strong and I am not bothered by search nonsense. Yet every time I have let my hair out and allowed it to puff up into what looks like a glorious afro to me, I hear those words again, thrown at me, and I feel .. something.

In Ruzele’s post her passive attacker says to his friend – ‘look at that fat slut’

This is the bit that I don’t understand. Yes she is fat, this is just a descriptor like someone being tall, or having a green sweater. But that was not quite enough, no, he had to throw in the ‘slut’ now, this, this is what I don’t understand, why was that necessary. My only explanation would be that it was meant to hurt.

Kids, in their developmental phases will happily point out things ‘Look, a cat’ ‘look mum, a bus’ and the parents often humour them until the seventieth time when they decide this is tiresome and they will nod and hum in absent minded agreement. I feel at this point, the only way to get the parent’s attention back, is to switch up your descriptors. ‘Look mum, there is a cat with blood in its eyes!’ Now, you have an audience.

Is that why people say these things? I don’t know, never mind if the cat was just trying to be a cat, now he must dash off and find a mirror just to make sure it is not true.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say within my scope of hearing ‘Look at her hair’ or ‘That girl has a lot of hair’ I usually don’t even turn and look, it is a statement of fact. But I have also heard people add other things to this to allude to the fact that  it must be dirty, I may be smelly or my favourite that  I am homeless, or mentally unstable (I live in a very conservative town)

So, why, knowing that this second bit is not true do these words still hurt?

The second thing it made me realise with a great degree of shame was that I had been guilty of this behaviour. Waiting until I believed I was safely out of earshot – to the best of my knowledge – to nudge my companion and whisper ‘..hey, did you see that guy’s forehead?’ the companion looks over, smiles and says ‘oh, wow’ and then we carry on with whatever conversation. A day A couple of hours later, the incident and person is completely forgotten. No thought is spared for the person that might have overheard these words and what pain that could have caused them. Ugh. I am disgusted with myself.

We have to be the change we want to see in the world. – Ghandi