This morning the man in charge of the roof project and I had a long chat. He actually is not full of crap and he explained how things are progressing. There's now a slope, and a drain pipe, but it's not finished and that's why there's still leaking, but it will stop. And he won't have them tar and finish for another couple of days because we have exams. Why? Because I asked him.
The other day in class, my teacher had a bit of a fit. He was teaching us case endings and I asked, "Do people use these? How? To what extent?" Mind you, Arabic is complicated, and our book doesn't cover any of this. He kept hedging around and I kept asking, and he threw a fit. "Do you want me to stop teaching you this?!" "No, I want you to answer my simple question." This is not the first time we've got head-to-head, and I do not back down. My classmate - a 26-year-old Brit who always has impeccable manners - started to apologize for me, saying I can be quite intimidating.
But this man has been teaching for 36 years, and I should not intimidate him. She also was dismissive the other day when I went to talk to the housing coordinator about what needs to be done with the roof. "What can you do about it?" "I can make sure that things are handled properly, that's what I can do!"
Don't misunderstand me - my classmate is a gem. She's a sweet, genuine person and I've become quite fond of her. But despite her trying to teach the Indonesian to be more direct, she often flinches under directness. As did I at her age. As do most women.
I am persistent and I am direct, and I do not suffer fools. I am a force of personality that makes things happen. Sometimes I have to grab things and drag them, but they happen. Because why should I ride in the backseat and wait for somebody's decision to allow me what I'm entitled to?
No, I don't feel entitled, but I am an active learner. I push and challenge teachers. And because of that, our learning experience has overall been very positive. She said later that I kept asking him a question that he had answered, but he HADN'T answered it. "He answered it in his style." But that's just it: I don't ask him a question for his convenience, I ask because I want to know.
And it's not just being in school - this is how I do life.
Maybe I too often act like we're in a courtroom and I'm cross-examining, but why is this a problem?
Learning to not always be polite is a critical lesson for women to learn. I learned to say "no" to men who wanted to do things to me that I didn't want. I learned to say "no" to employers who wanted to exploit me.
When I was at my first day at work in Liberia, a colleague later told me he thought, "Good grief, who is this woman? The new country director?" And I was just introducing myself, and I AM self-assured, because why wouldn't I be? The country director, however, was meek, so he always worried about me bulldozing him. Hey, dude - get out of my way and I won't bulldoze you.
Yesterday a group of us were out, and when we walked back some young men started harassing us. We all ignored them and kept walking, and they got worse and worse, and then I noticed them following us. I wrapped my bag in my left hand with the weight in the bottom to swing, and I clenched my right fist. I was ready. Grab one of us. I dare you. And we turned on streets with many people and the cowards slinked off, and I was almost sorry. I want to bring one of those fuckers down. Actually, I'd probably bring down a few before I got taken down - I have a hefty weight advantage and some rage.
I like my heft - I like the presence that I have. If I intimidate people, that's fine too.
And I'm not going to apologize. I am not mean, and demanding an education that I am paying for is not ill-mannered. If he wants to tantrum and I have to call him out, that's his problem and not mine.
Because more people respond like my housing coordinator, who makes things happen. He knows I'll pester him until they do, so he just usually handles them right away. And I am thankful, and we get along well.
But this is hard. I was raised to be polite, not to make a fuss. Fuckthat. Some things are worth fussing about. And in my life, being intimidating is not a flaw. It's good to be an intimidating landlord, lawyer, teacher. It's good to give off a vibe that I shall not be messed with. And if I intimidate potential lovers (I do, all the time), that's ok too because I wouldn't want a man who would be too weak.
So, no, I'm not going to be more polite - because that too often leads to passive aggressiveness and being taken advantage of.
I'm not going to hush my self to make others not feel challenged.