It was something as silly as getting pizza for dinner. I ordered a large pepperoni and a side of garlic bread for delivery, but the garlic bread never made it. When I called the place back and explained that the delivery man forgot the garlic bread, he responded that I never ordered any. My first impulse was, silly me, maybe I left that out. But I knew I didn’t. “No, I ordered the garlic bread. We either need a refund, or for it to be re-delivered.” I couldn’t believe it when he continued to argue with me. And that’s when every past experience of being pushed around and taken advantage of flashed before my eyes and culminated into one big blow out with the pizza place manager.
I thought about the other day in my car, when I was flipped off, honked at, and cut off for not breaking the speed limit. I thought about the music gigs I’ve been hired for, when the hirer changes our business agreement at the last minute, leaving me to deal with ridiculous inconveniences. I thought about the check I still haven’t received for writing my last article, because someone is on vacation or something.
I thought about being the only female in my Officer Basic Course and having to listen to my male classmates tell deplorable jokes and sickening stories about their weekends. I kept my head down and pretended I couldn’t hear, but it made me sick, and if that happened today I would take action. I thought about the male cadet in ROTC who told me that because I was a female occupying one of the few Airborne School slots, he hoped I broke my leg on a jump. Again, I pretended I didn't know what he meant. Today I would compare my 25 jumps to his 5 and tell him what he could do with his jump log. I thought about my college piano instructor, a PHD in music who never gave me more than a few minutes of her time and told me that I didn’t possess the musical talent needed to major in piano. Back then, I switched my major to Criminal Justice. Today I would tell her she is a disgrace to teachers.
I thought about that old boyfriend who dumped me on my birthday for his ex-girlfriend. I said nothing then, but today I would confront him as a coward and know that everything happened as it should. I thought about my very first Army supervisor, a selfish, dishonest man, who took advantage of my work ethic and made discriminatory remarks about females. He had me truly believing that I was bad at my job. Back then, I worked even harder for his approval. Today I would file a formal EO complaint, do everything possible to be transferred from his command, and expose him for his illegal and corrupt actions that portrayed me, and the entire unit in a bad light.
And I thought about that day, when another leader spinelessly told me over the phone without ever having met me, that because I married Eddie, I was "not the caliber of officer the Army should be showcasing.” It’s a phrase that made me feel less than 2 inches tall and today, still haunts me and breaks my heart when I replay it in my head.
Maybe I still haven’t gotten past that one. But I do know, that when I am shown no respect, I in return, have no respect for them. And there is something to be said for standing up for yourself. I’m not sure why or how it took me 27 years to realize this, but now that I know, I can never go back to the silent person I was. The girl who confused adhering to intimidation with being peaceful, trusting, and political.
I think a key to that, is knowledge. Not just knowledge of what is right and wrong, because I’ve always known that. But knowledge of procedure, what is allowed, what isn’t. What choices do I have to fight back, what are my rights, etc. Now that I’m able to recognize circumstances when it’s necessary to stand up for myself, I can finally effectively stand up for others around me who experience injustice. And if you’re still wondering, I did get my garlic bread.