When animals feel threatened or fearful, they rely upon natural instincts to communicate their feelings. Some animals show their teeth. Some will attempt fighting to ward off potential danger, or they’ll escape the situation altogether. Even cats have their own system: urine marking as a way to claim territory and keep other cats at bay. So if other mammals have these instincts when it comes to feeling threatened or fearful, what are mine? Do I subscribe to the popular “fight or flight” theory? And more importantly, where do my instincts come from and say about me as a person?
These questions arose last night. After a lovely afternoon at the theater, my family and I went to a restaurant for a nice, sit-down dinner. Of course, I was dressed to impress and couldn’t be happier with my outfit. As I browsed the menu, I couldn’t help but notice the paper secreted a red liquid. Only a second later, I heard the waiter say, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry” as I realized he had spilled a whole dish of soy sauce. In my lap. All over my pristine outfit.
Initially, I was too shocked to respond. Even as he brought damp washcloths and napkins for clean up, I could not muster nearly enough sass as I wanted to. Even as the manager gave me her business card, offering to pay for any dry cleaning necessary to remedy my outfit, I accepted, apologizing for the incident, and feeling too embarrassed to pursue it any further.
But once the situation and attempts at resolution were done with, only one thought raced through my mind, pulsating as it did: “I have to let them know it’s not okay to do that to me.”
And I couldn’t shake that thought from my mind for the longest time, until my food came out and I blissfully chowed down on my meal. But even then, the question lingered.
Because as a child, I let people whisper about me, talk about me behind my back. In middle school, I let them call me a “faggot” and burst out in laughter at me. I let them publically mock me, push me, and threaten me. And what did I do? I ignored it. I took it and dealt with it internally. I let people treat me like that.
And I can’t help but notice those “natural” instincts are still in tact today as I defend myself. Maybe I’m more sassy and vocal about my feelings now, but I can’t help but think that it’s not enough. I still feel it necessary to do more so people know how to treat me and how not to treat me. But what? And why? And if I’m acting rationally?