Once upon a time, I was married to my first husband for a short string of months. Said husband was a shusher.
I was, it seems, too loud. Shush!
Too loud in opinion. Too loud in volume. Too loud in clothing colors. Too loud (or large?) of thigh. Too loud in laugh. Too fucking loud.
That marriage lasted little more than a year. Nice enough man, but not the man for me. That man needed a not-loud wife. I needed to be heard.
When I look back, 20 years on, that’s the main reason I left. Though of course I never, never had the courage to say so. I was 25. I was afraid it wasn’t enough. It sounded so selfish. I left that husband without telling my family. I’d moved out of our house and was living in an apartment when my dad called and said, “Where are you? Why am I calling you at this number?’ When I told my grandmother I was getting divorced — my grandmother who was not allowed an opinion or a driver’s license in all of her 75 years —- she said, and I quote, “Why would you leave him?! He makes good money. And he doesn’t beat you, or anything!!”
He doesn’t beat you.
He doesn’t beat you, or anything.
This is me at age 17. Do I look like I can be shushed?
I thought about being loud (or not), about speaking up (or not), about saying what I really think (or not) when I read this heartbreaking essay by Lidia Yuknavitch. The most powerful essay I’ve read in months.
Because here’s the deal. So many people really don’t want to hear it. Whatever “it” is. Especially if the “it” is unpleasant.
I was shushed this very year, my 47th year on earth — at my own table — when I’d spent the entire day making a special dinner, only to have a guest say to me across my own table, with a dismissive wave of her hand, “Aaah, shush, let’s change the subject.” To her credit, she wanted to talk about happier, cheerier things. But still. Shushed at my own dinner table.
And what I really hate to tell you, what I hate to admit, is that she won. I obeyed. I shushed.
I shushed because that’s what we do to make other people feel better.
How have you shushed to make people feel better?