I am a nice person. Truly I am. I am a loyal and loving friend. I always come to the defense of the underdog. I hate abuse of any kind. I try to help those in need when I can. I am a good mother. I was a good daughter. — well most of the time.
Yet …. Somehow people perceive me different than I see myself. Confidence comes across as bravado. Forthright comes across as brash. I still see myself at times as that painfully shy 6 year old. That awkward 11 year old.
I won’t ever be that delicate little flower. Physically I am not built that way. And apparently attitude wise, I am as far from a flower as dark from light.
I attempted to change that persona eons ago. I had left a job where my brash bravado was necessary. It was almost a combative position, where I was struggling to get my jobs done over everybody else; where my voice needed to be clear and strong and loud. I developed a reputation that made me feel like a bull in a china shop. Ultimately I was very good at what I did. Bosses could trust the job would get done, and get done right, but I didn’t like who I had to be. I didn’t like how I was perceived. It was probably part of the reason I left.
I started at a new company and wanted to wash that slate clean. No one knew me. I was friendly, but not overly gregarious. I kept to myself for most of the time, but always had a smile. I never had to raise my voice. I enjoyed work. Quietly. I embraced that shy person and let her know it was okay to be this way.
Imagine my surprise months later when getting to know my co-workers better I found out that all that polish, all that shine — meant nothing. I might as well have come to work a wolf, literally in sheep’s clothing. My co-workers informed me that immediately they were a little intimidated.
“WHAT?!” I cried! “How?! I did and said nothing to come across that way!”
It was how I carried myself, they explained. It was a quiet confidence that let them know I. Was. There.
I sort of threw in the towel at that point. I mean, I might feel shy, I might feel uncomfortable, but my learned body language was always going to betray that. Maybe it was something I picked up at a young age, to counteract the fear of meeting strangers. Of being placed in positions that made my heart thump with anxiety.
This past weekend I went out with my daughter and a friend. We stopped at a local watering hole for a drink and met a stranger who immediately pegged me as someone not to mess with. I hadn’t even opened my mouth. Granted he was probably a half of a wheelbarrow short of a full load of bricks, but I was astonished. He claimed my bracelet betrayed me. I looked at the daisy bracelet and asked how such an innocent flower could be so threatening. He said it laid on a dark background, and he saw the same in me.
I wrote him off as nuts.
Less than an hour later another man in our vicinity made a comment that was similar. He said I came across as someone not to mess with. I jokingly asked if it were my bracelet and he said, no it was my attitude. I was puzzled and reminded him I hadn’t said anything to him, but he said he could read it anyway.
And then? He called me, “Toughnuts.”
What. The. Fuck. TOUGHNUTS? That sounds like something you would call an old New York Italian Cop. “Awww man, here comes Captain Toughnuts, out to bust our balls again!” as you shook your head with dismay, and quickly emptied the weed out of your pockets.
I balked at the name, saying I had done nothing to deserve that. He stood firm. Said he just knew he was right about me. Then he pegged my friend (who actually a lot more toughnuts than I am) as a “Sweetheart” – and as we all laughed, I again realized the meter-reader was completely off. But how was it off with two total strangers, at two different times? I was taught a long time ago that when you are a room with 10 people and 9 of them seem to be assholes, the chance is you are the one who actually may be the asshole.
Was I really a darkened daisy? A … toughnuts?
Interestingly enough, when each of the men found out I was sitting with my adult daughter, they both changed their tunes. Drastically. I don’t know how my persona, my bullish take-no-prisoners aura seemed to dissipate simply by being someone’s mother, but for these two – motherhood softened me. Maybe they felt guilt at berating somebodies mother.
I don’t know. I do know that most of the time I am happy being the honest brash sarcastic loving person I am. I know my intentions are
never rarely harmful. But I also know that if you mess with this bull, you will get the horns. Just as if you mess with this bulls friends, or God forbid, family. Inside of me is a sweet, caring person, and I love the fact that people who know me, know this too.
The job for others is to figure it out.
A true toughnuts would have ended this by saying something like. “The job is for me to beat it into others.”
I rest my case.