I should have written about this incident sooner, as keeping this story in my head has managed to choke my writing ability (you can’t write anything else until this one goes on paper, said the mean voice inside). So here it is.
A couple of days ago, N and I went for grocery shopping. I wanted some Pakistani spices, so we decided to walk to Eurogida in Kreuzberg, which is about 1.6km from my place. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We were chatting about something non-consequential on our way, reached the store and got all that I needed from it. On our way back, as I crossed a street to turn right, I saw a woman standing on top of a rock at the corner. She was clearly under influence and singing loudly. I kept on my path and continued walking.
As I walked passed her, she screamed something in German. She repeated it thrice, each time louder than before. There were a handful of people around; some were sitting on a bench close to her rock, and others were on the sidewalk, drinking beer or walking towards their destination, like me. I saw a man on the sidewalk look at me, then her, and shrug. I didn’t understand what she said and continued, expressionless. Then, she screamed some more, and raced towards me, repeating whatever she had been saying, in my face. She stank, and I know better than to engage with people who aren’t in their senses. I ignored and continued walking. Agitated by my lack of response, she shouted again, in my face, but this time in English, “children die of hunger, and you are so fat”. I didn’t respond. I continued walking, and she said the same in English again, before going back to her rock to say the same/something different in German.
I could hear her screaming for another 100meters, and when I couldn’t anymore, I stopped. I felt like someone had slapped me and I didn’t do anything about it. I teared up. I had never been bullied, harassed or shamed like this before. That too in the middle of a street, where others probably understood what she was saying long before I did. I felt crippled and paralysed at the same time. N was with me, reassuring that people like that woman weren’t worth stressing over, and other sweet things to salvage whatever pride and confidence I had until 5 minutes ago. He hugged me, cracked silly jokes, and even offered to take a few pictures to help me feel good again. I couldn’t feel anything but a mix of hurt, anger and desire to scream. I couldn’t shake that feeling off.
This was almost 3 weeks ago, and I still feel choked up when I think about it. And what infuriates me even more is the way I reacted. Why didn’t I know better German to understand what she said the first time she screamed at? Why didn’t I clap back? Why didn’t I wear spanx that day? Why did I have that second scoop of ice cream? Why did I go out that day? Am I really responsible for killing children? Has someone died because of me? I have been doing this to myself for 20 days now. I didn’t talk about it to anyone, until today. I tried to make light of the situation but you can’t fool yourself.
I don’t remember her face, but I can’t forget how she made me feel. And I never want to feel that way again. I also know that I could be size zero and some asshole can pick up on me for something else – colour of my skin, choice of clothing, height of heels, holding hands in public, something or the other. A bully doesn’t follow rules. S/he just bullies. I am sure she hasn’t thought about me for a minute after I disappeared from her vision, but I haven’t stopped thinking about her. I look at food and think about what she said. I go out and feel anxious about another attack.
Eventually, I know that I will forget this feeling. I always do. But until that day comes, I have to remind myself: I am not what others think of me. I am what I think of me. And I think I am a good person. When others call you names and shame you, it’s a reflection of them, and not you.
I am what I think of myself, and not what others think of me.
I didn’t intend on sharing this story here because it didn’t seem worthy. People go through so much worse and don’t say a word. My plight seemed too insignificant in comparison. But here’s the thing – would have I not been furious if a friend had suffered though something similar? Would have I not offered her a hug and told her that she’s worth the sun and the moon, regardless of what a drunk woman says? If I can extend that kindness towards a friend, why do I not extend the same to myself? I deserve it as well, so I will hug myself harder and remind myself that I am worth it.
Another reason for me to share this here today is that when you read about someone’s story, and how they endured something similar to your own experience, you derive strength from it. You know that you are not alone. You know that it is not your fault. You know that you are still freaking precious. So, if you have been through anything similar, know that it is not your fault. A stranger’s unkind judgement of you isn’t worth losing your sparkle over. Take time to heal, remind yourself of your worth every day (until you believe it again), and go back to being the bright shiny star that you are.