Tact is one of those social skills that I've had to work hard to cultivate. I have a reputation for being the kind of person who says exactly what is on my mind: good, bad, or indifferent. As I've matured, I've learned that every thought doesn't necessarily have to be voiced, every opinion isn't meant to be shared, and every comment by someone else doesn't warrant a reaction.
This weekend, my maturity and ability to bite my tongue were put to the ultimate test. I spent the last few days at a professional conference with a group of people that I'm not particularly fond of. At this conference, there was a young woman with a big afro. As a naturalista myself, I always notice other women rocking their natural curls, and she was no exception. Anyway, as I sat with this group of colleagues having lunch (all of whom were middle aged whites, except for my one friend), the young woman with the big afro sat at the table behind us. One of my colleagues looks the woman up and down, then turns to me and says "Danielle, if you ever let your hair get that big I'm coming after you with a weed wacker!" "Yeah," chimes in another. "Don't go walking around looking like you've just stuck in your finger in a socket."
Immediately, the words "Bitch, what the fuck did you just say to me?!?" flashed in bold letters across my mind, and it took everything I had in me not to let them tumble from my lips. The old Danielle may not have said those exact words, but she would not have hesitated to unleash a few words equally as venomous to address this blatant display of ignorance. She would've gone on a rant about how this young woman had every right to rock the texture and size of hair that God intended for her to have, and not subject herself to a ridiculous chemical process to uphold an outdated European standard of beauty. She would've chastised and criticized her colleagues for ridiculing a sense of freedom and empowerment that they clearly didn't understand, and probably secretly feared. As I began to open my mouth, another voice spoke up in my head. "Don't get mad Danielle...you're with these people everyday, you already know how incredibly stupid they are. Is telling them off really worth your breath or energy? Will sharing the fact that this statement offends you make them any less asinine? You know better than that..."
I smiled to myself at the second voice, and gave both my colleagues a dismissive look as I continued to eat my lunch. There was an awkward silence at the table for a moment before someone else decided to change the subject. I gave myself a metaphoric pat on the back for all the self-discipline that I didn't even know I had, and for finally learning the importance of the phrase "silence is golden."
(Sigh) Five more months....