Back from Bonita Rochelle’s vision board party, and inspired is only the half of it.
Why is it when you share your future goals and expectations people reply with advice suggesting that you’ll end up old and unwed, living with cats and, knitting jumpers out of cat hairs, if you don’t prioritise marriage.
Like why is the future of any woman with goals and dreams beyond marriage grim, grey, lonely and miserable? Across all cultures to be honest, I can’t even claim this is just a Nigerian thing.
Nimz and Everything Under The Sun
So recently I’ve come to realise I experienced work place harassment and the gravity of it is only really daunting on me now.
I’m pissed to say the least. I’m pissed for several reasons and I’m still discovering new reasons. I can’t ever think my thoughts through without reaching a blockade of anger, sadness, regret, guilt, disgust and shame.
We learn and we grow, and when I think back on certain situations in my past I can’t help but think how lucky I am to have survived this long with all the dumb ish I’ve gotten up to in the years.
But that’s going off track, I was harassed and I’m pissed, I’m vengeful and saying it, admitting it, makes me shameful.
It was 2013/14, I was working in retail, my manager was Muslim. I could finally pray comfortably at work - not that I couldn’t before, but before I wasn’t really understood. Or maybe that’s what I projected. Or maybe that was the atmosphere. Either way prayer was something I did when the shop front quietened down, not when it was due. So working with a Muslim manager and being able to pray was a big deal to me.
A few weeks after I started working, the store was hiring again and I got to work with my friend from uni. The store was relatively young and the atmosphere was fun and vibrant. We’d banter, gist and chill. Most of us part timers were in our final year and we understood each other.
I started off intent to work hard, I’d come from a more intense store so I didn’t have to do much to prove myself.
I quickly rose in reputation, from newbie to trusted advisor. Which came mainly with the responsibility of helping the others.
Life was pretty much calm, till one day my spider senses kicked in.
I started feeling uncomfortable around my manager, I couldn’t put my finger on it directly. But I knew I hated being around him, his gaze lasted a little to long, I’d look up to find him staring at me, he’d stand a little too close. He seemed to always enter my space.
I fobbed off the problem as being mine, I’m notoriously sensitive about my personal space and hate people encroaching. I felt I had to get over it because I couldn’t expect everyone to understand my unsaid laws about personal space. So I kept quite.
He continued to stand closely and I continued to look for random reasons to ‘naturally’ move away. “I need a drink”, “I need to tie my shoe”, “what’s outside” and sometimes randomly helping someone else lol.
My behaviour towards him started to change. I grew cold and dismissive, I shortened my responses and replied with closed sentences. I began to dread doing late shifts, because all the staff would have to close together and walk to the station together. Early shifts meant I could walk out on my own and the manager usually never does an early shift. I hated being called into his office. It was the size of shoe box and you were literally recycling air with the other person in there. If I had to go into the office I’d stand by the door leaving it slightly ajar. I’d fake smile and keep it short and sweet, so as not to prolong the conversation.
However I was still convinced it was all in my head and I was being sensitive. My fix for the issue was to just be cold and distant and hopefully he’d get the message. I didn’t want to cause issues with my manager and I didn’t have the vocabulary I do now to be able to highlight the issue properly.
At most what could I say? “you stand too close and the way you look at me makes me uncomfortable”, even now I look back and I see that as asking for further problems. For him to explain he had no negative intention, for their to be an elephant in the room, for the rest of the staff to rush to his defence and talk about how great a guy he is, how he’d never do anything to harm a woman. How nobody saw it like that, it was just me, I read too much into it and now things are awkward.
In the middle of the store was an oblong shaped island where the staff would naturally huddle around and chat during quiet time’s. During one shift we were all standing around and the manager came to stand too close to me once again. Our elbows were practically touching, I naturally shifted a little to the side.
I can’t remember how the conversation went exactly but my (Muslim) manager says “Nimat is my work wife”, I remember freezing. He then says another staff member (who was married) was his other work wife. She laughed it off saying he’s always saying that.
I felt disgusted. If I remember correctly it was during one of the many times he told us about his really brief marriage to some woman. I never asked questions because I was never interested, but it seemed prior to me moving to the store he had been in a marriage with a woman that barely lasted. The staff used to talk about it a lot. That conversation some how led to me being announced as his work wife whilst he stood too close to me.
The statement validated all my suspicions. This guy was intentionally in my space and staring at me, I wasn’t imagining it. And now he’s making a statement of it. Almost looking for my co-sign. If I laugh and banter it off then this’ll be the running joke and a catalyst for worse.
I didn’t laugh. I made a rubbish excuse and I moved away. From then on I hated work. It could be seen in my attitude. I’d be the first one out, id sit far away from the group and I’d call in sick on days when my manager was scheduled in and I couldn’t stomach being in with him.
But I never said anything.
He one day pulls me to the side and tells me how I used to be so sweet to him, but now I’m cold and how he felt like I faked my personality just to get the job. How he doesn’t even know how to talk to me anymore. I felt bad for him. I wanted to reassure him that everything’s fine, but I couldn’t. I said I’d try to be better.
But the gazes continued and I remained uncomfortable.
Eventually he got promoted but I still never said anything.
I mean he’d never actually done anything.
Did he even harass me?
I spent months navigating myself, my personality and my time around a man who made me uncomfortable rather than calling him out. I grew sensitive and anxious, always aware of where he would be, where he was going to stand. I tried to preempt his moves, go for lunch after id seen him eat or heard him share his plans. I never wanted to be caught off guard, all because I was protecting someone else. Someone I didn’t even care for.
That’s why I’m so pissed when I think back to this situation. I’m annoyed at myself, I feel like a sham, this superwoman persona I parade in, #OpenYourMouf, and here I am silent. I didn’t speak out on a situation and I let the man continue with his behaviour, never once checking him and thus allowing him to be promoted into a higher position of power.
If I felt powerless at him being a store manager, with all my bravado and fearlessness... how would the next girl feel now he’s higher ranking.
I’m annoyed that a part of me still feels like it was my fault and all in my head. That I dramatised the attention given and made it into more than it was. I was sensitive.
I wrestle with the idea that it was sexual harassment or that I was harassed and I let it happen. If I read a story where someone is detailing events that happened to them and it feels a little too close to home I scroll past. I never finish reading, I never want to know how it was labelled.
#MeToo really shook the tree I live under, it’s uncomfortable. It makes me hyper aware of how much I’ve betrayed myself, my values, how fraudulent I really am.
All the wrongs I’ve rewritten as rights in my memory bank. How complicit I really am in the betrayal of women.
I’m trying to navigate an energy consuming world whilst relinquishing as little energy as possible. I with my none of my business, just gonna mind my own, go hard or go home attitude.
I’m finally starting to see how tiredness is part of the package when you’re born female, how minding your business and working hard isn’t enough. How the silent suffer, offer ourselves as sacrifices and if we don’t speak out now we choke on the words swallowed till eventually we either die or vomit it out.
I’m currently vomiting. I refuse to let mad men and women kill me, I rebuke it. - I wish I can claim exaggeration for dramatic effect but the Nigerian jumped out. I honestly to God cannot come and kill myself. On this formally green earth of God, that you people have come to ruin and demolish with your over consumption and non renewable lifestyle, I cannot allow you to come and kill me too.
I eventually left the company after a few more run ins with mad management. but when I think back to 2014, this incident sits firmly in my top 5 triggers for what was to follow that year.
Nimz And Everything Under The Sun
Often I reflect on my relationships with people, quick bit of context I’m someone with very few serious relationships.
I’m quite literal and I hold things close to their meaning. To call someone a friend without proper vetting is to me, disrespectful to my existing friends. To call you a friend, is to hold you on par with those I already call friends, and my existing friends are quite awesome to be honest.
But then it’s really rude to call people in the awkward stages acquaintances, so thats often a dilemma I have… what do i call people who aren’t quite friends but also not just acquaintances.
I usually avoid labelling people as much as I can, some people may have noticed. I say “peeps” and luvs, l-u-v not l-o-v-e, or even mandem... but that’s analysis for another time.
Today I want to talk about my standards.
I think it’s important to know your limits and your relationship requirements, as someone with a pretty traumatic experience of adulting, I’ve learnt to pay attention to my boundaries.
My journey here hasn’t been smooth sailing. Ima be honest, I’ve had some shxtty experiences with people in the past. Of course with some blame on my part, but in general for me, navigating the friendship realm has been quite the charmer of a tale.
So one day a few years ago, I ran away from it all. I left everything behind and started fresh. Me, my family and a handful of tried, tested, put through the rings, friends.
Since then I’ve been quite the territorial Labrador with regards to who I allow close to me.
…and honestly, I’m here to say how wonderful it is!! Listen, protect your territory! Genghis Khan that ish.
I’m so aware of what I’m willing to allow (though I can get a little neurotic), that I refuse to allow room for anything below my standards. I force others to meet me where I’m at, or kick rocks.
What I’ve learnt however, is how very few people are prepared to meet you at your level. I initially made the mistake of thinking the fault was mine, at first every new person I walked away from made me relive my tumultuous past. I’d whine to my friend how there had to be something wrong with me, why couldn’t I let things go? why couldn’t I be the calm and casual friend that was all laughs and good times.
Short answer? because I’m not a mug.
What are my expectations from people? Don’t lie to me, don’t ghost me, don’t use me, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to you, don’t be a dickhead, don’t take me for a mug… basically DON’T DISRESPECT ME.
So I bet you’re thinking well, duh, that’s what everyone want’s from their friends
…why is that so hard for people then?
What I’ve learnt is, it’s not hard, we just rarely hold people accountable. So then the rules are lax and people slip up.
I remember learning how if someone doesn’t show up on time to your appointments its a reflection of what that person believes your worth. I started applying that thinking to everything, if someone doesn’t respect you enough to text you they’re not showing up… guess what?
If someone hurts you and doubles down, insisting they were just being “honest”
If you’re constantly the but of the joke but it’s all just “banter”
That person doesn’t value you much, and by allowing it you’re cosigning their worth of you.
It’s starts off as a difficult conversation, but soon you get into the habit of pulling people up when they try to devalue you. It also requires you to be the example. I know I don’t like certain things, so i try not to do it to others.
A pet peeve of mine is after listening to someone rant for hours on how someone did them dirts, to have the person do something similar to me.
Example being a recent ghosting incident, where someone vented to me on how badly they felt when someone in their life went MIA on them and then proceeded to do the same to me the next week.
More often than not we’re aware of the impact of our actions when we make them, we’re also aware of how to make amends. We choose not to.
Which brings me to the other part of valuing myself and standing by my standards. Recognising I owe it to myself to call myself out and apologise for how my behaviour impacts others. If I am aware I’ve hurt someone or i’ve been approached by someone regarding an incident, I’m learning to listen and let them land.
Learning when to listen and when to speak up has been part of defining my boundaries. Recognising that not all situations require a reaction, explanation or confrontation. Ima big fan of block and move on, and more recently mute and move on. Out of sight, out of mind.
Someone once said to me “do you know what at some point you have to do your healing yourself, you can’t keep blaming outside factors” - That same person later went on to disrespect my standards. The irony.
What I learnt from that incident was 1. people are mad and 2. people are aware of what they’re doing. 3. We all have some sort of healing and growth to go through and we can’t interrupt our growth for other people.
I think it’s really important to set standards, rules and boundaries and stick to them. Both for yourself and for others.
It’s okay to dictate what you allow into your personal space and It’s okay to follow through when you’re at your limit.
Everyone’s reassuring about how much of a first step talking about it is, but when you have huge dreams and ambitions slow progress often feels like no progress.
I don’t expect myself to change over night, but I do expect change. Positive change. And as of late it feels like I’m regressing.