I was in Indonesia, staying with an Indonesian friend and his Mum in their two-room house. There was a smell of slightly-charred meat in the air. I lay down on the bed for a nap.
“Here, have some of this,” my friend said, and sliced me off a piece of meat.
I looked down at the piece of meat on my plate, and couldn’t help noticing that the meat had been taken from my leg, which was still steaming gently with heat.
Something was definitely wrong, and I paused before eating. Now what was it that was bothering me?
My friend and his mother savoured a mouthful, and motioned for me to do the same.
NO! I suddenly realised. I’M NOT FOR EATING!!
The shock of it woke me up.
That was the day I realised I needed to stop going along with every single aspect of Indonesian culture. (My friends weren’t unreasonable; they were just different to me.)
Not everyone goes from middle-class Australia to stay in the home of relatively poor Indonesians, but we all adjust to different mini-cultures throughout our lives and throughout a day. One family walks around naked, even when they have guests; another family shrugs when their birds defecate on the couch. One school will turn a blind eye to certain weapons; another will put a child on detention for trying out a new swear word.
Women sometimes live their whole lives to please others, completely erasing their own personal culture in the process. Some men do, too, but it’s less common (due to socialising – women are taught to appear nice, men to appear confident).
On the first day of Year Eight, one of my friends called me “Lou” instead of Louise, and dissolved into giggles (“loo” in Australia means “toilet”). I protested at first, but several other people joined in. By the end of the day it was well established, and I’ve been introducing myself as “Lou” ever since. Why would I embrace a stupid nickname like that? I’m not even a passive person, but I still have that deep-seated urge to please other people at almost any extent.
Dear women of the world:
You get to choose what people call you (new people, anyway).
You can say no – even if someone gets mad at you.
Your children can wait while you take a shower/talk on the phone/finish cleaning the kitchen.
You are not for eating.