Posted on Leave a comment

A collision of the feminine, the mammy, and the maternal

An Awkward Tale…

DURING the second summer of my graduate studies, I participated in  Democracy & Diversity Seminar hosted by the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies at the New School. The seminar is a semi-annual event based in Wrocraw, Poland.

As a champion of women, it’s very rare for any woman to make me uneasy, but there was a young American woman whose attention rubbed me the wrong way and made me very uncomfortable. She was in her early twenties and came across as someone who was not comfortable, or familiar, with taking responsibility for her actions and well-being.

After nearly two weeks of putting up with her clingy and somewhat demanding, off-putting behavior, a series of interactions with her in the span of a couple of hours finally got me to the point of being  rude, abrupt and dismissive of her.

In the two weeks we’ve interacted her most repeated comments to me have been:  Will you carry me, can you hold me, will you be my pillow, come here so I can lean on you, if I get drunk can you make sure I get to my room.  At one point, I remarked, “All these men here and you’re asking me to carry you? Seriously?”

Basically, from the beginning, I took her requests/demands as an affront to my own femininity. Then I assumed she took my solid, generous build (i.e. large, hardy black woman) as something of a workhorse or mammy-servant-woman at her service.

It wasn’t until late Monday that it hit me: perhaps she’s been trying to flirt with me!

I can only say that like a good portion of America, I’ve been especially preoccupied with race in recent weeks and what I took as ridiculous and sometimes disrespectful treatment due to my skin color and size may have been overtures due to my sex appeal (or attractiveness).

Yes, I admit to being rather slow here. But in my defense, it takes me forever to realize when men are making advances too.

20120710_140912If this fresh revelation is true, I’ve just realized that I said the absolute worst thing I should have said to her the night before she went left field on me. The group had gathered on the hotel patio for a birthday celebration and she again walked through the group to approach me. She said that she was tired and asked me to pick her up… I can’t recall for what reason, but I do recall my response.  “Should I whip out my breast so you can suckle at the teat too?”

In retrospect, what I mistook as shock could have been a flash of ecstasy. Who knew!?!  I really thought she was looking at me as a “mammy figure” and it was pissing me off, in addition to her random pokes, taps and playful hits. {FYI: I don’t do “playful hits” with anyone; no one is going to get comfortable hitting me. So she got shut down on that score too.}

I fumed for a day and half after the interactions over the weekend (those that took place the day after she asked me to pick her up on the patio). The last straw angered me so much I didn’t trust myself to speak to her afterwards and avoided her until this light bulb went off (about her possible attraction to me). And the light bulb went off because of the way she had touched my shoulder as she left the room and said she’d see me later.

The Breaking Point…

A group of ten of us went exploring the city on Sunday. We split up for lunch and agreed to meet in the town square at a certain time. At the meeting time the group I was with spread out in the square to look for this girl and the other person she was with. As we all came together, she approached me with a balloon twisted in the shape of a sword and started hitting me with it. I told her to stop hitting me and asked her what her problem was. She said she was “punishing me for being late”.

#Woosah…. Who are you to punish me for anything?!?! That didn’t make it out…. I had to pull myself back.

All I could manage to say was, “We weren’t late. You were on the opposite end of a large square and we’re all foreigners.” Someone else said, “No one specified a landmark or building to meet at.”

Ok, so for the rest of the afternoon, when I thought about that, I fumed. And I concluded that she was treating me as her property – a pack horse, of sorts, a worker at her disposal… And I was trying to stop myself from going all “angry black female” on her.

Then the next day, I noticed she alternated between ignoring me (I so very ok with that), a sly poke to my back to get my attention (irritated me more), and then later the touch to my shoulder. **Light bulb** at which point I felt that I couldn’t confront her in anger, because if she is struggling with her sexuality, I certainly don’t want to be the person to push her into hiding or worst.

So, I am truly at a lost as to how to deal with this situation. In two and a half more days, we part company. Part of me is completely ok with avoiding her and coasting through the next couple of days. However, I’ve never been one to run from an uncomfortable situation, especially when a good word could be spoken.

I should mention that from what she’s shared about her parents they seemed a bit distant during her development. So part of me thought maybe she was looking for a mother-figure with all her clinging, ergo the distortion of the “mammy” conclusion.

I haven’t yet been able to develop the lesson from this episode yet. Any suggestions or observations on how to deal with this?

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.