Monday 5th February, 2024
I stashed myself in a box for safekeeping.
University is scary, leaving home at 18, meeting strange new people from different walks of life who want to know who you are.
And what if they don’t like what they find?
It’s a vulnerable place to be, deciding what you show people of yourself, especially when you haven’t really got that stuff figured out properly, and so, for safekeeping I stuffed myself into a box.
My particular box, in 1996, had an Oasis sticker on the outside of it. I hid myself within the “Mancunian” box. As we all knew in the nineties, thanks to the Gallagher brothers, Mancunians are cool! Straightforward, they know what they like and they like what they know, they are plain speaking and not to be messed with (particularly if you’re a journalist not wanting to be punched) This was me. A Mancunian brashly stomping her way round the hallowed halls of Academia.
I’ve squashed myself into a few other boxes over the years: Mother: kind, nurturing, highly protective. Wife: supportive, strong, defensive and of course submissive. I’ve even been in the ‘Short Girl’ box: fierce, funny, loud and bolshy. By far the box I’ve struggled to fit myself into the most has been the ‘Christian Woman’ box: quiet, demure, gentle… I am none of these things.
Yet still I tried to squeeze myself in. My wings got in the way a bit so I clipped them, my voice was a bit loud so I silenced it, I folded myself, squished myself, removed anything that would make me “too much” for the small restrictive box, I was determined to fit in.
It never really worked, I kept pushing the lid off and upsetting people.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote: “We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable.”
Whether it’s a self protection instinct to hide our vulnerabilities or it’s simply to fit into societies expectations of us, it’s something we do, we fold ourselves, we squash ourselves, we clip ourselves lest we be “too much” until we cannot breathe, cannot stand and cannot fly.
We don’t need to fit into those boxes provided for us, sure, I’m a Mancunian but that doesn’t make me a 2 dimensional Liam Gallagher stereotype, nor does being short mean I have to be bossy and being a Christian doesn’t mean I have to be “nice” (spoiler: I’m not!) There’s far more to being human that squeezing ourselves into boxes. Don’t do it! Stand up, spread your wings and chuck those boxes into the recycling where they belong