I’ve finally gotten my diagnosis. I’m a woman with opinions.
Apparently, I’ve had them for years. Back in elementary school, I got my first case of them around the time that I realized that my sister regularly got more orange juice in her glass than I did. The morning I measured the height of the juice in the two glasses, lined up next to one another on the kitchen table, my eyes narrowed and I found myself thinking, wait a minute! That’s not fair!
After that, the opinions kept coming. I didn’t like my mom’s bell bottoms. Cats were better than dogs. Orange Volkswagens were funny looking and I didn’t want to ride in them anymore.
During junior high, my opinions kept popping up, but I also began to experience a bit of a remedy for them – my desire for likability. I had opinions about my teachers, my principal, my friends. But, I also desperately wanted to be popular, and I knew that if I could just stop having opinions, I could achieve my goal.
The problem was, I was pretty funny looking. My hair was short and my glasses were huge. I was poor. I got along with the popular kids, but I didn’t go to the movies with them. I didn’t play sports – I was afraid of the ball. So, by about the end of seventh grade, I realized I was never going to be Homecoming Queen. Unfortunately, with that realization came another case of opinions, and once again, I began sharing them with anyone who would listen.
I found friends who had opinions too. Misfits and outcasts, skateboarders, punk rockers and gays. I moved to El Paso, and found a whole city full of people with opinions. In high school, I argued with my grandfather at the dinner table about racism. I fought with my Catholic Spanish teacher about abortion rights. I chose marijuana legalization as my platform in debate class.
I could never keep a boyfriend. My opinions kept boys at bay. By then, I’d gotten contact lenses and grown my hair long. I learned to dress attractively and to style my hair in an alluring way. But I was unable to keep my opinions to myself. Then, when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I discovered that I was a feminist. I was screwed.
But, I managed to keep my grades up and graduate from high school. I packed up my belongings and my opinions and carried them north to the University of New Mexico. There, I discovered academia. I wrote poetry, did keg stands and took women’s studies classes. My classes were full of people who had a lot of the same opinions as me! We debated feminism and classism, racism and intersectionalism. I discovered cultural theory. I took Eastern civilization. I thrived.
But, I still couldn’t keep a man. My opinions kept getting in the way of my likability, and no matter how hard I tried to keep them to myself, they’d rear their heads at the most inopportune times. Once, I was dating a wonderful fellow who was absolutely crazy about me. I liked him. He was gorgeous. He had a Jeep. But, I just couldn’t shake the fact that he was pro-life, so darn it if I didn’t have to show him to the door; my stupid opinions kept me from continuing the relationship.
Luckily, in my 20s, I found Tom. Tom was intimately knowledgeable of my condition – it turns out his mother and sisters have opinions too. Tom and I have been married for nearly 11 years now, and it seems like almost every day, at some point, one of my opinions rears its head. I don’t know how he stands it, but he does, and I’m grateful for it.
So, even though I’ve managed to land a man and hold down a job, I still can’t seem to get rid of these opinions. And, thanks to my affliction, my likability continues to be compromised, especially when it comes to men.
Because here’s what I’ve learned: most ladies don’t mind when a woman has opinions. In fact, if you talk to them long enough, you find they have them, too. It’s just that many women keep them covered up, like a blemish, so as not to offend anyone. But many men, on the other hand, are extremely wary of women with opinions. They find them unbecoming, like cold sores or chin hairs.
So, try as I might, I cannot, for the life of me, make them like me. It’s like I’m back in junior high: I’ll never be Homecoming Queen. But, here’s the thing: I don’t want to be. I want to speak out against fascism, homophobia, domestic terrorism and right wing conservatives. And, as a woman with opinions, I find that I just keep doing it, whether the men like it or not.