I’m 34. Married. With dog. Not with child.
I have a lovely family, a great set of friends, a job that keeps my brain busy and my mortgage paid, and most of my problems are of the first world variety.
I live a great life. I am not – by anyone’s standards – a victim. I have thick skin forged by time and experience, and confidence in myself that has been afforded by age.
Yet, last Friday, I found myself crying in the stalls of the bathroom at my local pub furiously wiping ugly tears away with the back of my sleeve, and trying in vain to compose myself.
The tears were frustrated ones. Angry ones. And tears of disappointment.
You see, it had been years since I had felt the sting of a racist jibe, but it still hurt as much as ever.
Sure, when I was in primary school it was common place to get called a “ching chong”, to be mocked for my flat nose, or to be told to “go back to where I came from” (despite being born streets away). But I thought those days were behind me. I mean surely if we had grown out of playing on monkey bars, we had also grown out of insults that were ignorant and lazy at best, and cruel at worst? I thought that the differences we tried to minimise as children, were the very things we celebrated as adults.
I guess not everyone felt the same way. Which is how I came to stand on the receiving end of a racist barb, designed to get a rise out of me. This didn’t come from a friend, or a stranger – either would have been easier to forgive or forget. It came from an acquaintance who was deliberate in her intent and delivery.
She sat across from me in our local. She twirled her straw. Interrupted our conversation and delivered a one-two verbal punch.
I usually carried the rubber sword of humour as my defence, designed to make a point without drawing blood. But amongst friends I had both my sword and my shield lowered, and felt the full force of her blows.