To the prim lady in the tapestry jacket at the grocery store who breathed a slur at me as I passed:

As we passed, I was thinking how lovely your silver hair was and how regal you looked. After we passed, I simply felt moved. Not hurt, not angered — just moved.

We all have instincts to judge, to assess, to compare and contrast. It’s sort of ingrained in us in this consumer economy of ours. I don’t have any judgment about your thought process. I am, indeed, a bigger woman — comparatively speaking. Noticing that is not a bad thing. I wasn’t very fond of your jacket. It reminded me a loveseat that wouldn’t be very comfortable to sit on. I noticed, from the way you walked and held yourself, that you must be professional and likely come from money. I heard the click of your shoes, which I noted were beige, which always makes me think of the DMV. All this in a manner of seconds. We are taught to take stock. Measure up.

Truth is you, maybe more than some, with the benefit of your privilege, likely also assumed some additional damage to your psyche. Often those who come from money are equally if not more concerned with who a person appears to be than who they truly are. I felt those pressures from half of my family — the hardworking and thus well-to-do, upright, church-going citizens. The other half of my family came from trailer parks and car lots and standing in line for government cheese. I split down the middle between them — but I know you. I know your white carpets and china cabinets and that you actually buy things that say dry clean only. I also know that there is a layer of complexity to you that somehow gets cored by such preoccupations. And that it is hard to break through them to find real joy. Real joy requires letting go, and that’s not something that’s easy to do when your entire life has been spent in purchase.

So I know that you are unhappy. And in your quiet moments, I think you probably know it, too. And in moments like today — afternoon shopping, mindless at this point after so many decades of the same — that bit of you that you keep silent where you’re expected to, which is nearly everywhere, comes curling up through your body like a reflex, like black, rancid smoke — and it eeks from you in a single hissed word. Efficient. Intent to harm. To release. To inflict.

I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. For all the ways in which the world and the system failed you, for all the ridiculous and vapid expectations that created the world you live in and feel obligated to, for all the times you were a sweet young thing with your own ideas and intentions and were squashed to form — I’m sorry. For me, and for you. And for anyone you harm as you were harmed. And for anyone who continues the chain from there.

For today, at least — it stops with me.

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