Sometimes You Need To Use Your Voice, Sometimes You Need To Shut The Hell Up
The thing about silence — even when self-imposed — is it can too easily begin to feel too comfortable.
Sometimes you need to use your voice.
“Hey, that joke is racist!”
“Whoa bro, cool it with the misogyny.”
“How ‘bout we take a deep breath and try just *not* being an asshole, ‘kay?”
But other times—occasions when perhaps you don’t really know what you’re talking about, or when you think you know what you’re talking about but someone who really knows what they’re talking about tells you that you’ve misspoken, or maybe if you’re feeling hangry, or you simply become overwhelmed with an urge to offer unasked-for criticism, those kind of times — it’s totally okay to just…shut up. Preferable, even!
That’s what I was thinking last week when I had a dream about a red duct tape mouth, anyway.
So I made the red mouth manifest in waking life! I spent some time thinking about embarrassing things I’ve said upon speaking hastily, thoughtlessly, sometimes over-thoughtfully.
I put on some makeup!
I made myself some glitter tape eyebrows and black duct tape lashes, for flair.
Then I braved the wilds of Walmart to procure some bright red duct tape, and spent some long sticky minutes cutting it into a shape that somewhat resembles that of my mouth.
Do you know what it feels like to have your mouth taped shut? Minus extra tape pulling at the skin beyond the borders of my lips, the sensation felt…surprisingly normal!
It might have been panic-inducing had I been suffering, say, a sinus infection, but given the not-under-duress circumstances, it felt—almost—distressingly unobtrusive. It didn’t interfere with my breathing. It wasn’t particularly uncomfortable. It was just there, a sliver of tape binding my lips together. It looked uncanny to me, disturbing in its too-close approach to normalcy.
“Wait…what’s up with your mouth?” my husband asked only *after* effusively complimenting the brows and lashes. The taped mouth didn’t immediately attract notice. Hell, it even made me look bizarrely content, in a Stepford Wives-ish sort of way.
That’s the thing about silence, I think: even when self-imposed, even when well-intentioned, it can too easily begin to feel too comfortable. It can look almost normal, even, maybe especially at times when it’s clearly not.
The world isn’t normal anymore. Or, rather, it never was, but having spent much of my life in places that prioritize politeness over discomfort and much of my own mental energy worried over phrasing things correctly and helpfully, the habit of prudent silence is a tough one to break. Odd that a literal taped-shut mouth should look more “natural” than the sight of a woman standing up and screaming—odder still considering the circumstances of the day.
Typically—in regard to a topic in which I feel ill-prepared to speak—I would hesitate to comment. But while I’m no expert on the history of white supremacy, I can’t afford silence.
I can’t afford to hesitate.
WHITE SUPREMACY IS WRONG. And my voice is needed to denounce it unequivocally—alongside yours—out loud with all the volume we can muster.
I don’t know why I dreamed of a taped mouth. I know why I remembered and acted on it: I am totally that person who takes her dreams way too seriously and also thought it could make for a clever little quip on internet etiquette. I didn’t really expect my country to explode into outright hate-based white supremacist violence by the end of the week, which probably goes to show that I haven’t been keeping my ears alert during those times I’ve held my mouth shut. Now it’s clear that I need to keep both wide open.
We have to speak out against the unspeakable before it silences us for good.
The thing about silence—even when self-imposed—is it can too easily begin to feel too comfortable.
It’s easy to keep your mouth shut. Comfortable, even! The scary part comes when it’s time to rip the tape off. It hurts a bit. But once it’s done? You’re able to use your voice freely, and it’s much easier to breathe.