I am desperate to like whiskey because I have a (probably) false sense that whiskey-drinkers never take shit from anyone. I am barely able to choke the stuff down. Maybe it is because I am soft, or at least, I have been told as such. When I kindly asked for some of the mini bottles of tequila behind the counter at the liquor store a few weeks ago, the clerk reprimanded me for speaking too softly. She told me I would never land a job speaking like that. That men would always take advantage of me. That she taught her own daughters to never be afraid to speak up, insinuating that perhaps my inclination to speak quietly was through some fault in my own upbringing. I shook with anger through her whole lecture, but handed over my credit card in silence, unable to prove her wrong. I even thanked her on my way out.
If I were a different person, perhaps I would have asked her why I was the default wrongdoer in this situation? Can we consider the possibility that fault might lie with the listener, too? I am happy to repeat myself if you need, and I am employed, thanks for your concern. “Yes” and “no” and “thank you very much” still have the same meaning at whatever volume they are uttered. Quiet women know how to take care of themselves, too. Imagine hundreds of us in a hall together, whispering the same thing at the same time – we would sound like wind through the trees, a warning that a storm is brewing, fully capable of ripping up tired old systems by the roots. There is still power in speaking softly.
Like all my best comebacks, this one came to me weeks later as I struggled to fall asleep. I whispered it to my ceiling. (My fantasy self loves whiskey). I never returned to that liquor store.