“I Have Learned Accommodation”: Lessons in Taking Up Space
I keep returning the Myer’s performance because it captures something unspoken yet true; something about why some of us, even decades after grade school, still have a problem acting bossy. Myers touches on the way woman can unconsciously learn to reduce our presence in the world. We accommodate, we recede, we apologize. Certainly this can be about our “relationship to food,” as Myers notes – but her poem also suggests that it is about more than endless dieting. It is about withdrawing ourselves from the space of engagement and interaction, about claiming less of the world as our own. The tumblr “Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train” offers a perfect counterpoint to Myer’s depiction of the women in her family. The tumblr catches “public assertions of privilege.” The men in the candid pictures sprawl, they lean, they spread out – they claim the train cars as their own. Feeling entitled, they take up space as their right.
Shrinking, asking for less, is a trap we all can fall into, even when we think of ourselves as leaders, and know our self worth. When an editor recently called me and let me know there was a problem with paperwork I immediately jumped in. “No problem. You don’t have to pay me this month. I’m glad to be contributing and part of the publication.” The editor, a true role model, immediately took me to task. “We will pay you. Who doesn’t want to be paid? Stop apologizing.” she barked. Even now it takes work to remind myself not to shrink back, to claim my space.
Which of the traps Lily Myer’s describes in her poem resonate with you?
Can we learn to identify times where we are making ourselves take up less space in the world?
I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.You have been taught to grow out,
I have been taught to grow in.You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much. I learned to absorb.I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry.”