by Alice Wilder
When an assistant principal at my school said that wearing leggings might prompt construction workers to sexually assault us, my friend Catherine stood up and called him out. Instead of having a dialogue, he took her aside and told her she was wrong. He wanted her to stop speaking out. But she went on to do interviews in our local paper about the incident.
I couldn’t get it off my mind. My friends and I commiserated together at the lunch table, our voices overlapping as they tend to do, with “maybe they shouldn’t hire potential rapists” as the chorus. The conversation was cathartic, but I still heard classmates asking why it was such a big deal.
The day that Catherine stood up to our assistant principal, I knew I had to write about it. Once I got home, I dropped my bag on the bed and called my newspaper editor Sam. She said I could write an editoral, but added, “be careful.” I’ve never channeled anger in such a focused way. All I could hear was the sound of my fingers hitting the keys as I untangled each voice from the lunch table and laid them on the screen until I had a draft.
It was a difficult piece to edit, because I knew that the administration wasn’t eager to have the incident brought up again. But distributing the newspaper to my classmates was a relief, having said my piece, I could move on.
Most of the time, it isn’t that easy. Not every incident warrants an op-ed. Sometimes a casual comment gets under my skin and I can’t stop being angry. Once in a while, I like that. It’s anger motivates me to take a stand even when I’m afraid.
But I don’t like staying angry. I don’t like hearing something at school and taking anger home with me. It ends up hurting me WAY more than it hurt whoever made me angry to begin with. But sometimes I just can’t shake it off. It gets into my veins and keeps coming back. That’s not fun. It’s not healthy. I’m sick of it. If you’re reading this, then you can probably relate. So how do you deal with anger that won’t go away?
I still don’t know for sure, but here are some things I know works for me:
1. Dance it out: underwear, makeup (or whatever you feel awesome in), music, and repeat. I find it helpful to put on my cutest underwear, admire my own beauty, apply some purple lipstick, and dance it out to a girl power playlist. I have to give credit to the amazing Arabelle of Rookie and Fashion Pirate for this one. Her playlists on 8tracks are my go to when I need to have a solo dance party.
There’s something really powerful about dancing alone in your room. It’s not about who is (or isn’t) watching you. It’s all about how awesome you are, what a great (or not!) dancer you are, how much of a babe you are. I’m able to do this by turning off the lights, closing my door, and denying, by sheer force of will, all of my insecurities.
One night, I danced in front of my night light and my shadow filled the room. I took up space, I felt impossible to shush or ignore. Ahh, girl power. Pretty soon whoever or whatever is making you mad will be crushed beneath the weight of how awesome you are.
2. Speak your feelings: I often find myself trying to act like I don’t care. Because how often have we heard that “they’re just trying to get a reaction out of you”? Then you feel bad about yourself for “giving them what they want.” No, no, no, your feelings are valid. I wish someone had told me that a year ago. People will try to attack you for your beliefs, which is why you need friends who are on your team.
If you have understanding friends at school, I’d suggest making a group on Facebook (or any social media) where you can vent to one another. Identify those people in your life who will welcome a long post about that teacher who said you can’t wear v-necks because he has to lean over you sometimes. What a creep.
3. Make it productive: Write about it. Whatever your creative persuasion is, access it and let someone else’s ignorance fuel your creativity. Often, people are aggressive or offensive because they want you to shut up. They want to stop hearing your opinions. But the joke’s on them, because now you’re louder than ever.
The important part of all this is investing time in yourself. During the year, especially for high schoolers, everything feels super crucial. It’s easy to get stuck with anger from a casually sexist comment at school. I don’t like staying angry is because I don’t think it’s productive or healthy. Sure, annoyance or frustration can be the first step in making a change, but things get done through optimism and hard work. You can’t write an op-ed every time some guy says he’s surprised that you have a firm handshake–sometimes you’ve just gotta come home, let down your fabulous hair, gather your girl gang and dance it out.
How do you deal with anger and frustration? Share your tips in the comments and on our Facebook!