Excited to be going out and dancing to music, I arrive late (no change there) park my car in town and walk to the venue. I feel safe. It’s daylight although it’s 9pm, I am familiar with these streets. I have nothing on my mind but the anticipation of being ‘out’. The town has been buzzing with gigs and music all weekend.
I arrive at the venue. The door staff greet me and ask me if I have a ticket to collect. I say I think I have an e-ticket and ask what I should look for on my phone (which on reflection is a bit of a dumb question). From behind me comes a male voice “Yeah look under Clare, gobby b*£$h of Stroud”. I had not been aware anyone was behind me. I pause, look around. I recognise the face but can’t put a name to it. I turn to the door staff. We look at each other, strangers, aghast. “If you want to smack him we’ll turn a blind eye” they say, only half-joking. I shake my head and look at my phone. I find my ticket and am allowed in. The person behind me in the queue is still talking.
I turn around as he says something else. I hear unreasonably reasonable words coming from my mouth “I forgive you” I say “but this is misogyny. If I was a man you wouldn’t do this” I feel strangely calm, which I’ve learned is a trauma response. As well as the widely understood fight/flight/freeze reaction to perceived danger, there are two more – flop (feeling exhausted) and fawn – trying to befriend the perceived threat.
I go into the gig, dance for hours and enjoy the company of friends, meet people who are visiting for the first time. “This is a great little city” someone says to me. I smile. It’s so good to be out, to hear great music, to dance. Certainly, the gigs I’ve attended in recent months feel exhilarating. It feels so great to be together, to feel part of a crowd, to have this shared experience of joy and rhythm. At one point a group of us gather around a speaker, revelling in the feeling of the bass on our breast bones. One of my favourite feelings in life. I am transported back to so many nights in sweaty tents in fields.
But in the back of my mind lingers my experience at the door. The words jar in my mind, leaving me feeling uncomfortable, slightly self-conscious and even a bit sullied. The metaphorical mud-slinging I’ve felt sticks a bit. Because this is not an isolated incident. I guess one doesn’t have to do much to stand out in a small town. I’m aware other people who’ve set up businesses or venues experience the same online and in real life. Hey, anything you do which is out of the ordinary can make you a target of hate. As can skin colour, sexual orientation, dress sense and visual differences. So I guess this incident and other recent experiences have reminded me that we have a long way to go before we reach the real measure of being the ‘Best town to live in’ accolade.
The following morning I listen to a TED talk “Why forgiveness is worth it” by Sarah Montana this line stands out “Forgiveness is designed to set you free. When you say I forgive you, what you are really saying is “I know what you did, it is not OK but I recognise that you are more than that. I don’t want to hold us captive to this thing anymore. I can heal myself and I don’t need anything from you. And after you say that, it’s just you, no chains, prisoners…..Forgiveness is the only real path to freedom”.
Clare Honeyfield is a yoga teacher, coach, and entrepreneur based in Stroud and working globally to help women creatives overcome procrastination and achieve greatness through the development of self-belief, self-care, and community.