Remember reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in tenth grade English class? How about memorizing and delivering Marc Antony’s Friends, Romans, Countrymen…lend me your ears speech?
I did it at fourteen. And I made my sophomores read and memorize the speech over the many years I taught English 10 because the soliloquy unlocks the entire meaning of the brilliant historical play.
But for those of you who didn’t have the pleasure, here’s a quick and dirty summary:
Julius Caesar just kicked ass in battle, and returns to Rome proclaiming himself dictator for life. Some of his closest buds don’t dig Caesar bogarting the power, so they conspire to kill him in the middle of March (Ides = middle).
A soothsayer (fortune-teller) warns Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March” but he is an arrogant ass and won’t listen. He goes to the Senate the morning of the 15th and is stabbed in the back by his homeboys, including BFF, Brutus. Hence the famous line, “Et tu, Brute’?” Meaning, “You, too, my nigga?!”
Good guy Marc Antony gives a killer speech that turns public opinion against the conspirators. Antony leads an army against the assassins, and in the end, Brutus and Cassius kill themselves. Octavius Caesar takes over as emperor and restores order.
Marc Antony lives another day to seduce Cleopatra, which gives Shakespeare the juice for another historical play.
Reads like a new version of Assassin’s Creed, eh?
So Caesar was a righteous dude, and did many things to better the lives of the commoners. But by the time they all realized Caesar had been set up, betrayed, and assassinated, it was too late.
And so on this, the Ides of March, I want to play soothsayer and warn others who suffer from Kind Heart Syndrome.
But what’s wrong with a kind heart? Actually, nothing. Be aware, though, that there are people like Brutus and Cassius everywhere who will seek to do you harm.
So sometimes, you need to start by being kind to yourself, and to do so, you need to protect yourself.
We know the Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” but too many of us (especially women) have it bass-ackward. We say, “Do unto others, but no worries–I’m good.”
When I was a girl, I remember getting shoes at the Stride-Right store that hurt my feet. Later, when I complained about the pain, my mother asked why we bought the shoes, and I told her I didn’t want to hurt the salesman’s feelings.
In hindsight, funny. And an extreme example as well, but, “Hello?” How many times do we put our needs on hold to spare someone else trouble or hurt feelings?
This is especially true where motherhood is concerned. Mothers put everyone else before themselves. It’s the nature of the job.
We also do this at work. We don’t want to hurt a co-worker, so we don’t take credit, or we don’t go after the promotion, or we don’t ask for the raise. And then you live long enough to find out your co-worker had no trouble taking credit, or going after the promotion, or asking for the raise. And she’s now brandishing a dagger behind your back?
We do this with friends. How many relationships have we developed over our lifetimes that have gone awry–due to the fair-weather nature of others? We think our friends are as committed to the friendship as we are, and then we learn there were ulterior motives.
This also happens in romantic relationships and marriages. If every one in two marriages ends in divorce, then someone is playing Brutus to Caesar just as soon as their eye starts to wander…it’s always greener in the hay next door, and all that.
Finally, where women really have to watch out–where kindness can be our undoing–is in our kindness to strangers. I am not speaking of our acts of charity or a friendly smile. But rather about allowing someone to engage you who would do you harm.
Girls and women are snatched from public places because they fear appearing rude to someone who is forward with them.
We teach our children Stranger Danger, and then fail to act on our own instincts when accosted out in public.
We teach our daughters Stranger Danger, and then tell them not to be rude to strangers.
Predators often offer something desired but illegal–alcohol to minors/pot to smoke, etc. Teach your kids this is a trick.
If someone makes you uncomfortable, don’t engage with them. If they become aggressive toward you, fight like a banshee.
Do not allow them to remove you from your location, or that will be the last place you are likely seen. Ever.
Remember, God gave you gut-instincts for a reason. The point of this post is not to make you paranoid, but rather to remind you that your loyalty begins with you. Keep your wits about you, and if that little voice inside your head is speaking to you, LISTEN.
If Caesar would have listened to the soothsayer…if he hadn’t cared about what the other dudes thought about him and just stayed home that day, he could have saved us all the trouble of reading a play about a great leader whose closest friends stabbed him in the back when he least expected it.
Be as kind to yourself as you are to others,
Susan J. Anderson, Foxy Writer Chick