Category: Society

It’s Not A Compliment

It’s Not A Compliment

Dear Random Stranger who walked past me in the grocery store, grabbed my ass, and said, “Nice,” in front of my three-year-old son, without ever breaking stride…

I generally believe that Karma settles most situations, and, most days, I’d usually step back and allow her to do her work.

Sadly for you, today was not one of those days.

I’m not fluent in Body Language, but I’d guess by the look on your face that you truly didn’t expect me to approach you, and the woman with you, and call you out on your troglodytic behavior. In fact, I’m honestly interested to know what you did expect.

I believe you expected to get away with it.

If my husband had been with me, you wouldn’t have had the nerve. If any guy had been with me, you wouldn’t have had the nerve.

Sadly, you are far from the first stranger to take advantage of me, and countless other women, in this way.

Is it within your realm of thinking to see a small woman alone (except for her toddler son) and just keep walking?

Should I have been the Bigger Person and just let it slide, or take it as the “compliment” that so many others have told me in the past that it’s meant to be?

Hell. No.

If you assumed you’d escape a yelling scene because my son was with me, you were right. He doesn’t see yelling at home, and he certainly isn’t going to see it because you’re a Neanderthal. But if you figured I wasn’t going to verbally decimate you so you’d feel a fraction of the humiliation I felt at your groping hand, you thought wrong.

If you thought you’d just get away with it and mosey on through your day, all self-satisfied with having gotten your hands on a woman’s ass, uninvited, you truly are seven layers of crazy.

(Can I also ask how pathetic your existence is if this is what you do for enjoyment?)

You’ve most likely done this to many women before, most (or, sadly, possibly all) of whom didn’t retaliate because that’s what most of us grow up learning to do. If you have a uterus, you learn to de-escalate these situations at a shamefully early age.

So, for myself and for every other woman you may have violated in the past, you’ve been quietly, tactfully, and justifiably served, sir, in the middle of the grocery store, in front of many strangers, right next to the ranch dressing and croutons.

I hope you remember it every time you eat a salad.

The look on your face was fantastic. Seriously. Were you surprised that I have both a brain in my head and a spine strong enough to stand up to your stupidity? You didn’t answer a single question I asked regarding what made you think grabbing any stranger was acceptable. I had the backbone to set the situation straight, but you didn’t have enough nerve to utter a single syllable in reply.

That’s how cowards act.

Your behavior was so appalling that the woman with you apologized to me on your behalf. I’m indescribably glad that I had the chance to tell her that your lecherous behavior did not reflect on her in the slightest.

When I arrived home and told my husband what happened, he was outraged; not simply because you couldn’t keep your hands to yourself (a concept that small children can grasp but that you, a grown man, somehow don’t understand), but because it opened his eyes a little more to how damn difficult it can be to navigate this world without a penis.

That whole de-escalating thing? I’m done with it. It’s a weight and responsibility that I’ve had to carry since the first time a stranger grabbed me, in a crowd at the mall, when I was fourteen years old. It’s a heavy burden and I’m absolutely sick of it. I’ve quietly minimized situations out of embarrassment and fear for my safety too many times, and every time it has also minimized my self-esteem.

We should all be done downplaying our discomfort, fear, and embarrassment at the hands of strangers. We’re minimizing our Selves every time we hold our tongues.

De-escalation isn’t a solution. Calling inappropriate behavior what it is in the harsh light of the public eye might be.

Because it’s not a compliment.

The Stopping and The Looking

The Stopping and The Looking

Before you read any more of this post, take a few minutes and go read this one; without reading that post, this one might not make much sense.

My husband and I don’t disagree on much. Before we met we’d both been through horrible relationships. We knew what we wanted, and we definitely knew what we didn’t want, in a marriage. And we do NOT want to have a cookie-cutter marriage. (We certainly don’t have one. If you’ve met my husband, you know what I mean. The man is Crazy — the best kind of Crazy.)

I am blessed that he always tells me he loves me. He always tells me I’m beautiful.

If the one person in this whole world from whom I want to hear it gives me that lovely input on a consistent basis, then why don’t I feel it?

There are things he sees in me that I simply don’t — can’t — see. I disagree with nearly every compliment he gives me (not aloud, so much, anymore, but always in my head). Why can’t I agree with him on these things?

It’s because of The Stopping. And The Looking.

If you read the article I linked above, then you know what I’m talking about.

My husband says he sees beauty in my laugh lines and wrinkles. He’s touched by the five-person-exit that is my c-section scar. He’s accustomed to busting into whatever room I’m in, door swinging, Kramer-like, and shouting, “You’ve got a great ass, Harling!”

Yet I can not agree with him.

And now I finally know why. Now, it seems so incredibly simple.

I harbor the constant thought that I Can Not Live Up To That.

“That” is the idea of female perfection that is thrust upon all of us, everywhere, all of the time. It truly is inescapable. And it truly is bullshit.

I feel like I’ve fought for my boys’ brains their entire lives. I’ve railed against what the world has told them a “real woman” is, because the world’s idea of what a real woman is couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve tried to instill in them an appreciation for people’s actions over their outward appearance, and I’ve done all of this with a ferocity I honestly didn’t know I had. (One son’s huge lesson in how much a person’s actions speak to how much they love you: I chased a guy who had pulled a gun on my kid about five seconds before I pulled up to pick him up. Yeah. Fierce. Don’t mess with my kids. And don’t try to mess with my kids’ heads, either.)

If I look at my boys’ actions and listen to the things they say, I think I’ve done a decent job of teaching them what a real woman is. But, how can I know for sure? I mean, look at what we’re up against here. Too many people, men and women alike, think:

  • A woman’s worth comes solely from her partner’s opinion of her.
  • Women don’t deserve equal pay.
  • Women owe men their bodies.
  • Women are weak.
  • Women need to be perfect in every way.

Now, most men don’t understand why women feel this way. They don’t understand it because they don’t think like that, and I could never say enough about how grateful I am for the many, many men who do not engender these kinds of ignorant thoughts.

However, as Dan points out…

Guys, when you Stop, and when you Look, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve told the woman in your life how beautiful she is or how much you love her; every Look completely negates every compliment you’ve ever given that woman and replaces it with negativity and pressure. Guys… read that line again. Seriously. You may not believe it, you may not understand it, but it is absolutely True. Every lingering glance at digitally-created perfection on a magazine cover, every click on a pretty actress’s Google image listing, raises the bar in that woman’s head to the unattainable standard that society has set.

And pretty soon, as Dan eloquently points out, a guy can find himself in the horrid predicament of not being attracted to anything that is real.

How to fix this? I can’t pretend to know, really, except for two things:

  • Women: you are Real. You are amazing. You are worthy. Find that worth in yourself and stop depending so much on needing that input from the men in your life.
  • Men: make your actions match your words. Try to overcome the falsified societal pressures of what Beautiful is. Make sure you aren’t accidentally taking away every positive thing you’ve ever said to that woman in your life with the habit of Stopping and Looking.

 

Applause Before 8 A.M.

Applause Before 8 A.M.

In order to tell you what I really want to tell you, I have to give you a little insight into what a Frat House Morning looks like on a school day.

In a nutshell, I get six kids to four different schools every school day, with a toddler in tow. While I only drive two of them to two different schools, I do make sure everyone is awake, fed, and presentable before they leave for the bus stop or the Frat Cab, whichever is their mode of transportation to school.

Every single school morning, at 7:30, I drive Jack to his elementary school, which is about six blocks from our house. I realize we could walk, but, if we did, I wouldn’t be back home in time to drive the next Frat Boy to his school, so we drive.

Every single morning, Jack gets out of the van, I watch him walk into the school, and I pull away to circumnavigate the other half of the rectangle of roads that will take me back home.

And every single morning, the same dad rides my bumper for three blocks until I make my left turn.

(OK, it isn’t every morning. That is to say, he isn’t necessarily riding my back bumper every morning, but he’s always tailing someone within my view way too closely. We’re all there at the same time driving the same cars in the same direction, every school morning, so he’s hard to miss.)

Bear in mind, every road within a 100-mile radius of my home is an Ice Rink of Death right now and has been for months. We all need to be careful, especially when there are kids approaching from every direction, on foot, trying to get to school.

This morning, I had to wait for oncoming traffic before I could make my left turn and escape the chaos that is The Morning Drop-Off. Bumper Boy (yes, he’s been so annoying for so long that he has earned a nickname) had been on me for his usual three blocks, following so closely that I couldn’t even see his headlights in my rear-view mirror. I had actually watched the front end of his SUV dip three times when he rode up so closely that he had to slam on his breaks to avoid hitting me (quickly followed by immediately riding right up my back bumper again. Can you say, “unteachable?”).

Then something amazing happened.

Something astonishing.

In the words of a mom who saw it and texted me afterwards, “That was beautiful!”

Right in the middle of the stand-still traffic, I put the Frat Cab into park and got out.

Bumber Boy and I were going to have a chat. I had had Enough.

I didn’t have far to walk as he was, as usual, right on my rear bumper. And none of the traffic was moving anyway. As I approached his window, he cracked it a bit.

Mustering all of the patience that a mother of seven could possibly contain, I calmly, firmly, as-nicely-as-can-be-done-through-gritted-teeth said,

“You’re following way too closely. You do it here, in front of a school, to everyoneevery morning. Stop. It.”

I turned around, walked back to The Frat Cab, continued to wait for the traffic to move so I could make my left turn, and finally made my exit.

Bumper Boy didn’t move until I was gone.

As I made that left turn, the kind woman who left a gap so I could go (a mom whose son goes to school with mine) put her window down and applauded.

The man in the car behind her did the same.

Before I got home, I had three texts from parents and two from teachers, all of whom were in that tangle of traffic with me, and all of whom have dealt with this man’s apparent lack of depth perception since August when the school year began.

I wonder what the morning drop-off will be like tomorrow.

 

Gay Grocery Cart Traffic Jam

Gay Grocery Cart Traffic Jam

The atmosphere of the place was weighing down on me, shrinking me further than I had already shrunken myself in order to navigate through the congestion.

My overloaded burden was becoming difficult to convey from place to place.

And the mass of humanity that packed the huge building to capacity wanted, down to each single one, to be anywhere but there.

It was Saturday, and I was at the grocery store.

I try to make the best of having to do the grocery shopping. If I go alone, I pop in my earbuds and listen to music, a lecture, or a podcast; I’m careful to keep the volume low so I can easily hear those around me so as not to mistakenly be rude. If I have any of the older kids with me, we split up the list to make the trip quicker. If it’s just Liam and me, I laugh at his hilarious pride at being able to sit up in the seat of the cart and make strangers laugh.

But this was Saturday. In the grocery store. With very, very cranky people. AND a snowstorm was apparently coming, which set off the usual “Oh no! Snowpocalypse is nigh! We must stockpile everything IMMEDIATELY!!” reaction around these parts.

Trying to balance making only one grocery trip a week with keeping The Frat Boys in food is a sticky business (you can read that as a polite way of saying, “The cart was damn full”). The worst part of the little scenario I’m about to convey to you, dear reader, is that I only had to get one more thing. One more necessary item stood between me and my freedom from the miasma of rushing crankiness that permeated the environment.

Goldfish.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish are a staple in this Frat House. Not for myself or for Mike, but all of the Borg eat them like they are manna from the gods. And how can I argue with that, really? I imagine that eating Goldfish in bulk is better than ingesting potato chips or microwave popcorn at the same alarming rate, so I don’t worry too much. I pick my battles, and Goldfish just isn’t one of them.

Turning into the aisle where this Holy Grail of Snack Foods was stored brought me face-to-face with a veritable sea of people. And no one was moving. It was The Grocery Cart Traffic Jam of the Century.

I knew someone had turned in right behind me; I could feel it with that crazy sense we all get when someone is in our personal space, even if they are behind you and you can’t see them. Well, not someone, actually, but the front end of their cart.

(Allow me to interject that, if I had needed to get anything else, I would’ve gotten out of that aisle with impressive haste and come back when the traffic had cleared. I’m short. People tend to simply not see me. I had already been run into several times during this particular trip to Grocery Hell, and it isn’t because I move too slowly. My husband is 6’7″, has incredibly long legs, and still struggles to keep up with me when we shop together. I’m not messing around; I’m on a mission to get in, get out, and get on with my life.)

The cart behind me bumped my rear bumper once (yes, it hit me in the ass). I wasn’t surprised as it was so incredibly crowded, but I also couldn’t move forward without bumping into the woman in front of me, causing her to bump the gentleman in front of her, thereby causing a chain reaction of cart-bumped asses a mile long. I stood as close to my cart as I could, and then received another bump, this time with some meaning behind it.

Ok, I thought. Here we go. I just want to get my Goldfish and go home.

I turned part-way around to get a tiny peek at the offending ass-bumper (only part-way around because I hate confrontation and because his cart was so close to me that I would’ve had to climb into it to turn ALL the way around). He was an older man, with an older woman, and he looked like he had been grumpy since Nixon was in office. He proficiently exuded a “Leave me the hell alone” vibe with an intensity that was rather startling.

As I glimpsed at him, he bumped me in the hip with his cart, again, and then managed a feat only a select few have ever accomplished: he said something that left me (momentarily) speechless.

“Would you move, you dyke?”



… Wha?

Yep.

My brain finally came back from the Land Of I-Can’t-Believe-You-Just-Said-That-You-Bigoted-Fool, and I simply reacted.

He didn’t like my reaction.

If looks could kill, Mike would’ve been saying my eulogy over a headstone that read, “She shouldn’t have laughed at the rude dude in the grocery store.”

I couldn’t help it. I suppose it’s ok not to have a filter in some situations, especially if your lack of a filter causes you to bubble over in giggles. And this situation was just beyond stupid.

The non-hysterical part of my mind wanted to inform him that, not only labeling any group of people, but then using that label in a derogatory fashion, was ridiculous, asinine, and made him look like an uneducated idiot. I wanted to take the time to explain to him that the fact he was raised in a different time was no excuse for bigotry toward anyone, ever. I wanted him to understand that his looking at the length (or lack thereof, in this case) of someone’s hair and judging their sexual preferences really spoke to how far in the gutter his mind was. But, clearly, these concepts that are simple common sense and decency to me would’ve been unrecognizable to him even if they were to march up to him and lick him on the face.

The pissed-off part of my mind wanted to thank him for his insight into my psyche, which he must’ve gotten a good look at while he was pushing me with his cart like a caveman. Oh, I would’ve loved to have unloaded on him about my husband and seven boys.

But tantamount to all of that, I wanted him to learn a lesson. ANY lesson.

I looked him right in the eye and said, “Thank you. You couldn’t have paid me a higher compliment.”

Turning such a deep crimson color in anger can’t be good for anyone’s health.

He was stuck behind me until traffic finally began to crawl again, and he had to go around me while I fetched the long-awaited Goldfish.

As he passed by, he blessed me with a good, hard glare.

In return, I blew him a kiss, with a grin & sly wink to boot.

“Thanks again,” I said. “You made my day!”

The War on Skinny

The War on Skinny

Once upon a time, I worked in a bookstore, a job that I enjoyed for the interactions with people, both with co-workers and customers. Once upon a time, I was also much skinnier than I am now. I had been through a traumatic time, and my body reacted as it always does in times of stress: I lost weight that I really couldn’t afford to lose. Allow me to draw a mental picture for you. I am just over five feet tall. I’ve always been rather small, just like my mom. Customers looking for me in the bookstore would always describe me to co-workers with a string of words that invariably began with “short,” “skinny,” or, most often, “tiny.” I am made the way I am made, and I can’t help that any more than anyone else on the planet. I have littleness just like I have hazel eyes and pale skin.

One afternoon a mother-daughter duo came to the store looking for diet and weight loss books. Several of us were working at the customer service counter, but just two of us happened to be at the counter at the time. They approached me, making comments to each other under their breath that I could see but couldn’t hear. My co-worker was behind me, on the phone with a customer. When I asked what I could help them find, they tartly replied, “We’ll wait for HER,” and began to turn their backs to me. When I stated that if they wanted to wait for my co-worker, that was fine, but she was on the phone and may be a little while, I received an even colder response.

“I’m not having some skinny little bitch take me to the diet books. We’ll wait.”

I was dumbfounded. Gobsmacked. I have waited on probably thousands of customers in that store, and never once judged whether or not I would help someone based on ANYTHING — their appearance, race, gender, ANYTHING. I was not, however, being paid to be scrutinized and judged for the way I was made, in utero, thirty-something years ago.

This little incident begs the question: If I were obese and they wouldn’t let me wait on them, would that be acceptable? Their attitudes seemed to belie a belief that it was perfectly fine to be rude because I was skinny. In their eyes, I presumably had no feelings to hurt; they had been sucked out with my soul when I sold it to be tiny, apparently.

How was my being little hurting them? I am a Pollyanna at heart, and probably always will be. I was raised to treat others as I wish to be treated, and I would NEVER comment on someone else’s weight. Hell, I’d have a hard time commenting on someone else’s ANYTHING, even if they asked.

People are made the way they are made. Some are tiny, some are large, some are blonde or brunette. Some are very tall, some are diminutive. Some are homosexual, some are heterosexual, some are bisexual. There’s a lot to be said, and not in a positive way, for society’s treatment of those who are on the bigger side (Kevin Smith’s Too Fat To Fly incident is just one of thousands), and I’ve never understood it. Life’s too damn short to waste time cutting other people down for the way they are made.

While mulling the situation over, my inner Pollyanna made a comeback. Maybe they really were that uncomfortable with me and my smallness. In what situations could I fathom myself being choosy about who helped me find information? I’m a fairly open book. I would ask a male employee to help me find the Erotica section without blinking an eye. Likewise the female health section. But that’s me; what works for me doesn’t have to work for others.

In the end, I did what I always do when met with uncomfortable situations — I am a product of my parents, after all. Kill ’em with kindness, always. This woman was showing her daughter that weight discrimination was perfectly acceptable, as long as it was directed at The Slenders of the world, so I showed her that it wouldn’t affect me. I let my co-worker know that they were waiting, looked at them both, gave my biggest smile, and took my narrow arse elsewhere.

Pleased to be of service, ladies.

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