Sunday, March 11, 2012

I think this is what Rebecca West* was talking about....

  "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat."  Rebecca West

I was all set to write a post about something literary while I sit here at the coffee shop.  I had done a bit of reading and just pulled out my laptop.  I had a quick conversation with a coffee shop employee about laundry -- of all things -- and was then lamenting that someone had stolen an owl decoration from the coffee shop. Coffee shop employee #1 was 8 feet in  front of me and employee #2 was about 3 feet in front of me.

Then Mr. Man (and his silent friend, Mr. Man #2), sitting across from me interrupted the conversation and you have pissed me off to no end. 

Mr. Man:  "Hey, why don't you two sit near each other?!" (Mr. Man #2 laughs)

Me and Employee #1 look quizzically at each other

Mr. Man:  "Instead of yelling across the store at each other you should sit together... your voice carries... we are trying to have a conversation! Please be quiet"

Me:  (angry eyes)

I muttered a "fuck you", shut my mouth and turned to my computer.  He asked with such vehemence and disdain that you would have thought I had been shouting for an hour.  Granted, my voice does carry and I probably was speaking loud, but the conversation was less than 5 minutes long.  And if he had asked nicely I would have apologized and lowered my voice. 

I sat for a good 10 minutes fuming.  Why was I so angry?

I felt like a scolded little girl.  That's the problem.  He's a man and he demanded something rudely.  I have had problems with people being loud in the coffee shop before and asked them to be quiet.  Granted I usually gave it longer and it is usually a large group of teenagers being unruly.  I've also asked people to lower their voices when I'm out with the kids and they are swearing or talking loudly about sex.  So basically I apply reason to the situation.

Of course, I'm a woman.  I've been conditioned to ask for things nicely.  I've been trained to feel like I'm doing something bad by making my wishes known.  This is how I typically ask for someone to be quiet:
"Excuse me, I'm so sorry to interrupt and I don't want to complain, but could you please lower your voice.  I hate to be a nuisance but my friend and I are having trouble hearing each other.  Thank you so much."
 I walk up to the person and I don't bark from my chair.  I have a smile on my face and I'm genuine when I thank them.  Of course, if it is a mom with kids or a large group of people having a gathering of some sort I usually just move.  I may be annoyed, but I don't want to intrude on a group with a planned event and mamas can only do so much with kiddos.

This man barked at me from his chair.  He shouted his request.  He piled on sarcasm and disdain and then added a perfunctory please.  What I hate most about him is he thinks he is  better than me.  He had someone bring him his coffee, he counted out exact change and didn't even go to the register, he is in the coffee shop regularly and he radiates smug superiority.   He stared me down like someone who is used to being obeyed.   He looked down on me.  It may be my tattoos.  It may be my age.  It may because I'm a woman.  Whatever it is, I am beneath him in some way.  (EDIT: JUST CONFIRMED ... IT IS BECAUSE I HAVE A VAGINA. IT IS OKAY FOR LOUD MALE VOICES.  HE HAS NO ISSUE WITH THAT AS EVIDENCED BY STRONG MALE VOICED UNCHECKED BY MR. MAN). 

Well, fuck you buddy.  I turned in my chair.  Interrupted his conversation:

Me:  "Excuse me... I said EXCUSE ME"

Mr. Man and Mr. Man #2:  (turn and stare)

Me:  "Next time you need to ask someone something you should say it nicely.  I'm very angry about how you spoke to me."

Mr. Man:  "I said 'please' what more do you want?"  (Mr. Man #2 is laughing)

Me:  "You were sarcastic, patronizing, and condescending to start with... just saying please isn't enough.  I wouldn't have minded if you had asked nicely, I would have been most apologetic."

Mr. Man:  "Sorry, is that better?"

Then we stared at each other steadily for a good minute and I turned back around. I thought of MANY other things to say, but I knew it wouldn't do any good and I would end up losing my temper. 

Did I make the situation better? NO.  Will he change his way?  NO.  Do I feel better because I didn't let a high-class asshole Mr. Man speak to me like I was a wayward little girl?  Abso-fucking-lutely. 

I'm still angry.  They are still sitting right across from me.  I found a good solution for dissipating anger -- I picture Mr. Man and Mr. Man #2 as part of Rick Santorum's personal fluffer team. 


Susan said...

Good for you for turning back to talk to him! That takes so much courage, more than I usually have. Even if you didn't change him then, by speaking out, you planted a seed in the world that there are better ways to ask someone to be quieter.

I do so agree though that we are conditioned to be nice, especially in public places. It's awful. Why do I apologize when someone runs into me??? So you post made me laugh out loud when you turned back to him and talked to him again. It's sad that it even has to be done, though, isn't it?

Thanks for sharing!

Karen K. said...

What an a$$. Good for you for speaking up for yourself, and I really like your image mentioned at the end. I'll have to try and remember it the next time a jerk at the library gets angry at me for having the NERVE to ask him to turn down his headphones. A male library patron told me I was rude to him the other day because I had the audacity to tell him his headphones were too loud. I wish I could have told him what a jerk he was, but I just fumed about it and it ruined the rest of my day.