A few nights ago I was minding my own business in the 30% clearance aisle at Target and found the perfect Halloween costume for Peter. It was a Ghostbusters jumpsuit. Before you start singing the theme song I have to explain that the plan is to cover the Ghostbusters logo with a pocket and a nametag that says “WORKMAN” on it (any “LOST” fans out there?). I bought the costume, and thought I would surprise Peter by stopping by the bowling alley on my way home.
I know. It’s league night. What was I thinking? I was thinking he and his other LOST fan bowling buddy were going to love the costume.
Peter did love it (other LOST fan bowling buddy was not there), asked where in the world did I find it, and then we shared a quick laugh, hug and kiss.
I turned around to leave when I heard someone say, “Hey, whatcha got there? A french maid costume?”
I don’t have a lot of patience for stupid people, but I was so caught off guard. I looked around and saw a couple of large men sitting with a couple of empty-calorie beers looking rather amused, chuckling over the french maid comment. I looked around for Peter, who by then was an alley away and out of earshot.
A few snarky comments came to mind, but nothing came out of my mouth. I felt unexpectedly vulnerable and threatened. I realize now that the comment and the look on their faces reminded me of the ER doctor who examined my swollen arm almost 19 years ago.
That doctor looked at me and asked, “What did you do to make your boyfriend so angry at you?”
It was league night at the bowling alley. What was I thinking?
When I got back into the car all I could think about was these physically grown men saying something I would hope they would not want said in the way it was said to their mothers, sisters, daughters. Or, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe they wouldn’t care?
Should I have stopped a moment longer, composed myself and said something in response? What would that have accomplished? But did my silence only give permission for such stupid, offensive, demeaning behavior?
Part of me in angry with myself. I am learning that as a strong communicator, I will choose my words and tone in order to be more effective. The edge in my voice does not invite conversation if I know people perceive it to be threatening. I don’t see that as not being authentic. I see that as self-awareness & maturity.
However, ” don’t say anything if you can’t say something nice” and “do unto others” don’t always dovetail neatly into my actions because there in the bowling alley I saw my enemies and my brothers – fathers of the kids at school, neighbors, colleagues, strangers. As a parent I ask God every day for wisdom as I watch my daughter and sons grow up, hopefully, into an amazing woman and men. That takes wise words, correction, encouragement.
So where have we all gone wrong that men would say such stupid things? Stupid is as stupid does is so dissatisfying. Boys will be boys is even more dissatisfying. How can we better put stupid and offensive in its place?