Something I’ve learned from watching Quantum Leap with Alyssa these days is that I love the theory of women standing up for themselves but I, personally, am not so good at it.
And that bothers me, like a lot, because I want to model strength and confidence to my girls.
A few weeks ago, the girls and I were having lunch at Arby’s. A and O were sitting at a booth with their drinks while I waited for the food to be ready. The cashier put a few things on our tray as they became available. One of those things was a cherry turnover. The older man next in line looked at the turnover and said, “I just gained five pounds just looking at that thing.”
He was friendly enough that I said, “Yeah, I just got a cavity just looking at the icing on it.”
I filled my drink and waited for the curly fries to join the turnover on the tray.
Old Dude looked at the turnover again and said, “Definitely gaining five pounds just looking at it.”
I replied, “Well, it’s for my daughter, who weighs just over fifty pounds, so I think she can handle a few extra.”
Then…THEN, he said, “Yeah, sure. It’s for your daughter.”
What I should have said was, “Yes, it’s for my daughter but I am definitely getting your implication that you think my ass is too big for me to even consider eating the turnover on my tray and since I neither asked you to look at my butt nor for your opinion on the size of it, you can go fuck yourself.”
But I didn’t say that. I Midwestern-niced my way through what was now a creepy and awkward conversation by nodding and smiling and reassuring him that yes, it was in fact for my daughter.
I was saved from further conversation by the filling of the tray and escaping to the booth A and O occupied.
Alas, I had to go back to the counter to ask for a fork so Olivia could eat the offending turnover. Old Creepy Dude was still at the counter and made ANOTHER comment about my eating the turnover.
This time, I sort of narrowed my eyes at him like I didn’t understand why he was continuing with this obnoxious line of questioning and made my way back to the table.
I mentioned his asinine comments to Alyssa and said something about being glad my back was to the jerk as I cut the turnover into bite-sized pieces for Olivia, you know, just in case I wanted to take a bite if she didn’t eat the whole thing.
But the more I thought about it, the more the entire conversation pissed me off. Old white men think they have a right to comment on things that are none of their damned business. So what if I HAD been planning to eat that turnover? It was not his concern.
Olivia ate probably two-thirds of the turnover and I unapologetically ate the rest. I didn’t even try to hide my eating of the turnover because, well, I wanted the rest of it and I’d paid for it. I don’t care that some stranger thinks my butt is too big for me to be allowed to enjoy a third of a turnover.
What do I want my girls to take from these moments? I want them to see that just because we’re women we don’t have to be concerned with what others think of us. We don’t have to always be nice when someone is being obnoxious to us. We shouldn’t have to just smile and nod when someone is overstepping the bounds of polite society. The creep who said the thing about the turnover stopped being polite when he said what he said. I didn’t have to keep up the façade of polite conversation when he’d already stopped being polite himself.
It’s the insidious little things that get us. The little things that don’t seem worth fighting, don’t seem worth making a scene over. Those are the things that make it okay for strangers to comment on someone’s choice of food or clothes or even parenting.
I may not be able to change the whole world, but I can change mine a little at a time and I hope by doing so, I’ll change Alyssa’s and Olivia’s and make it okay for them to stop smiling and taking it when creeps get creepy.