Some outfits are harder to remember than others.
Sadly we all have some variation of this story to share. That strange disorienting and sickly feeling that what everyone thinks is a joke or backhanded compliment is a form of degradation. Am I over reacting? Why can’t I laugh it off? Are these guys in another situation a danger? Would it be different and would the waiter laugh if a group of women told him he had a nice package?
I think it’s about vulnerability. As a woman, I’m conscious of it in the remarks snd gestures and body language. I know I can be vulnerable. It’s impossible to explain sometimes because women live in a different world than men. The only way it gets better for our daughters is in how we communicate this to our sons.
Those stings stay with us far longer than they should, don't they. It still stings whenever I remember a comment made by my art director at the agency while I was pregnant with Grant. A bunch of us were waiting around to go into a meeting and someone asked me if I was having a boy or a girl. Without missing a beat, the guy said, "Boy or girl? She's such a whore she doesn't even know who the father is." And he laughed. I don't remember much after that, other than, suddenly being at the elevator and my boss, who was there, running after me, saying, "He didn't mean it. He was joking." In the years that have passed, I've thought of many comebacks that I SHOULD have said and didn't. I just had to get out of there as fast as I could because I was ashamed -- when the only person who should have been was him. Thinking about it now, I wish I'd punched him in the face.
So f*cking enraging.
The responsibility that you clearly felt to produce a comeback -- a face-saving, cutting, funny, faux-respectful, proud, and un-phased comeback -- in that moment is all part of the BS that the patriarchy imposes. There is NO WAY to come up with the right comeback in those situations -- it's literally impossible -- but the culture makes you feel bad about that, even decades later. Trust me: he is a scumbag and you are fantastic. That's all there is to it.
Did you tell your dad? I would clobber the guy.
I know you. I know your family. And that makes this story more painful, somehow. I wonder how many of those guys at that table, and the guy who made that outrageous comment, had daughters. Would they like their daughters to have endured that kind of comment? Would they like to see their daughter in your place? Or maybe their mother? Not even a possibility. Absolutely, no freaking way. Never. When I hear stories like this, I always wonder how these guys rationalize their behavior. In the extreme, Bill Cosby comes to mind, a father with four daughters. Four! And he RAPED women. The question is, how are some guys able to compartmentalize like that? Is there even a trace of transference? Or are they just stupid? It just boggles the mind.
Wow! Since I hope times have changed, I wonder how you would have responded today if that happened. And hopefully it wouldn’t. Unfortunately most of us have had similar situations…but not as well described as yours!
Oh, Debra...I feel this, and am so sorry this happened to you.
I wish more people would think about the impact of their words. I hope people who read this will.
I remember one day on the subway, sitting next to the door. The train pulled into the station, the doors opened and the man across from me got up, grabbed my breast and exited. Everything went silent. My mind racing to decide if I had caused the incident to happen somehow. I was left sitting there staring at all those who saw it–and laughed. Dying and crying inside. Whether sitting or standing, we are left to pick up the pieces in those stabbing moments. And unfortunately, it still happens today. Another great story Debra. So poignant and beautifully told.
Sadly, many of us have stories like this. But we don’t usually say them out loud. Good for you, Debra
we need to talk. there’s more to your stories than just posting. i’m heading home to west palm today. let’s make a date to chat.
I agree with David Cohen. You are our Nora Ephron.
I was moved by your story. At the beginning of your story when you said you liked the bankers, I winced. I've always considered these guys first class asshats and the ending of your story only confir my opinion.. You acted with dignity. You did your job well. To insult the bankers would have been unprofessional. The only thing you could have done was to make a joke, but it's very difficult to come up with a witty comeback in the moment. Let yourself off the hook, Debra.
The laughter that simply shields tears-yup. My heart is bursting every time I read your pieces and get inside your brain, your heart. And bet that denim skirt was the bomb.
honored to be on the mailing/reading list. you’re our Nora Ephron. (i hope that’s a compliment. It’s meant to be.
it only made you the strong(er) woman you grew up to be ... and to build that shield that bounces off those 'compliments'. bunch of mofos