It was a rainy morning when I walked down the plaza to my job. I passed the pizza joint and the Americanized Chinese restaurant, avoided the lady coming out of the nail salon and gave a polite smile. She laughed and apologized. I told her it was my fault because I had something in my eye. We wished each other a blessed day and moved on with our lives.
At the time of this writing, I have been massively aware of the treatment of women in America. I was raised by a single mother, a woman that is quite possibly a super human in her own right. I literally cannot see a picture of Wonder Woman without thinking of my mom. She raised two strong-willed dopes into upstanding men with spines made of iron and hearts of velvet. I am protective of her in the same way that she was with me during what I call “The Awful Years.” Despite everything that happened in our household, both ill and good, I always tell her “I Love You” before running off to be a big dumb nerd. However, what I saw after the encounter above was something I never actually witnessed with my own eyes.
I was vaguely aware of the woman walking with an umbrella just beyond my peripheral. She was on the phone with someone, clearly absorbed by her conversation. I hung back just enough to not get hit with the water from her umbrella as it closed. The carts from the store were blocking off part of the sidewalk, waiting to be hand dried by the customer service clerks. In order to get in from that side of the store, you had to go through an opening wide enough for two people. The woman in front of me made her way, saying “Okay that’s fine. We’ll talk later? Sure! Bye.” The second her phone was in her purse, a random man began to regale her with how beautiful she was.
“Miss, I saw you walking across the parking lot and I just couldn’t believe how beautiful you are. I am at a loss for words, you really are stunning. I just wanted you to know that you are a beautiful woman!”
She gave a polite smile and thanked him. He rambled on a bit more as he walked into the rain with his purchase, almost in awe of the lady. The moment this guy was out of her sight, the woman’s face turned to a mix of spite and sadness. That’s when it clicked.
I am the type of person who pays a compliment when I actually mean it. If someone looks good with a shade of lipstick or wears a color that compliments them, I let them know. “Hey Steve! That’s a beard! You rock that Riker style.” “Karen! That bob looks fantastic!” These are things that I use to help keep my own darkness at bay, because giving kindness is easier for me than receiving it. This was something different though. This was straight up greasy.
Paying someone a compliment and straight-up barraging a person about their physical qualities are two different things. This woman was minding her own, walking into a grocery store on a rainy day. I work in a grocery store and most folks aren’t exactly giddy when being there during the rain. Out of nowhere, this dude just lays it on thick. There was no niceness to his compliments either. It was raw, aggressive. It was as if he was letting his gentleman’s sausage do the thinking for him. Perhaps my upbringing has caused me to be somewhat overly sensitive to this kind of thing, but then again, I had never actually seen it be done before.
I have friends that are very vocal about their views on feminism. As always, I stand behind them with my own little sign, supporting their fight. It is not that I don’t fully support them. On the contrary. It’s just that it is one thing to hear or read about it and then another to see it.
I have always viewed women as my equal because I judge people based on how they treat anyone with a name-tag and the reason why they love their favorite movie. My motives as to why I like or dislike someone has always been more of an adjective than a noun. My best friend’s girlfriend is someone that I hold with high regard because she is intelligent, warm, kind and has a wicked sense of humor. She treats my friend with care that is held up by sternness. She is a woman, yes, but that is nothing I ever judged her by. I judged her based on how she speaks to me as a person, how she treats the friend that I would die for and how many photos of her dogs she puts on Instagram. The answer to those questions are as an equal, with genuine love and as many as my heart can handle.
I understand that this was only a “one time” thing, but I do work in a grocery store. We have a high number of female associates that work in various departments. How many inane sandwich comments do the women in the deli get? How many times do our cashiers get unwanted “compliments” about their beauty? How many times do our ladies in grocery get called a bitch because we don’t have something in stock? The list goes on.
So what do I do now? Do I put on a terribly named hat and start marching in the streets? Nah, that’s not my thing. I’m a writer. I write. My sole purpose in life is to put words on a page. All I can do is burn that into my memory and wait for the right time to unleash it back unto the world as a twisted, malformed creature so I can hope that someone can unearth the message inside of it.
All I can do is learn from it so I can teach others.