As a black, “fam,” quasi-gender-bending Women’s Studies major, I’ve always prided myself on having a perspective that is difficult to challenge. And to be honest, I’ve felt quite privileged about this self-proclaimed multi-conscious, woke, heightened, even “elevated” POV.
But every now and again someone checks me, lifting the veil to expose the selfish naivete of an only child who’s yet to learn anything productive in the world at all. That’s not a great feeling when you just turned 32, as I did.
I was sitting at the bar catching up with a friend about the happenings of the night before while fawning over a beautiful patron who had blessed me with a solo performance of “Happy Birthday” as I paid my tab.
“Oh really?! Was she attractive?” Embarrassingly, I admit that being “one of the guys” I’ve grown quite comfortable with this line of questioning and conversation. Without hesitation, I responded with, “She’s pretty, but she’s not your type. She’s bigger, meaning taller than you.”
Height sensitivities, what do you do?
Next thing you know, I’m doing the thing I didn’t want to do in the first place — showing him her picture on Instagram. Sighs. I know, already cringe, but it gets worse.
“You’re right,” my friend said as he swung his leg off his barstool, signaling his exit and satisfaction that his interest in said siren had been quelled. As soon as the door closed behind him, I heard a combo of a sigh and scoff of disgust seemingly meant for me to my left. I turned to meet a glare that could actually shoot daggers staring a hole through me.
Unbeknownst to me, the eavesdropper had heard our entire exchange and needless to say, she was not impressed.
“What do you consider pretty? Since you’re clearly the expert,” she interrogated through pursed lips. I sighed. There were two paths I could outline for escape as I swallowed another sip of my seltzer.
One, I could kindly tell her to mind her business, that it was an A-B conversation, and she could C her way out, along with a series of extremely colorful expletives. Or I could acknowledge her perspective and have a come-to-Jesus moment in spite of her presentation and both of our levels of inebriation.
Being that I’d just celebrated another year around the sun, I took the “mature” route, and through my own, tightly pursed lips replied, “I think you misconstrued what I was saying. I never said she wasn’t pretty. But I can understand your point, women shouldn’t be categorizing other women and certainly not to the benefit of a man. I only wish you’d expressed as much fervor over…”
“Because that’s very toxic behavior,” she interrupted while rolling her eyes, leaning her head back to get her hair off her shoulders in order to take another swig of her drink unaware that she was dribbling on her shirt.
I returned her hundred-yard stare, boring a hole through her while she sipped. I was quite pissed at this point because, one, she’d interrupted, and two, she didn’t want to budge on this conversation — not even a little bit.
To add to that, I’d just been accused of ripping a page from Mean Girls supervillain Regina George’s Burn Book. I’m no mean girl, and now the one person I’m trying to “convince” of that fact has made up her mind, checked out, and didn’t even want to give me a chance to finish. Blood boils, it does.
Resigned, I found solace in the fact that if I had finished, I would have exposed her hypocrisy because the fervor I was hoping for her to have was nowhere to be found when a man shouted over everyone to catcall myself and the bartender belligerently and frequently. Butthurt, but refusing to argue, I simply moved to the other end of the bar to continue chewing on the conversation.
At the end of every night out, I do my best to reflect on the highs and lows. What did we learn from this misstep?
Minding one’s business remains a pinnacle of practice. But see something, say something still holds uncomfortable space as we cannot control others.
And most importantly, everything that we say, drunk or not — maybe even, especially while drunk — has the potential to offend others (even if they don’t always remember it).
I may not have liked her interpretation of a private convo in a public setting, but she wasn’t completely wrong.
However, it served as a personal reminder that I’m still a work in progress, even while living in and identifying with the “margins” can still be challenged, and no, I don’t have it all figured out. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up being besties.
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