Monday, September 17, 2018

Manners Maketh The Man

            It’s a lovely Napa day, and a group of ladies are enjoying an afternoon on wine tasting. An older gentleman sits with one of them, making idol chit chat. At first it seems innocent enough; he inquires about her day, her line of work, real estate, and so on. It’s nice, and she doesn’t mind the company. But, soon enough, the conversation turns and he begins unwantedly flirting with her. She backs off some, playing coy and aloof, but he doesn’t take the hint. Suddenly the odd request; he wants to touch her hair.  And then, before she can deny his request, he reaches out and does it, anyway.
            She asks him to stop, but he keeps on touching her hair, even though she reminds him he had asked, and she was now saying no. Her friends, and the Somalia, soon come over, to see if there’s an issue. But, not wanting to make a scene, she plays it off, and speaks no more of it until she’s home, and it sets in; she was, basically, assaulted. And then she has to unpack that.
            No, this isn’t a fiction; this happened to a friend of mine just last week (Of this publication date.) while out wine tasting with her friends. By the time she made it home she had become angry with a need to hit something because of what had happened. And she could, too.
            You see, what happened above, to me, was also very real. He said his name was “Pat”; a pilot from Maine on layover. At first it was cute enough; I’m fairly secure in myself to take a compliment form another man. But then, it got… more. The compliments were more forward, and became more frequent, as he began making physical contact, which at first was nothing big – a small touch on the arm, for example – that soon became my knee, or my upper leg.
            At first I had let it go on because it didn’t seem a big deal, and – being very truthsome here – I could have easily taken him apart. It wasn’t until I had decided he had hit a line that demanded my attention that Tina made a noise, and things unfolded until I had managed him out with no more conflict but with a few choice words in a particular inflection.
            My friend, though, was in a similar boat. No, really; she was former Army before we met and there was more than one time I had sized us up and realized she could have punted me into next week, back then. Hell, she might still be able to, now. But the difference here is that, though physically able, social expectations and conventions let me prepare to kick ass, and her make a quiet no fuss escape. Something my other friend Jay nailed home with all his usual ten ton anvil subtlety.   
            Okay, there’s a lot to unpack, here. But the basic gist of this whole thing boils down to this massive shift in gender dynamics happening so fast that it can be hard catch up, learn on, or keep track; as my friend so eloquently noted in our conversation. And it’s a door swinging both ways; I couldn’t help but think things like “well, where was her boyfriend?” or “you know, if I had been there” and all the other chest thumping toxic ape-man shit that actually fuels this fire worse, and makes nothing better; and may even be part of the dirty root of the problem altogether.
            Look, this isn’t just a problem of giving a lady… or a boy… some space, guys. This is about dishing out respect. This is being mindful of others, and of our own actions and being aware that even things we hardly think of, innocuous little lines of flattery and gestures of fancy, can have a huge impact, like a punch to the gut sometimes. This is understanding that old world dynamics are just that; old. It’s time to put away our little power-man fantasies and see other people for what they are; people, who deserve our respect and can play with us on equal footing. 
 And this isn’t just a man-woman thing, no. This is a man-woman, woman-woman, man-man, they-them, and anything else we end up dreaming up as we get deeper into this century. This is the basic concept of being civil to each other, and less of a dick. (Masculine anatomy used according to current social conventions. You’re free to substitute your own reference icon here.)  
            My friend? She’s tough; part of her appeal, believe me. She’s processed and has, after a powerful social media sermon, gotten back on with things. Not that she should had ever had to even get stopped by this in the first place, mind you. So let’s see if we can all try and do a little better, okay?