Goin' Where I've Never Gone Before
This afternoon, I had what I would call a mildly disturbing encounter. I was on the way to the post office, because, as you all know, if you want the government to give back to you what is yours, you’re never done with the paperwork. I realized I didn’t have enough cash on me for a priority package, so I stopped at the ATM. When I pulled into the bank parking lot, there was no one behind me. Suddenly, as I am about to pull up to the unit, my ex pulls up behind me, and it starts. I had barely gotten my card out the window to conduct my transaction when I heard, “Are you DONE yet?” And soon thereafter, as I was pushing the buttons, the familiar whiney, “C’mmooooooooon…”
Another adult, and two children, one mine, were in the car with him.
Some might think, and the ex might say, “Oh you just can’t take a joke.” But after nearly 16 years, folks, you know, it just ain’t funny anymore.
To my knowledge, I hadn’t done anything to warrant yet another incident in which he tried to publicly embarrass me. I’m a customer at that bank, I pulled up to use the services at that bank, and was harassed by someone with whom I have a legal arrangement to share parenting responsibilities for at least the next 12 years (give me strength). And yet, I’m pretty sure we could all expect better behavior from a total stranger. It’s just such bad judgement to do things like that, even in fun, in front of children who may not be able to reinterpret that kind of “adult” behavior.
What compels people to behave this way? What on earth about it is remotely necessary? What does it teach young children about how women can and should be treated? And what about the other adult in the car – is this behavior acceptable to this person as well? Well, it’s not acceptable to me or to most people I know. And frankly, I’m really damn tired of it.
My daughter doesn’t know this yet, but she is not going to go down the path of learning and accepting that it’s ok for men to treat women this way. She is going to have the best possible opportunities -- not the acceptable opportunities -- to cultivate her intellect, gain leadership skills, excel academically and in any other area she chooses, and forge a competitive edge. Maybe that will prepare her to repel some of the bozos that will undoubtedly appear in her path.
On top of that, however, I will still have to help both of my children to unlearn bullying as a useful tool for solving problems. It’s not. It is, however, solid evidence of our society’s limited ability to cultivate humanity, even among individuals who would otherwise at least appear to have the intellectual capacity to make better choices.
If I’m a victim of anything, it’s of my own faith in humanity. Seriously. What did I do after this little exchange? I pulled over and said hello. That’s right. Well, now, you know, where I come from, it's what people do. Friendly people, anyway. Eh, maybe where he comes from that's what derision is for. Maybe it's a cultural thing I don't get. Or something.
Anyway, I took a walk in the park, had two calls – one from a good friend about a show he’d seen last night with Liz Carroll and John Doyle in Chicago – and realized that last bit, being cordial, wasn’t necessary. Nothing really would have been lost had I just driven away like normal people do. In fact, that might have been the better choice, even though it would have meant not saying hello to my little boy. If he grows up to like smart girls, he should learn what happens when you treat them badly.
Click and learn.