This past week, writers Eileen Cook and Mere Smith (@eileenwriter & @EvilGalProds, respectively on Twitter- go, follow, I’ll wait) wrote some remarkable posts on their blogs dealing with, in Eileen’s case, owning the term “bitch,” and in Mere’s, two that dealt with sexism. The first was about Everyday Sexism and connected to the Everyday Sexism Project while the second had to do with the equally insidious if more outrageous Fucking Egregious Sexism and her own recent experience with said FES.
Yes, you should go read them. Like, now.
As with much of both of these ladies’ writing, it stays with me for hours, if not days afterward—a) because they’re both funny as hell and I find myself giggling like a loon at the most inappropriate times (Seriously, Mere’s vagina blog nearly got me in trouble so many times, I can’t even begin to tell you.), and b) because they’re both insightful as shit and amidst the LOL humor, there are some amazing thoughts happening. So it’s probably because these posts were still rattling around in the gray matter that I even took notice of what happened today beyond, “Geez, what a douchecanoe.”
So, what happened today? I imagine you asking.
My local bookstore called (yay!) to tell me a book I’d ordered had finally arrived (yay!). Because I had a migraine and wasn’t getting bubkes done on the writing front, I decided to brave the Great Outdoors and go get my book (yay!). And because it’s a bookstore, I didn’t just go to pick up that book—no, no… I lingered, I read pages, I checked out new releases and browsed the stacks to see if there was anything absolutely calling out to me. Finally, feeling calm and filled with the peaceful goodwill that wandering a bookstore tends to engender, I made my selections and ambled my way up to the front of the store where they were holding my ordered book (oh, research books, how I adore thee… but I digress). Now, the front of my charming and surprisingly large indie bookstore has a lovely selection of tchotchkes and old-fashioned games and candies, as well as cards and journals and writing papers and the like, so again, I browsed for a few moments. Finally ready to check out, I moved into the waiting area, glanced up, and one of the two cashiers caught my eye and waved me forward.
Now this is where things got good.
As I was asking my cashier about my reserved book, a man—probably around my age, maybe a few years older—strode behind me and walked up to the neighboring cashier. I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard him say rather loudly, “Guess you didn’t see me waiting there… in line… ready to check out.”
I glanced to the side and found that he was looking right at me. Okay, look y’all, I was raised in the South (as was Mere)—I am never intentionally rude to anyone unless of course, they ask for it. I certainly don’t do cutsies in line or deliberately ignore people (unless, of course, they ask for it). Realizing I had cut in front of this gentleman, I was, of course, mortified. So, like any good Southern-bred girl, I smiled and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I honestly did not see you there.”
And proceeded to dismiss the incident, because to my mind, hey, there had been another cashier immediately available, and he was helped at essentially the same time as me. No harm, no foul, right?
As I continued to conduct my transaction, this guy kept going on—not exactly in a sotto voce tone, if you dig—
“Yeah, you know… I was standing there for a couple of minutes waiting to be helped, no one took any notice of me, I must have been invisible or something.”
My first impulse was to apologize again, but even so, it was tinged with a hint of annoyance, because polite or not, I have a strong streak of reason lurking within which was muttering, “Dude, you were helped at essentially the same time—if you didn’t get noticed, then it’s because you weren’t proactive—you were just standing there, waiting to be—oohhhhh…”
That’s when it hit me. He wasn’t irked simply because he thought I’d cut in line—he was irked because he hadn’t been noticed. He was upset because he’d felt invisible. He even said it himself. He had expected to be noticed by one of the two female cashiers who had actually both taken notice of me first. Why? Who knows. Likely, because I stepped forward, made eye contact, and smiled, making it clear I was ready to be assisted while he… hell, I don’t know what the fuck he was doing. Hand to God, I never noticed him standing there and it’s not as if the waiting area for the line is all that spacious. Clearly, neither of the cashiers noticed him either.
But he had expected to be noticed and was bothered because he’d been rendered Invisible.
Dude, cry me a fucking river. I grew up an introvert in a family of extroverts, coupled with an inherent shyness that renders me decorative wallpaper in most large groups. Plus, you know, I’m a woman who’s been involved in male-dominated activities most of my life. I know from Invisible, Sparky. I’d wager most women have experienced Invisible at least once in their lifetime, if not at least once a week.
But this guy, man… he’d been made to feel momentarily invisible and clearly, it was a foreign concept and it seriously ruffled some feathers, because even as I was coming to this realization, he was still going on… and on… and on… in that ingratiatingly pleasant tone designed to let people know he’s doing everyone a favor by being pleasant but he’s really annoyed with the situation.
So, rather than apologize again, as I’d been prepared to, I looked at him and said, “Okay, you’re bothered you weren’t noticed—we get it. You’ve received your apologies, now man up and accept them like someone who wasn’t raised in a barn.”
My cashier may have choked a bit. His cashier had the more difficult task of keeping a straight face as she stared resolutely down into the register tray. As for him?
Wait for iiiitttttt…
Oh, please—as if that was the first time I’d ever heard that. Honestly, I’d hoped for something more original. Which was the gist of my response as I calmly signed my receipt.
“Honey, if that’s the best you’ve got, it’s no wonder you aren’t noticed.”
(Drawled in my best Southern, of course.)
Look, I’m no one’s shrinking violet—I certainly don’t shy away from confrontation, yet at the same time, I don’t go out of my way to instigate it. I probably wouldn’t have given this clown another thought beyond, “Geez, what a douchecanoe,” if I hadn’t had Eileen sitting on one shoulder and Mere on the other, prodding me with their stabbity little pitchforks comprised of their brilliant words and experiences.
So Eileen, Mere, and all the rest of you gorgeous ladies I’m privileged to call friend, this one’s for you—today, I owned (as I am wont to do) my bitchness and simultaneously struck a tiny-yet-needed blow against another instance of Everyday Sexism.