While living and working in Ottawa I had a very interesting conversation with someone who is far and away the worst co-worker I’ve ever had, and was that bad long before this opinion-cementing conversation. An ex-con and father of 6 children by 4 different women, none of whom was the woman he was currently living with and engaged to, he was inordinately proud of his decision to get drunk only with beer, not whiskey, to avoid “fulfilling Native stereotypes about whiskey”.
I gotta say, I didn’t really believe in “Native stereotypes” until I met this particular guy, and I truly believe most Aboriginals would be in no way proud to call him kin.
At 42, he couldn’t stop talking about how fun his lifestyle was and had been, how he didn’t look any older than 30 (do I, do I? Um, actually, yeah, I think so), not to mention about how much he had loved being a bouncer because it gave him an excuse to take out his tendency to aggression by smashing some heads.
My boss was the sweetest man ever who believed in giving everyone a second chance, but even this guy didn’t last past his 3 months probation.
Anyway, I was reminded of this story because I’ve been reading “A Return to Modesty” (Wendy Shalit) with all kinds of interesting information about the history of modesty (it’s long) and it’s recent and rapid demise in our culture.
Part of this demise, Shalit posits, is that men no longer have any filter when it comes to what they will say to a woman. It used to be essential that a gentleman never said anything a woman would feel improper responding to, and swearing in front of a lady (and all females were considered ladies) was just a sign of terrible character.
This very valid point reminded me of this conversation with my former co-worker, and yes, I’m using his real name because I figure, while odds are very low he will ever read this, on the off chance he does I’m ok with him knowing exactly what I thought about him. Honesty is always the best policy.
In a discussion about the fact that I was pregnant with our second baby, we were living in a tiny high-crime apartment complex, Carl was still finishing up his Masters degree, and “how would we do it”:
Lance: How do you think that’ll work?
Me: Well, obviously, once I go on maternity leave Carl will be working.
Lance (undressing me with his eyes): I don’t know why an attractive young woman like you wouldn’t consider being a stripper.
Me: WHAT?? Not really funny.
Lance: No, I’m being serious. It’s awesome money.
Me: Yeah, if I had no modesty or self-esteem, maybe.
Lance (offended): Hey, I have friends who are strippers and they have great self-esteem.
Me: Mmhmm, I bet. And husbands? Quality boyfriends? Good relationships with their parents? Sexually transmitted diseases?
Lance: They DO. I mean, some of those things. Lots of them are in school and they make so much money every weekend they hardly have to work. When I was a skeezy bartender/bouncer in a strip club I got to know lots of them. It’s not like they HAVE to sleep with guys, you wouldn’t have to sleep with guys you know. (Ok, he didn’t say skeezy, but he might as well have).
Me (dripping sarcasm): Oh, in that case, sign me up.
Lance (dense as a squash): I know right? And being pregnant you’d probably make even MORE than average.
Yikes. Will someone please come and buy some paint so I can get out of this conversation??
My apologies if you are or have been a stripper…I hear at least it’s awesome money. And your kids will have the best Halloween costumes.
But men, seriously, I don’t care if you THINK something like that about a woman, you DO NOT say it! We do still have sensibilities to offend, I like to think. Hold the door for me on the way into a restaurant, pay for my dinner, and let the only entertainment be other fully clothed individuals.
We’re more than worth it.