No Thank You

An empty office chair. The chair is red and it's in a rustic room.

The conference room was crowded. Again. It was always crowded. In addition to having too many meetings, there was frequently too many people in any given meeting. And, to add insult to injury, there were definitely too few conference rooms of substance.

There was enough room around the table for maybe fourteen people. There were an additional eleven or twelve chairs lining two of the walls.

The way conference rooms usually work had senior folks taking the seats at the table and the junior staff hanging out along the edges. Usually is not the norm in this room, though. Many interns and junior staffers read articles telling them it’s important to take their seats at the table. So although they had no substantive role in the meeting–not responsible for any action items, no speaking role and without relevant questions to ask or answer–the table was half-filled with the mute.

This day was like the rest. Musical chairs. Too many bodies for too few chairs.

A young woman walked into the room and stood along the edge. There were three other people posted up along the walls. The meeting was still convening.

One guy who was seated looked up at the late entering woman. “Here, sit here.”

“I’m okay.”

“No, really sit here.”

“I’m good.”

“No. Sit here,” he stood up his full six-foot three-inches.

“Seriously. I can stand. No problem.”

“No, I insist. I cannot accept you not taking this seat.”

He offered because that was what gentlemen do. He was brought up to respect women. To give up his seat. To open doors. To pay for dinner. That was what he was trained to do.

Somehow, though, she, and what she wanted was not part of his training. So it became not about her, and her sitting, but about him and him giving up his seat. And he demanded that she accept his offer of generosity.

I stepped in and said with a smile, “The lady said, ‘No,’ if we heard her correctly.”

He persevered on our young colleague. “I won’t feel right if you don’t take this chair.”

“It’s not about you,” I offered. “No means no.”

He looked at me with a flash of ire that immediately fell away. He meant no harm. He was doing what he was supposed to do. Except he was focused on his own will and his own need, not that of the object of his chivalry. He didn’t know what to do when his offer was not accepted. He had a role. She was stopping him. He had to reset, and he did.

She looked at me with a sense of relief. She didn’t want to fight over not sitting in the chair but felt pressured by him. She stood along the wall, as did a few others, for the duration of the meeting.

Here’s a new rule to add to one’s chivalry equation. When someone says “No thank you,” the correct response is, “Okay.”

Bottom line, if you are forcing your own desire or rules for someone’s benefit who does not share your perception of what they need, back off. Accept their choice. That’s the right thing to do.

Use the Right Words

Synonyms for LEWD. Like Naughty, suggestive, improper, in bad taste, indelicate, questionable, rakish, risque, unchaste, wanton. None are words of violence.

CAUTION: LEWD LANGUAGE TO FOLLOW

Yeah. Fucking STRONG language. Angry language. Because LANGUAGE MATTERS.

WORDS MATTER.

Like, what the fuck, Washington Post and others? Somebody says that he uses his celebrity to sexually assault women and you are stuck on the word P-U-S-S-Y?

Let me do this for you. Pussy. Pussy. Pussy. Did that make you squirm? Well that’s not the fucking point.

Using the word “lewd” (and sometimes “vulgar”) seems like something might make grandma uncomfortable. Synonyms for lewd are words like racy, naughty, coarse, lascivious.

Do any of those words conjure up an image of violation? Of violence? Of pain? Of cruelty? Of savagery? Of unwanted physical contact?

And YOU, editors and reporters, YOU who are leading with the word “lewd” are normalizing violence against women. As is the fucking standard script in rape culture. Can you tell I’ve had it with your shit?

I guess you have never had your breast grabbed as you walked down a dark hallway at a dorm party. Or had a strange man rub his dick against your ass on a crowded train. Or had someone put his unwanted hand on your crotch. Or someone kiss you full on the lips when you offered your cheek. You dad reporters out there, think about someone being “lewd,” as you refer to it, to your child.

Stop pussy-footing around. Words matter. Get this the fuck right!

Walking Without a Net

Sunset in Brookland. At the intersection between work and home.

It’s the end of a long week, meaning, in part, that it’s the weekend. The last steps to home are in front of me.

I texted The Big Guy to see if he wanted some special pizza for dinner. Not like the stuff the guy in the beat up Nissan compact brings to the door. I like that it is brought to the door, but I like much less the similarities between the cardboard box-container and the crust. He replied and special pizza it was to be.

I left the station and walked the block around the old Brooks mansion. You used to be able to criss-cross the lawn to reach the corner, but now there’s an iron fence with pointy metal pickets to direct foot traffic to the sidewalks. Better for the lawn, I guess.

It’s a little late so the remnants of rush hour traffic are gone. The sun was sinking low and red on the other side of the bridge, and I see a lone car making its way over the hill and coasting toward me. There are no cars on the other side. A quiet night.

I slowly stepped into the street, the same street where I jaywalked the cop. I was, again, walking against the light. The approaching car was getting close to the intersection and then came to a dead stop two car lengths before the crosswalk.

Oh, jeez. I was three short strides into the road and, if the car kept at his reasonable pace, he would be past me, through the light and onto the next block before I was near his side of the road. I was not intending to interrupt his progress. Not at all. I was just trying to make the most out of my time, and the timing of my pedestrian commute.

I looked at his tags. The blue and yellow bands framing the white background and the blue raised letters. Pennsylvania. Not likely Philly. Nope. Rural or suburban Pennsylvania where pedestrians drive. He had no concept for the give and take of an urban parlay between vehicle and walker. He didn’t know that I knew where he was and that I was timing my crossing. He didn’t know the choreography, or even that it was choreographed.

I felt bad because he stopped his car. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I scurried past him and alighted on the curb on the other side. He waited for me to be on the sidewalk before he shuttled down the road. I was annoyed that he refused my curtsey and disregarded the dance, but he wasn’t part of the corps de ballet. That’s a hard part of living in D.C., the audience that enters the stage.

But at least we were going to have pizza. Except they ran out of crust.