Y’all it’s been so long since I wrote something, my blog host prompted me to reset my password.
Let’s talk 2020. Bizarre is the new normal.
Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I brought Emma with me and we both wore our masks. She was a good helper, but she also snuck quite a few “extras” into the cart: a single apple, for Natalie “because she likes them.” A Jo-Jo bow. And she convinced me to buy her a bunk bed for her second-hand American Girl dolls. But that’s not the most interesting thing that happened to us yesterday.
A man accused me of being racist. At our nicer-than-average local Wal-Mart, where we never see any actual “people of Wal-Mart” and people are always friendly. Quarantine is getting to folks.
Since we are still mid-pandemic, our store has instituted quite a few policies to help everyone stay safe and maintain “social distancing,” an imaginary 6 foot bubble to protect us from one another. Apparently they started making the aisles “one way”, so when I turned the wrong way down an aisle with Emma, a woman kindly pointed out that she had just noticed the arrows herself. I thanked her, and changed my route.
A few minutes later, I heard a scream from the aisle next to mine. Emma looked scared, and I told her to stay put while I quickly peeked into the next aisle. I spotted the woman who had just helped us, alongside a man. Everything looked okay, so I shrugged and resumed shopping. But then a minute later it happened again. The woman screamed:
“Someone help me! Get AWAY from me!” as she stood at the end of the aisle looking distraught. The man stood right next to her, gripping his cart, mumbling something quietly. He appeared unmoved by the raucous.
The other shoppers were staring, wondering what happened. Then the woman screamed at the top of her lungs, a primal scream.
I looked around and saw about a dozen shoppers frozen in fear. Was I the only rational person here? Maybe because I had met the woman earlier, I felt the need to take action.
I spotted an employee. “Call security,” I pleaded.
“That got someone’s attention, thank God,” she said.
I pulled Emma close to my side and turned to the woman.
“Are you okay? What happened?”
She explained that the man wasn’t wearing a mask and had stepped too close to her and refused to back off. She was an older woman, so she had every right to be protective of her personal space. Given that age is a risk factor for complications if someone were to contract the coronavirus, and with social distancing signs everywhere in the store, it seemed reasonable to expect that a normal person would back off.
“He said ‘kiss my ass’,” she explained. This ignited the man, who replied that he had done nothing wrong and he was the one who should be upset.
“Why are you afraid of me?” he asked the woman. “Is it because of this?” and he pointed to his arm.
Because I spend so much time around teenagers, my first reaction was a snappy comeback.
Well, you could use some lotion, I thought.
Don’t say that.
“You’re standing less than 6 feet from her,” I pointed out. And he looked me square in the eye and told me to mind my own business. Oooooh.
And this is where I really held my tongue: “Why did you call security?” he asked me. “Is it because of this?” He nodded and pointed to his arm again. He was implying that I was being racist.
“That’s a pretty racist statement.” I said to him, calmly.
I’m a teacher and I’ve been accused of anything and everything you can imagine: lazy, racist, homophobic, crazy, a bitch, bipolar, the list goes on. All from parents or students who are trying to defend themselves from some kind of punishment. None of it is true, but it always stings a little bit whenever someone assumes you’re a certain way just because you’re a straight, white woman.
I didn’t know what else to say. I wanted to ask him if he would have told a man to kiss his ass if a man had asked him to back off. That’s a hard NO.
I quickly assessed the situation and decided it wasn’t worth it to try to reason with someone who had already shown his cards. Don’t add any more fuel to the hate fire.
The manager arrived quickly.
Once I realized everything was under control, I turned my back and kept shopping. Emma said she was scared, so I told her it was okay to be scared, and then explained to her why I had stepped in.
As a mom of daughters and a victim of a fairly violent assault, I have a duty to stick up for other women when I know they are being victimized. It’s never okay to try to intimidate a woman just because you’re bigger and stronger.
I feel for that man in a way, because I’m sure he was triggered by the woman’s reaction, and he probably didn’t even realize his own implicit bias. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be black and be subjected to racism. I try hard to stay woke, but I can’t speak on that experience. I can, however, speak on being female.
I know that there plenty of guys that are aware of the misogyny in our society, that mansplaining isn’t okay, that women should not have to live their lives afraid to go for a run by themselves, or to go grocery shopping during a pandemic. But that man was not aware of the fact that he was acting way out of line. That’s why I stepped in.
We want respect. It’s that simple. If a man told you to back off, you would have done it. You would not have told him to kiss your ass.
I’m not sure where I heard this phrase, so I apologize for not giving credit where credit is due. But this mantra came to me last week and it has served me well since.
Embrace. The. Chaos.
Like I said in the beginning of this post, bizarre is the new normal. I’m learning how to work full time, teach 1st grade to my spirited 6-year-old, keep my 4-year-old engaged, manage everyone’s constant snack demands, and stay sane as a person with a diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder in the midst of a global pandemic. This is crazy hard, y’all.
I’m re-reading Braving the Wilderness by Brene’ Brown. I’ve been reading more during quarantine, and it’s one of many things I’m grateful for right now. In one of the early chapters she quotes Maya Angelou’s poem Our Grandmothers. I think I’m going to make this another of my mantras.
I shall not be moved.
The full poem is here.
When you learn, teach.
When you get, give.
As for me,
I shall not be moved.