Friday, July 18, 2008

What I Should Have Said to the Old Man

"Sir, you might be too old and senile to understand what the words 'sexual harrassment' mean, but believe me, my managers know, and they have already been informed of your behavior this morning. I may not be able to keep you from eating at this restaurant, but I have the right to refuse you service, and I have no problem telling every female server here what kind of disgusting pervert you are. Pretty soon, you'll have no one to wait on you but big, strong, virile young men who have nothing but disdain and contempt for your pathetic, shriveled masculinity.

I keep rehearsing this in my head. What I should have said when he came up to say goodbye and gawk at me one last time while I was at the register ringing out another customer. I wish I'd said it, in front of the customer too, all the better, to have a witness. It doesn't make me feel all that much better to rehearse it again and again, to perfect the wording and the mocking inflection, but it helps me to articulate what exactly it was that I wanted to do to that old man: I wanted to make him feel shame.

And not exactly because he made me feel ashamed. I wasn't. What I felt was... anger, disgust, disdain, revulsion... I felt unclean, not because of my body, but because of the uninvited infection of his presumed right to it. After what he said, I immediately turned around and demanded someone else go talk to him--because I wanted a witness, I guess, a witness to his lowliness, his own degradation which he mistook for mine. I wanted him to feel caught, exposed.

I wish I were a better person, that I was above this. I don't like to see myself wishing shame and harm on another human being, not even as a way of reasserting my self-possession and power over attitudes that seek to demean me and render me sexual property. There should be another way, I should find another way.

But, on the other hand, I'm certainly not going to deny or repress feelings of anger or revulsion which are entirely natural in such a situation.

If I could have called down the Morrigan, invoked the Dark Lady of Power, sent ravens pecking at his shriveled, bad-smelling bald head... If I could have burst with awesome light and sovereignty until he felt utterly small and ugly and impotent...

I have to content myself with seeking out witnesses after the fact, rehearsing my retort in my own head, remembering that in real life I only reddened with anger and lowered my eyes.... and vowing not to let it happen again.


  1. Congratulations! I think you´re a great writter You have a new spanish reader. I liked it very much.

  2. That would have been a good response. As a guy sorry that the SOB exists. keep up the good work.

  3. Hi Ali,
    I know you haven't posted in a while, I hope you're still reading the comments... Just wanted to let you know that I've nominated you for the "I love your blog" award.