shame on you!
There was traffic going both ways as I waited to turn left out of Riley’s office complex the other day. While I inched forward looking for a chance to go, a women in a beige SUV pulled up behind me. She was applying mascara and craning her neck around trying to see what the hold up was. (The cars streaming past us in either direction should have been a clue.) After about a minute of waiting, she began honking and waving her hands in the air at me while shaking her head. Her mouth was stuck in some sort of extended and angry OOOOOHHHHHH. It was like I was being chastised by a very blonde anime character. Another thirty seconds and then a hole in the traffic finally opened up. I drove away and let her wait her turn.
It had been a hard morning for me. The kids had cried on and off for hours, I couldn’t find my wallet and I was on my way to my parent’s house to pack it all up before my mom moves this next month. The woman in the car didn’t know I was already close to tears, that I couldn’t find my breath, that I was on my way to pack up my dead dad’s room and books. She just knew she had waited 20 seconds longer than she thought should have.
I wished I had stepped out of my car and asked her to interact with the world with more kindness and understanding. I deserve that much. We all do. And I was angry at myself for the rest of the thirty mile drive for not doing at least that much for myself and others.
Last night, I met my sisters at Chuck-a-Rama, a local buffet place that serves turkey dressing all year long, neon orange chicken some of the time and prides itself on it’s 64 drink choices. We, despite all of our better sense, love it. The kids can get macaroni and cheese WITH their pizza and fries? Immediately? And the bread pudding doesn’t have raisins? Where do I freaking sign up?
After a week of deciding what would fit into my mom’s much smaller new house, what needed to be thrown away and what of my dad’s deserved saving, we were all emotionally and physically exhausted. We’d gone to that all you can eat mecca to find respite in the mountains of mashed potatoes and noisy dining room. The kids sat next to us, ate all their food and then started playing Moon Landing. Moon Landing is one of those childhood games that make no sense. It involved them sitting in their seats, climbing onto each other’s laps while laughing and saying in normal, non-yelling, speaking voices, “3-2-1 blast off!”. I don’t really get the rules, but the kids do and it was keeping them busy.
I am not about to pretend that this is behavior I would let happen in a setting different from the one we were in. But the dining area was so loud I could hardly hear across the table, there were people eating gravy on top of their mac and cheese and the server had just told us how cute the kids were. Basically, it just wasn’t a big deal.
Until it was.
A woman the booth over got up, walked over, told the kids to be quiet and then turned to us. Riley was in the restroom at the time and she only looked at the mothers present while she talked, her eyes staying away from the one man left at the table.
“You ought to be ashamed. I raised five boys and they never played in restaurants. These children should be sitting forward and quiet. And you!”, pointing to my one sister and her 8 month old baby, “Look at the floor around that child! Filled with crumbs! You ought to be ashamed! My kids never got crumbs on the floors at restaurants. I cannot believe you. This is disgusting. You should all be ashamed.”
I have to admit I was on the verge of being indignant until she use the word “ashamed” 562 times. And then when she yelled about the baby getting some cracker crumbs on the floor, I started laughing. Because that was just silly.
A few more words from both sides and then she went to sit down, all red faced and prim lipped.
I thought of the angry woman in the car and all the things I wished I had said to her. Then I took a deep breath and walked up to the angry woman in the booth.
“Hey, you know, I can see that the kids are being more rambunctious than you might approve of in your own family. However, they are sitting in the booth, they aren’t yelling and their laughter is quieter than the discussion about the World Cup happening three booths over. If you are bothered by something, a simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are the best way to go about getting your point across. People are much more receptive to sweetly spoken needs than self-righteous proclamations of shame and judgment. Also, I think you should take a moment to reflect on the fact that you never know the story of the people you judge. Our dad just died and we’ve just spent the last week packing up my parent’s house before the bank forecloses on it. We are tired and sad and this ridiculous buffet is the first breath of fresh air we’ve had in awhile. Your words have hurt people that are already hurting. I cannot for the life of me see how the laughter of three children justifies that cost. ”
She started to shake her finger at me and I put my hand up,
“No, you’ve said enough. Have a better Sunday.”
And then I walked away.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that both incidents happened between women. I’ve never met a man that was as ready to judge, instruct or reprimand as a woman who is sure she is right. Maybe men are more tolerant creatures, or maybe they are just too busy thinking about boobs and cars to give a damn. Either way, give me a distracted man over a crusading woman any day of the week.
A few thoughts for the two ladies that shared their indignation with me over the last few days: You do not have the right to not be inconvenienced. Your schedule is not the mechanism that moves the world or the actions of the inhabitants thereof. Children should not run wild, but when you are eating at a place that serves food out of troughs you cannot expect to dine in the atmosphere of a library. A car is not a place where your obligation to act humanely disappears. If the people around you are not being unsafe or untoward than you just keep on trucking along. I can see you in there, with your sneer and mouthed yells and let me tell you, it is not a pretty sight. Would you yell and flail your hands and OOOOOOHHHHH your mouth if you thought the person in front of you at the redbox line was taking too long? No. Because that would be psychotic.
Hey, girl. You look psychotic.
You do not know better and you do not do better. You know who else doesn’t? Me. I am barely making it through most days right now...and those are the good ones. Don’t even get me started on the bad ones.
So I am going to take a deep breath, shake the anger out of my heart and give you both the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you are having a hard time, too. Maybe you have sorrow that has been channeled incorrectly and turned you into a rage zombie. Maybe you just wish someone would hear your voice and it doesn’t matter one whit how, why or who you use it for or against. Maybe you just really, really need a hug.
I am going to decide to see you as you truly are - my sisters, women who have the same purpose and value as me. I am going to give myself permission to speak up with a gentle heart every time someone like you crosses a line. Having empathy for you doesn’t mean putting up with the bitterness you want to drop at my feet. And finally, I am going to work like hell to make sure I am the kind of woman that assumes the best of every woman that accidentally vexes me as she crosses my path. Because there is nothing - errands, opinions, schedule or convictions about parenthood, marriage or morality - that is more important than her understanding that she is loved.
Hey, you are loved, too.
Now, let’s start fresh, shall we?