Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trusting Your Instincts (Plus a Random Aside about The Real World)

Miss me?  You know you did!  Following is a blogpost about when it's time to stop being polite and start getting real (remember Heather?  I loved Heather, but I really really loved Julie.  I thought Kevin was kind of a pill, but I saw him recently on Kamau Bell's show and he's grown up adorable and with excellent politics.  Also, Andre.  Yummy. Oh, how I loved that long hair in the early 90s.  And then season two happened and I stopped watching.  Normally I really hate hating on young people, but, goddammit, Season One of the Real World was THE ONLY GOOD ONE and all reality shows of that ilk have sucked since then.  I feel strongly about this.  I'm done now.)

A couple of Halloweens ago, a thirty-something guy came to our door about 9:00ish.  Don answered the door and said, "yes?"  And the guy said, "Uh, you got any chocolate or something?"  And Don said, "Get the fuck out of here," and shut the door in his face.  I was appalled by that and scolded Don for being so rude.

Later, we realized that this guy was robbing people at gunpoint.

So, you know, point Don.

It made me think of this time, many many moons ago, when I was on a mostly empty bus and a guy sat right next to me.  I felt like it was weird, but also that it would be rude to object.  That guy exited the bus with my wallet.  I have endless stories where my fear of seeming rude has battled down my own inclination for self-preservation and I've ended up somehow taken advantage of.  Some of these stories are kind of horrible.

I think it's a woman thing.  I think women are judged more harshly for discourtesy than men. I think women are more burdened by an obligation to accommodate than men.  No one ever walks past a man and demands that he smile; there's not a woman walking the (American?) earth whom that hasn't happened to.

Or, hell,  maybe it's just me. I know I feel it too strongly and it's one of those things I aim to stop with my own daughter.

So, let's flash back to last week.  We were on the Mag Mile waiting for a bus.  I gave a couple of bucks to a homeless guy.  I'm pretty much down with giving whatever loose bills or change I have handy to homeless people because really, why not?  I do not buy into the theory that people are homeless by choice because that is a stupid thing to believe (fun fact: it is also stupid to blame not being rich yourself on people poorer than you.  Spectacularly!).

Later, on the bus and approaching our stop, a guy a few seats ahead of us said, "Ma'am!  MA'AM!  You got seventy cents?"  I think Laney probably expected me to give him a dollar.  But not this time.  This time I trusted my instincts and said, "I don't have any money."  I didn't say it apologetically.  As a matter of fact, while my words may have been "I don't have any money," my tone was a very DonBon-esque "get the fuck away from me."  And he did.

And then he sat next to a sleeping guy.  He tapped him on the shoulder, kind of hard, and said, "Hey man, you miss your stop?"  And then I watched the formerly sleeping guy hand dollar after dollar from his wallet to this guy, all because he felt encroached upon,  threatened, but worried that he might be perceived to have misapprehended the situation.  But all of us: the guy giving the dollars, the guy taking the dollars and the 3-4 people left on the bus all grokked entirely the situation.  Sleeping guy should have trusted his instincts and gone full DonBon: get the fuck away from me.

Teachable moment: I told this to Laney in so many words.  Do not feel obliged to be polite to people who get in your personal space, affect a threatening friendliness and then demand money.  Tell them to get the fuck away from you.  I told her this in so many words because some situations demand those words.

But, this is complicated, right? WWJD (Julie from the Real World, not Jesus.  Jesus would have given away all his money.  Julie had to learn to be more careful).  A distressingly large portion of Americans are arming themselves to the teeth,  terrified of anyone who doesn't fit into a tediously narrow worldview.  This is way more dangerous than getting your wallet lifted on a bus.  And Laney doesn't have a Heather to teach her how to be open without being taken advantage of.  She's going to have to count on us.  And sometimes...

A few months ago, late in the evening (say 10:00ish?) I was out front waiting for Ginger to pee (oh, you guys, the amount of time I spend waiting for Ginger to pee).  A couple of guys were walking down the street - they were late teens or early 20s (I think... I'm in my 40s now and have lost all ability to gauge - everyone under 35 looks 13 to me). They were shirtless, wearing sweatpants hanging low so I could see their boxers.  I started to feel a little nervous but then decided that I am not, by god, going to be a person scared of someone for not wearing a shirt when it's hot (although, it is tacky! I will go to my grave believing that shirtlessness outside of a swimming situation is tacky tacky tacky) and walking down the street. So I steeled myself and pretended I wasn't a little scared.  As they approached, one of them leaned down to scratch Ginger's ears and said to me, "She looks like Shiloh!"

She does look like Shiloh.  I felt like an asshole.

So here's what I'm saying: I want to teach Laney to trust her instincts, unless her instincts are being assholes.  And hopefully we're raising her in a way that her instincts are less likely to be assholes than mine.

Here's hoping anyway.