“Girls! Girls!” a large, middle-aged man in a bright yellow safety vest hollered at me and my new friend from across the parking lot as we walked away from my rental car.
I turned slowly around, cocked an eyebrow and didn’t begin moving in his direction until my companion did.
“Yes?” I asked with a touch of attitude as we neared him. He’d yelled out to us like we’d done something wrong.
“Where are you girls going?”
So far I liked nothing about this encounter.
I’d arrived early to the day-long Bloggy Boot Camp conference in Temecula and befriended and picked up another early blogger in my hunt for coffee.
I stared at him for a beat wondering what the hell business it was of his where we were headed. I’m not inclined to give information about my destination to people I don’t know. Why don’t you just beckon us over to a creepy windowless white van with promises of candy?
“We’re not girls, we’re women.”
I am damn near 40 years old and my fellow blogger is a mother of two. She’s raising two little human beings. Neither of us are girls.
“We’re getting breakfast,” my new friend supplied.
The man paused, mouth agape as he gave me a curious look, “Wha….girls….uh…?”
“You can call us ladies,” I answered thinly. Ladies isn’t necessarily my favorite either, but at least it implies more respect than girls.
“Ok. This café is open. They have good food,” he gestured behind him to a store front in the strip mall.
“Ah, thank you.”
We headed toward the café. I felt kind of bad for my response toward him since it seemed like he wanted to help. But, I didn’t appreciate his tone nor how he approached us; it was disrespectful. It didn’t help that the day before, on a business call, the man I was speaking with called me “sweetheart.”
Sometimes when I find myself in situations where I feel disrespected, I turn over different scenarios in my mind imagining how circumstances might change if I were someone different.
What if I were walking with a man instead of an equally diminutive Filipina woman?
What if said man were black? And larger than Mr. Bright Vest? Would he yell at us? Would he call me “girl”?
What if I had Oprah money and smelled like wealth?
What if we were two white men? What if we were two white men, the same age as me and my friend and wearing suits? Would he have called out to them? Would he have shouted, “Boys, boys!”
I posed these questions to my new friend as way of explaining my defensive behavior. She’d appeared a bit thrown by my caginess, probably wondering: what the hell happened to the kind, smiling stranger I just met 10 minutes ago?
“I think you’re right, I don’t think he would talk to men that way,” she acknowledged.
I may be small and I may look younger than my years, but neither of these characteristics justify yelling at me like you’re my father. I am glad I spoke up because had I not, I knew I would stew over it until I found a way to make it right with myself. Situations like this happen too much and I am not here for it.
A half hour later as we exited the parking lot to return to the conference, Mr. Bright Vest hailed us:
“Hi Ladies…I want to apologize for shouting at you earlier. That wasn’t right. It was rude and I shouldn’t have done that.”
Holy __! Did that just happen?
I smiled. “Thank you, I really appreciate that.”
“Have a nice day. Again, I’m sorry.”
I thanked him again and waved goodbye as I drove off.