To the men seated across from me at the wonderful Thai restaurant a couple weeks ago. I cannot get both of you off my mind. You have left an impression, unlike many others, that I just cannot resist.
When one of you said you thought that “curry” is only from India and asked the server why they have it, I thought you were just kidding. But seeing how serious you were about the inquiry, I knew you weren’t joking. Fine, perhaps you have not tried Thai food yet, and never realized there are different versions of curry from other cultures.
A few minutes into your conversation, and my enjoyment of my warm lunch, you talked about weight and BMI (body mass index). Asking each other of how much you each think the other has. Hearing your conversation, much like to your knowledge of curry, I made an excuse and just assumed you both were just health buffs.
Then you started asking each other how the women in your office are rated regarding their BMI and used some derogatory and sexist words to describe them, only then did I realize that my initial impression was on point. Right then and there, I’d wanted to confront you, but seeing how much of a disturbance I would’ve caused at other people’s expense, I had to contain myself and sit still (as society would like to put it).
I do not know either of you, and I’m not sure I would like to be acquainted either. But if the Universe, as playful as it is, sets us to meet again (I know the odds of you reading this is unlikely, but I know there are many people like you out there.), I’ll be ready with my retort:
Why? Why do you say and think the way you do about women? I hope that you will not have to hear anyone, no matter who they are, disrespect, degrade, and/or objectify your grandmother, your mother, your sister, your partner, your cousin, your niece, or anyone you value dearly, just because they are, in their eyes just “women.”
That when you do build your family, you’ll realize that men (people) like you, who feel a sense of entitlement and privilege over others, make this world a difficult and an uncomfortable place to live in for us women, and for those whom you also step on just so you could get ahead or assert your definition of your manhood.
I do not expect my imagined meeting with them most productive, nor sparking an overnight, 360-degree change in their outlook, but having a conversation with them, asking why they think they have the right and power over another, is (though rough) a very good beginning. As is with any movement, it’s not enough that we throw insults or shut one down when they speak.
Let’s listen to each other, though difficult and heart-wrenching and maddening. Let’s, for the sake of co-existence, learn to communicate. Only when we are ready, can we really make things work. While it is easier to be angry and point fingers, let’s take the high road by having the most difficult conversations in our lives.
So, to those men in the briefest encounter I’ve ever had, I might have already forgotten your faces, but I will never forget the likes of you and the ideologies you represent. And if one day, I’ll see one of your kind, then certainly I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready to continue the conversation that never was, and hope to start from there.