I am fairly certain that something strange occurred today. Strange to me but altogether too “common” for other women. It’s only June, and I am deeply afraid that some brains have already been fried. Today, as I was helping a customer, he asked me two questions that had nothing to do with concrete, drywall, insulation, or paint. All things that are not in my wheelhouse but come with the oddities of a summer job.
I work enough to recognize “regulars”, and I even know a few of them on a casual acquaintance level. Most regular customers know that I am a teacher and some of them know what I teach and where. Often, those people will ask me how my semesters went and what I am teaching next.
Those are excellent questions.
Other people will ask me about the town, the weather, or DIY related questions to which I have no answers.
Those are still excellent questions.
“So, Melissa, you’re married?” The man asked, noting my name displayed on my work attire. I was ringing up carriage bolts and pretty impressed with myself for knowing what they were and how much they were before keying anything into the computer.
Was this guy serious? My wedding ring glimmers like my own personal lighthouse.
“Yes, I am married.”
“How’s that working for ya?”
I looked at him with a mixture of annoyance and disbelief.
I shook my head a little, indicating a non-verbal why do you ask but I replied, “very well thank you.”
What was this guy on?
“Yes.” No more. No less. He didn’t need to know that I did not birth them, but I did adopt them. He also didn’t need to know that they’re feline and canine.
“Your total is $471.08.”
Nosy Ned paid and left. Leaving me to help the next set of folks that just wanted to pay and get the hell out.
Why did that man want to know such details about my life? Is it because I’m “young” and “cute”? I don’t particularly “look” my age, but my petal pushers and blush colored blouse did not give any indication of “hit on me” or “I’m so hot.” They are appropriate for work. They are comfortable.
The partner I have during most of the day leaves an hour and a half before I do on most days. Was he nosy because I was alone in my department? Would he have done that to her? Has he?
I’d never seen the man before this afternoon.
On some level, I’m “used” to being grilled by women. Do I have children? Am I married? Why not? No to one and yes to another? What am I (never we, only I ) waiting for (as if my husband has no say in the matter)?
It’s rude from women.
It’s dangerous from men.
I know how to react to women. Option one: if I like the woman. Politely tell her yes and no. No more, no less. Option two: used most frequently because I am excellent with words, the kind of response that is both creative and indicates “shut up” exceedingly well.
But where? When? Why? What made this guy want the details of my life? My marriage? Better yet my womb!
Why did he think that was okay? Where did he learn that it was?
I can hear the “just being nice” or “making conversation/being friendly/personable” argument, and I thumb my nose to it.
I can hear the “who cares, they’re simple questions.”
If I had felt free enough, I’d ask him if he was suffering from a physical condition or if he had to learn how to wear an asshat?
But the outright feeling that he found himself entitled to personal knowledge about my life was appalling! It is appalling.
Me. A woman that he knew for less than five minutes from the beginning of our transaction to the time he left.
What I should have said is this:
“As I am wearing a wedding ring, you may assume that I am married. However, this being the United States of America, and 2016, you don’t know if my spouse is male or female. And I am under no obligation to disclose that information. Children? You’re also assuming that I want them. You’re also making assumptions about my hard earned right to choose. Assumptions about my medical records, my biochemistry, and my socio-economic status. And again, I am under no obligation to disclose that information. Now, please, your total is $471.08.”
And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface regarding the assumptions the man made about me today.
And if ever asked, the man would probably think that he didn’t do anything wrong.
Reading, watching, and listening to the news, I know this happens. And while this behavior is often looked at as “being nice”, where does one, should one, draw the line?
When does Nosy Ned go too far?
Behind a dumpster in California?
I bet that man was once “nice” too.
But privilege and entitlement can take on dangerous faces. Even behind “simple questions”.