It was your average Wednesday in April. I had just pulled in at a gas pump, gotten out of the car, and began pumping when He approached me. He was a little man, old, reminded me of my granddad. He was not physically formidable, but there was a toughness behind His hunched shoulders and sun-spotted skin. I could imagine Him in some war on some distant land or possibly in an airplane or donning one of those little Irish caps my grandfather loved so well, swapping stories of years gone by.
I had been washing my windows when I heard Him loudly exclaim that America was going down the tubes. Since I, too, share this opinion, I smiled at Him.
He took this as an invitation and shuffingly crossed the distance between my car and His. He grumbled at me about the inconsiderate behavior of some who leave their cars at the pumps when they are inside the store, purchasing their hoagies and Red Bulls. This being one of my pet peeves too, I smiled at Him again, nodding sympathetically.
“There’s signs posted,” He said. “They should move their cars off to the side so others can get at the pumps.”
“Yes,” I agreed.
“America’s going to Hell!” He exclaimed, standing quite close to me in a confidential manner.
“Yes,” I agreed again, feeling as though I could now joke with him. “If only you and I could rule the country, we’d be in a much better position.”
He looked at me, His eyes narrowing briefly.
“And let me tell ya, if Hillary becomes president…” He rolled His eyes at me and began to move away.
I, having a I ❤ Hillary bumper sticker in my window, tightened my lips (in what I have been told looks like a pair of Kardashian-esque duck lips). He took this, of all things, as an indication to keep on going.
“All I’m sayin’ is… If I ever get in the same room as that woman, I wanna ask her what brand of cigar it was.”
I looked at Him blankly, not comprehending the reference to Bill’s infidelity and truly wishing I had filled up at a different gas station.
“You don’t know what I’m talking about,” He stated. He sighed at me, clearly irritated by my incompetence. “After Bubba Bill was done…” (He lifted his eyebrows several times.) “He had a cigar.”
He turned after this, got back in His car, and drove off.
My mind tried to place the pieces into their coordinating spots. Yes, I vaguely remembered that anecdote about the whole Clinton-Lewinsky debacle, but why was it appropriate to bring it up to me? Why would He feel this was okay to say to a complete stranger? What did that have to do with Hillary becoming president? And what happened to our mutual concern about inconsiderate behavior at the gas station?
As I got into my car and drove away, I found myself searching for His car on the highway. I wanted to pass Him, cut Him off, scream at Him about how His treatment of me was not okay.
I was infuriated.
And I was tired. Oh, so tired.
Sexist behavior is not always point-out-able. I have often found myself pondering why I’m so frustrated about a situation that occurred minutes, hours, days before. Sometimes I don’t realize that I’ve been discriminated against until I relay the story to someone else or transpose the story into ink.
Other times, I know instantly.
This man had become my confidante when I agreed with Him. When I sided with Him that, yes, not removing your car from the pump was inconsiderate, I was acceptable. The minute I equated our intelligence and vocalized that He and I could be equals in charge of a country, I was the enemy.
He proved this by taking one of the most powerful women in the country (and possibly in the future, the world) and boiling her down to one fact: her husband committed adultery.
She did not commit adultery. She was not “The Other Woman.” Her husband, a man capable of making His own decisions, chose to step out on His wedding vows, and commit an affair. This affair has no correlation with her abilities to become president. His infidelity should not wipe away the fact that she was Secretary of State or a lawyer or a senator or a law professor. He did not commit an affair because of this nor does one action negate another’s history.
And yet here I am, standing next to my Honda, feeling as though one man’s actions twenty years ago have ruined the chances for a very capable, very intelligent woman from achieving a role she has the ability to handle and, possibly, succeed at.
Don’t even get me started on how this incident twenty years ago has also ruined the lives of Lewinsky and, seemingly, has not managed to mangle the male Clinton’s legacy.
It seems that there are battles on every front and all of these fronts are extremely volatile. Black vs. White. Humans vs. The Climate. Straight vs. Gay. Gender Confident vs. Gender Fluid. Religion vs. Religion. Police vs. Everyone Else. Environment vs. Consumerism. Republican vs. Democrat. America vs. Everyone Else. Him vs. her.
For those who are stricken with a sense of sympathy or, God forbid, empathy these battles are exhausting. Our fingers get so tired of pointing out all of the misunderstandings and close-mindedness that we, ourselves, forget why we started pointing in the first place.
We all seem to be operating from a place of hurt and solidarity. Some of us choose to use that hurt to hurt others, not always a conscious decision, but a choice nonetheless. Others still try to use that hurt as a tool for education as to how not to hurt others.
And most of us are just exhausted. Exhausted of having to fight. Exhausted of having to search out the perpetrator and explain to them just how wrong they are. Exhausted of having to rationalize why a man who was concerned with those who are inconsiderate were so inconsiderate themselves.
My students and I were discussing the terms actress vs. actor today. Many agreed that being called an actor seemed more appropriate than being called an actress.
“We don’t call a female doctor a doctoress. A lawyeress. Why should we call a female actor anything different?”
One of my students, a sweet kid who I respect very deeply, said, “I don’t get offended by much, so I guess it wouldn’t bother me either way. But, then again, I’m white, so I don’t have much to complain about. If I had to be reincarnated, I wouldn’t want to change.”
I know that there are good men out there. I believe the best in people, truly. I believe that all have good in them. All are capable of creation and destruction in equal measures.
But, I agree with my student: We all might sleep a lot easier at night if we all were straight, white, and male. Then we wouldn’t have to be so offended (and so exhausted) all of the time. Then we could run for president and not worry about what our husbands did or did not do. We could rest comfortably in the fact that we are Hims with a capital H and that no comment is off limits. We could just be actors, doctors, lawyers, writers, and teachers without having to be a “black actor,” “a female doctor,” or “a woman running for president who couldn’t keep her man happy.” Perhaps we wouldn’t be so tired of pointing.
Now, in all of this I could be wrong. Perhaps it wouldn’t be easier. Either way, all I want to know is: Why?