“Maybe you women should get a goddam job.”
The man’s voice, slurred around the edges from his scotch, was raised above where it needed to be to simply carry over the din of the surrounding conversations. He was getting agitated and loud. Conversations around us grew a little more hushed as people stilled to take in what was probably going to be a scene they would tell their friends about later.
He was 50ish, white, with thinning silver hair. He’s the kind of guy who has an opinion on everything and isn’t afraid to share it, even with strangers. But especially with strangers at an airport bar.
I took him to be more or less harmless at first. He sidled up with a glass already in hand to perch on an adjoining barstool as I was ordering what I figured was going to be the first of many rum and cokes during a six hour layover in Charlotte. “Well, hey there! Mind if I sit here by you?” I nodded, indicating he could sit. “Where are you headed, sweetie?” I internally cringed a little at the endearment, but I’m used to it — mostly because we were in the south. I grew up way down further south than here. I know the score.
“Headed to Memphis,” I told him around an ice cube I decided to crunch on. Classy AF, that’s me.
“You headed out, or headed home?” He seemed to settle in for conversation, and then rattled the ice in his glass as he raised it at the bartender for another round. Oh yeah. I know that move. I’ve seen my ex-father-in-law do it to my mother-in-law enough times.
I tell him I’m headed home, and he asks where I’ve been. I tell him NYC, and he asks if I was on vacation all alone. I feel like I’m not giving this man a fair shake, but the “all alone” tacked on the end of that last question sends another frisson of annoyance shooting through me that I again choose to ignore in favor of politeness. “No, I had a business meeting in Manhattan,” I share, which causes him to pause in his not-very-subtle perusal of my breasts and reassess the situation.
He asks what I do for a living, and I tell him I’m a writer. He laughingly asks if I’ve written something he would have read. I can’t contain my own humor at the thought and reply that I sincerely doubt it. Call me cynical, but something tells me this guy is not our target demographic.
“Parenting blogs. BLEH! Everyone is writing blogs these days. Always complaining about something or another. What do you think that helps? No, no. Tell me. Who do you think reads those?”
Here’s a good tip for sharing friendly conversation with strangers: When they tell you what they do for a living, it is slightly less than polite to denigrate their profession with the first words out of your mouth.
But I digress.
I sighed and signaled for another drink from the bartender. She and I were about to be spending a lot of quality time together. I could tell already.
“Well, in case that’s a real question and not just you being facetious, our audience is mainly parents, specifically moms, but also dads and other guardians, and people who spend a lot of time with children, like teachers and nannies and such. And it’s not just about complaining, although venting is a huge part of it. It’s that it’s hard to share your frustrations out loud, you know, in person, with people who think you shouldn’t be complaining. So when we share that we’ve all had troubles and worries and whatnot, it gives people a sense of camaraderie and a feeling that they’re not alone. You know all parents struggle at times with worries that they’re not making the right choices for whatever reason. It’s hard.”
The bartender nods and gives me a fist-bump. She’d already told me she was a single mom when we chatted earlier. She sets my rum and coke down on a napkin and winks before she slides away to another customer.
“I’ve got three grown boys,” he blusters at me. “I can’t say that I ever sat around and woe-is-me’d about making the right choices. I ain’t ever had time for shit like that. I work for a living. Maybe you women should get a goddam job.”
I probably should have just set my drink down and left, but god help me, my patience was gone and I was uninterested in reigning in my temper. Today was not the day, and I was not the one. I laughed in his face. I laughed so hard, I had to get my drink napkin to dab the tears at the corner of my eyes.
“Oh honey,” I manage to eek out between chuckles. Men love it when you call them “oh honey” in that syrupy sweet condescending tone. No, really. I swear they do.
“What’s so damn funny?”
“Oh, you poor thing. I can’t decide if you’re drunk, stupid, or didn’t hear… or if it even matters which one. Did you not hear me say that I was in New York for a business meeting? I HAVE a job. But even if I didn’t, raising kids is a fucking job. If you don’t think so, try to get a nanny or a babysitter to work for free. You’ve got three grown sons and you NEVER, their entire LIVES, worried about making the best choices for them? Either that’s a bald faced motherfucking lie, or I feel so sorry for your poor wife right now, I just wanna send her flowers for having to put up with your unmitigated bullshit this whole time. No. No. Really. I want to send your wife flowers. Here. Write down her address for me right here. No. No, right here. Hey, hey. Where are you going? You don’t want me to send her flowers? I can send her chocolate. Come back! Does she like wine? I can send wine!”
I called after his figure retreating out of the bar, but he couldn’t be persuaded to come back. The bartender brought me a plate of nachos I didn’t order and said they were on her. (Free nachos, hell yeah!) I chuckled as I sat there, thinking what else I could have said, and then getting mad all over again. (Shut up. You do that shit too. Don’t lie.) And then I had a few more drinks and called my husband. Partly to confirm my ride home from the airport, and partly because I wanted to talk to a man who doesn’t make me want to set my hair on fire. Sometimes you need to bump into trash to make you appreciate the treasure at home, I guess, or it takes a little rain to appreciate the sunshine, or whatever the hell those witty sayings are.
I still think about that poor man’s wife from time to time. And I would still like to send her flowers.
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