Tuesday, June 14, 2005


So, there's a point in any friendship when one person looks across the table at the other person at Shoney's and thinks, "I will stab you with this butter knife and not regret it if you don't shut the fuck up." Apparently, that moment for me was last night. The Professor about killed me. We were lost in Tupelo, which you'd think would be hard to do, but we were spiraling south when we wanted to be going north and finally were just like, fuck it, let's stop and eat. Shoney's it was. We brought in the map and were trying to figure out if we could actually get from Tupelo to Nashville or if it would just be easier to settle in Tupelo--maybe get jobs with the Natchez Trace Park Police--and harassing our waiter, when over came the assistant manager. Sixteen years, folks. Sixteen years he's been with Shoney's. Only now does he get three weeks' vacation. So he has no teeth, so he thinks that we should just drive to Memphis--being sure to avoid rush hour--and then back to Nashville, which he thinks will just take us a couple of hours. Sure he's telling us now, for some reason discernible only to him, about some email he got about great white fishing. I just felt compelled to keep talking to him. Now, I realize that many of you are unfamiliar with the geography of both Tennessee and Mississippi, so let me explain it to you. Let's say that your couch is Tennessee. Lay down perpendicular to your couch in front of the right cushion. You are Mississippi. The river runs right down your right side and your right foot is practically touching New Orleans. Clarksdale is on your right shoulder and Greenwood is in just a little from your right nipple. If you look to your left and eye a shoe very close to your head, that shoe is Tupelo. Memphis is in the far right front corner of your couch. If you tried to scratch an itch in Clarksdale, you'd probably hit Memphis with your elbow. Nashville is in the upper middle part of your middle cushion. You can see how it seems like you ought to be able to just reach up north east from Tupelo to get there pretty directly. Now, you can't, but no matter what route you might actually have to take--over the top of the dog who is standing in for North Alabama or between your couch cushions and up 45 until you hit I-40 or however--you can see that the most nonsensical way would be to drive back over your chest and up to Memphis and then clear back the other way. But this is the route the assistant manager suggested. The Professor looked at him like "Of course not. Please go away." And then, when I kept talking to him, she gave me the look that said, "I'm going to kill you dead and not be sorry about it." But here's the deal. I am endlessly fascinated by this type of male behavior. It just flabbergasts me. Now, let's be clear. I'm not talking about all men, so don't bother to send me huffy emails. I'm talking about a specific type of man, the type that thinks that you cannot possibly get by without him being the center, however momentarily, of your universe if the opportunity should arise. Here we are, two women with a map, still laughing and having a good time and not in any obvious distress, plotting the route we're going to take home. What is it about that situation that would lead a man to come over, take the map, and start pulling crappy directions out of his ass? Clearly, this guy had no fucking clue where Nashville was--period--and especially not in relation to Tupelo. I mean, he had to be aware that he knew almost nothing about the geography of the mid-South. He should have been aware that we said we were going back home to Nashville, so that we probably did. And still, he came over and commandeered our map and gave us the most ludicrous directions as if we were so silly for not knowing how to get home. Seriously, for a second, I was thinking that it was a joke. Who would drive an hour and a half west to drive three and a half hours east? Who would suggest that to others? *** Once, my favorite professor and I were in a restaurant in Bloomington, having drinks in the bar. And, when we get together, every couple of years, we have these long, intense conversations about the state of the universe and how to fix it. So, here we are, two women engrossed in each other's conversation, and this guy at the bar keeps trying to butt in. But it's not like we're talking about sports or music or something--we're talking about the best way to churn out good critical young feminist thinkers--and he's butting into the conversation with, "Hey, did you see that hit?" and motioning to baseball game on TV. At first we were like, "yeah, yeah, whatever, now how do we make sure that women know the importance of positive body image?" and just ignoring him. But he was really insistent, not only on butting into our conversation, which would have been rude and strange enough, but on changing our conversation--which he wasn't even a part of--to something more interesting to him. Finally, my professor was like "Excuse me, we're having a conversation here and you are not a part of it. Please leave us alone." To which he responded (sing along at home, you all know the words): "Bitch." *** When shit like that happens, it just leaves me dumbfounded. What is it about seeing two women together that leads these guys to think to themselves, "Wow, these ladies need my input."? Do they really think that two women must have a man around to direct the conversation? I mean, are two women laughing and talking to each other so threatening to these guys' sense of the social order that they cannot help but try to right the universe by butting in? I think, often, when women complain about unwanted attention from men, most non-asshole guys think that we mean that we've gotten all gussied up for an evening out and are upset that men we don't find attractive are responding in ways we'd rather they not to our decorative efforts and blocking, say, The Rock from coming over and buying us a drink. But, Dear Y-Chromosomed Americans, this, THIS, is what we mean: that when we're out having a drink and catching up on old times or when we've been in a car for 12 hours and have Milky Way bits stuck to our asses and we're sunburnt and tired and just want to eat some dinner and get home, that when we're clearly not trying to be open to making new friends, some of you refuse to believe that could ever be the case. You cannot believe that two women out by themselves don't need a man to get things back on track. Couple that annoying--and sometimes scary--assumption that you have the right to be overly-familiar with total strangers, with the assumption that you, dear assistant manager at Shoney's, knows more about geography than the people with the map, and I have a recipe for unending amusement. How long will it go on? How far can he take this? What crazy, over personal story will he tell us next? He said he has the internet and got lots of emails. Maybe I should have encouraged him to start blogging. You know, find his audience in a more effective manner than one table of tired women at a time.


Blogger Yankee T said...

OK, first of all, your description of the local geography by living room furniture is one of the funniest things I have ever read!
And on the guy-at-the-bar issue: I was in a bar with 3 female friends one night, having a great conversation about our respective European travels. These 2 guys walk over, step between the 2 of us in the middle, and one of them says, "What are you nice ladies doing here ALL ALONE???"
All ALONE? What the hell does that mean? We were in a bigger group than they were! Sheesh!
And...if you and the professor ever wander to Memphis on your travels, a cold bloggy beer awaits y'all.

6/14/2005 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can tell by your tone....

you want me.


6/14/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Jon, that goes without saying. Obviously, my post applies to everyone but you.

YT, I don't know if I'll ever get the Professor back in the car with me, but, if I do, we'll take you up on that cold beer.

6/14/2005 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Twyla said...

Although it seems like these men are led by the dick or by a need to dominate, I have another theory. I think they see two women relating, laughing, CONNECTING...and this need they don't understand springs up.

There is a longing for connection in each of us, but men sometimes don't recognize it or know what to do with it. Hence, the unwelcome butting in. The swaggering is to cover up the vulnerability, I think.

It's a thought, anyway.

6/14/2005 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I think it's both, Twyla, that they see people connecting and want to be a part of it, but also assume that, since the people connecting are "just" women and they are men, it's okay for them--no more than that, that it's their right to butt in if they want to.

They are the ones with the needs and we are the ones who fulfill the needs.

I think a person--male or female--might have very good reasons for opening herself up to strangers who so desperately, obviously, need to be heard (for whatever reason). But I also think that there's good reason to interrogate whether one gender is considered the default need-satisfier.

These guys, as far as I know, don't go up to tables in restaurants where two guys who are strangers to them are talking and try to change the conversation to suit what they'd rather hear about.

And it's not my responsibility to be a compassionate audience to these guys to whom I have no obligations.

I mean, I see what you're saying, that these guys are damaged by a social system that they've been led to believe affords them only priviledge and I think you're absolutely right.

I just don't feel any obligation to them to meet their needs, just because they need them met.

6/14/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

I'm game for another roadtrip - eventually. But if we stop for a cold beer in Memphis, that means we might not even make it all the way to Clarksville before we have to stop heading further away from home on slow roads with traffic lights, tractors, and speed limits that depend on weather.

6/14/2005 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Peggasus said...

Yes! YES! YES!

I have experienced this as well!
(Read about our experiences here: "http://peggasus.blogspot.com/2004/10/trendy-perhaps-its-because-girls-and-i.html")

We do this every year. Happens all the time. And I'm OLD.

6/14/2005 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Wow, Peg, your experience may take the cake. That's pretty outragious (and a little funny).

6/15/2005 09:39:00 AM  

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