The last time we left our hero (yes, me), I had accidentally been engaged in a fight with a man so feebleminded that the only comeback he could produce to my most snide comment was, “You need to go on a diet!” I suppose he was one of those men who thinks the surest way to offend a lady is to insult her weight, but little did he know that I’ve achieved my current level of pleasant plumpness by enjoying dinners at the very finest restaurants in town with my beloved. I thought about returning the insult:
“I could lose weight, but you can’t lose ugly.”
“I could lose weight, but you’ll never get back your hair.”
“I could lose weight, but you’re stuck with that tiny–” Brain. Tiny brain.
But I figured that someone who isn’t clever enough to argue without immediately attacking outward appearance–pointing out that someone is black or gay or handicapped as if that person doesn’t realize it–isn’t worth my time, and I really didn’t want to lose any more of my cool, so I just said, “That’s very adult of you.”
“Keep stuffing your fat face, lady!” he called back from four rows away. “Maybe it’ll at least keep you quiet.”
I laughed, because at that moment, I was eating a low-carb, low-fat nutrition bar. It couldn’t have been more ironic.
He continued yelling at me despite my saying nothing (“You need to shut your mouth, lady!”), and by this point the bus had stopped at the ferry terminal, so I disengaged myself by standing up and leaving. I went out the front door, and I saw peripherally that he was leaving through the side door, so I thought that was the end of it, and rattled as I was by some man picking a fight with a woman over something she didn’t even say to him, I was perfectly accepting of that fact that yes, my knickers were in a knot, but no, I hadn’t shown that to him.
And then I saw that the guy was actually coming around to the front of the bus to intercept me. He punched my forearm to make sure he had my attention, took a few steps back from me, and said again, “You need to shut up, lady.” As much as I appreciated that he kept referring to me as “lady” and not some of the other colorful words I’ve heard women referred to with, it was too much for me that he just couldn’t let it go and also that he had TOUCHED ME.
Up from my stomach burbled this black muck of outrage and I screamed at him–I mean, really screamed at him–a phrase that I can’t write here. He started to speak again, so I took a step toward him and said, “NO,” and then that phrase again. I don’t know if he realized then that he wasn’t messing with some wilting flower or if he saw in the light of day how innocent-looking I am, but he turned and started walking toward the ferry station without another word. Immediately, women from the bus surrounded me and began saying, “Don’t worry about him,” and “Don’t take it personally,” and “He was having a bad day,” and “He’s not worth it.” And they were right. I was going to the job that I love and then home to the man who loves me, while he was probably going to home to Staten Island to hang out in the landfill and abuse some more women.
But I had still cursed at him in front of these women, and I had still gotten myself somehow involved in a brawl the very day after I resolved to be a better role model, and I’m not sure I would’ve left with any less dignity if I had just let him yell at me without saying anything back. But I’m not sure I would’ve left with any more, either. And you can bet I’m trying to remember the name and phone number he gave to the person at the battery place over the phone. You know, just in case.
– Katie Ett, unapologeticallymundane.com