happy new year
I watched a lot of movies and television shows this past holiday season and I warn you (and apologize) in advance for all the entertainment references.
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
(I’ve always wanted to use that in a post!)
As you may have noticed, this post is not entirely in its usual format. This is because it is an Important Post regarding an issue near and dear to my heart (which may also be near and dear to your heart — whether you know it or not).
I will not be bleeping out the profanity with the lovely “#” sign as I normally do (not like it really censors anything — it’s about as effective as a Saran-wrap bikini).
Put on your mittens my kittens, and let’s go.
I had a good holiday with the family up in the North where Winter Is Always Coming. Food, presents, and laziness allowed me to recharge my batteries from an exceptionally draining year. But, I fucking hated the perpetual chill (and rain). Pilgrimage made, I returned to the warm South I am accustomed to — and promptly caught a severe cold.
I lives it.
I stayed in bed for a few days until the worst of it had done its work. The day my sore throat went away and my runny nose slowed to mosey was New Year’s Eve. What luck, I thought to myself, what absolutely great luck! I got better just in time to wreck my health again on the biggest party night of the year. Truly, the Universe was watching over me.
As expected, I went overboard with my newfound hale heartiness and did ALL THE THINGS! I cleaned house, did laundry, reorganized one (yes, just the one — but it was the biggest) of the many monstrous Piles of Crap on my desk, went out and did the movie and early dinner thing, then off to a nap, and finally out to drink with da homies, because New Year’s Eve. I woke from the nap rarin’ to go and put on Prestigious Pool Tournament Clothes, a.k.a., Going Out Wear. Did as much hair and makeup as my laziness would allow (it was sufficient), then put on my boots that were made for walkin’.
And then, I realized I was tired as all hell.
I cancelled on going out.
As I was taking off my spiffy boots, I saw my cue case and remembered I had not played pool in what seemed like an eternity. HMM. The boots went back on, I put on my usual boring-ass black zip-up jacket (yes, I have a million of these), tossed my parka (sadly, only have one of these) over all that, distracted the cat with an extra ration of treats, and headed for the pool hall. YESH!
The pool room was not busy, but it was not empty, either. When I walked through the door, I knew that THIS was where I wanted to be on the last day of the old year and the first day of the new year. I likely played the least amount of pool in 2012 out of all the years I have been playing and I missed playing and competing with a fierceness few would understand.
I got my favorite table and threw out the balls. Before I started to play, I took a quick picture to remember this lovely evening (enhanced via Instagram):
The bouncer came over and asked if I was going out later and I said I had actually cancelled my going-out plans to play pool instead. He asked why and I said, “I’m too old for that shit. I think I drank enough in my twenties to last a lifetime. I came here to stay out of trouble.”
He laughed and said, “Well, everyone can do everything when they’re twenty, right? They’re invincible!”
You know it.
We talked a little more before he left to watch the door. I fixed myself a cup of my favorite tea. I returned to the table, surveyed the layout, and cracked my knuckles (bad habit, yeah, yeah) in anticipation. I thought, this must be what the great concert pianists must feel like right before they play for a brilliant audience. Well, the pianists certainly play at a level FAR above my equivalent in pool but, luckily, my audience was just one person — me.
I did no drills. I just threw out the balls and tried to run out (haha, “tried”). This was my luxury, my treat to myself. Normally, I would be drilling drilling drilling because a player like me, without talent, must overcome that shortcoming by relentless maintenance of what little skill I have achieved primarily through drills. But, tonight was a holiday so I just whacked balls around the table with abandon and played not to improve, but for fun.
In the midst of one of the racks, I noticed a pair of shoes approach my table. I looked up and saw a ginger-bearded young man, likely of the hipster variety. I stopped playing and looked at him warily.
“Are you… just… practicing?”
“Yes… I am… just practicing.”
We stared at each other across the table for a brief moment. I did not recognize him as a regular, but then again, I had only been coming in sporadically as of late. He seemed a little “off”, but I chalked it up to strange surroundings (for him).
“Oh. Okay.” GingerBeardMan trundled off towards the bar and I relaxed. I turned my attention back to the table.
Later on, I went to refill my tea and saw that GingerBeardMan had picked up an eight-ball game for money versus one of the younger regulars. That made me feel better. He had looked like he wanted to ask me to play but I did not want to play anyone this evening. I was glad he found a sparring partner.
Time flies when you’re having fun and it never flies faster than when I’m enjoying a leisurely evening of pool. Close to midnight, one of the regulars at the pool room — we’ll name him Fizz — came over to tell me he had brought champagne for everyone and we would all toast at midnight. I had a few more minutes to finish out my set of ten-ball so I said I would be there as soon as I was done. I played terrible under the time pressure but with a minute to go and Fizz over the pocket, I made the last ten-ball, steeled myself, and walked towards the bar.
The champagne was poured out into glasses and anyone who cared to have a glass took one. We did the whole countdown thing and then clinked glasses. GingerBeardMan was there and I did not get a good “vibe” from him. I kept a polite distance. However, one could hardly toast only a selection of people; it would be impolite. GingerBeardMan planted himself squarely in front of me with his glass extended. I nodded and politely clinked glasses with him. I then moved to the bar so I could toast with the houseman. The houseman was busy but I decided to wait for him before taking a sip. GingerBeardMan sidled up right next to me, and as this was far too close for my comfort, I gave him a polite nod, and then took a step to the right to give him more room.
“You know, if you kiss me, I won’t hold it against you.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
GingerBeardMan sidled closer and pointed to his cheek. “If you plant one on me, I’ll forget what you did earlier. I won’t hold it against you.”
“EXCUSE ME?” I looked at him to see if perhaps he was drunk, but he seemed coherent. “I did not do anything.”
“You HAVE to kiss me.”
“I don’t HAVE to do anything. I do not kiss and I certainly do not kiss strangers.”
He pointed to his cheek again and moved closer. “You’re going to kiss me. It’s New Year’s.”
“I. WILL. NOT.”
I tried to catch the attention of the houseman, but he was still busy. I took another step to the right. I was not amused with this situation. I had very clearly said no and was being disregarded. There could be no misinterpretation of my body language, facial cues, or verbal confirmation at this point. When I say NO this fucking forcefully, IT MEANS NO.
However, I am a reasonable person (hilarious thought, yes, but it’s funny because it’s true) and I understand — although we’re in the goddamn twenty-teens of human history, where women run nations, fly into space, fight in wars, head billion-dollar companies, and also raise the next generation towards greatness — there are still men who believe no woman knows she wants, means what she says, and will act as she sees appropriate.
“You don’t know me very well, but you can ask any of the guys here and they will tell you, I do not hug and I do not kiss.“
I figured the only way to reason with this kind of hipster dudebro, was to have him hear the words from another man because I knew a woman’s thoughts and rights meant nothing to him. I had used this tactic successfully in the past to avoid escalating a confrontation.
He glanced around at the men but did not ask them. I neutrally meditated upon the wall behind the bar as I stood. I would not look at him. He pressed in further and I was now stuck in a sort of cul-de-sac with the guardrails at the end of the bar. GingerBeardMan blocked my way out. I placed my champagne down, put my hands on the bar, and prepared to wait things out in grim-faced silence.
He leaned in and said, “You look like you’re tense.”
I gave him a sidelong look and said patiently, “If you were a girl and you had a stranger insisting you kiss them and you DID NOT WANT TO, you would be tense, too, don’t you think?”
He paused to consider this.
A thought floated through my mind, presented in an impeccable (if curmudgeonly) British accent: “YOU CAN’T REASON WITH HIM, HE’S A HALF-WIT!!“
He leaned in again. “If you promise not to slap me, can I tell you something?”
I said immediately, “No. No guarantee.”
“Why not?” he whined.
“Because I don’t know what you’re going to say and if you think you might get slapped for saying something, perhaps you shouldn’t say it at all.” Slapping. Really. How quaint.
“You know what you need? You need to get FUCKED.”
Ah, the life of a girl who plays pool. Pleasant sort of thing. I wish all you men could try it, just for a day. GingerBeardMan obviously wanted a reaction of some sort, and he would get it. But it would not be the hysterical, tear-shedding, anguished response he so obviously cherished.
Because, you see — I had been here before. That same phrase. This same pool hall.
Hang on to your mittens, kittens, and jump in the time machine with me.
Many years ago, when I was still a naive, open-hearted, clueless college kid — I walked into this pool room and decided I found heaven. Everyone was so nice. Everyone seemed like they wanted to help. Sure they sometimes got too friendly, but I had not yet figured out how to politely discourage certain unwanted attentions. And this was a great pool room.
One day, I was sitting in the spectator’s area at a table and two regulars joined me at the table. It was afternoon, still, and plenty of regulars were seated in the area sipping on their coffees and maybe working out the odd game here and there. I was telling the two guys at my table that my roommates were going to throw a big party and I was excited.
“Are there going to be hot chicks at this party?”
The guy who asked this was a regular at this pool room, and friendly enough — we will name him HALF DOME. He once told me he had dropped out of Harvard to work in construction with his family. Harvard had not been enough of a challenge for him and he was now earning plenty of money. He flashed his Rolex by way of evidence.
“I don’t know who they’re inviting.”
“It’s all college girls, right? There have GOT to be hot chicks there. You’re inviting me, right?”
Oh. Well, this was uncomfortable. I was pretty sure he didn’t know my roommates. It struck me RIGHT then: although I was friendly with people in the pool room, and they with me — we were not actually close friends. They were — pool friends. I did not feel I knew him well enough to bring to this party.
The direct nature I have now has been cut, faceted, and honed over the years. It is a product of my experiences, not all of which have been kind, and I know how to wield it with various levels of intensity.
The direct nature I had then was pure naivete.
I told Half Dome I wasn’t comfortable inviting him to my roommates party because I didn’t know him well enough. He asked why I didn’t feel like I knew him well enough. I answered I knew him through pool, true, but neither of my roommates knew him. And this was their party. I was not comfortable inviting people they did not also know. It was the honest truth and I told it believing it would settle the whole affair. How could it not? It was the truth and truth sets things right because it’s a good thing.
Half Dome pressed the issue again. He said I could bring him, as a my personal guest. He was a nice guy, didn’t I think that? That was an awkward question. I did not want to anger him or have him feel bad. Yes, I thought he was a nice guy, but I just did not feel I could invite him to a party that wasn’t mine thrown by people he did not know.
He told me I was too uptight.
I said I was not uptight, I was simply not comfortable inviting him to this party.
He said if I was not uptight, then I should prove it by bringing him to this party.
I was seriously flustered now and not sure what to do. I tried very hard to be diplomatic, but I refused to say he could go. It really did not seem proper to bring him at all now. Why this was this minor issue escalating? I was becoming distressed but I did not know what to do or what to say. The other guy at the table continued looking out over tables of the pool room. He did not notice what was going on, or, he did not care. Finally, I just said, NO — and it was final. Yes, Half Dome was a nice guy, but — I was very sorry — I could not bring him to this party.
Half Dome looked out over the tables and leaned back in his chair. I breathed out and hoped he was all right and this whole party issue was done with.
“You’re just too uptight. I’m just sayin’, you’re too uptight.”
“I am not too uptight.”
“You know what you need? You need to get FUCKED.”
I was stunned. I just… just… did not know… how to… answer that. I had never encountered anything like this. No one had ever spoken this way to me before and the explicit nature of the language just confounded me.
“No. No, that is not it.”
“Then you should let ME fuck YOU.”
I bit my lip. How did it come to this from talking about my roommates’ stupid party?! This was unreal. Still, I wanted to be polite and yet I wanted to stand my ground. I said again, “No.”
“That’s why you’re too uptight. You just need a good fucking. You ought to let me fuck you. I’ll make your toes curl.”
All I could say was, “No.” And I kept repeating it. And Half Dome continued to go on and on about how he would violate me and if I wanted to prove I wasn’t “uptight”, I should let him do it. I started to cry because I did not know how to handle this.
Oh good lord my nerdy-genius-filled high school, Division I college, hardworking immigrant parents, all the books I’d ever read, summer programs I’d attended, internships I’d worked, races I lost, hurdles I’d smashed with my knees, teeth I had broken — none of them had prepared me for this: the Real World. And not just any Real World, the Real World of Pool.
I had lived a very sheltered life and, yes, at twenty, I thought I knew how to handle it all.
I did not.
I cried out of face-shredding frustration, humiliation, helplessness, futility, anger, every terrible emotion that drives people six feet underground or six feet over the guardrails of a bridge. Most of all, I cried because all these men, these other pool players in there, hearing this, they sat, they listened, they looked at the empty tables, they stirred their coffee, they ate their donuts, and did nothing. That day, I learned men can be friendly to you — and not be your friend at all. They will hurt you for no reason other than that they can and because others will stand there and do nothing, you will have to face this alone.
This understanding lifted the weight of the world from my eyelids. I saw what kind of road lay ahead of me should I choose to continue with this stupid fucking game of balls being poked around with sticks — and that knowledge crushed me back down.
The next day, Half Dome’s friend, the silent one, took me out to dinner across the street. He tried to explain or justify Half Dome’s tirade of fuckery from the day before. His sentences were curt and he spoke brusquely, but I knew he was not being rude. He was uncomfortable. And although he seemed to be apologizing for Half Dome, he was not. He was apologizing for himself. For his own inaction.
In retrospect, this incident with Half Dome was an incredibly valuable learning experience for me. The world is not always a pleasant place and you may sometimes suffer, even though it is not your fault. You cannot control the actions of others, only those of yourself. Life was not fair, nor would it ever be. I learned to discern hidden motives. The price I paid for this acuity was the loss of my inherently trustful, ridiculously naive nature. I believe this exchange of goods is more commonly known as “growing the fuck up” and sadly, there are no refunds.
Got your mittens, kittens?
Let’s go back to the future.
I contemplated GingerBeardMan and his diarrhetic shitstain of a smirk. How remarkably similar to that long ago incident, right down to the very words. However, this was not the same situation. You can never step in the same river twice. Time changes the person and the river, even if only for a second. For me, the interim years and certain adventures (“gaining weight”, “in my mind’s eye”, “the best kind of sandwich”) ensured I was not the same twenty-year-old who had sat crying while a pool room regular with a fucking enormous Yosemite Half Dome boulder of a forehead (like a goddamn beluga whale crossed with a Klingon, I tell you) told me over and over again I needed him to “fuck me good” while the other pool room regulars sat silently by.
I had not drunk anything at all this New Year’s Eve. I took measure of this — thing — leering at me, leaning into me. He leaned closer and hissed, “You need me to fuck you good.”
Words are one thing.
Invading my personal space is another.
Invading my personal space with a threat?
Let’s nuke this shit from orbit.
Just to be sure.
I hit him once in the gut (not exceedingly hard, I regret to inform you — I wore the wrong shoes to this particular kind of party). That sent him back and now I could leave the cul-de-sac. He cried, “Fucked!” Indeed! I landed two quick hits on his face with my left (also not exceedingly hard, I regret to inform you — I am not a southpaw). I stopped here because — and I am oddly ashamed to admit this — I remembered he could be drunk, which would then make this an unfair fight since I would clearly have the advantage, being sober and uptight and weighing in at a mighty 95 lbs (okay, 100 lbs — holiday “diet”). His words and actions, however, remained reprehensible, regardless if he was sober or drunk.
The regulars and the houseman quickly came between us. I said, amused annoyed and slightly gleeful all at once, “Did you hear what he said? He said I needed to ‘BE FUCKED’. By him.”
GingerBeardMan grinned widely at the other men and nodded at them. It seemed he was looking for agreement or approval. I remembered something, and asked, “Is he drunk? He’s gotta be drunk, right?” The others shook their heads no, he was not drunk. He had not been drinking at all during the hours he was there. He had not even finished his glass of champagne.
The houseman and the regulars asked him, did he actually say those words to me? To his credit, he proudly owned up to it, smiling all the while. The men looked at each other and hesitated. GingerBeardMan looked directly at me, and laughed.
This was the moment of truth.
I was prepared to accept whatever this society, in the form of the houseman and the regulars at this pool hall, decided, because this was the pool room I played at and there was no other alternative for me. I had been disappointed and failed by men in these types of situations many times and I did not expect this outcome to be any different. I would be told to “get over it”, forgive GingerBeardMan because “guys will be guys” and “he didn’t mean it”, told to be grateful for any male attention, and the one that all women suffer from all angles and all walks of life: stop “overreacting” like a “typical”, “hysterical” woman.
After a few seconds of silence, Fizz said, “Yeah — NO. That’s out of line. You don’t talk to women that way.” GingerBeardMan looked surprised. Hell, I must have looked surprised. The agreement of all was swift and the houseman asked for the bouncer. The bouncer arrived and escorted GingerBeardMan out.
I could not believe the speed and decisiveness of it all. My faith in mankind was most unexpectedly (if somewhat warily) restored. Indeed, time had changed the river and the people walking through it. I was not the most popular of persons, and truly, my unladylike nature of Not EVER Taking Dudes’ Shit alienated me from “traditional”-minded men — and yet, these men who I expected not to take my side, did. I knew, then, that they would stand up for any woman in a similar situation and that singular thought warmed my heart better than any holiday champagne.
The bouncer returned. He asked GingerBeardMan what he had said to merit his early dismissal. GingerBeardMan refused tell him and challenged him to a fistfight instead — but, he needed to put on his
mittens(?!) knitted gloves first. The bouncer laughed, declined the honor, and gently ushered him further down the street into that good night.
Gentlemen, life for ladies can occasionally be unpleasant. Treat the ones you care about like the unique, individual, intelligent human beings that they are. If you see a fellow gentleman treating a lady poorly, please — do something about it. Even if all you can do, is say gently (but firmly), “Dude! That is NOT okay.”
|A question that has come up regarding previous incidents and came up again after this last incident: “Why didn’t you kick him in the balls?” My answer: it would be — unfair? The frequency with which I am asked this question, and the fact that only men ask it, lead me to believe testicles (and the kicking of them) are quite the point of interest. After further contemplation, I have come to this conclusion: I learned fighting from men and so, I suppose I fight within men’s rules, i.e., no hits below the belt.|