I actually did record the conversation that spark-plugged this verbatum – and will share it. (See footnote 1.) But what has taken so long to write this, and still has my fingers shaking and tears in my eyes and my coffee cold, is what this has all represented historically, personally, and emotionally to me.
You could say the asshole I had the misfortune of meeting on one of the very few times I leave the house each month hit a nerve. Actually, more like a large third degree burn that he then rubbed handfuls of grit and gravel into for hours. Also, this whole thing happened 15 minutes after the end of my weekly therapy session. One could say I was primed.
I don’t much like it when people find my weak spots. They very rarely do. I’m quite thorough in my defenses. He’s lucky I didn’t break his bones first as an automatic reaction to being under attack. Then, being told that the whole thing was at least equally my fault (by the shopkeeper, who has now lost my business, especially since it was his friend doing the attacking and the shopkeeper was of the opinion that if I had just kept quiet (like a good girl) then there would have been no conflict)…….. Well, my whole life almost everyone I know has been telling me that bad things were really my fault. My parents being monsters was NOT my fault. Being date-raped was NOT my fault. My first marriage to a deviant violent psychopathic lying criminal was NOT my fault. And in every case, my skills, my strengths, my multiple creative talents, my abilities, and yes even my beliefs were to blame. I was “different” ergo, I was intended to be beaten. I don’t know who to be more angry at: the perpetrators themselves, or the many people who stood nearby and watched. For decades. The only time anyone aside from my husband (a.k.a. Superman) ever stood up for me was when my parents SUED us to try to take our daughter from us — just to prove that they could.
Yes, this is the kind of fucked up background I come from. But, it all looked so pretty. And that’s all that anyone ever looks for. I always drove new VW Cabriolets or BMWs or Mercedes. We went to Kauai twice a year. We went to the Ritz at Laguna Niguel at least once every 5 weeks. And just as often, I bought out whatever Nordstroms, Niemans, and Tiffany’s was selling. I went to the spa in San Francisco every 4 weeks for facials, nails, and hair treatments. And because I was anorexic, I was beautifully underweight. My parents carefully assured through intimidation and deceit that I had no friends so that I could never reveal the kinds of coercion, violent fighting, and blackmail that went on to maintain this perfect picture. I mean, we were beautiful, young, self-employed, appeared wealthy (everything was financed; they had over 20 or 30 credit cards) and lived in Carmel, California. Not that we had food in the house. Soda and Haagen-Daaz ice cream bars. Maybe chips. What could ever be wrong? I was the perfect arm candy. Developing a crippling case of PTSD. Caused a complete collapse in ’07. (But this, and my misdiagnosis, is another topic.)
Until I opened my mouth and demonstrated the fatal flaws of literacy, curiosity, and an original and creative mind. Until I demonstrated sincere interest in the Monterey Jazz Festival. Until I was moved to tears by the Dressage Show in Pebble Beach and a very kind woman began to take me riding with her. Until I presented a staggering knowledge of philosophy and religion, film and literature, and the ability to create my own. Until I went to Andover and met other people different like me. Different, thought-provoking, and beautiful, glittery and passionate, creative and really really funny. Boarding school saved my life.
I’m a wee bit tired of apologizing, justifying, or otherwise wearing an invisibility cloak or this season’s It lipstick and nail polish combo.
I was in a shop two days ago getting some framing work done when an angry old man repeatedly picked a fight with me – over my experiences (he lost), my education (boy, did he lose), my friends (“when you say you associate with good people, would you say that your’re a snob?”) (BIG loss there), and finally, grasping at straws here, he demanded to know where I was born.
I’m done. I’m done tiptoeing around other people’s fears and weaknesses. And I am completely done with apologizing for being brilliant, well-educated, and – prior to illness – successful. I worked my ass off. I deserve to be proud of who I am. The issues are yours.
At the time, I was laughing my head off, but as mentioned, he did hit an old and raw wound. The next morning, it didn’t feel so good. I wanted to put my fist through a wall or something. But, then we would have to repair it, and we just don’t need to be adding to the expense list yet… since, you know, my car window is held up with shims and packing tape. 😉
(Upon comparing politeness in Japanese and American cultures. He was quite obviously dismayed to learn that I had spent a month in Japan, in addition to other time abroad.)
Him: Have you ever had a man pull out a chair for you in this country?
Me: Yes. I associate with good people.
(a moment passes)
Him: I’m going to ask you a question which might upset you, but I really want to know what you think. But it might be unpleasant.
Me: I’ve already seen so much unpleasantness in my life, there is nothing that you can do that would upset me. (This is true. There are very few things that someone could do that would surprise me any longer. Disgust, oh yes. But surprise and cause me to loose my balance? Nope. You picked the wrong warrior.)
Him: Fine. You said that you associate with good people. Do you think that makes you a snob?
Me: (without hesitation, looking him straight in the eye) Yes. And I worked hard to become so. I’ve attended some of the nation’s finest schools and worked at some of its finest companies. I’ve earned the right to be proud of what I’ve done. I won’t apologize for who I am. (I didn’t bother to mention that I have the best circle of friends possible – because of who they are, not what they do – hence the chairs, etc. My friends have class. The real kind.)
Him: You said schools. (derisively) Name one.
Me: Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.
(pause, a quiet “oh”)
Him: Fine, so tell me, where were you born?
Me: Flint, Michigan. So you can take your snobbery and shove it up your ass. (I walked out.)
(Note: Flint has been one of the most dangerous cities in the country for generations. It’s like Watts, but worse.)