Save the Complults for Someone Who Cares, Buddy
I had an interesting dream about the BlogHer conference last night. At the conference, I was having dinner with a woman (in my dream her name was Marlene) who objected to my use of foul language in my writing. I had been looking forward to meeting her for some time, and as we began chatting, I jokingly promised to watch my mouth and keep it clean, a pledge I intended to honor. While we were in a deep discussion about the time and place for swearing, I overheard the man on the other side of the table, who happened to be a fire captain, talking to my friend Alex.
Apropos of nothing, he suddenly said, â€œYou know, youâ€™d be really beautiful if youâ€™d pluck your eyebrows better.â€
Of course, this enraged me, and I cut into their conversation. â€œDo you understand how rude a comment like that is?â€
â€œItâ€™s a compliment,â€ he bristled, â€œand Iâ€™m just trying to help.â€
â€œNo, itâ€™s not a compliment. Itâ€™s like me saying to you, â€˜You know, youâ€™d be handsome if you had a different faceâ€™ or â€˜Youâ€™d be intelligent if you actually learned something.â€™â€ (It seems that I am good with the complults â€“ compliments that are really insults â€“ in my dreams.)
One thing led to another, and of course I broke my promise to Marlene and devolved into a torrent of f-bombs and other nasty language. Marlene sighed and moved away, but I was so into defending Alexâ€™s honor that I didnâ€™t even notice. (Incidentally, Alex has very nice eyebrows, both in the dream and in real life.)
When I woke up (thanks to a garbage truck parked outside the window of my ground floor apartment), I thought about what the dream meant. When do comments cross the line between â€œtruth-tellingâ€ and offensive behavior? Does intention matter? Is this type of â€œhelpfulâ€ comment only directed at women, or do men hear things like that too? For example, I know it is very common for girls and women to be told that theyâ€™d â€œbe so pretty if onlyâ€ they lost some weight, but I wonder if boys and men ever hear things like that. Was my aggressive response equally inappropriate or should I have let my friend fend for herself?
I will say that it felt very satisfying calling that guy out on his behavior.
Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snathc (CUSS) & Other Rants and is very excited to attend the BlogHer conference, regardless of potential presence of sexist fire captains