I headed to Templeton Pool yesterday, New Year’s Eve, for my regular swim. It was holiday hours and holiday staff and I met up with Stanley, everybody’s favorite aqua-fit instructor from years ago, doing holiday shifts.
The place was pretty deserted and so I was alone in the change-room after my swim. I was just about dressed when the outer door opened and a young woman ventured into the change room and stopped dead at the sight of me. I smiled at her as she said, “This is the women’s change room, GET OUT OF HERE.” Maybe not a full out shout but firm and loud and nasty.
At the same time, I was agreeing, “Yes this is the women’s (still smiling I might add) and I am a woman.”
She repeated that it was the women’s. “GET OUT.”
So I tried from the other end, “I’m NOT A MAN,” speaking in my own “firm” but not shouting voice.
She wheeled angrily away and bolted from the room. I hurried to finish gathering my stuff and heard the door open again and Stanley’s hesitant voice speaking from the doorway, “Hello…hello, this is the women’s change room. Is there a gentleman there?” in his lovely clipped British accent.
I wasn’t quite assembled so I hustled to the door and there was Stanley, peeking respectfully around the open door. My accuser was just behind him, wearing a face of hateful entitlement. Stanley was dumbfounded.
I said, “Stanley, I did explain to her that I was not a man. Twice in fact.”
Then he looked horrified. He turned all flustered but firm to the young woman.
I reached back to get my stuff and as I returned, SHE was arguing with Stanley, and I heard the phrase “can’t be,” waft out. Stanley was speaking agitatedly and insistently to her saying, “Yes, I’m sure,” and glancing towards me in great consternation that I should be hearing any of what she was saying.
As I passed them he turned his attention to me and said how sorry he was and called me by name. I said, “It’s okay, Stanley, YOU did great. Happy New Year!”
She mumbled a grudging “Sorry,” as she went past me. I said nothing and I bolted as fast as I could.
I was bugged and in no mood for a teachable moment, and she still felt nasty and her clearly exuded feeling that I was a freak had stuck for just a bit. Mostly I find my recent encounters are very different: I am not afraid and mostly really “feel” that it’s their problem when it comes up. I try for a witty line that will make it a better story on my blog.
How women behave after they get it wrong has improved so much over the last ten years, at least here in Vancouver. There is an acknowledgement that THEY are the ones who got it wrong. I’m gracious, they’re apologetic. She was a real throwback in both those features. Yet she was young, educated, and entitled.
But she did manage to get to me for a moment, which in the end is what really bugged me, though my complete vindication, in her face, by Stanley, was a sweet balm to my irritation.
I will be swimming today, New Years Day now, and I want to start the year out right. I wonder if my new associate will be there. I’m hoping that Stanley might be on guard again today, though I also feel confident of that support from any staff at Templeton. And that is a deluxe home free for me.
- A Tip For Allies (sheilagilhooly.wordpress.com)