Don’t Waste Time Patronizing Me
So I’m normally a really easy going kind of girl. I rarely, rarely get angry. I will smile in the face of trauma, and I will remain staunchly silent to even the harshest criticism. There is a song that’s acted kind of like my life’s motto ever since I was a kid by Tanya Tucker called “Strong Enough to Bend” that comes to mind here, or the old saying, “steady as a rock.” That’s me. Generally. Until, at least, someone deliberately patronizes or underestimates me (or, of course, messes in any way at all with my girls). Then it’s no holds barred, I don’t care how long it takes me, or how hard I have to work to do it, I will prove you wrong. For an example, let me tell you a true story about something that happened in the sixth grade.
I never, ever use curse words. Ever. I mean, depending on exactly how comfortable with you or how ticked off I really am, I might, every once in awhile, say “crap” or “doggone it” , “shoot”, “dang” or, my favorite, “holy dog bones.” But that’s it: that’s the entirety of my curse vocabulary. I just don’t see the sense in using vile words to try and get a point across as it almost never works (“holy dogbones” on the other hand is highly likely to diffuse a tense situation by making my opponent laugh in shock) and usually serves to antagonize the other person even more than they already are. My goal, in confrontations, is to make peace. Curse words do not accomplish this and therefore I have made it a very strict rule not to use them. I don’t want to offend someone just because I’m mad. More likely, you’ll see me stomp my left foot or cry. This rule of not using bad words applied when I was a kid. Well, in the sixth grade, this boy learned somehow (I forget how: silly me probably told him) that I won’t use “bad” words. He sat at the lunch table across from me and for the entire week of lunch (we had assigned lunch seats, so unfortunately I was stuck by him and couldn’t just move) repeatedly said different curse words in an attempt to get me so fed up with him that I’d say one. Repeatedly as in over and over again, practically, that’s all he said. He knew I wouldn’t tell on him. He thought he could wear down my resolve. What he didn’t know is that in trying to make me say one, he was actually strengthening my resolve not to. The more he spoke those words, the more determined I became that he was not going to win that war. And he didn’t. Eventually, he was the one who grew tired and bored. Eventually, he was the one to quit because he eventually realized it was pointless. Now, did he annoy me? Absolutely. But, ultimately, if you tell me I can’t do something (even something as silly as control my speech), by gone it, I will do it.
Likewise, if you patronize me, if you treat me like a little kid, you’re likely going to be the recipient of some serious passive aggressiveness. Today, for instance, is a prime example. My car, which I love, had a flat. It was really, really flat, too, not just a little low on air. Flat. Like a pancake. So off I go to the tire shop. Once there, I smile brightly and explain the dilemma to the man who can already see my very flat tire. I tell him I would like it replaced, and ask him how much it will cost to do so. He tells me he’ll have to check to see if the have the size of tire I need in stock. Well, see, the thing he didn’t know is that I already know the size of my tires because I’m a smart and cool chick. Behind the man sat a tall stack of tires. The third to the bottom of this stack of, probably, seven or eight tires, was the size of my tires. I know this because it said so very clearly and legibly on a sticker that was attached to this tire. So I nod and smile because I know he has one because I can plainly see it. He goes to the back of the shop, far away from the stack in which the tire I need is sitting, and returns a moment later. “I’m sorry, we don’t have that tire in stock. I can try to repair it for you.”
No he can’t because it’s as flat as a pancake. I mean, I’m no mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but the tire was gone. Unless he was a magician who could make it simply reappear, the man could not “fix” my tire. Besides that, I wanted it replaced, and I was looking at the tire I needed. So I very nicely said, “No, that’s okay. I’d really rather have it replaced altogether. I think I saw one the size I need in that stack…. it’s pretty close to the bottom, though,” I said with a happy laugh. I point out the tire. Without even checking to make sure he was right, he glanced at my flat as a pancake tire and shook his head. “No, honey, that’s not the same size. Besides, that there’s a used tire. It ain’t got the full tread on it anymore.”
Okay, I think in my head. Maybe he doesn’t have a new tire of my size in stock. That I might believe. But, lo and behold, no, no that’s not what he meant. We continue to go back and forth. I try to get him to check the size of my other tires, he tries to tell me that the car dearlership put the wrong size tires on my car. Eventually, I tell him that, wrong size or not, that’s the tire I want, can he just put it on? He does so and then tries to charge me fifteen dollars more than what he originally quoted me for. That’s when I went from being frustrated to being ill. A manager resolved things and I drove away on the right sized tire for the original price. I didn’t do it, but I wanted to tell him, “Look, no, I’m not a dude, and maybe I smile a little too much for this to believable, but, holy dog bones, I am smart and, actually, didn’t your mama ever tell you that it’s not nice to make assumptions based on someone’s gender?”
Anyways, back to the point. Don’t patronize or underestimate me. It’s not nice. And, besides that, it won’t work. You know why it won’t work? Because people are more than what they look like. It won’t work because even though you might think I know zilch about cars, actually, I know how to change my oil and I know a little about tires too. Given a jack and enough time, I’m sure I could probably change my own tire. I might be a woman but I’m just as capable as you are and what I lack in strength I can make up for in the creativity and willpower that both run through every bone in my body. Underestimating and patronizing people doesn’t work in your favor because you have no idea what someone’s life experiences have been. I mean, you might not think I can move that bookshelf but you have no idea how many times I have moved and so you wouldn’t know that I have actually moved furniture that weighs more than you a hundred times. Don’t patronize me, and don’t underestimate me. You might think that because you’re a big man, you’re stronger than me but, actually, this little frame of mine can withstand more than you can even fathom. You know why? Because after I get done crying from frustration, my sheer will and determination will totally beat brute strength every time.
And that’s a true story, that.