I came home from the gym earlier today than I’d planned. I love going to the gym for long workouts on the weekend, overdoing it, and exercising to exhaustion. It’s fun for me. Don’t judge. But today I was interrupted so often by a man who motioned for me to remove my headphones so he could tell me his theories on education that I just got a different kind of exhausted and left.
The best thing I ever did as a mother is to teach my daughters to block intrusive men. I almost wrote “to be rude to intrusive men” but the word rude implies a carelessness about the feelings of others in a social contract. Men who interfere with my daughters don’t give a shit about the social contract except where it serves them.
I was trained differently, of course, a Generation X girl who learned early on to smile and nod and feign interest in men and boys who gave me attention. Their attention was more important than anything else I was doing, even if it interrupted my peace, my education, my way into my dorm room. Since I was a kid, I have a long history of men and boys interrupting my voice and my work in order to draw attention to themselves. All women have this history.
Now I am nearly fifty and take ownership for my own acquiescence with men who interrupt me. I’m not talking harassment or sexual overtures or threat of physical danger. The man in the gym today is a nice person, but one of those people who only talk one way. One of those types who pretend to ask you a question only so that they can provide you with their answer and every answer that has occurred to them ever. These people are everywhere and usually I avoid them like a game of Frogger.
But what if I am on an exercise machine working furiously to go, blessedly, nowhere? Please don’t answer that. I know I have to come up with a response for next time. I know I have to be ready for the next man who is going to see me on my headphones, or deep in paperwork, or reading, or trying to buy my groceries, or, or, or. . . . . I just wonder what makes these men think, oh look a nice lady who really wants to hear my theories on whatever.
There are so many of these interrupters in women’s lives and as I’m getting older my patience levels are growing dangerously low. Maybe I am so acutely annoyed today because I am in the middle of an MFA program so I have coursework to complete on top of writing, on top of getting my publishing career underway, and on top of working full time. . Every second is precious. This blog post is wrapping up soon because I have some pages to revise. I can’t be farting around. I had two hours set aside this morning to exhaust myself into a noodle at the gym and I was really looking forward to them.
Can you imagine interrupting someone you barely know and asking them to take off their headphones to hear you talk? I almost wrote “talk to you” but that isn’t what these people want. They want you to stop everything and act as an audience to their personal TED Talk apropos of nothing. And yes, it’s almost always men.
So I’ll come up with a rehearsed response for the next time. Something that will keep his feelings intact so as not to cause more of a suck on my time and will perhaps trick him into thinking I care about his feelings when really I just want to get back to work.
I just really want to get back to work.