I’m the first to admit that I can be rather loud. I just have a loud talking voice, or maybe it has a timbre which travels easily through the resistance of air molecules, whatever the case, it isn’t entirely…rare…that someone will say, “Could you keep it down?”
I always oblige and look to who I’m with and ask, “Am I too much?”
Usually, they’ll politely respond with, “You’ve been worse. People shouldn’t be eavesdropping anyway.”
Never has this been clearer to me than it was last night. I was dining with two friends at my favorite restaurant in a room upstairs where there was only one other table with two patrons several yards away. My friends and I were having a fun, marginally boisterous, conversation about doing community theater, living in New York, what shows to see on Broadway, and eventually we touched on politics. We all stand on the same side of the aisle so it wasn’t a debate; rather it was an exercise in being agreeable.
I made the statement, “Hopefully after the tragedy of Sandy Hook we will continue a responsible discussion about assault weapons.”
The subject transitioned into the criminals who assault children and I immediately became a little bit unglued. I shook my head and said, “I’m sorry but I would accept spending the rest of my life in prison for killing any (I lowered my voice for an expletive) child predator that did harm to my children.”
I knew that I was peacocking in that way where men feel kinship with those who say such things in bars to a chorus of “Damn right!”, but it’s a genuine rage that runs through me. I wasn’t being particularly animated, but I was ready to change my own tone toward something more agreeable.
My next comment was, “I try very hard to instill in my boys what it means to be generous and compassionate and to teach them that all people are created equal, but there are emotional barriers that we must work through sometimes. My hope is, that will be the basis from which they make their own political decisions as adults.”
I then looked up to see the woman from several tables away, walking by our table. She looked at me and said, “You’re a douchebag.”
At first I wasn’t sure what she had said and I thought, in fact, she was saying “hello.” (Believe it or not, between this blog and my Courier column I get a lot of people coming up to me to say “Thanks for your dialogues.”)
I asked what she said again, and she pronounced more clearly, “You- are- a -douche-bag” and walked out.
My friends were stunned. “What did she just call you?”
“Pretty sure it was ‘douchebag.’”
I gave a bemused look so as to appear unfazed, but that was my only lie of the evening.
My friend queeried: “Was she angry because you believe in equality?”
“Was it because we talked about restricting civilian assault weapons?”
I can respect my “foe’s” position (but not her tact) if she was an advocate for criminal rights and was offended by my emotional reaction to predators, but I really didn’t know. Her husband, or date, got up sheepishly and avoided eye contact with us and left the room as well.
This exchange put a damper on the evening and we decided to call it a night. I’m not one to back down from much, however, and I decided to see if she was somewhere else in the restaurant. I left the room only to see her moving down the stairs and I asked, “What made you so upset?”
“Your politics! And your language- you dropped the ‘F’ bomb!” came her reply delivered with a dismissive frown. The kind of frown men get when they’ve given the wrong answer to “Does this dress make me look fat?”
The truth is, I find the word “douchebag” to be oddly satisfying, even musical, and I use it myself at times, but only when referring to actual douchebags.
My verbal assailant left quickly and I stood at the top of the stairs perplexed. I wasn’t sure that I had used the “F Bomb” and it was only later when I recalled using it to describe a child predator, but what struck me immediately was the hypocrisy of being offended by my use of profanity within the context of a conversation with friends, while she didn’t hesitate to call me a “douchebag” in front of my friends! For all she knew the young man could have been my son!
I’m not so naïve as to think that hostile exchanges are anything new in this world, especially when it comes to politics, and I’ve read my share of histories and biographies to know that even the venerable Texas tough guy, Lyndon Johnson, was driven to tears by some of the accusations that were thrown his way. Hell! Duels and fist fights used to break out on the congressional floor only a couple of generations ago!…or was that just last week?
What is different, though, is the fact that I am in a relatively small town, in a nice restaurant, dining with friends, doing no more than having a private conversation, without any particular rancor except to briefly express profanity toward to those who would harm our children, when someone, deliberately eavesdropping, creates hostility, without regard for respect or propriety, verbally assaults a stranger.
I don’t know who reads my blog, but I do know that it’s been read nearly 65,000 times and that I have several hundred subscribers. I welcome her to contact me and to have a civil discussion about the politics that she is so offended by. So offended that she would become…uncivilized.