My friend and I had a fun, successful day shopping in Park City and drove back down to the SLC for drinks and an early dinner. As dinner/cocktail hour ensued, the crowd grew predictably larger. A table of 4 men and 3 women crowded onto the floor of the open-air patio (complete with misters).
It was a beautiful day.
My friend and I were seated on bar stools overlooking the city, blissfully ignoring the hubbub behind us, but one gentleman turned his chair to face us and began to laugh at our jokes, seeming to include himself in our merriment. Or was he irritated by our volume? I didn’t know or notice, really, except that I did. You know how that is when you do/don’t see the creeper until you SEE him? In any case, he was persistent and loud enough that I could no longer imagine that he might be engaging with his own group.
I turned to him. “I’m sorry,” I laughed. “We have loud voices. Are we bothering you?”
“No…” he laughed, continuing on…
My friend simultaneously echoed the introduction – “We don’t have indoor voices” – so at first we missed what he said. Rather, we didn’t miss it, but we couldn’t believe what we heard. We both sat back, literally drew our shoulders back.
“Pardon me?” we said together.
“Your hips are so big,” he said again, “I kept hitting them with my head.”
“EXCUSE ME?!” …
I can’t even go into details of the fallout. I don’t have the strength. Suffice that I’m proud of how we handled ourselves. We held our space, but didn’t resort to screaming or cursing – unlike the entire table, who rose en masse, swearing at us and ultimately getting themselves permanently 86ed from one of the hottest, long-standing favorite clubs in central downtown.
We were assertive but not aggressive. We really just kept saying, “Are you kidding me?!” I said further, “You NEVER talk about a woman’s body if you don’t know her!” but my friend was helpless now, flailing in a scene unlike any she’d experienced.
“Are you kidding me?” she said more to me, to herself, than to them. I think I watched her escape the room, right before my eyes. I recognized it because I used to do it as a kid. Leave, leave, leave my body. I swept her up and ran out.
“But we haven’t paid our bill!” she protested.
“I don’t care! They can find us.”
We ran downstairs, a seeming eternity back and forth past 3 floors. She was in tears by the time we reached ground level so I sat her down and put my arms around her.
Oh! It was incredible! On their way out, the worst man among them – not the one who started it but the most horrible – approached us again, fast, angry, barking the insults he carried with him from the top floor.
Upstairs, I’d looked at him at last. Til then it had been an effort of avoidance, but I made eye contact now. “You are sexist.”
I don’t say that. It’s an old enemy that’s dismissed before it’s spoken, an epithet before the F word was born. But that’s all he was. Old-school, old-fashioned sexist, misogynist, woman-hating man who punishes women who don’t submit.
We’d moved to a different table then, but hadn’t left the patio yet. I turned my back and ignored him as he badgered me. “Who? Who? Who? Who’s sexist? Who?”
I turned out around and locked eyes again. “YOU!” I said firmly.
I gathered my wilted friend to exit.
He was HUGE! 6’3″ minimum, but honestly probably 6’4″, stacked with muscle, a wall of a man cowering over us downstairs, thrusting his chest out, more than a head and a half above us, leaning completely over top of us, yelling while my friend CRIED beneath me. (She’s tiny, 5 feet, and by now she was hunched down, hiding in a ball behind me.)
Three times I said, “Please walk away from my friend.”
He made his way around me, continuing to shout, “It was a compliment! It was a fucking compliment!” I rotated around my friend in the middle, keeping my body between him and her, instructing him again and again to leave us alone. Finally, having passed us, he laughed out loud and shook his head, calling us names all the way out the door.
Everyone on the ground floor was up and tending to us but I asked them to give us space while we paid our bill. My friend was starting a panic attack, crying harder. Our server took care of her while I handled the check. Before we left, she was able to interact with her surroundings again and thanked everyone for being so kind.
And we left. Shaking. Oh my god! I don’t think we stopped shaking for half an hour!
We ended up having instant porch magic, signs and synchronicities that made us feel connected and joyful. We told reminiscent stories. “Ooh! Remember that time we were hiking in Escalante and heard the flute in the ruins? I can’t believe it sometimes! But I’ve asked Teri over and over if it really happened. It did.” Etc.
We shared pleasant greetings with neighbors and passers-by as we watched the sun go down, and drank into the late hours.
We talked about it only briefly. It was done. We did the best we could, and really, it was very good! I feel like we did everything right. It was infuriating, horrifying, unbelievable, but we did the right thing. So we went home and left it behind us.
The only thing left to do is for my friend to call the owner of the bar, a professional colleague she’s known for over 30 years, and report it to her, with compliments to our outstanding server.
My poor friend. She’s 62 years old. She kept saying, “I have never experienced anything like that!”
Men have said the most awful rapey things to me, leaving me to feel stripped naked, violated, and ashamed. I’ve been sexually harassed consistently and continually since before I even had body hair.
My poor friend. I mean, it affected me, too. It’s devastating to feel that violence, to know that hatred, but I’m aware (It’s still shocking every time.) That was brand new to her.