Sunday, November 7, 2010

Speak Up

The locker room at Bar Method was particularly stuffy Friday morning, and I didn’t feel like fighting ten ½ naked women for a spot in front of a steamy mirror, only to break a sweat again post shower. So I threw on a lovely periwinkle silk shell, black gold-button-cardigan, slacks and pearls and headed to work to finish my makeup. I can imagine that in contrast to my prim and proper attire my makeup-free, pale, uneven-toned face was decidedly undressed. I didn’t think anything of it, but apparently a few of the women I passed did. Three women looked me up and down and then stared at my face for a moment, as if confused or concerned. A fourth woman, who happened to be arguing with her significant other on her cell phone in a venomous tone, crinkled her nose as if I was a terribly disappointing sight. I wanted to turn around and say “HEY! Miserable b8tch! You don’t have to be rude and mean to strangers because you’re unhappy. Sounds like you’re doing enough damage in your own life!” Of course I kept my mouth shut and kept walking. But I did think about how good it would feel to say what I was thinking without filtering my words carefully – even for one week. If you could say what you were thinking without dire consequence for 1 week, what would you say? Under what circumstances would you open your mouth where you had kept it shut before?

I can think of a few.

First, I would let a few homeless people have it.

It’s obvious that San Francisco’s Financial District homeless contingent learned long ago that manipulating consumers’ guilt complexes is far more lucrative when their target is holding an overpriced double half caff extra dry soy cappuccino. Walk around San Francisco’s Financial District for 10 minutes and you’ll notice that because there’s at least 1 Starbucks or Pete’s on every block, there is at least 1 homeless pan-handler on every block. I pass about 5 of these guys on an average walk to work and have been doing so for about 5 years now. Until a few months ago however, I was ignorant to the fact that as a regular passerby, I would eventually be labeled as an angel of mercy or an oppressive she-devil.

One morning, completely unprovoked and totally out of the blue, a homeless woman at the Starbucks on the corner of Battery and Pine called after me, “N***er-hating white b8tch.”

I thought “Wow. Lovely way to start the day, Thank you!” I buried the sarcasm and walked on towards work, mumbling quietly, “Yeah, because it always has to be about race.” What I really wanted to say was, “What a load of crap. Can’t you come up with anything better? Oh that’s right - you can’t because you’re drunk at 7 in the morning. Have you ever thought that maybe no one wants to give you money because you’re mean, aggressive and you smell like death? Did you ever consider that maybe if you’re going to ask for something while offering society nothing in return, the least you could do is be polite and gracious; maybe come up with a creative sign or a way to make people laugh; or I don’t know- get crazy and sing a song or play an instrument?”

And then there’s the homeless guy who sits on a box next to his overflowing shopping cart 3 feet from the entrance to the Walgreen's closest to my office. The pungent odors of stale urine and rotting toenails surrounds his shopping cart, so I rush in and out of the store as quickly as I can - as most people with a sense of smell would do. I guess he has a think for repulsed women in a hurry, because he has actually asked me out on a date on a few occasions. When I don’t acknowledge his advances, he’s been known to say, “What - you can’t even look at me because I’m homeless? B8tch.”

Someday, I will walk back over to him and say “No, it has nothing to do with you being homeless and everything to do with your personal hygiene. I can’t go on a date with you because the length, color and foreign matter under your toenails might make me vomit into my wine glass. And I would not want to mislead you by accepting your offer because I simply don’t bother with lazy men. If you’re too lazy to stand up and pee anywhere but all over yourself, how can I trust you’ll ever put enough effort into courting a girl properly? And I’ve had a boyfriend for 5 years. But consider sobriety, a shower, and a job– the single ladies out there eat those kinds of things up.”

Next, I might be a little more vocal about people who impede the enjoyment of experiences I pay good money for.

About 3 minutes into last Wednesday’s yoga class, I noticed the same “stinky feet” odor I noticed the week before. With the first three-legged dog pose, I noticed it was the same foot, the same woman, the same exact smell as last week. I turned to my girlfriend and she winced at me – indicating she smelled it too. How could she not have? It was strong in three-legged dog, pungent by the time we got to revolved half moon and plain old overwhelming once we got to pigeon. After class, L and I chatted about the need for a little Dr Scholl’s Odor Eater as the teacher approached. A beautiful, elegant, gentle looking creature, we didn’t quite expect her to ask, “Did you girls notice that strong smell back here?”

We both exclaimed “YES!” and she looked concerned.

“Did it disturb your practice? Was it a problem for you?”

We both adore the teacher and couldn’t bear to tell her that yes, it made us both gag for at least ½ the class. Instead we said, “It wasn’t that bad. We got used to it.”

What I wanted to say was, “Well, I found myself focusing more on trying not to pass out from the stench than on finding my center. I think I did throw up a little in my mouth when her foot was an arm’s length away. I wanted to slap her foot away. I wish someone would just hand her some foot deodorant and run.”

There are so many situations in which I wish I could be more honest, places where I’d love to stop holding back so much. (Work, when people fart in Bar Method, on the bus when I get pushed around like a Raggedy Anne doll, when waitresses and waiters are rude and act like they are doing you a favor, I could go on and on and on.) But what about you? When would you love to pipe up? To whom would you love to give a piece of your mind?

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