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It makes an ASS out of U

I try not to use my LJ as a rant receptacle, but this needs airing. It's about people's assumptions.

I've made no secret (anywhere!) of my decision to start cycling. I hang my helmet on my cubicle wall, right above my "Bike Commute Challenge" poster, and today my front wheel was stood up in my in-box because I had to take it in at lunchtime and have it looked at. At work, I talk about road conditions, new challenges, the experience of joining the Portland cycling world, and my progress in terms of time and endurance and skill-building, pretty much the same as on LJ.

So today at about 4:30, knowing I had two more hours of work in front of me, I ran down to the little store and came back up with a Haagen Dazs coffee almond crunch ice cream bar. My cubicle-colleague, on beholding my treat, said, "I see you've decided to undo all the health benefits of bike-riding."

I can't even begin to unravel everything that's wrong with that comment, but let me start by pointing out that it was uttered by a straight, skinny, college-educated white guy perhaps five to ten years my junior. Let's call him Norm, okay?

This comment is not the same as "Ooh, that looks yummy!" or "I love those things!" This comment is "Do you think you really should be eating that? YOU? THAT?"

The assumptions implicit in the comment are that "health benefits" equals "losing weight"; that I'm cycling for health reasons at all, and that the REAL health reason is weight loss; that one serving of good-quality ice cream has the power to "undo" health, that my bike-riding is a kind of lie unless I follow some standard path of health righteousness; that it's okay for him to even make such a personal comment; that he knows what my personal priorities are and that they are different from what I've said they are.

The only response I could think of was a mildly sarcastic, "Yeah, you know, Norm, I love it when people comment on what I eat."

Six hours later, I'm still annoyed.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 23rd, 2009 06:17 am (UTC)
My sympathies. He's arrogant and wrong for all the reasons you point out and I can't see any way (short of thumping him) for you to convey that to him. Just the sort of situation that drives me nuts and leaves the anger festering. (I imagine in that situation I'd also be getting randomly suspicious of all the other people who might be thinking the same way as Norm, because I am that paranoid.)
Sep. 23rd, 2009 06:42 am (UTC)
I've spent a lifetime worrying that other people are thinking these things about me with every bite I eat in company, every item I place on the conveyor at the grocery store, everything to be found in my fridge. I'm old enough now to have given up that paranoia in the grand "Fuck it!" of late middle-age.

That's what let me experience Norm's comment as politically incorrect and stupid, rather than as shaming. How I WISH I'd had this sensibility 30 years ago.
Sep. 23rd, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
What a douche. I would still be annoyed about it, too, and for all the reasons you list. Fuck him.

I read some helpful advice awhile back after a similar situation (haven't we all experienced something like that, unfortunately?). The idea was that since the asker is the offender in such a breach of common courtesy, turning an inappropriate question back on the person can be an excellent way to make the point that, yanno, their ass might be showing. That is, something like, "Why would you think that was an appropriate thing to say to me?" The important thing is not to be challenging or aggressive about it, but in a querying tone, as if genuinely bewildered. Pick your battles, yada yada, but in the instances where I felt like taking the opportunity to put that advice to use, it worked quite well.

Sorry, dear. That guy was an ass and yay for you that you know it was all him and not you. Also: ice cream!
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
At the end of the day, I think "And ice cream!" was the key point of the whole thing.

I realize in reading your suggestion that I actually came within range of that type of response with the one that actually occurred to me--a lot closer than I've come in the past, anyway.

Our conversation on Friday about challenging the position of privilege must have really gone into my mind! \o/
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
At the end of the day, I think "And ice cream!" was the key point of the whole thing.

Isn't it always?

I realize in reading your suggestion that I actually came within range of that type of response with the one that actually occurred to me--a lot closer than I've come in the past, anyway.

Agreed. You didn't try to justify yourself or your actions or explain yourself or your reasons to him, and that's a victory, imo. Put the responsibility for the fuckwittedness where it belonged: with the fuckwit. Win!

Our conversation on Friday about challenging the position of privilege must have really gone into my mind! \o/

Excellent! Although your inherent awesomeness must also be factored in....
Sep. 23rd, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Oh hey, can you remind me of the website we discussed on Friday where all the inappropriate comments from privilege are listed? I want to spread it around.
(no subject) - serenity_valley - Sep. 23rd, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - emeraldsedai - Sep. 23rd, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 23rd, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
Every bike club ride Mr. Roxy ever went on ended at a ice cream place.

You want to know why I can't ever have a real job? Because when people say stuff like that to me, my automatic response is, "Shut the fuck up." And yet, my husband loves me....
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
Hee! You are awesome. Yeah, a certain subservience is required in most lines of work. Fortunately, "Norm" is not in any way my boss, so STFU, in a euphemistic and thinly-disguised form, is basically what I said. I certainly thought it.

Sep. 23rd, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
a ice cream place

Wow, I was really pissed off! :)
Sep. 23rd, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Hah! Didn't even notice that. Just saw "ice cream" and pulled a Homer Simpson fugue state.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
You have no idea how that makes my day.

Well, you probably actually do have some idea, considering specifically when I met Mr Kis.

I had a long conversation with serenity_valley on Friday evening about people speaking from an unconscious position of privilege. She's way younger than me, and way more politically savvy, and she raised my awareness of the problem. I'm sure that conversation was instrumental not only in what I said back to Norm, but in my internal reaction to his comment. It was entirely new and different for me.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 24th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
Funny (and revolutionary) thing was, the comment didn't even strike me as criticism to begin with. It WAS, I'm sure of it, but it didn't hit me that way. It hit me as total asshattery (which it also was, of course).

The miracle was that in a case of choice like that, I unthinkingly chose the healthier reaction. All I can say is, if old age means finally, finally being free of the hormonally-induced "reality" of self loathing, then bring it on.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure whether the comment was less asshattish or more asshattish for having come from a guy you wouldn't normally think of in the "privileged" column. Despite the above-mentioned white, male, under 50 and skinny (I failed to mention tall...), this particular person is extremely self-effacing and non-macho--the "98 lb weakling" type, really.

Anyway, no--he was so taken aback by the response I did give that I felt pretty vindicated, while keeping my job.
Sep. 23rd, 2009 10:59 am (UTC)
I liked your response to him. In that sort of situation I usually just open and close my mouth a few times or act as if I haven't just been on the receiving end of soemthing wildly judgemental and inappropriate.

Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
Even goldfish-face is a better response than the one I would have given up to very recently. Guilt, shame, stammering explanations, anger, defensiveness the whole nine yards of "yes, master," would have been my reaction in the very recent past.

All thanks for my somewhat more empowered response yesterday are due, I think, to a conversation about privilege that I had with serenity_valley on Friday evening. She really raised my awareness.
Sep. 23rd, 2009 11:33 am (UTC)
That's even more irritating than I imagined from your tweet. What an asshat.
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
Hee! Yeah, sometimes 140 characters just aren't enough.
Sep. 23rd, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
Not to mention the environmental benefits to biking... or economic.

GAH. What an ass. Sorry you had to deal with him!
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
But those are real, manly reasons for cycling. You know all women cycle only in order to make themselves more attractive as mates, right? Right??
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
Sometimes people are just kind of assholes. *pets*
Sep. 23rd, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
True. Happily, I find that most people aren't--not deliberately, not even "Norm"--but I'm delighted to have seen past my own reaction and glimpsed the totally unconscious asshattery that was going on.
Sep. 24th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
He's a dumbass. Some people need a preview button before they speak.
Sep. 24th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
LOL! You are so right.
Sep. 25th, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
I can't even begin to make any comment that hasn't already been made here! Except maybe it's a good thing you don't have the testosterone levels I had for awhile. The guy would have just been a grease spot on the floor as I daintily stepped over the remains! Some people are not worth the time or energy to put them where they belong... in the trash!
Sep. 25th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)

I can just see you doing that, Butch. Hee! Grease spot. Dainty.

That's a good one.
Sep. 25th, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
God, what an idiot 'Norm' is. On so many levels. He's a schmuck!
Sep. 25th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
Hee! Yeah. I feel kind of sorry for him, when all's said and done. Because I think he knows it, and honestly has no idea how to stop being one.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )



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