We were at the pool today, as we are wont to do after school since we are apparently living on the Surface of the Sun these days. The sky has been that foreboding shade of I Can’t Decide If I Will Rain Or Shine for the last two or so days, but throwing caution to the wind, or rather, deciding that we were sick and tired of sweating like it was going out of style, we took a chance and went off to the pool.
Now, the base policy that I have been handed personally when signing Kid up for swimming lessons states that the pool is to be evacuated if lightning is seen w/in a ten mile radius of the area. Lightning. Seen. This I can understand. This has been the common sense rule since I was a kid living on the lake and in a fishing community. So, I was a little taken aback when the tiniest rumble was heard today (there were so many helios and jets flying around that I am still not convinced that anyone heard anything) and the lifeguards immediately blew all of their whistles and made everyone get out of the pool. We had just settled in and were applying The Kid’s SPF 70 when this went down, so The Guy asked a man who was directing a group of teens out of the deep end if he could come over and answer a question.
He asked the khaki-clad white man why they had evac-ed the pool, and he said because of thunder. I looked up at him from my chair , shielding my eyes from the sun, and explained my confusion, because of the base policy on lightning that I had read. He said to me “Yes, and what causes lighting?” in a very “you must be in kindergarten and have never heard of this thing we call science” voice. “Thunder!” he said w/o giving me a chance to answer and walked away as if I was too much of a drop-out to know the answer. I get this a lot. Young mom of enlisted husband with child older than kindergarten equals uneducated woman whose only qualifications are vacuuming (and way too stupid to home school, lest I get too full of myself). I’ve seen that face. I also get it online when I reveal that I grew up on a reservation or when I admit to being disabled. I get people chasing me down on my very own blog in comments treating me this way. It is not a new sentiment.
Sure, basically he was right (let’s forget that whole thing about charged ions and the speed of sound and light and that given that we didn’t actually see the damned lightning he was still wrong…), but being right did not give him the right to talk down to me. What I was asking for was a clarification of the base and pool policy. If someone had simply said “yes ma’am, well the pool’s policy is that if we hear the tiniest rumble or anything we think might be a rumble or if your stomach growls too loudly then we pretty much make all swimmers get out for thirty minutes or until we ascertain that there is in fact no threat of actual lightning”, then perhaps that would have been just fine.
But, no. This guy had to mansplain to me as if I had never taken a high school science course with a text book written later than Ancient Greece. Or perhaps it is because we are not white (even though I am oft read that way, but The Guy is VERY much not). Or whatever his reasoning, this dude just decided that my question was not worth a courteous response.
I sat there, stunned. Did that happen? The Guy told me it was no big deal.
But it ate at me.
I wanted to go and ask this guy who he thought he was that he could talk to me like that when I was asking him a question, or better yet who he thought I was that he could talk to me like that and tell him how wrong he was. It made me think back to Chally’s post from the other day, about the way that her teacher spoke to her, and the way the department head immediately sided with that teacher, and how I wished in this moment that I had a fraction of that courage. I wanted to stand up strong and not be quietly marginalized by someone who decided I was less-than. Because that is sure how he made me feel in the three seconds he wasted on me.
But I was not raised that way.
I was raised to not make a fuss. I was raised to just let it go if no one (other than me) was hurt. I was raised to be more polite than that and be respectful of anyone with perceived authority, so much so that it has taken me several years to realize that “Fuck that, I have equal footing here”, because this man does not actually have the authority to dismiss me. Not just because he decides I do not deserve the time of day.
It took me a long time to realize that I am a parent too, I am an adult too, and other parents and adults don’t get to dictate what my actions should be. If I am abiding by rules and not harming anyone, I get to dictate my actions and have a say in what happens too.
I deserve to have misunderstandings cleared up.
I deserve to have base policies made clear to me so that I understand them and can abide by them
I deserve to be treated in a respectful manner, especially when my family and I are leading with respectful behavior.
I wish I had the courage to stand up and demand to be treated the way I know I deserve to be treated. I am working on it. I can recognize it now, so I guess that is a step.
But knowing and doing something about it are seldom the same thing.