Saturday, August 31, 2013

I May Be a B*tch, But I'm Polite

Punky and I had a little incident yesterday that I will admit torqued me for about 20 minutes.  I handled it politely and after conversing with Punky about what had happened and why, I let it go.  That’s pretty good for me.  Trust me.  However, it did get me to thinking about the ‘big picture’ of what happened and the longer I did that the bigger the picture became.  One thought rolled into another and then into another until I had a giant snowball of rant inside me and so here I go….

Punky and I were standing in line at the Post Office yesterday to mail my hubby a care package.  There were three folks waiting in front of us and no one behind us.  I realized I needed more supplies for the next time we ship so I told Punky to remain in the line, with the package we were currently shipping, and I stepped two feet over to grab some shipping boxes from that section of the Post Office.  I see movement out of the corner of my eye and glance up to watch an elderly woman approach the back of the line, look at Punky, and then proceed to cut in front of her.  Punky opened her mouth, as if to speak, but then she gave a little shrug to herself and closed her mouth.

I was raised by Depression Era parents who taught me a lot of ‘old fashioned’ manners.  I didn’t answer questions with a ‘yeah’ or ‘nah’.  I said and still say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘you’re welcome’ and ‘excuse me.’  I hold open doors for folks coming in behind me and I smile at clerks who are waiting on me and ask them ‘How are you?’.  I *also* respect my elders.  It was instilled in me to my core.  As you might imagine, we instill the same with Punky.  Case in point - her little shrug and the shutting of her mouth when the elderly woman cut in front of her.

Punky was doing the right thing, the thing we had raised her to do…she was showing respect for an elder by letting the elderly woman cut in front of her.  Proud mama, right?  Yes, but here’s the thing, I *saw* the look this elderly woman gave my child right before she cut in front of her.  It was a look that I recognize well.  It was a look that said, “I’m a bitch, I get my way, and I’m not polite about it.”  Now, you might be thinking to yourself right about now that *I* am a bitch for thinking that and that’s okay because you’d be right a lot of the time.  However, I am polite.  I don’t think I’m always going to get my way (although that’s still a tough one for me, I admit).  I know you know the type of bitch to whom I’m referring.  You either have had encounters with this type of woman or you are this type of woman. 

I digress, back to the story.  I *knew* that this woman looked at Punky and decided that she could get away with cutting in front of her because Punky is a child.  I would guess this woman has lived her life as if she can get whatever she wants by being the biggest bitch in the room (tactics I’m familiar with, but have made great strides in overcoming of late).  So, there were really two issues working here.  This elderly woman’s attitude and her disrespect of children.  It was because of those two things that I decided to test the waters.  I’d remain polite, to a point, but I wanted to test my theory and perhaps teach Punky a life lesson in the process.

I walked back to Punky in line and as I did she gave me a look.  I know my child.  She is very intuitive, very.  She *knew* what I knew about this woman!  I love my girl!  Despite that, she still deferred to ‘respecting her elders’ in the situation.  For that, I *am* proud of her.  Still, I am an adult and I was diving into the situation.  I cleared my throat and said, “Excuse me, Ma’am?”  The woman ignored me.  That was one.  I cleared my throat again and repeated myself while gently tapping her on her shoulder.  I received a quick glance from her and then she turned her back again.  That was two.  I half-stepped into her space and said, “I’m sorry Ma’am, but my daughter was in line and you cut in front of her.”  The lady turned to glare at me with a bitchiness that took many years to breed and said nothing.  That was three.  I’d proven my theory so I just stared right back at her (yes, I can do BITCH) and nodded my head to behind us.  She sneered at me, rolled her eyes, and then moved to behind us.  I smiled very wide and nodded my head at her and said, “Thank you.”  After we finished mailing our package, and this woman was still being waited on, I turned to her, caught her eye, and said, “Have a great weekend, Ma’am.”

So, yes, perhaps I was a bitch but I was a polite, disciplined one.  That’s the thing that sticks in my craw.  I’m fine with women being bitchy.  Sometimes we are bitchy because we are hormonal (come on, be honest), sometimes because we have been hurt or angered, and sometimes it’s because we are full of righteous indignation.  Women are easily considered a bitch for merely standing up for themselves, voicing their opinions, or expressing their beliefs.  All those reasons are just fine.  Be a bitch, I say!  It’s just a word, a name that we are sometimes given by others (both men and other women) who don’t like it when we stand up for ourselves or something we believe in.  No problem.  But let’s be clear, you don’t have to be rude.  You especially don’t have to be rude to children.  Which leads me to part two of this little rant.

Adults want children to respect them.  *I* wish children to be respectful, but it can be a catch-22.  How will children learn to be respectful of others (and even themselves) if they don’t see adults modeling that behavior?  True, the responsibility of modeling politeness falls mainly into the parental camp.  Punky is respectful (most of the time) because her father and I have taught her to be respectful in both our words and deeds.  However, as children grow older and are out in the world, be it in school with ‘authority figures’, at the store with a clerk, or even the Post Office waiting in line with other adults, we, as those adults in the community, have a responsibility to model polite societal behavior to reinforce what children are learning at home.  If children aren’t learning it at home, then the hope would be that they’d pick up on the social mores through contact and communication with adults out in society.  Teaching children to be respectful starts with respecting them; treating them respectfully.  Children innately recognize the difference in adults, don’t fool yourself.  Punky is very aware when she is being treated with respect by adults and she is also very aware when she is not.  It is ridiculous and rude of us, as adults, to expect respect from children if 1) we don’t model respectful behavior ourselves and 2) we show no respect to the children. 

The elderly woman who was at the Post Office deserved my respect, according to how I was raised, because she was my elder.  I didn’t give her my respect because of how she treated my daughter and reacted to the situation.  I did, however, treat her politely.  What I taught Punky in that moment, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s okay to seem like a bitch while standing up for yourself, just be polite about it.

~Mari B.