Saturday, October 15, 2016

The kind of man

In the early 80s my then boyfriend and I would occasionally get together with a couple of his college buddies. They could be a bit rowdy together but there were certain lines they knew not to cross, and being vulgar and disrespectful toward me or any female around was one of them.

One time when the four of us had been out for an afternoon I came down with a massive sinus headache. While we were in the car I slumped down in the front seat as my boyfriend drove. From the back came a joke that, while not directly saying the words, insinuated there was a lot more going on than my resting. Both of his friends were giggling like they were in middle school.

“That’s enough, guys.”

 There was not a hint of humor in his tone. He was not smiling. He was not trying to pacify me while going along with the joke. He was making it clear they had gone too far.

The laughing stopped immediately.

“We’re sorry, Chuck,” one friend immediately offered, while the other one – the instigator – mumbled, “Sorry.”

If I hadn’t already been completely enamored with him, that very well might have sealed the deal. I recently asked that boyfriend – now my husband of more than 32 years – if he recalled that incident. He had no memory of it. But almost 35 years later I still clearly recall that day. It stays with me because it’s an example of the kind of man he was becoming. 

If he had chosen to go along with his buddies and let the innuendo continue, I can’t say for sure that it would have been the end for us as a couple. I do know our relationship would have been cheapened, and once we were alone I would have had a lot of questions. But because of who he was back then and still is, laughing along with the comments or even ignoring them was never an option.

See, this... this very personal story isn't about the 'first person' agenda. This is about the followers.

I know back in the younger years some conversations weren't quite G-rated between these guys, but not in the way we’ve heard this past week or so, and never, ever to insinuate power and aggression over a woman. If he had been in on the dialogue we’ve all been privy to lately courtesy of the media, I believe that no matter what his age, my husband would not have been going along with it. He also would not have thought to ride on the coattails of a braggart by pushing a woman into ‘hugging’ him or anyone else, and if he ever heard a guy make even the slightest slimy reference about either of our daughters, that person would be receiving a serious lesson in respect, not to mention seeing how fast he could run.

Our daughters were raised to know that a man who talks about women like they’re bait on a hook just waiting to be 'handled' is not the kind of man that deserves them. We raised them to be valued as people rather than assessed like a piece of property.

That day stays with me because what I felt and heard mattered to someone who didn’t have to defend me, but chose to. My husband knew in his early 20s, when the pressure is high to fit in, that showing respect for a woman is far more important than being in on the joke.

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