Once again I’m standing at the table of two couples fresh off the softball fields. “Guess I’m not gettin’ any tonight” winks one man to the other as the wives pretend they are not uncomfortable with the most intimate moments of their married lives being laid bare within hearing distance of the entire restaurant.
I’m waiting patiently as some local Romeo looks away from the menu and declares that he’ll have a Sheepherder’s Special; “You know, a leg of lamb and a piece of ‘ewe.’” He’s laughing and waiting for my response; absolutely sure that no other clever fellow had ever said those words to me before.
I’m walking toward the kitchen and hearing that Missouri accent drawling out an invitation to “put your pretty little tush right here,” as he slaps his thigh.
I’m painfully aware of the table to my left. They’re waiting for service while I try to get an order from an 8-top of guards who haven’t finished their repertoire of lewd comments just yet. The accusation of racism stings as I decide to turn my attention toward the other waiting customers. One of the guards is black. What other reason could there be for my rejecting their generous advances?
I’m standing at the cash register as a man grabs my hand and rubs a finger in my palm with a seductive wink. I want to say something, anything, but I’m in shock. Just a few years back his son and I were sharing the stage for high school theater productions. My whole being wants to recoil. I want nothing more than to turn and run but “the customer is always right”, or so I thought.
#MeToo. I keep reading my facebook scroll. I’m in awe of the sisters and brothers who are boldly willing to name and claim their experiences. I’m grateful for men who call their brothers to accountability for participation in a culture that allows a Harvey Weinstein to go unchallenged for decades. The emotions rise to the surface and I’m transported one more time back to that brief spring/summer of my life.
Therese, a more dedicated waitress than I has had enough. She tells her 8-top to either order or leave the restaurant. What would be the consequence? I cannot imagine that her job would be secure had the owner heard her ultimatum, but the owner wasn’t there at that time of night. The men continue their commentary and advances for just a few moments more until the night manager, Bill, stands from behind the partition. “I believe the lady asked you to leave.”
A path to the evolution of our understanding is laid out for me to see. The arc of the moral universe takes another tiny bend toward justice. Together we will be strong. Together we’ll change this culture of secrecy and shame to a culture of honesty and respect. I’m still distracted tonight, but more importantly – I’m hopeful.