Dear Uptight Seattleite,
I was leaving the Essential Bakery in Madison Valley a while back with two young children in tow when a man followed me out the door to point out, accusingly, that we were expected to bus our own tables inside. I had not done so but was taken aback by his pursuit. While I admit I transgressed, is it reasonable to police the busing behaviors of others?
Please help me understand. I assume there was some kind of emergency. Maybe one of your children, or both, were bleeding from their necks? In such a situation, yes, of course, it might well be understandable that you wouldn't do a full clearing of your table (though you could have perhaps at least thrown away your trash).
Or was there some other reason that you mentioned the presence of your children? I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you didn't expect that the cafe, or society as a whole, would accord you some sort of special treatment because you made the choice to reproduce.
Let's back up a moment and imagine this situation from the man's perspective. He's quietly going about his business—drinking his coffee, reading his paper, and watching you carefully from an adjoining table. Sure, he thinks, that woman may have children, but that doesn't necessarily mean she's insensitive about the larger footprint she therefore makes on the Earth. I'm sure she will, if anything, be even more diligent about her responsibilities. She certainly wouldn't expect minimum-wage workers to clean up after her. Or so he thinks.
And then he sees you get up and leave your napkins, cups, and maybe a diaper or two all over the table. As if the words "please bus your own table" were not carefully printed in sun-faded marker and affixed with cellophane tape above the cream station. He could have simply shaken his head sadly and gone back to his soy latte. But no, he chose to take advantage of the teaching moment that was presented to him. Just as he took the higher path, I encourage you, too, to enlarge your view of the matter. It's not every day that we are afforded such an opportunity to reflect productively upon our actions.
Dear Uptight Seattleite,
There's a woman where I work whom I would like to ask out on a date, but I don't want to be guilty of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, or objectifying women. But on the other hand, as a heterosexual (not that there's anything wrong with that), I don't want to remain in the closet.
How should I approach this situation?
You are commendably aware of the risks involved, but there's still a lot more you need to do. Before taking any action, you should educate yourself about the long history of the oppression of women, and the many possible ways you yourself may be responsible for the continuation of this oppression. Contact the nearest rape crisis center and ask them for a list of recommended books. Read them carefully and take notes on 3-by-5 cards. Carry the cards around with you and study them whenever you have a spare moment. Perhaps some other male will ask you what you're doing, and this will be a perfect moment to start a dialogue about these issues. Each one teach one, that's what I say. Next, you should summarize your findings in some form. Here's a neat idea: You could present them to the co-worker you wish to ask out. Perhaps as a PowerPoint titled "Women and Men: A History of Exploitation." If I know anything about women, she is certain to be reassured and charmed by your thoughtful display.
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