Tag Archives: RESPECT

The Fine Art of Not Meddling

Do any of you watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? One of the current storylines reminded me of a long-forgotten (subconsciously buried?) episode in my own life.

In the show, Joel’s interfering mother keeps trying to set him up with a “nice, appropriate, Jewish girl”, while he is secretly dating medical student Mei Lin, whose parents are the landlords of his Chinatown nightclub.

Flashback.

It was the 70s. I was in my early twenties, living in Manhattan, and had been seriously dating a Canadian artist for about a year who was not remotely Jewish and therefore not even borderline acceptable to my parents as a potential suitor despite his charm and talent.

My mother– never the most open-minded of people — opposed him sight unseen and started a campaign to “help” me come to my senses. This mostly took the form of not-so-subtle hints and comments. Then, one day, she learned that a neighbor’s father was in the hospital and his doctor was single and Jewish. Jackpot! My mother, never having met the man herself and knowing nothing else about him, told her neighbor to give the doctor my phone number — needless to say without my permission — even though she knew I was in a relationship.

I was livid. But it wasn’t the poor guy’s fault, so when he called I agreed to meet him for coffee.

Was he Prince Charming? Not in the least. I found him unattractive, timid, too old, and boring, and we had nothing in common except the same religion. I daresay he was not drawn to me either.

Ultimately, the artist and I broke up — for reasons having nothing to do with our families. But I’d learned my lesson: Keep my private life private unless I wanted to endure a boatload more unsolicited advice.

As a parent, I know it’s hard to see our kids making choices we feel are wrong for them. But unless their latest love interest is a criminal mastermind or serial killer, it seems wise to stay out of their relationships unless they ask for our opinions.

Who knows? With a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, they might even listen.

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I was going to write about something else this week; something more lighthearted than lewd remarks made by a person running for office.

But I feel the need to go on record: crude, demeaning, objectifying language about women is not “locker room banter” or some benign indication that “boys will be boys”. And no half-assed apology after the fact dilutes the message.

Remember that old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”? Not true. Words have power. And allowing language that insults women to go unchallenged encourages a culture which is one small step away from a date rape, abusive marriage, serial cheating, or any situation in which a woman is viewed as “less than”.

In my twenties, when I was a junior copywriter, I had a supervisor who was very tall, very large and very intimidating. I knew he had a bit of a crush on me so I kept our conversations brief and professional. One day, he came into my office, closed the door, and pushed me up against the wall as he attempted to kiss me.

Another time, a different man – married, and also my boss – slipped me the address of a friend’s apartment, saying he had been asked to “apartment sit” and hoped I would meet him there to “relax” outside of the office.

These weren’t the only incidents.

In those days, women joked off advances to save face for the men and to hang onto their jobs while maintaining a decent working relationship. There was no term such as “sexual harassment” and if you’d gone to HR you would have been told, “They didn’t mean any harm; just laugh it off”.

I’ve read that many of today’s young women reject the term feminist, thinking it equates to “man hater” or means they are unfeminine. That’s because they haven’t had to fight overt sex discrimination at every step of their careers. They take equality for granted, even though women are still paid less than men.

But here’s the thing. When a man talks about a woman in terms of her body parts, or comes on to someone who isn’t interested, it isn’t flattering – it’s offensive. Just as saying, “I love women” is patronizing and reductive.

It’s not a compliment when someone grabs your ass, tells a buddy about your great rack, or jokes that you are “hard to get”. Whether he’s 17 or 70.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been raped, and I’ve never had to make the agonizing decision whether or not to have an abortion. I don’t know what I would have done. But I know this: my body is nobody else’s business – to flatter, insult, violate, or make decisions for.

In the immortal words of the great Aretha Franklin, “All I’m asking for is a little respect”!