#MeToo and Matrescence at the Gas Pump

A few weeks ago, while I was pumping gas and thinking through about a million and one different things on my way into work, the man at the car next to me yelled out, “Smile! It’s Christmas! You look mad.”

I ignored him because, like I said, I was *thinking,* plus, I didn’t like his tone. This only caused him to yell out again, louder and more aggressively the second time around, as if by right I should have answered him. (Note: this sort of thing happens to me– and the many women who dare to spend their time THINKING instead of SMILING– all the time. And it drives me particularly crazy.)

Normally, I would have just given in: flashed him a quick smile to shut him up, and probably found myself apologizing for not smiling in the first place during the process…

But I’m going to be a mom. And there’s like… a LOT that comes with that: a certain responsibility, a certain strength; the desire to pee every 90 minutes but also a newfound instinct to kick ass. So I stood up and said, “Actually, as a woman, that’s really offensive.”

Image result for tell a woman to smile

I went on to say, “I’m sure you were just trying to be friendly” (which I didn’t mean one bit) “but it’s rude to go around telling women to smile.”

He apologized and said he “didn’t know” which I totally didn’t believe but it was better than being called a bitch (which is a more typical response) so I told him to have a nice day.

(Yes, I told him to have a nice day because he *didn’t* call me a bitch. That’s how low the bar is set.)

Afterwards I thought of all of the better things I could have said, like “Would you have told me to smile if I was a man?” or “I don’t exist to be pretty for you, mothafucker!” or the slightly more civilized “If you were really concerned that I was mad or having a bad day, you could have just asked how I was doing- one human to another- instead of telling me to do something to make me conform to your version of femininity” but hey, baby steps.

(Especially because I’ve never actually uttered the word “mothafucker” in my life and had to look up just how how to spell it the cool way…)

Anyway, speaking of baby steps, I’m pregnant.

We made the requisite Facebook announcement back in October, ordered the requisite Christmas photocards in November, and coined the requisite baby hashtag earlier this month but I’ve been remiss in updating my blog– and, frankly, in coming to grips with being pregnant.

I’ve always known I’ve wanted to have kids but I was never all that sold on having kids biologically until I met my husband and, well, suddenly I found myself wanting to have *his* kids.

Fast forward to this past summer when we had “the talk” (A: We’re not getting any younger and I am NOT doing fertility treatments so now is our best shot, B: If we want to do this, we’ve gotta pop out a kid during the summer break because I’m an adjunct and adjuncts don’t get maternity leave and finally, C: I’ll be ovulating in a few days so let’s do this).

We got pregnant like 20 minutes later (seriously, first try) but I didn’t realize it until the weekend of my birthday when, in less than 48 hours:

  • PIC took me out to dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant to celebrate. There, my parents treated us to a bunch of happy hour drinks, my brother and his wife sent a bottle of wine over to the table, and the staff comped us a round of after dinner chocolate martinis (or maybe it was limoncello? All I can remember is that I spent the rest of the evening tripping over myself and singing the theme song to Hood Adjacent which is just “Hood! Adjacent… Hood! Adjacent…” over and over again…)
  • I then met up with a bunch of girlfriends (who also have summer birthdays) for brunch, which was (of course) BYOB. We spent the morning drinking mimosas followed by improvised cocktails made from whatever alcohol we had left mixed with made-from-concentrate juice bought at the local convenience store. #Classy

Following all of this, I went over to my friend Katie’s apartment for a production meeting before we had to head off to rehearsal and I found, to my surprise, that I absolutely could not concentrate on the rehearsal schedule or perform even the simplest of budget calculations in my head, which is kind of crazy when you consider the fact that Katie and I actually run a successful dance company that has operated in the black for five years now…

Was it the alcohol?

Or was it something else?

Three pregnancy tests later, I had my answer.

Next came the googling (had my weekend of drinking irrevocably damaged my baby? Was I already a bad mother???) then the excitement (I didn’t mean to wake PIC up at 2:00am to tell him… but hey, if I couldn’t sleep, why should he?), then the abject horror, which struck the next morning precisely as I found myself trying to fix the flapper valve on our downstairs toilet for like the fourth time:

How could we bring a baby into this house when we couldn’t even get the toilet to work?

And how could bring a baby into this WORLD when we’ve got this asshole in the White House, dangerous levels of climate change, white supremacy running rampant, rape culture, late-stage capitalism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and fucking football fans losing their minds when someone dares to take a knee?

I hung my head over the toilet and sobbed. Big, snotty, ugly sobs.

What were we doing?

But then a little voice in my head said, “Get over yourself, white girl. People had babies during slavery. People had babies during the Holocaust. You have this baby and you keep trying.”

So here we are, heading into the third trimester: our A is for Activist ABCs book, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls (or boys!), and a brand new set of Black History Flashcards Vol. 1 at the ready (Santa was woke AF this year).

15 Responses to “#MeToo and Matrescence at the Gas Pump”

  1. FromLandlordtoAbuela

    Oh, and I forgot to say, this exact same thing happened to me, at the gas station, and it was from one of the attendants that IS very friendly, and we actually got into a conversation about why I wasn’t smiling and I *think* (hope) he says this to everyone. But you are correct, sometimes I’m just in my head running through the myriad of things I need to do that day, etc.

    Reply
  2. FromLandlordtoAbuela

    ugh, I wish you could edit your reply as I hit “send” before I was finished. I did find myself defending why I wasn’t smiling and at first being taken aback. But it ended with just being happy to be alive, enjoying the moment…but only because I was trying to figure out why that made me feel defensive, initially.

    Reply
  3. Kate Katharina

    Aw, congratulations! What lovely and exciting news πŸ™‚ It’s been fun keeping up with your adventures from your retail days to your fieldwork and now to marriage and starting a family! Good for you for speaking out to that guy – and considering he apologised I think it’s fine to wish him a good day. The main thing is to get him to reflect on what he said and hopefully to pass on the message that women aren’t decorative to his male friends.

    Reply
  4. Leah

    Congratulations! I get particularly excited when enlightened people decide to reproduce. It gives me hope for the future.

    Secondly: that “smile” bullshit pisses me off so much. I’m not sure if it’s my grey hair or something else that finally tells people to stop commenting on the status of my face. Finally, I can just look the way I look. Fortunately, nobody’s ever told me to grow bigger boobs or longer legs. Nope, it’s just the look of my my relaxed face that somehow seemed to be open for public scrutiny. WTF?

    Reply
  5. Jerseyite Lurker

    Congratulations, Kat, to you and PIC.

    Going back to your opening story, you did exactly the right thing. You shouldn’t regret that you gave him a chance to apologize and accepted it graciously, because doing anything other than that would have been profoundly inferior to doing that. It’s not a matter of lowering the bar; it’s a matter of working with the person who’s willing to learn, and giving positive reinforcement to a man who’s “man enough” to apologize.

    Reply
  6. Laurie Block Spigel

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! So happy for you and the grandfolks-to-be! The best parents are the ones who worry if they’re being good parents. Even better, are creative types (such as writers and dancers) who possess strong values and who are willing to fight the good fight. They love fiercely and well, and your offspring are lucky to be sure. Wishing you all many blessings!

    Reply
    • Kat Richter

      Thank you, Laurie! And yes, I think my parents are as excited as we are πŸ™‚ We’ve got a small library of kids dance/art books ready to go (plus “A is for Activist” of course).

      Reply
  7. Grace @ Cultural Life

    Congratulations Kat, to you and PIC. Such wonderful news! πŸ™‚ I’ve been following your blog since your dating days, and as Kate Katharina commented above, it’s been lovely to follow your story through the different phases of your life thus far. I’m 24 and at the beginning of my dating phase… wish me luck!

    Kudos to you for speaking up to that guy! You definitely did the right thing. Your post reminded me of an article I read last week, which struck a chord with me. I think you might enjoy it too! πŸ™‚ Here’s a link: My week as Bette Davis

    Also, it sounds like you’ve already got an awesome book collection for the little one. My niece has a copy of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls and it’s a great read!

    Reply

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