I didn’t see you. I’m sorry. I know you expected gratitude, eye contact –– a flirty smile –– when you held the door for me today. You made sure I knew your behavior was transactional. I owed you.
“YOU’RE WELCOME!” You barked, like a parent reprimanding a child. I had forgotten my manners, and it was your job to remind me. Lest I forget my place in this world. My place which is beneath you. My place which is to please you.
Would you have spoken to me in such an irate and condescending tone if I matched you in height and weight and genitalia? (I’m asking that question rhetorically.) We both know the answer is, “No.” So let’s not kid ourselves that this tantrum you had on your way into the gym tonight was about anything other than gender and power. My gender. Your perception of power.
I suspect you expected me to keep quiet, stay obedient. I doubt you expected me to turn around and pursue you. Did it take you aback when I asked your name? Interestingly, you refused to say. Did you know the wrongness of your behavior, and were you ashamed? Or did you want to act with impunity? Did you believe you wouldn’t be held accountable? (That’s another rhetorical question.) We both know the answer is, “Yes.”
“Why do you feel compelled to regulate my behavior?” I asked, as you turned down the hall. My voice wavered, but I forced out each word. I challenged you. I caught you off guard.
You’d already rounded a corner when I called out, “This is a microaggression! This is sexist!” As if the Microaggression/Sexism Police would rush down the hall and arrest you on the spot. But I forget. This is your world in so many ways. You walked free. And I shook in someone’s office.
Now it strikes me as deeply ironic that you carried a Yoga mat. Was it pink? Purple?
You see, I can’t remember. This is because another man, a man with a voice like yours and a similar stature, once left a bruise on my arm in another doorway. He hurt me when I wouldn’t do what he wanted me to do. He believed I owed him something too. Thank you for reminding me of him tonight. Thank you for reminding me that no matter how far I rise, there is always a man waiting to pull me down. There is always a man who believes my behavior, my body, are territories under his jurisdiction.
I wonder if you took pleasure in your Yoga class. Were you one of a few men in the room or the only man? Did you pat yourself on the back for being so comfortable in your masculinity that you can downward dog and cat cow on a pink or purple Yoga mat? Did you say namaste and chant om shanti shanti at the end –– and feel like such a good person? I hope you cleansed yourself, a little, of your anger. I know that anger. I know what that anger can do. That’s why I’m writing to you now. That’s why I’m holding you accountable.
This letter is me saying, “I know what you did.” This letter is me saying, “Don’t ever do that again.”
Look, we only interacted for a few seconds. I don’t really know you. And you don’t know me. But if you ever see me again, please treat me like an equal. A legitimate human being. A person who doesn’t owe you anything.
Also, please don’t open the door for me. I can open the door myself. I have been opening and opening and opening doors for my whole life. So many doors. You wouldn’t believe them all. There is no door too heavy, none I can’t breach.
And by the way, I can’t stop thinking about how we stood on a threshold tonight. Did you know threshold can mean “on the verge?” Do you ever stop to think about how a threshold is a passage? There is no way back. Only forward.
So step aside. I am about to pass you. Surpass you. I have so much work to do. I have no more time to waste.