I walked into a deli and saw a transgender woman, with a little girl, paying at the counter. Behind her, a man was screaming that she was a “piece of trash” and that he was going to “beat her” — except with profanity. The woman was rattled, and so was the boy behind the counter, who looked about 18. When her transaction was finished, she and the child left quickly. I wanted to step in and shut this man down, but I didn’t dare. Advice for next time?
I love your kind impulse (as much as I hate this story), but let’s rethink it: Tangling with angry bigots is never your go-to move. This man was shouting fiery epithets at a woman, with a small child in tow, because of her sex. He is hateful. Who knows how his behavior may have escalated if you challenged him?
Your better option is to support the woman. Walk right up to her, as if a lunatic were not screaming at her, and help her finish the transaction (or abandon it) and get her out of that deli as quickly as possible. Bag her groceries; pay for them, if she has not; squeeze her hand in solidarity. But ignore the loon. (Call 911, if you like. But the parties will probably have scattered by the time the police arrive.)
In my experience of irrational hatred, engaging madmen and madwomen only gives them more room to seethe. Better to neutralize the ugliness by placing it alongside normal behavior: Chat calmly with the woman about the weather, and the nasty man is more likely to recede. Be like a firefighter: Get potential victims to safety first, then tackle the trash-can blaze. Walk with her until she feels safe and encourage her to report the incident to the police. The only known antidote to hatred is love.
Stuffing a Brother-in-Law
We host an annual reunion for my husband’s family. His brother, an avid runner, has a voracious appetite. When he comes, he finishes almost everything we put out. Once, he ate five servings of salmon for lunch! My husband prefers that we simply count him as three people when we prepare food for the party. I would rather speak to him. Is it proper to comment on his intake?
Your husband is a wise man. Flare-ups between siblings are practically inevitable. (It is always wildfire season with mine.) Don’t light matches over issues as petty as portion control. You are free to blow up relationships with your own siblings, but stay out of your husband’s. Especially when he has concocted an elegant solution to feed his hungry brother and the other guests, too.
Take Your Nice Pills
I live in a high-rise building. We have three elevators, but there is often a wait. Recently I got onto the elevator in the lobby and pressed the button when I heard someone yell, “Hold the elevator!” Normally I would, but I was in a rush, so I didn’t. The woman sent her child running to hold the door. She proceeded to berate me for 10 floors. I responded calmly that I was in a hurry and that she could always catch the next elevator. This enraged her; her entitlement bothered me. How much kindness do I owe neighbors at the expense of my convenience?
We love our neighbors too. And when they turn up their music really loud, we invite the police to listen. I kid, because neighbors can have a big impact on the quality of our lives. When we are generous with them, they are more likely to be generous with us in return. Think of it as sacrifice born of self-interest.
No matter how foul a mood I’m in, I hold the elevator if someone asks or if I see someone coming. On top of that, I smile at neighbors when they saunter on board (excruciatingly slowly). It’s a small price to pay for community. My question for you: Exactly what kind of rush were you in that waiting 35 seconds would make a difference?
Leftovers, So Festive
My husband and I were invited to a backyard barbecue. Our hosts asked us to bring beer, which we did with pleasure. I also wanted to bring the leftover half of a delicious cake from our fridge. My husband insisted this would be in poor taste. So I deferred. And when I polled the party, I was shocked to find that many thought it would be downright rude. But I maintain that, among friends, bringing half a cake (in addition to beer) is better than no cake at all. Who is right?
It seems a bit overdramatic to label the gift of half a cake “rude.” You come in peace, right? Still, when we entertain, we often like to put our best feet forward. (A little makeup and some jewelry — and that’s just the men.) In that light, your used cake may not be quite up to snuff. Limit leftovers to potlucks with your besties, O.K.?