On Saturdays, I have a standing volunteer gig that typically involves free lunch, brought in for the folks I’m working with, but we’re welcome to it as well. This past Saturday there was cake, so I snagged a small slice and sat down to enjoy its chocolate-frosted goodness. Now, on this particular day I found myself working with a volunteer for the first time who was a total horse’s rear end.
* He was from South Africa. That’s not the offense. The offense is that when I asked him where he was from he said, “South Africa” with such self-importance that I wondered if he expected me to drop a curtsy.
* He was in his late 30s which, again, not the offense, but it will be germane in a second. Anyway, he kept making references to Korean females. Instance No. 1—While giggling at his cell screen he informed me that he was texting “a Korean girl” whom he was trying to teach American slang like “straight dope.” Instance No. 2—A TV at the opposite side of the room had the LPGA tournament on it. He said, “I love watching the Korean girls golf.” I said, “Uh, why?” Without taking his eyes off the screen, he said, “Because they’re so cute.” And here’s the kicker: one of the other regular volunteers who was not there that day, whom he kept inquiring about to her brother who was there, is a Korean-American girl. Who is in high school.
* Having made several comments to ostentatiously reveal himself to be religious (and slyly handing out “Jesus saves” pamphlets to anyone in the decidedly non-religious venue whom he could snare), he asked when I was getting married. I answered and he said, “I’m guessing you’re living in sin now?” Not content that he’d made his point, he followed it with, “Well at least you’re making it right,” then repeated that for effect so I might know that even though I was a sinner, I was still going to be bathed in Jesus’ forgiving light come 1 p.m. on October 25.
But it was not until the next comment that I almost came over the table at him. As I was starting to nibble on my cake, he said something about the food and I chuckled and said, “Yep, I justify eating cake now as pre-wedding research.” At this, he did a full body scan and said pointedly, without smiling, “What does your fiancé think of that plan?”
(needle on the record)
“My fiancé is perfectly happy with his size-6 fiancée,” I shot back, while doing some quick mental calculus to figure out if jabbing my fork into his torso would delay my heavenly salvation. I determined that at the very least it would require me to go get a new fork, thus delaying my cake eating, and as such wasn’t worth it.
So in addition to judging me for my cohabiting lifestyle, Churchy Magoo the Korean-Ogling Fat Caliper took it upon himself to remind me I should want to stay nice and tiny for my man. Not that it matters, but allow me to reiterate that I am a size 6. And 5’7″. And I work out just about every day. And because it does matter, allow me to iterate that I’ve spent a fair amount of time during the last 15 years grappling what’s been referred to delicately as my eating “situation.” It has ebbed and flowed lo these many years, but when it’s flowed, it has meant that I don’t eat, or that any eating that does occur doesn’t end in swell fashion. Thankfully, the good stretches are now measured in years, not days or weeks, but as with many brain-wiring snafus that lead to addiction or disorder, the impulse, if not the activity itself, never completely goes away.
Of course, this clown would have no way of knowing that. He’d have no way of knowing that a comment like that can set a person back days, weeks, or even longer. That a comment like that can lead to frustration and anxiety and internal vows to renew or redouble unhealthy behavior. But I’m finding that there’s something about talking with an engaged person that makes people feel they are at liberty to broadcast their most obnoxious opinions about everything up to and including: appearance, money, family, women’s behavior, men’s behavior, procreation, religion, and cultural and geographic bias (insert your favorite stereotype about the Irish, the Polish, or people from Texas here and trust me, my fiancé and I have heard it.)
But it wasn’t worth it to tell him all of this. It was only worth it to finish my cake, and know that he could eat it, too.