I stopped at a farmer’s market the other day. The idea of getting some cheese and fresh croissants appealed to me, and once the thought hit my head, nothing else would suffice. So I wandered the small rows of booths — only two of them — looking for my targets. Once I saw the sign for apple cider donuts, I knew I needed those too.
I wish I hadn’t seen the sign.
I wish I hadn’t needed the donuts.
I wish I didn’t have cash on me to buy the donuts.
Not that anything particularly bad happened. That’s not what this is about. It’s the feeling inside me that feels gross. The feeling that every woman feels at one point, another, or 30 more. The feeling of not being heard. The feeling that your opinion doesn’t matter. Your wants. Your too polite “no thank you.” And these were some low stakes. And to an outsider, it probably seems like I’m overreacting. But two hours later, I still feel that sinking feeling that something wasn’t right in the pit of my stomach. I should have stood stronger. I should have been more firm. Why didn’t I say the things in my head? Why didn’t I walk away?
It was stupid really. The donuts came pre-packaged in a paper bag. I was carrying another paper bag full of cheese. He started unfolding a plastic bag to put the donuts in. I hate plastic bags. I said I didn’t need a bag. I can easily carry them.
“No, you need a bag. Let me give you one.”
I should have said, “I don’t use plastic bags. I hate them. They’re bad for the environment. And I care about the environment. I believe in global warming. I believe that plastic is taking over the world. I shop at farmer’s markets to support local farms, businesses, artisans, and creators. To avoid plastic bags.”
I said, “No thank you. I’m really fine without it.”
He was withholding my donuts. They were arm’s length from me, in his space. I should have just taken a closer bag and run.
“No, no. Let me do this. This is a man’s job. To make your life easier.”
I should have said, “It would make my life easier, if you let me just take the donuts.”
Instead, I said, “No, I’m okay really.”
“This is so much better for you,” he said as he took my bag of cheese and placed it in the bag. “More men should do this. For you. You need to be taken care of.”
I should have said, “I can take care of myself. I need you to LISTEN to what I’m saying. I do not want a bag. I said, ‘no thank you.’ That should be enough to let me be.”
And he kept going. He wasn’t done. He continued telling me what I wanted. Prior to purchasing the donuts, he was talking to someone about a previous coffee producer that came to the market. He insisted I knew them, and I didn’t (this being my first time at this market being the primary reason).
“Well, you must look them up. You like coffee. I know you do. You love it. They make the best coffee. Not like those guys over there,” he said pointing at a coffee seller. He continued like this for another minute. Telling me what I liked, who I was, and what I wanted.
Instead of kicking him in the shins, which I wanted to do, I “politely” laughed it off, grabbed my bag, and thanked him.
“Isn’t that better?” He asked with the bag in my hand now.
I didn’t answer. I smiled quickly and turned away. Disgusted at his insistence, his persistence, and his lack of awareness.
What I should have told him was that his version of chivalry is outdated. Women don’t want to be “taken care of.” Women don’t want men to “make things easier for them.” Women want men to listen. We want to be heard. We want to be seen as equals. We want to be taken seriously. We don’t want to be told who we are or what we like or what we want.
Chivalry isn’t dead. Chivalry is my husband telling me that what happens to, with, and in regards to my body is my choice and respecting the decisions I make. Chivalry is my brother, raising his daughter to think for herself and grow up strong and independent. Chivalry is my dad, being there when I need him, but not pushing his help on me when I don’t ask for it. Chivalry is my guy friends counting me as their equal and respecting my opinions. Chivalry is about accepting and respecting women – not controlling them.