Home > Uncategorized > I am no longer accommodating men

I am no longer accommodating men

March 13, 2016

Not sure if you’ve read this article, entitled She Was Asked to Switch Seats. Now She’s Charging El Al With SexismWell I have, and I have to say what the woman is saying makes a lot of sense. I share her annoyance. Favorite line:

I think to myself, here I am, an older woman, educated, I’ve been around the world, and some guy can decide that I shouldn’t sit next to him. Why?

Let me clarify: I had read that article, a couple of weeks ago, before my recent flight to London for a talk.

I’ve been traveling too much lately: Brussels last month, Amsterdam and London these past two weeks. I’m behind with my consulting work, and I was desperate to catch up when I boarded my Norwegian Air flight in London. I worked on my computer after getting through security in Gatwick, and I was happy to have secured an aisle seat with an empty seat next to it on the plane so I could be somewhat comfortable while I worked on the 8 hour flight. Norwegian Air doesn’t make it easy to arrange your seat, but I’d gotten early to the airport to do it, and I got on the plane and immediately cracked open my computer and started coding.

Leave me the hell alone, world. I’m working.

So you can imagine my mood when a flight attendant approached me and asked me to switch my seats with another so that an orthodox Jew could sit in my seat, away from women.

Until that moment, obviously, I hadn’t been looking around, but now I did. There was a man on the other side of the empty middle seat next to me, and across the aisle was another overweight middle-aged woman like myself.

Suddenly I found myself wondering how in the world someone like me, or my aisle mate, could possibly be so sexually attractive that some man would lose control around us. Then, in the next moment, I remembered the above article. I said to the flight attendant, “you know there’s a lawsuit around this very issue, right?” to which she replied, “I’m not making you move! I’m asking you if you’d like to.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re not making me. That makes me feel better. I find the request inappropriate.”

I honestly thought the conversation would be over at that point, but the flight attendant then mentioned that I “wouldn’t be losing an empty middle seat” since the orthodox man also had an empty middle seat next to him. But that made even less sense, of course, because if anything the woman across the aisle from my seat was closer to me than the man next to me across the middle seat. And he wasn’t making her move too, right? What. The. Fuck.

It is surprising to me how annoyed I got. I thought of myself as accommodating until that very moment – just as I used to think of myself as nice until people corrected me a few years ago.

But here’s the thing, I’m not accommodating. At least not anymore. I think it has to do with the fact that I no longer want to have children.

After having my third son in 2008, I agreed with my husband that we wouldn’t have any more kids. But, to be honest, I still wanted more kids. There was some part of my lower brain that was thinking, maybe….

About a year ago, that changed. Maybe it was the book. Writing a book is something like having another kid. Maybe I realized I didn’t need more kids, I could instead just write more books. Maybe get a dog. I might eventually have grandchildren.

For whatever reason, all of a sudden I actually didn’t want more of my own kids. And that changed my relationship with the world, and specifically with men.

I’m just being honest here – after all, it’s a blog – but there was something in my head that I didn’t even recognize until it was gone, something that made me size up every man I met as a potential baby daddy. Hey there, you look goooood.

And because of that response, I would find myself accommodating men, especially young, healthy, charming men. They honestly could get away with saying dumb or even offensive things around me and I’d instantly forgive them. I didn’t even notice doing it. It’s like I was drunk on their youth.

It’s seems ludicrous to me now. It’s not like I’d ever have actually had a child with someone besides my husband. It was not an articulated plan. It wasn’t even a plan. But I can tell you this: the moment I stopped wanting kids, I stopped accommodating men.

It’s a subtle but deep change. Attractive men – and for that matter, women – are extremely remote concepts to me nowadays. It’s like I’ve lost a sense of smell, but one that distracted me from observing people in other ways. Now I listen to what people say and I can focus on whether it makes sense, and honestly, the news isn’t always great. I have become immune to the charm of beautiful people.

But – don’t get me wrong!! – I’m still completely in love with funny, gregarious, and smart people, especially when they have deep empathy and/or can hold a karaoke tune. I haven’t stopped crushing on people, it’s just that the nature of the crushes, or at least the cause of the crushes, have changed.

So anyway, back to my airflight. I am glad I refused to move. To me it’s unreasonable to interrupt a bunch of women’s lives to accommodate a man, especially when we’re trying to get some goddamn work done.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Scott
    March 13, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Is there any reason why the man couldn’t move instead. If the man found himself uncomfortable then perhaps he could have asked for a reallocation?


  2. March 13, 2016 at 8:35 am

    You were very polite !
    I can think of a number of alternative responses, especially when the reason for the request was given.


  3. brian t
    March 13, 2016 at 8:35 am

    I don’t know if I would describe that male as a “man” at all. What does it say about you if you feel you’re a slave to your base urges?

    A couple of years ago I flew from Dublin to Philadelphia with a new mother in the same row (an empty seat in between us), baby latched on to her breast all the way. What did it mean? It meant a quiet flight, since the baby was clearly happy – hardly a squeak out of him/her for eight hours. My manhood was not threatened in any way. If anything, I was happier for being in a place where she could do that without being hassled in any way.


  4. March 13, 2016 at 9:17 am



  5. Fred Dashiell
    March 13, 2016 at 9:24 am

    You should have negotiated for a cabin upgrade to first class or business class.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kliattaudi
    March 13, 2016 at 9:31 am



  7. March 13, 2016 at 9:37 am

    I am almost Social Security age and I am still distracted by beautiful women and I hope that they can still distract me when I’m 100 years old. Be that as it may, Orthodox Judaism does NOT require gender segregation in public transportation.

    “Rav [Rabbi] Moshe Feinstein delivered the leading 20th century opinion on the permissibility of mixed seating on public transportation when asked whether an Orthodox Jewish man could sit next to a female stranger on a crowded New York subway train. He responded that there was no prohibition on incidental contact with women or sitting next to them when there is no other seat available and when this contact was not undertaken with any sort of sexual intent. If a man thinks that travelling under these conditions might incite sexual thoughts, he should try to distract himself and think about words of Torah. If he is so filled with lustful thoughts that even this incidental proximity to women might cause him to be sexually aroused, then he ought not travel. His pathology is not another person’s problem, though Feinstein lamented the fact that anyone should be so weak-minded. Such obsessiveness is the result of idleness, Feinstein said, and men like this need to be more involved in Torah study and work and “not be that way.””


    As to the the NYT article, as I’ve commented elsewhere, hers is a weak case. She was asked to accommodate someone, much like being asked to allow a mother and child to sit together. She could have said no, and she SHOULD have said no. She was under no obligation to move. I seriously doubt that after 10 years of living in Israel she understood no Hebrew, and she could have asked the flight attendant to repeat in English the conversation between the attendant and the uncouth man. And as others have suggested, anyone requiring such gender segregation should pay for two (or three) adjacent seats, and stop making it someone else’s problem.

    I do hope that someone brings a much stronger case than this one against the airlines, and against El Al in particular

    And lastly don’t sell yourself short, Cathy. Google this: “black men like overweight white women.”😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 13, 2016 at 9:39 am

      As usual, Abe, you leave me with mouth agape.

      Liked by 1 person

    • March 13, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Seems like this is a pretty inauspicious topic on which to taunt the author. On my blog, someone would have been banned about 5 minutes after his first post.


      • March 13, 2016 at 4:22 pm

        Taunting the author? Where did you come up with that?


    • Nicholas
      March 13, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      Hey, hey, not just black men!


      • March 14, 2016 at 6:08 am

        Boys, boys. I know it threatens some people’s manhood when I talk about how I don’t accommodate men. To be clear, it doesn’t mean I’m not gorgeous and that men don’t desire me. I know this, and I’m not in need of it being explained. I’m also not easily offended by such displays.

        Thanks for quieting down about this point and commenting on the actual post!


        • Nicholas
          March 14, 2016 at 7:51 pm

          Okay, I’m sorry this will never happen to me so that I can respond in an equally sovereign way.


  8. March 13, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Great article! I have long wondered what I would say in this situation. Now I have an example!! I would love to read about any other ways you find you have stopped accommodating men.

    I consider myself fairly immune to the charms of handsome and charismatic men. I have never wanted children in particular so maybe that has had something to with it!

    Also wondering if you want updates from any of your letter writers re: Aunt Pythia…(https://mathbabe.org/2014/10/19/aunt-pythias-advice-55/) I was drowning in data🙂

    I’ve just been hired at a national supermarket to join their team as a Data Quality Analyst. I’m looking forward to more work life balance! My boss told me she’s replacing me with two people… at least my assistant won’t be in the same position I was. Can’t wait to buy your new book!


    • March 13, 2016 at 9:54 am

      Hi and thanks and I’ll think about it and of course I want updates! Feel free to email me at the address on my “contact” page.



  9. KenS
    March 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Okay, so I hope this comes across the way I mean it:

    I found this to be a spectacularly fascinating post because of your willingness to peer into the (at least somewhat) subconscious motivations of your previous willingness to accommodate attractive men. I’ve done the same with women (although I acknowledge that men tend to have more power in our society and therefore have more chances to abuse that power); I imagine we’ve all done it at some point and to some extent.

    I applaud your lack of accommodation in this instance. It’s one thing to accommodate someone truly in need; it’s quite another to accommodate someone’s sexist, Bronze Age superstition.


    • March 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      One quibble: It’s not a “sexist, Bronze Age superstition.” It’s a modern day fundamentalist sexist piece of nonsense. Unfortunately, it’s not unique to fundamentalist Ultra Orthodox Jews.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Zooks
    March 13, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I so want to be your friend right now. You articulated so much of what I think and feel right now.


  11. David
    March 13, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Oh, so that’s why you had always been so nice to me, Cathy.🙂

    Nice post.


  12. March 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Bravo Cathy,
    Have you been airing your video at MNN?
    Let me know. Would like to view the videos.
    xxo glo


  13. diptherio
    March 13, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Does this mean no more shameless flirting when I’m in NYC? Ah, man!😉


  14. Reuben S
    March 13, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Dear Cathy, I support your stand although your interpretation of Orthodox Jewish misogyny is a trifle misguided. Orthodox men eschew close proximity to women not due to illicit sexual attractiveness, but because they might be menstruating,hence “unclean.” Also Orthodox Jewry is not a Bronze Age phenomenon. Rather, it represents the deeply reactionary response of a clerical and ruling elite as the assimilationist and liberating values of the Enlightenment as it seeped into the ghetto and challenged their authority.
    .On another note, as I have written before, I find you not “overweight.” but voluptuous, i.e. sexually attractive. I have 40,000 thousand years on history on my side whereas skinny has but five decades. Very best, Reuben S.


    • March 13, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Without passing any judgment, one must wonder if an algorithm fed only the titles of blog posts, could have predicted that a post titled “I am no longer accommodating men” would yield the following comments:

      “And lastly don’t sell yourself short, Cathy. Google this: ‘black men like overweight white women.’ ;-)”


      “On another note, as I have written before, I find you not ‘overweight.’ but voluptuous, i.e. sexually attractive. I have 40,000 thousand years on history on my side whereas skinny has but five decades. Very best, Reuben S.”

      On the other hand, I’m impressed that you have the emotional fortitude to leave these up.


      • March 13, 2016 at 7:40 pm

        That was a light hearted response to: “across the aisle was another overweight middle-aged woman like myself. Suddenly I found myself wondering how in the world someone like me, or my aisle mate, could possibly be so sexually attractive that some man would lose control around us.”

        “Overweight middle-age” does NOT imply not “sexually attractive.” De gustibus non est disputandum.


        • March 13, 2016 at 8:47 pm

          I’m aware of the context. Notice that, in my remarks, I referred only to the title of her post.


  15. March 13, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Well done! And if these orthodox men are so creeped out by having to sit next to a (gasp!) woman, let them buy out the row/plane or shut up.


  16. Roberto
    March 14, 2016 at 6:47 am

    Is this an issue of men and women or one of religious extremism? (Is it possible to separate the two? Does most institutionalized chauvinism originate in religion?)


  17. March 14, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I too am glad you did not move..
    @abekohen, thank you for that link. I entirely agree with the good rabbi, and will cite him whenever this comes up,
    “If he is so filled with lustful thoughts that even this incidental proximity to women might cause him to be sexually aroused, then he ought not travel. His pathology is not another person’s problem.”
    As to the question of “unclean” when menstruating – this kind of primitive belief about women is itself a pathology, and subject to the same arguments.

    Thank you mathbabe, for writing this so honestly. My wife and I agreed that two was enough after our second son in 2002, but she still dreamed about more children – would tell me of dreams where a little girl was playing with her two brothers. Watching our friends attempt to raise teenage girls was the end of the dream I think..

    “the moment I stopped wanting kids, I stopped accommodating men.”
    interesting. I stopped wanting kids in 2002😉 but it did not give me any powers of resistance.
    Recently for no known reason I too lost that sixth sense, no longer addled by the beauty of attractive women, which to my surprise is tremendously liberating. Indeed it is a subtle but profound change: I hope my behavior towards women has never been egregiously altered by that addlement or lack thereof, certainly I tried to keep it from affecting my external responses; but certainly my own internal responses are quite different now. It’s a lot easier to just see people now.
    “All human beings, driven as they are at different speeds by the same Furies, are at close range equally extraordinary.” Nick Jenkins, for Anthony Powell.


  18. Jack Morava
    March 17, 2016 at 11:46 am

    This brings to mind M McCullough, re `reproductive religiosity theory, cf

    https://www.edge.org/response-detail/26752 :

    But a newer line of theorizing called reproductive religiosity theory proposes that religious morality is not fundamentally about encouraging cooperation. Instead, people primarily use religion to make their social worlds more conducive to their own preferred approaches to sex, marriage, and reproduction. For most of the world’s religions over the past several millennia (which have historically thrived in state societies with agricultural production as the primary economic driver), the preferred sexual strategy has involved monogamy, sexual modesty, and the stigmatization of sex outside of marriage (arguably because it helps to insure paternity certainty, thereby reducing conflict over heritable property such as farm land).

    BTW my sister-in-law has a concealed carry permit; but maybe we shouldn’t go there…

    best (:+{)}


  19. cxh
    April 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Many (all? Don’t know, but many) airlines will insist that a man be re-seated to wherever they have room available, however inferior the seat, if the current seat assignment puts him next to an unaccompanied minor. Because he’s male. This is not going to be an optional “please if it’s ok with you” request.
    I see a bunch of the disanalogies here, but there are some similarities: if you were a man, what do you think the right way to react to this would be? (N.b. on most such airlines,
    politely declining is not going to be an option.)


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