I am no longer accommodating men
Not sure if you’ve read this article, entitled She Was Asked to Switch Seats. Now She’s Charging El Al With Sexism. Well 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.