The Dreaded Question

24 Jan

Why are you so angry?!

 

I get asked this question a lot. Infrequently when I am actually angry. A few weeks ago my coworker and I had a little bit of a rush. Nothing serious, but enough for me to put on my “make all the drinks as fast as you can” face. That face is blank. That face is not making jokes, it is not having pleasant conversation, it is making you your tequila and pineapple (ew, gross) while taking an order and checking an ID. That face is efficient. In the midst of taking an order and alerting someone that I would be with them in a minute, this dude who is a friend of my coworker tried to hand me his cell phone attached to the charger for me to plug in for him. I looked at him and, quite politely I thought and while wearing my can’t you tell I am working?! face I said to him,

Sure. Just as soon as I finish all of the tasks that make me money.

He looked stunned. I walked over to the register and said to my coworker

I think I might have scared your friend.

We looked down at the bar and there he was, sitting there holding his cell phone with the charger still attached looking forlornly at the place where I was previously standing. I have to admit I felt a little bad. Not badly enough to go talk to him about it because (a) I was busy, (b) you all should know better than to ask a busy bartender to plug in your phone because none of us actually give a fuck as to whether or not you can receive text messages and we also are not your secretary and (c) don’t they sell those little external chargers and don’t they cost roughly the same as the bar tab you just ran up? My coworker and I had a little chuckle and when it calmed down a bit I figured I would smooth things out with his friend. I cleaned the area around him and made a few smart and witty observations about some idiot wearing a pocket protector as part of his Saturday night get-up. He seemed more or less amused. I got a smile out of him, anyway. I skipped back to my coworker to tell him about how I had made everything great again at which point he giggled and said

Yo he was like, why is she so angry?!

UGH! So here’s the thing. It wasn’t like, why was she so angry that time when I acted as though I was the only person in the bar and requested she do me a favor that I wouldn’t pay her for when she had like 15 orders in her head and was, in fact, at the very moment that I asked her in the midst of actually taking one of those orders? Because I wasn’t actually angry in that moment, if we’re being accurate. I was ever-so-slightly irritated (it takes a lot more than that to register on the anger meter these days). But I can see why he would perhaps perceive it that way. What he was asking was why is she so angry. Like, as a person, all the time. And it made me think back to all of the other times people, read: men, have asked me why I am so angry when I was simply telling them no. Here are a few times when I have been called angry when I have, in fact, not been angry:

That time I said no to an invitation to go out to dinner. I am simply not interested and besides, you asked me out after your 5th whisky neat and I am at work, sober and I am thinking about being in my bed, alone (okay, fine, my cats will be curled up at the bottom of it but whatever).

This one time I refused to serve this smarmy asshole a drink. I was angry the last time he came in when I was standing at the bar in my running clothes talking to my friend and, without recognizing me, decided to sit practically on top of me and drape his arms all over me. That was not the first time that happened, either. And if we’re being honest I was actually quite happy to ask him to leave. I’m pretty sure I was smiling.

And while we’re on the subject, all the times I am not smiling. I like smiling. I do not, however, smile all the time. First of all, I am fairly certain my face actually would freeze like that and how awkward would that be if someone told me something horrible had happened and I was staring at them with a stupid grin on my face? And secondly, no one smiles all the time. People smile when they are laughing and having fun. They do not smile when they are doing things like taking out the trash, walking to the gym, or serving the never-ending wall of people in constant need of beverage refills. And just because a person is not smiling does not mean that person is angry. They could be feeling all sorts of other things: sadness, non-smiling happiness, contentedness, nothing at all. They could be thinking. They could just not give a shit about you one way or the other. And please, while we are here, never say the following thing:

Smile, sweetie, it’s not that bad.

Maybe it wasn’t that bad before but it is now.

Here’s another important thing, though. Sometimes I am angry and that is okay, too. There are a lot of things to be angry about. But the way that men ask that question

Why are you so angry??

Reads the same as

Why are you so emotional??

Or better yet,

Why are you so irrational??

It is disempowering and makes it feel as though our lived experience is somehow less important, less real, or as if we are less capable of engaging with our own lives. What we are angry about is petty. It is a woman’s problem, not a real one. (It goes without saying that any extreme response to something means we are on our period and therefore can not be taken seriously.) I was actually one time put in real, actual danger involving a man with a gun and then, weeks later when recapping fallout from the experience was asked why I am so angry. Why?! Why am I angry?! Because I could have been shot! With a gun! And died! Fuck yeah I am angry! I am angry about that experience and why it happened and what happened after but that does not make me angry as a human being all the time and it also is a completely and totally rational response to a really scary experience that is in the past and is therefore not something to be actively afraid of. I mean, what? Am I supposed to be all

Nah, it’s all good, bro. No worries.

Now that is what I call irrational. Because it is decidedly not all good and there are worries.

So let’s just recap: Just because I am not smiling does not mean I am angry. I might just be busy, or thinking, or whatever. When I tell you no, it does not mean I am angry. It simply means no. Let’s move on. And when I am angry, there is good reason for it. And you shouldn’t have to ask why I am angry because I will tell you in no uncertain terms exactly why. It will be very clear. And it will be just as justified, or unjustified, and rational, or irrational, as when a man is angry. Crazy, right?

3 Responses to “The Dreaded Question”

  1. Debbie January 24, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

    Ugh, I hate when people say this kind of stuff to me: “smile, it’s not the bad”, “why are you so upset?”, “you look like you’re having a bad day”. god, shut UP. if you were really concerned about me you wouldn’t assume how I feel. I always take it as a weird backward way to hit on me and that creeps me out too. unfortunately I have to sometimes come up with a polite reply because it’s clients saying those things and I have to maintain some sort of professionalism.

    • FranklyRebekah January 24, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

      Oh a lot of times they totally ARE hitting on you and it’s creepy and weird. What do you even say though? !

  2. William February 12, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    I might say something like “An articulate and passionate cri de coeur.” I came to your bar this afternoon and heard you tell 5 or 6 stories in just the half hour that I was in there so I can’t say I’m surprised.

    I also once had a blog and I even think it might still be up, but I haven’t done anything with it for several years. I had a lot of fun with it though and also learned a lot about writing from having done it, at least about the kind of writing that works on blogs (which requires warmth and directness) so I can tell you that your blog is worthy of attention.

    I don’t actually know but my impression is that Facebook may have superseded blogging for most people, which is a shame. I don’t do Facebook, and can barely handle a cellphone… and so now, in an attempt to be on-topic, let me assure you that I’m not going to try to have sex with you, not least because I might be old enough to be your grandfather.

    (I’m the guy who ordered Dogfish and chatted with Josh, the very nice guy next to me who is probably a regular.)

    –William

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