Right, so, my face didn’t grow red when my father, deep into his late 60’s, scoffed at my lack of gin knowledge. I’m not talking about gin rummy, the card game played best by crusty codgers on front porches during late summer afternoons. No, my father was in the middle of lecture mode (he’s always been like that), having just made everyone one of his deliciously dry martinis. This time though, he’d blended in a bit of Ransom Old Tom Gin, something I’d not ever tried before much to his surprise and evident disdain. “I would’ve thought you would have. Weren’t you once a barmaid?” he said with a chortle. His lecture then switched, all about the process of distilling Old Tom gin, which itself was interesting, but I wish my father’s versions were much more involving. I love the man dearly, but really, he just has a way of turning the learning of anything potentially interesting into a tedious exercise.
This isn’t about my father’s lectures though. This is a piece about embarrassment, the last time I was truly embarrassed. My face burned when he used the word “barmaid.” My mother had always found it fascinating and would bring it up quite often that I had once been a bartender at an officer’s club (for approximately two months, hardly worthwhile conversation fodder). I wasn’t some sort of fancy-schmancy “mixologist” or whatever bartenders at spicy clubs are calling themselves these days. I had a Mr. Boston tucked away under the register, just in case, and the most complicated drink I ever made was a Long Island Iced Tea. Ooooo, so challenging. My nights were spent wiping countertops, scouring the perpetually sticky well, and serving pitchers of beer to pilots who thought they were hot shit, all the while studying for the GRE (that I didn’t take until years later).
Maybe my father was right…Maybe “barMAID” was the right word, but it didn’t feel “right” when my father said it. It felt coarse and totally sexist.
He has a way of using the right (as in “correct”) word with the wrong intention all the time. I think he does it to be provocative, but “provocative” doesn’t work at his age. It just makes him look…well, douchey. In another instance, when someone in the family brought up The Walking Dead, he said something along the lines of, “I just don’t understand Americans’ fascination with necrophilia.”
Sometimes, I wish the guy had a proper filter.
Last week, I attended that teaching seminar in Hellacola. I felt melty and off when I got there, afraid I’d somehow run into my painful past with the place, but I left in good spirits. I made a lot of new connections (this, coming from a woman who networks best to herself in the mirror and still has to prep with anti-anxiety meds), learned a lot about what’s happening with other schools in the state, watched others present their carefully honed skills. It was a good experience overall.
The seminar itself though was led by a man who had no filter, another one primed to talk and talk and talk, sometimes without stopping to really think about what he was going to say and to whom he was going to say it. He was a bit younger than my dad, probably in his mid to late 50’s, but I’m not sure. The way he talked though, you would’ve thought he was at least 185 years old. He evidently taught history, and he loved his subject well enough. He told us story after story, sometimes taking up more time than I could bear (I’d leave with excrutiating lower back pain due to sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours).
Every once in awhile, he’d say something utterly chauvinistic and in poor taste (like something about his ex-wife), and he’d laugh it off, using his regional differences as an excuse. Everyone seemed to think he was funny and charming in his delightful Southern way, so naturally I thought I was nuts, like I’d been the only one who’d caught him filterless. During our networking/social gatherings though, I knew I wasn’t crazy when I caught him blatantly ogling some of the women at the seminar. Again, no filter at all, and no one seemed to mind…
Little did I know, I hadn’t been the only one disgusted. He gave a bit of a preamble to the day, one morning, indicating he’d meant no offense when he called a woman “honey” or “sweetie,” that that was just his regional way, etc. etc. Someone, somewhere, at some time during the seminar had loudly remarked on his lack of a filter. To her (or him), I say, “Thank you.” For awhile there, I thought I was losing my mind.
A couple of years ago, on a first day of a new term with new students, I had a red-faced, already angry, filterless student — another male in his 50’s — loudly proclaim, “All Democrats are stupid!” I turned to him and asked him his name. “Alan,” he said, and I could see the cogs whirring around behind his eyes. He was undoubtedly priming himself internally for a debate with one of those Goddamned Liberal Professors intent on destroying the world.
“Hello, Alan,” I said conjuring up my prettiest teacherly smile. “Today’s your lucky day, sir. You’re going to learn your first lesson on writing…You ready for it?”
The whole class grew still and silent. Some glanced uneasily in Alan’s direction. Alan, however, grinned, more than ready.
“Always know your audience,” I said.
After that, Alan finally grew a filter.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Isn’t Your Face Red.”