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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm a half a step away from going to jail

And I have told you guys that I am too pretty for that. I'll prove it later.

Seriously though, Mrs. B and I were in the grocery store (a place I hate as much as I would hate the proctologist's office IF I was ever compelled to visit), and I decided I could expedite the experience by helping her shop. So while she pushed the cart, I ran through the aisles on a food scavenger hunt. Every few minutes I'd return to the cart and drop off my take.

On one return trip, a guy - not an old guy, but I'd guess he was maybe 50 - stomped up to Mrs. B just as I rounded the corner. He had a snarl on his face and, dripping with sarcasm, he told her he was sorry if he had offended her. Then he hovered a little too close for my comfort and asked her if there was a problem. At that point I stepped between them and asked him the same question. He looked me up and down, backed up a few feet - coincidentally just out of arm's reach - and shook his head no. Same look on his face.

So I stepped forward to make sure he was within arm's reach again and repeated the question and added that since I was "back" he was more than welcome to discuss his problem with me and not my wife, who was six inches shorter and probably 50 pounds lighter than him. I, on the other hand, was about six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than him. He backed up again, muttered something about people not getting it (or getting him; I couldn't make out that last word for certain), and stomped away. I found out later that he'd burst through another aisle minutes earlier and shoved her into a cart or shoved a cart into her on the way by - I forget which. And she gave him a disapproving look. No words. Just a look.

Here's the kicker. That incident was one of three over the past week, in which I observed a guy throw menacing attitude at my wife over some perceived slight. Mrs. B isn't picking fights. And you can ask my friends. I'm not that hyper-sensitive guy who wants to fight every guy who looks at his woman. Not my style. I'm probably just the opposite - extremely laid back. It's just been a weird week. And we are in South Florida.

I wanted to drop kick the grocery guy. But again, too pretty...

Now, where I'm from - people always say that, as though where we're born entitles us to certain tribal behaviors that other people just wouldn't get - if a guy gets in a woman's face, especially a woman he doesn't know, he's asking to get knocked out, or even worse, he's asking to get pimp-slapped.

Seriously, you want to stun a grown man and put him in check? Don't punch him. Everybody punches. Open your hand wide in its full pimpish glory and smack him as hard as possible across the face. Make it sting like a bee. I swear to you he will have to fight back the tears and will be so mortified he won't know how to react. He'll be in shock and will slink away in shame. I heard all this. Haven't necessarily ever tried it myself. Or have I?

Is it old-fashioned of me, or chauvinist? Not the pimp-slapping, but wanting to rip this guy's throat out. It has just never occurred to me to step to a woman and fuss at her. It just seems wrong. I had a woman during one semester in college who didn't like me. No, I never dated her. We were hardly acquainted. But I swear she used to torture me. I mean she would stalk and tease like we were in middle school again, times 10. It was near obsession. Weird. Truth is, we were adults. So she was probably just insane. And I should have gotten a restraining order. Regardless, it never occurred to me to step to her, raise my voice and wag a finger in her face. Instinctively, I went to her brother and her boyfriend, who attended the same college, and told them something to the effect of "Fellas, we get along. And I want to keep it that way. (Jane) is trying to pluck my nerves. I'm not sure what to do about it. Can you have a word with her?" They talked to her. Things settled. She later transferred to another school, a move completely unrelated to our beef.

I never thought going to her brother and boyfriend was a chauvinist move. On the contrary, I thought I was showing her some respect and exercising a nice blend of chivalry and common sense.

Yeah, I know plenty of women can defend themselves just fine against brutish men. If it had come down to it, Mrs. B would've kicked the grocery guy in the twig-n-berries or given him purple nurples and walked away unscathed.

But I know we all understand the instinct a man has to step up and defend "his" women (wife, girlfriend, sister, mother, daughter, etc).

Some stuff is just common sense. Guys, I don't care how open your mind is and how much you support equal rights. I support 'em too. But menacing a woman, when there's a perfectly healthy man nearby who's your size or bigger, is a cowardly, low life thing to do. And if you do it with the wrong woman, a woman who is dating or married or related to a guy who isn't too pretty to go to jail, it could also be a stupid move on your part.

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  • bunch of crazy bullies out there

    By Blogger Pamela, at 2:39 AM  

  • I don't think it's chauvinist at all to want to protect the women in your life; I rather enjoy when my OH sticks up for me on occasion. And yeah, you would think it'd be common sense not to bother strangers in general, but that's a quality that seems to be severely lacking these days.

    Oh, and do keep the pretty out of jail. I don't think your wife would be very happy even if you were defending her honor.

    By Blogger sognatrice, at 3:46 AM  

  • I think it is out of respect that you not only defend your lovely wife and would not go up to a woman wagging your finger at her either. Respect is something that man did not have.

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 4:25 AM  

  • Hello James, a great name. I have a brother the same. I came over from Savannah, glad I did I liked the story, and the advice: a cool flat-hand-slap and make it sting.
    I like the idea but I'm a bit apprehensive about the fellow perhaps being a bit of a "honey badger" so to speak; you "pimp-slap" one of them and you've had it man, let me tell you. He'll chew you in half.
    I prefer when I hit a guy which is not likely to happen,("I said wait a minute Chester, you know I'm a peaceful man, he said that's okay son wont you feed him when you can." The Weight) but if I did have to hit a man, I guess I would make it an "out for the count" and make sure I was gone before the police arrived. Well!. Different strokes for different folks. Nice meetin' James. Y;-) Paddy

    By Blogger paddy, at 5:04 AM  

  • So let me get this straight. Man in a hurry causes an altercation between a cart and a woman. The woman gives him a look that says, "I don't approve of your behavior." The man leaves. Later, angered and hurt by her disapproving look, which he feels he did not deserve, he comes back to demand an apology from her in some reverse-psychology, sarcastic I'm sorry if YOU were offended sort of way. Then, to add insult to the injury the man had bestowed upon the woman and her family, he says, in a sheepish voice, "Some people just don't get it."

    Get WHAT?!? This man barrels into a shopper trying to get some work done, receives a glare instead of a verbal tongue-lashing or worse, and HE is offended? He's lucky you are the kind of gentleman who stands up for his wife and provides only the amount of "pressure" needed to resolve the conflict without stooping to the same level of aggressive tactics his opponent delivers.

    The man's a bully, with bizarre anger issues, who just doesn't get it.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 6:57 AM  

  • There should be more men like you.

    By Blogger Christina_the_wench, at 7:44 AM  

  • (*ack* blogger ate my comment!)

    you did the right thing responding without resorting to violence. perhaps the bully will think twice before he speaks to another person, female or male, with less than a civil tongue...i'm almost certain he saw that "don't -make-me-hurt-you" look in your eyes.

    re the young woman, again, i can't imagine you doing anything less based on what i've read here in your blog. you handled what could have escalated into a very ugly scene that might have tainted forever both of your lives. i'm sure the men in her family were appreciative of the respect and restraint you showed by coming to them first.

    it seems a sad commentary on our society that showing respect diminishes, rather than elevates a person.
    (btw, are you and mrs b still coming up here? i'd love to buy the first round!)

    By Blogger savannah, at 8:23 AM  

  • I used to be in lust with a man that bludgeoned anyone who looked at me. I knew the drill. Someone's head would turn and I'd be stuck holding his hat and watch while he creamed the guy.

    It got old.

    By Blogger mist1, at 9:45 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 9:46 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 9:48 AM  

  • James, I'm sure that Mrs. B. really appreciates that you were there to come to her rescue, regardless of whether she needed rescuing. It's always the right thing to do.

    By Blogger Yvette, at 10:15 AM  

  • I would try the pimp-slap move sometime, but I'm afraid I would do it wrong and then get my ass kicked. LOL

    There's no reason to act the way that guy did to woman. Even if she deserves it. (Which your wife didn't)

    Maybe Mrs. B should carry a stun gun with her to the store. The store is a weird place ya know.

    By Blogger Jay, at 10:38 AM  

  • Not a day goes by that I'm not a little more discouraged by people than I was the day previous.

    The whole situation probably could've been avoided if the guy had just apologized to your wife after the initial cart incident.

    And whether she could "defend" herself or not, I think any girl (or guy, for that matter) appreciates knowing they have someone watching their back.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 11:50 AM  

  • I would be glad to have my husband stand up for me in a case like that. You did good James.

    Now if it was a woman, then I'd take her down on my own, thankyouverymuch.

    The pimp-slap thing cracked me up. I've never heard of it.

    By Blogger fiwa, at 12:57 PM  

  • James, no matter how liberated we are - we love it when a man stands up for us. I bet Mrs. B was very "grateful" that evening. : )

    By Blogger Angie, at 1:18 PM  

  • I think that's sweet of you to stick up for her. Lets face it - women might be strong but physically we don't have the muscle and testosterone that guys do. Plain and simple.

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 1:22 PM  

  • JB,

    You gotta protect your woman, dawg. And it's not because she can't do it herself. It's because you love and respect her enough to do it for her. In a way, you've relieved her of the burden of having to debase herself in such a manner. Chivalric? Yes. Chauvanistic? No. A good open hand slap across the cheek and nose will stun, but nothing degrades quite like a backhand fininshed by you standing over him screaming "WHAT???!!?"

    Women who don't want their man to step up for them don't understand how men view friendship, companionship, love, and respect. It's like if somebody stepped to one of your mans and you stepped in to keep your podna from doing something that might have put him back in jail. And this is a guy you don't even sleep with.

    That's the one love people talk about.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 2:27 PM  

  • Are you a fan of the Sopranos? The last episode kinda reminded me of this post.

    Also, wanted to know if you enjoyed Aaron McGruder's "The Boondocks"? The cartoon talked about moments like these.

    Glad you took the better part valor.

    By Blogger Evil Spock, at 3:56 PM  

  • James, by no means does equal rights excuse anyone for acting like an a**hole. Women may deserve equal pay but they don't want to be married to a wuss. You exercised the right amount of chivalry and defense. After all if you respect your wife you won't let anyone else disrespect her.

    By Blogger latinbombshell, at 7:08 PM  

  • awwww. what a good husband you are. hmmm. maybe that's why my husband lets me fight my own battles. He's too pretty. Now I can't be too mad.
    Maybe it's time to find a new grocery store or try delivery.

    By Blogger My Reflecting Pool, at 8:39 PM  

  • The more I read your blog, the more I am in admiration of you - your politeness, manners, good sense and yes, chivalry too -add that into those columns as well.
    I think sometimes, in our quest for so-called equality of the sexes, all too often good manners gets tossed by the wayside. Women who get bent out of shape over someone holding a door for them, opening a car, lighting a cigarette, and lots of other little things mistake those gestures as being patronizing when, in essence, they are simply behaving in the proper manner, regardless of sex.
    I'm glad to see there is someone left who recognizes those things as of a valued substance - and to stand up against a bully (but not automatically just punch his lights out) goes a whole lot farther - in my book! Your Mama taught you well and you done good. Boy, there's some yucky grammar for you, but I think you follow my train of thought there.

    By Blogger Jeni, at 12:33 AM  

  • sounds like a typical bully or wanna be bully to me. Glad you were there to stand up for her, and if that makes me a chauvenist so be it.


    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 1:07 AM  

  • What is it with some people? They seem to go through life thinking they're the only ones who matter, they give attitude to others, mean mug them, take courtesy as a sign of weakness, & pick on anyone smaller than they are! Bullies.

    What happened to thinking of other people as people too & behaving to them as you'd like them to behave to you? Mind you, that requires a certain amount of security & self-esteem.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 6:01 AM  

  • Too true, Pamela.

    Sognatrice, I think you're right - that Mrs. B wouldn't want me locked up. I hope you're right, anyway.

    Cazzie, I agree, respect is a big factor in this case. I've come across a lot of folks down here who seem to have been raised by wolves, disrespectful wolves.

    Howdy, Paddy. Welcome aboard. I like the "gone before the police arrive" idea. I may have to rethink the pimp slap, or at least issue it while wearing a cast iron glove.

    Sarc, bullies suck. At least a third of my lifelong satisfaction would be fulfilled if all bullies got their comeupance.

    Christina, thank you. You're gonna make me all blushy.

    Savannah, that don't-make-me-hurt-you look goes a long way. And yes, we're still coming up. We're headed back to Carolina for a visit in July. And we hope to stop for a couple of days in your neck of the woods. Subject to change. But I'll definitely let you know when we're headed your way so we can exchange contact info. We'd love to have a couple rounds with you.

    Mist1, I could see that getting old. That's beyond protective. That's downright looney.

    Yvette, thanks for confirming. Right thing to do is what I was aiming for.

    Jay, the pimp slap must be applied sparingly, and never on a guy who chews twigs for a snack or has a nickname like Murder or Barbed Wire.

    ThirdWorst, apologies would fix a lot. People don't like to give 'em. And you're right. It is comforting knowing someone, anyone, has your back.

    Fiwa, that makes sense. If a woman had stepped to Mrs. B, I'm sure I'd hang back and observe, unless the other woman looked like she was going to attack. And then I'd step between them. But I still wouldn't rough up the other woman. I'd just hold her off. Hopefully she wouldn't rough me up.

    Angie, ha ha ha. Mrs. B is often grateful, thank you very much!

    Erica, we guys appreciate your appreciation!

    BD, I'm gonna have to try the backhand. And I agree with you on the "one love" thing. I definitely have never ever ever ever felt romantic about my buddies. But I've certainly put myself on the line to make sure they didn't get hurt or do anything stupid during a tense moment. And they've done the same for me, several times. Fortunately they haven't had to in many, many years. But I know they'd still have my back today if I called on 'em.

    Evil Spock I love the Sopranos. I saw the most recent episode. I assume you're talking about the scene where Tony tracks down the guy who disrespected his daughter while she was on her date. And then he beat the guy down and broke his teeth? In that circumstance, can't say I fault him. I can't imagine the rage if I some slimy dude touched my daughter - if I had one - and said vile, sexual things to her, and menaced her. I'd go nuts on that guy. As for the Boondocks, I was a fan. I say was, 'cause I'm giving up hope that 'Toon Network will ever air new episodes. But McGruder did have a recurring theme in several episodes about how "keepin' it real" is often a bluff. Phonies "keep it real," he suggested, while "real" people exercise common sense.

    Latin Bombshell, thanks for another vote of confidence.

    MyReflectingPool, that's what it is with most of us guys. We don't want to ruin our pretty. I'd do delivery. But I know Mrs. B loves the experience of combing the aisles for stuff.

    Jeni, your grammar was just fine. I like people who write in a conversational tone. Reads the way we talk to one another. And thank you for the compliments.

    Briliant, glad we're on the same page.

    BK, I blame technology. Seriously. I'm a tech head. I love my gadgets. But I blame bells and whistles. We're all so caught up in our separate universes of gadgetry that many people forget that they're not the center of the real universe.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:22 AM  

  • Just a bully. I've found it interesting that a guy will always appraise my toughness before deciding how tough he's going to be about something.

    I had one guy wait in his car once until I got closer and he apparently made the decision that he could take me. He didn't but... cowards.

    I only pick on larger men.

    By Blogger Matt, at 11:48 AM  

  • Matt, I hear ya. That whole sizing up thing is hilarious.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:54 PM  

  • A bully will always pick on someone he perceives as more helpless.

    I think you handled it well, even resisting what must have been a huge temptation to give him a physical demonstration of how wrong he was.

    Besides, it would be a shame to mess up the nice manicure in the pictures in today's post.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 9:33 PM  

  • Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but a little chivalry goes a long way with me and the women I know. I have yet to meet a woman who likes to confront a jerk head-on while her man stands in the background waiting for it to be over.

    Of course, I do think that there are men out there like your grocery guy who pick on women because they think we're easy targets. So having a guy like you step up and call them to task diffuses the situation.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 1:20 PM  

  • I hope my husband would do the same in your situation!!

    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 10:07 PM  

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