In a recent post, I wrote about my friends’ shock and dismay over my attendance at a rock concert with a male friend of mine, after which I spent the night in his home (located in the same town as the concert, and several hours from my home). In this post, I will describe the experience I had upon arriving at the concert with my friend, as further indication of the sexist views on the part of many people. I have changed the names of the other participants to protect both the innocent and the “guilty”; my name is the only real name used in the following account of what transpired.
Prior to our arrival at the concert, my friend told me he was eager for me to meet two of his female friends, whom he had told about me, including the fact we have been friends for over 50 years, since first grade. When my friend and I arrived at the concert, we entered the VIP area and soon encountered his two friends. To the best of my recollection, here is the content of our conversation, upon meeting for the first (and most assuredly, last!) time.
My friend, Freddie: “Hi! What a beautiful day for a concert!” Fifi and Ellie May, this is my old friend, Melissa. Melissa, this is Fifi and her friend, Ellie May.”
Fifi, glaring at me (with an “if looks could kill” expression): “Is your husband here?”
Melissa, instantly knowing there is trouble ahead, looking all around, as if to search for her husband, who is, obviously, not there: “No.”
Ellie May: “Well, where IS your husband?”
Melissa: “I don’t know.” (And thinking, why should a stranger care where he is?)
Fifi: “Why isn’t your husband here?”
Melissa (still feigning politeness, out of respect for my friend, Freddie): “He doesn’t like this kind of music, so he didn’t want to come.”
Ellie May (now wide eyed and nudging Fifi): “Oh, we thought your husband must be afraid of Freddie!”
Melissa (said in a way to end the maddening conversation): “My husband is not afraid of Freddie. WHATEVER GAVE YOU THAT IMPRESSION?”
Just as when I told my friends about my plans to attend an out of town concert with my dear friend, who happens to be a man, my friend’s women friends could not accept that I was at the concert to have fun, and nothing more, with a man who happens not to be my husband. And, just as my friends quickly focused on my husband’s reaction to my special weekend instead of expressing their delight in my good fortune, these people, whom I had never met, could not bring themselves to get to know me, or ask me which bands I liked, or any number of other “small talk” topics; instead, focusing the entirety of their conversation on someone who was not there, my husband. To the reader who doubts these experiences are sexist in nature, I challenge you to find another psychological concept to explain them.
I wasn’t there – that point is now well established! But, I can visualize the scene. And, I don’t know whether jealousy was a part of it, because Fifi has been on some dates with Freddie. But, my attendance at this concert had never been a part of the discussion so why was it assumed I would be there? Why would these strangers concern themselves with my whereabouts? Is this just such a norm that something had to be amiss if I was not there? These types of encounters are strange opportunities for Melissa to be both an observer and manipulator, of sorts, of the direction of the conversation. So, she took the opportunity to dramatize the inappropriate reactions in this situation a bit and let it play out in a way that was non confrontational, but probably left these 2 women (not to mention poor Freddie!) wondering what happened. What happened is that they showed their insecurities, their biases, and their ignorance. There is no reason in today’s world that friendships should not cross gender, or even gender identity/sexual preference lines. For example, what if I, a heterosexual male, attended an out town concert with a long time make friend who is gay? How many people do I know who would have a problem with that? People are people. Friendships are just that – nothing more. And – in the words of Hank Williams, Sr., “mind your own business.”