The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

My wife is an infinitely patient person.

She puts up with my neurosis, my fits of melancholy, my love of TJ Hooker reruns, and my bi-monthly, "Take my pulse, I think I'm going into cardiac arrest" spiel. She puts up with this because she loves me. For that, I am forever grateful, in a way that makes my heart sing.

I hope that's singing, anyway. I hope it's not an arrhythmia. I should get that looked at.

But my wife is only human, albeit one possessed of all earthly knowledge, grace, and beauty. Because of this, she will let me know in no uncertain terms when it's time to take a bit out of my repertoire.

About a month ago, she asked me about about one of the 20,000 devices plugged into our TV. I was telling her what it did, why it's different from the 19,999 other things plugged into our TV ("Because it connects to Netflix and YouTube DIFFERENTLY BETTER"), and, sub-textually, why I should never, EVER be trusted with a credit card and a high-speed wi-fi connection after 2am.

Somewhere in my 52nd hour of talking, I stopped myself, and I apologized for mansplaining our TV to her.

She paused, and said, "You have to stop doing that. You have to stop apologizing for mansplaining to me. You do it constantly. We're having a conversation. I asked you a question. You're answering the question. That's not mansplaining."

My friend Rachael said a similar thing to me a few weeks later. For some completely unfathomable reason, she was asking me for my advice on something. About halfway though our chat, I stopped myself, and said, "But take this with a grain of salt, because-"

"-Because this is the part where you say that you're a middle-aged straight white male, and everything you say is stupid, which you say literally every time we talk about anything."

I preemptively apologize for myself to women a lot. A whole lot. There are a lot of reasons why I do this (Certainly, the fact that I'm a total mess can't be overlooked), but they can be boiled down to one basic concept:

I don't want women to think I'm a sexist piece of shit.

Because I'm not, right?

Right.

Earlier this summer, a friend of mine and I were out drinking some beers, and talking about independent rock and/or roll. It was a beautiful evening, and we were sitting on the patio of a K-Town craft beer establishment.

The place was packed, and the craft beer flowed like craft water. But as the classic bumper sticker says, "You don't buy beer, you only rent it," and so I excused myself to go use the craft restroom.

I am terrible in a crowd. I am the size of a dump-truck, and 78% less graceful. As a result, I try to combat this by (surprise surprise) apologizing a lot, and saying "excuse me" over and over again. And because my grandfather drilled this into me, I call everyone "sir" or "ma'am."

And so it went. I shambled my way through the crowd, drunkenly muttering. "Excuse me, sir. Pardon me, ma'am. Sorry, sir. I apologize for the fact that I'm a great big thing. Sorry, ma'am. Pardon me, sir."

That last "sir" in question turned around, and she was furious. She had a short haircut, I only saw her out of the corner of my eye, and I can't stress this enough, I'm an idiot.

"EXCUSE ME," she said, while her pals looked on, simultaneously terrified and delighted. Of all the women in K-Town to misgender, I managed to luck into the nuclear option.

Now, here's the amazing thing about how goddamn stupid I am. For all of the apologizing I constantly do, the first words that came out of my mouth were not an apology.

Instead, I said, "I blame The Patriarchy."

*sad trombone*

Drunk Logic had kicked in, and it told me, "If you let her know that you know buzzwords like, 'The Patriarchy,' she will give you the secret feminist handshake and let it slide."

GUESS WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

Basically, she blocked my path to the bathroom, and did not let me pass until I corrected myself. A couple of times.

"Excuse me, what?"

"Excuse me, ma'am."

"Excuse me, what?"

"Excuse me, ma'am."

"That's better," she said, and the encounter was over. I walked away feeling stupid, humiliated, and like the worst ally to every community I heretofore thought I was an ally.

I think she acted pretty reasonably, considering everything.

I should have apologized early and often. Offered to buy everyone drinks. Ran out into the street and let myself get run over by a bus.

But instead, I made a dumb joke. A dumb joke I hoped would be a zip file for how much I believe in gender equality, how I understand that she's probably had to deal with crap like this all of her life from guys who look just like me, but how I AM NOT THAT GUY.

But here's the sad fact. In that moment, I was That Guy. I was using gendered pronouns for no good reason, and when I was caught in the act of fucking up royally, I tried to blow it off. That all adds up to That Guy.

Let's look at my reason for constantly over-apologizing again. Let's really look at it.

I don't want women to think I'm a sexist piece of shit.

Because I'm not, right?

Well...

On the surface, it's a pretty straightforward statement. Like, who the fuck does? But it's that "think" that's insidious. I don't want women to think I'm a sexist piece of shit. Why don't I want women to think that? Because I'm a "nice guy"? Because I had a gold commenter star on Jezebel before they switched to a new host? Because I held up a sign in a video?

Or is it because I'm capable of being a sexist piece of shit?

It's a little of the former, and a whole lotta latter.

In that moment at the bar, I was a sexist piece of shit, and she called me on it.

And no matter how much I surround myself with a forcefield of apologies, no matter how much I use hot-button phrases like "mansplain," and "patriarchy," that can't fix the fact that I was, am, and will always be capable of hypocrisy, sexism, and various and sundry acts of douchiness.

So the following is not an apology.

Lady pals, from this point on, I am going to assume that you are friends with me because you see more good than bad in me. I am also going to assume that you damn well know the difference between Sexism and Not Sexism, because me assuming otherwise is, in itself, sexist.

And most importantly, I know that when I fuck up, which I will, because we all do, that you will let me know in no uncertain terms that I fucked up. And I will take that in, and hopefully, I will learn from it, and be a better person because of it.

Thank you all for your continued patience with me, infinite or otherwise.