Mansplain, verb: (of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing
(Source: English Oxford Living Dictionaries)
Last night, at a client event for my internship, I found a chocolate fountain. I couldn’t resist dipping a second stick of extra-puffed marshmallows under the melting deliciousness, and I paid for it by staining my white top.
With an escape to the restroom and quick wardrobe innovation involving my kimono-shawl knot-styled to cover the mess, I was right back to find my girlfriends (the ones whom I had originally left for the chocolate fountain).
I approached them with a how-ridiculous-does-this-knot-look hand motion and skeptical facial expression inquiry, to which a nearby male interjected, “You look great, that looks awesome.
“It’s her outfit,” nodding at my friend, “we were making fun of.”
His initial comment was telling enough– despite the event’s complimentary Prosecco (or maybe because of it) our two energies were not aligning.
“What’s wrong with her outfit?” I snapped. Besides nothing. My comment was a misfire however, considering he ignored it to continue talking at me and in my direction:
“I have to say I’m not a fan of that necklace though. Maybe because I’m a guy, I don’t know.
“But you know girls only wear necklaces like that to impress other girls, right? You know that’s the only reason why girls do that, right??”
“Are you trying to tell me what I may or may not be doing intentionally?”
“I mean it’s not for us guys, it’s for each other, you must know.”
Is this what that socioculturally-derived 21st century term mansplaining was all about?
“No, no,” I interjected.
“Are you telling me, as a man, about something that my entire sex supposedly does? Are you trying to mansplain to me my own intention behind wearing this necklace?”
The complimentary Prosecco was getting me a little bit feisty, and I knew my new rooftop-friend wasn’t prepared to get such backlash.
“Mansplaining,” he scoffed. “Yeah– yeah, I was mansplaining!” he retorted back, matter-of-factly.
With a Champagne flute in hand and a knotted-kimono covering my chocolate stain, the words well don’t flew off the tip of my tongue, spicy and sharp, and I glared into his eyes until he got the hint and turned away. I faced my new friends, almost uneasy about how they might handle my moment of fiery spirit. They thanked me, and we continued laughing and dancing about.
Though we had moved on, the man came up to me minutes later.
“I’m sorry,” he said, passing by.
“Thank you,” I said curtly.
It was my turn to speak matter-of-factly.
I share this story as a reflection on the way I could have better handled this situation. I got the man to apologize, yes, but aside from temporary egotistical victory, what good is that really?
Sans the mind-alternation of the complimentary beverages, I could have helped this man see that his insight was not only unsolicited, but unjustified and even condescending.
That maybe, this was my favorite necklace and I wasn’t wearing it for anyone but me, regardless of a male or female audience.
And that at the core of it all, he wasn’t speaking from a loving place, or to me as his equal. I could have agreed that he had every right to have his own opinion, but shared that his extended, entitled, so-claimed awareness over a population of humans whose experiences he could never empathize with was unjust and unfair and even ignorant.
And if I could have connected with him and helped him understand that in a calm and loving manner, I could have engaged in healing with just one person; healing that would ripple in his future engagements and in mine, too.
I reflect back on this interaction last night as a lesson of mine in patience and boundless love. A lesson in embracing courage and speaking my truth yes, but doing so in a kind, constructive and empathetic manner.
It appears to me that with every pained, frustrating or instigating experience, there is an opportunity for healing. Life will continue to present us with chances for healing, though they don’t often show up beautifully upon the first glance. I am learning to pay attention to the triggers, for they are some of my best teachers in this healing journey.
I hope we meet again, rooftop party friend. Because next time we do, I’ll be wearing one of my many flashy necklaces, and I will welcome you with a hug– or at least a cheers to healing.