01 August 2015
My husband Dave and I are shopping the pasta section at a small local grocery store when a gorgeous man rounds the corner. I pretend to keep looking at the lasagna noodles. A woman pushes a cart beside him, I note, but I keep my concentration trained on him.
Short of stature with a thin trim build, hiss close-cropped hair looks the color of wet sand. His rugged face has aged prematurely. His fine lips are set in a serious mien.
He works out regularly—one glimpse of his biceps tells me that. The muscles of each arm twine like cables anchored in a camouflage tank top.
And if he wears baggy jeans—well, one must make allowances.
He looks our way. Dave makes eye contact, smiles and nods. I lose myself in choosing between rotini and penne.
Perhaps it puts Mr. Camo off to see two men flagrantly grocery shopping together. Or maybe our presence stretches to the breaking point his hetero-centric vision of his hometown. I suspect he feels threatened, his masculinity called into question.
Maybe he senses we're scoping him out and that’s what pushes him over the edge. Whatever the reason, when his female companion bends over for two cans of tuna fish from the bottom shelf, he gives her a resounding swat on the butt.
“Ow! What’s that about?” She stands upright, rubbing her posterior.
I don’t hear his answer, yet I doubt he verbalized his real motives. Maybe he isn’t aware of them himself.
I see a man who, in the presence of a male couple, feels motivated to assert his own masculinity. I watch him respond with violence. I see him direct his blow at the person nearest him.
He makes a show of exerting power over a woman. He reminds me of a dog marking its territory. He might as well hike his leg and pee on her.
I may be way off base, of course. I can’t see into his mind, and I don’t quiz him on his reaction. Nevertheless I suspect his companion’s butt hurts because of something he carries inside.
In Essays, Emerson tells of two small boys playing near a darkened entry. They are frightened by the big shadowy figures they see moving against the wall. Watching them, an old man says, “My children, you will never see anything worse than yourselves.”
This is what I want to say to Mr. Camo (this, and “My gosh, you’re hot”): “Do we unsettle you, studmufffin? Let me tell you, as you walk through this grocery store, you will see nothing scarier than yourself.
“You see two men who are attracted to each other, and maybe to you. You think you’re reacting to us. But we human beings see everything through the filter of our own perceptions. What you see in us is really some aspect of yourself.
If you are repelled, it isn’t us who repels you, but some part of yourself you’re uncomfortable with. Could it be you don’t like being seen as an object because you tend to objectify those around you?
“It works the other way, too, Cupcake. What you admire in others is really some quality in yourself. You think the woman you’re with is sexy? You like her curves, winning smile, warm personality? Those are reflections of yourself—perhaps your appreciation for beauty, the smile you carry inside, an ability to touch your feminine side.
“Our eyes act as a reverse-action magnifying glass for looking within. We see magnified in others the very qualities we carry in ourselves. ‘You spot it, you got it,’ they say in 12-step circles.
“We go though life thinking the world is as we see it. Not so, Sweet Cheeks. We are as we see the world.”