I don't really have a coherent point to make about these two apparently unconnected incidents, but in my head they're connected, so I'm going to record them here and see what the Collected Wisdom thinks.

1) My Awkward Neighbhour

Since Ron, my next-door neighbour helped move my furniture in, I've struck up a guarded, but reasonably cordial interaction with him. He's frequently out on his front porch, so I see him when I go in and out of my place. He's chatty, and I'm polite, so we chat, some. 

A few weeks ago, I was away, and [personal profile] human_loser  came over to feed Musetta. Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and greeted [personal profile] human_loser  with some question like "Are you the pretty lady's boyfriend?" (I have been very clear to Ron-the-neighbour that I have a boyfriend). [personal profile] human_loser  reports that he gave a non-committal response, and went in to feed Musetta. 

This Saturday, another male friend came over, and we went out for dinner, then back to my place for tea and so that I could bake my mom's birthday cake. As we went into my house, Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and called out to me "That better be your brother!" I gave some rejoinder—something like "You wish you knew," and went in.

But it's bugging me. It's bugging me that this dude thinks he has any business questioning my guests or commenting on who comes and goes out of my apartment. And it's creeping me out, a bit, not because I think Ron-the-neighbour poses a threat to me, but because he's so obviously interested in my life and in my guests and he doesn't see anything wrong with this. Where are his boundaries? 

2) The King of Africa

Sunday, I took the aforementioned cake to my mom's (and from there to my grandmom's. Poor cake got a bit slumpy in the heat, but was nonetheless tasty). On my way home, I was waiting for the subway at Bloor & Yonge station, and found myself the object of the benevolent attention of the King of Africa. 

The self-styled monarch (or emperor? I'm not sure how that works), informed me that the print on my dress was based on an African pattern (this is possible, I guess. It's blue.), and that if I were to go to Africa (not any particular place in Africa, mind, just Africa), everyone would greet me with love and adoration, because of that dress. Of course, if I were to be wearing another dress, things might not go so well. Had I ever been to Africa? No, I assured him, I had not. Well, Africa was wonderful, and when I go there, he will go ahead of me, and tell them that I am wonderful and should receive the royal treatment. He was from Africa. He is a king in Africa, so they will have to obey him and give me the royal treatment. 

He took my hand and kissed it, repeatedly. He asked me if I would go to Africa with him. I informed him that I had to go home. He said "Not today! Tomorrow. But never do tomorrow what you can do today, because tomorrow never comes! It's always today!" He informed me that another time I may find him at the Friendly Thai on Yonge Street. He was going there now. I thanked him, and, gratefully, boarded the train that had finally arrived. Then I employed my hand sanitizer. 

Another woman watched this entire exchange. She moved away. A man kept an eye on it. 

3) You Can't Blame the Matriarchy

I've begun working part-time at my local bike store. I've shopped at the same store for 15 years, and I have a lot of respect for the owner and manager. It's one of the few stores that I will cheerfully send my female friends to, knowing that they won't be talked down to, they'll be treated fairly, and nobody will try to upsell them. I like the culture there, so I asked if they wanted to hire me to work the shop floor, and the owner and manager agreed that it would be a good thing for them to have a woman on staff. I am uncomfortably aware that I am the beneficiary of affirmative action—I don't know nearly as much about bike mechanics in general as even the least experienced of the guys on the floor, and I know that if I were a guy, they'd want to see previous bike-store or bike-mechanic experience. But they're all being very pleasant and patient, so that's good. The customers, on the other hand, are about evenly divided among three groups. One group (mostly women) is quite happy to talk to me, in particular. One group is entirely indifferent, as long as someone's helping them. One group mostly ignores me, and seeks out one of the guys. I can only assume that members of this group believe that only a dude can successfully explain to them how to pump up the tires on their bikes, or the difference between a road bike, a cyclo-cross bike, and a sports hybrid. *Shrug* 

So one day, a couple of 10-year-old guys breezed right past me, when I said "Hey guys, what's up?" and asked my co-worker where the pump was. My two co-workers and I exchanged wry glances. I wandered over to my co-workers and said "I blame the patriarchy." Then, of course, I had to explain what I meant. 

Later that day, I was booking a woman customer for a tune-up. She was pleasant with me, but ignored my co-worker when he bade her farewell on her way out of the store (we're a community bike store; we generally try to say "hello" and "good-bye" to people, at least when it's not so busy that we can't see straight.) He said to me "I'm trying to figure out what the opposite of 'patriarchy' would be. 'Matriarchy,' I guess?" 

"Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"Well, if you can blame the patriarchy when guys are rude to you, can I blame the matriarchy when girls are rude to me?"

"Not really, because there isn't really a society-wide matriarchy."


So then we talked about how really, you can still blame the patriarchy when women tend to respond better to women than they do to men, and how "patriarchy" isn't the same as "men," etc. Then someone came in looking for a lock-ring, and that was that. 

So how all this fits together is that I don't think the guys in the shop deal with their neighbours commenting on the people they bring home. I don't think the guys in the shop have random strangers try to kiss their hands on the subway platform. And while they may occasionally deal with a customer like the tune-up lady or the very flustered lady who came in looking for repairs and said "Thank God there's a woman here! I hate men!" quite loudly, I don't think they have to deal with gendered rudeness or condescension to nearly the same extent that I get to (and this is in a shop where any overt misogyny, be it from customer or co-worker, would be firmly squashed on the part of the management.) And the fact that they don't deal with this is, to me, part of why my co-worker cannot blame the matriarchy that we don't have when a lady is rude to him. He can feel annoyed or disgruntled. He can roll his eyes. He can even blame the patriarchy for causing such deep distrust and disregard between women and men, if he wants to. I don't think he'd be wrong. It would certainly be a better world if everyone treated other people with respect and good manners. Somehow I think that women—even privileged women like me—deal with more gendered nonsense on a daily basis than dudes do. 
zingerella: 1920s advertisement for Vanilla Bicycles: A young woman with bobbed hair rides a bicycle, a pannier and child on back. (vintage)
( Jul. 24th, 2012 11:08 pm)
On Saturday, a guy came in. Sleeves ripped off his shirt at the shoulders, ponytail, tattoos, a face that showed that he'd done a fair bit of living. Asked about a pump. Then asked about kids' bikes. What did we have for kids? "How old?" I asked. 
"Well, he was just born three days ago. I guess I'm kinda excited and looking forward to teaching him to ride."
We don't really carry anything for the three-day old infant, but I congratulated him heartily, told him to come back for a co-pilot (baby seat for the bike) when the kid was less floppy, and showed him a few things for when the boy gets older. 

Then I sent him off to go hang out with his boy and his boy's mother. 

People are delightful. Strange, but sometimes delightful.