I don’t do a lot of edgy topics on my blog. Poopy diapers and breastfeeding I can do flawlessly.
But feminism? Nah. Never done that.
So, these people came to my door the other day.
Well, actually, it was just one person initially. He was a traveling salesman, and he was selling meat. All different kinds. Steak, seafood, chicken, pork. All the meats.
He asked me if I would be interested in anything he was selling.
Our area hasn’t had the best luck with traveling salespeople selling meats. The one major company around here has had numerous complaints about their meats being rotten or freezer burnt when they were thawed. They have numerous complaints at the Better Business Bureau. They drive around in a van that barely even advertises who they are. They are shady.
This doesn’t even address the fact that they ask if you’d like to walk over to the back of their van to see their products. Does this not sound like the beginning of a scary movie?? Or even a dirty movie? I’m not sure which is worse at this point.
I was not particularly interested in meat sold out of the back of a van and actually, legitimately, did not need anything. On top of being skeptical right from the jump. But instead of simply saying so, I engaged this man in an effort to be polite. Having been in sales before, I understand the plight of meeting quotas.
Before I knew it, he was retreating to the back of his van to grab some of his products to show me. I then felt rude since he was putting an effort into selling me something I knew that I had absolutely no intention of buying.
The gentleman then reemerged from the van. Only now, he had someone with him.
I was home by myself, and I am typically not the type to open my back door for two men I don’t know, let alone one.
I tensed up, and tried to politely decline the meat before they even opened their boxes. I didn’t want to waste their time.
While the first gentleman was a bit more respectful and reluctant in his overtures, the second gentleman insisted that I at least hear him out. He asked if I had any counter space in my kitchen so that he could use it to set his product out to show me. I told him he could use one of the chairs on our side porch instead, trying not to openly guffaw at the fact that he asked to come inside of my house.
He began to ask me which I grocery store I used to buy our meats, what we ate the most and how many mouths we had to feed. I answered his questions, against my better judgement, and politely reiterated that I was not interested.
He ignored my answer, and began to take sections of wrapped meat out of the boxes for me to look at.
He seemed friendly enough at first. Only as our interactions continued did I begin to realize that he was almost too friendly. His repartee seemed hollow. While my old dogs scratched at the back door, curious about our visitors, he tried to talk about his dog. He tried to talk about his wife. And he made me uncomfortable from the moment he started trying to relate to me. My intuition just wasn’t having it.
I told both of them, again, that I was not interested in their products, but I asked for their business card.
After my third refusal, he icily made direct eye contact with me, and from there his entire demeanor changed for the rest of his visit. I asked him again for a business card with a smile on my face in one last effort to be polite.
He informed me that he only ever came out my way every so often. That he had to pay for the wear and tear on his vehicle himself, and that he never got much business from just casually handing out business cards to customers, waiting for a callback. He said that he would not be making any trips back to my area anytime soon, and again pressed me to make a decision.
I refused to buy anything for the fourth time.
He began to huffily pack up the boxes he and his partner had brought out while I watched, attempting not to make eye contact. The first man, the man I initially opened my door to, had hung back and watched the entire exchange between the second gentleman and I from the bottom of the porch steps.
As the second gentleman began to pack up the boxes, he asked me if I was the one who did the grocery shopping for my family. When I said that I was he began to shake his head, and asked if I was sure. Because nobody who was any good at managing their grocery budget would be smart enough to pass up this kind of deal.
I didn’t respond, and let him continue to pack up while trying to wrangle my old, mostly blind dog who had stumbled out the back door.
The man asked me what my husband’s favorite cut of steak was and in a bid to not engage him any further, I told him that I didn’t know. Again, he shook his head and condescendingly asked how long we had been married. When I answered that we had been married for ten years, he shook his head and asked how it was possible for someone who was married to their husband for ten years to not know what his favorite cut of steak was.
I did not say anything because he looked to be nearly done packing up, though I couldn’t make myself move to go back inside and close the door. What I wanted to say was that flattery certainly didn’t gain him my business, so in what way did he think petty insults would do the trick??
But I was uncomfortable. I felt unsafe. I simply wanted our exchange to be over.
My phone rang and I hurriedly went inside the take the call. The man still did not budge from my porch even as the door shut behind me.
On the other end of the line was my neighbor, a police officer who was thankfully off work that day and who immediately asked who the people standing on my back porch were. He wanted to know if I needed him to walk over and make them leave.
He’d seen them from out his window, and as he observed our interactions, he did not like the body language of the man standing in front of me on the porch. He felt that he looked aggressive, even from a distance.
Relieved, I told him they were sales people who begrudgingly leaving, but who were not very happy with me. My neighbor said that he would start to walk over in several minutes if they hadn’t left yet.
I hung up the phone feeling the tiniest bit of reassurance that should something have happened, someone would have at least known quickly.
When I walked back outside and finally snatched up my dog, the salesman made one more pass. For the last time, and as sternly as I could muster, I said I would not be buying anything.
He huffily said goodbye, picked up the last of his boxes and left.
Now, let me just say, I’m not attempting to be overly dramatic. Truth be told, I had two sales people come to my door and try to sell me products. They showed me some of their products. They were pushy, but I declined. So they left.
That’s all that happened, right?
Within the context of this entire exchange is this: I have had it ingrained in my head since…forever that I should always attempt to be as polite and friendly in as many circumstances as possible.
Which is why when the waitress at Ledo’s spilled several glasses of Pepsi all over me, and ruined our dinner, I tried to remain calm.
Why when Dominos has screwed up my dinner order, I tried to be as polite as possible even as the pizza man on the other line argued loudly with me about having to correct his mistake.
Why when boys sitting behind me at the movie theater moved up to the seat next to mine while I was in the bathroom in an attempt to make me sit with them by holding my coat hostage, I just left the theater without much protest.
Why when people out in public are rude and inconsiderate, I try to just brush it off because it’s better to be rational and get through a situation quickly and safely rather than seeming confrontational.
I could go on and on, but we would be here all day.
During this exchange and in other similar ones in my lifetime when I have felt incredibly uncomfortable because of the behavior of someone, a male more specifically, I have allowed my capacity for kindness and charm to stay switched on instead of trusting my gut, and allowing my survival instincts to kick in.
Even in this particular instance, when the correct answer would have been a final no, after the several I had already said, walking back inside of my house and closing the door behind me right in his face.
Just because you are guarding yourselves, ladies, does not mean that you are being unkind or unfair.
And if you are “being unkind”?? Then listen to me: Oh.Well.
“No” is a complete sentence.
And any customer service representative or person you meet in the supermarket or at a bar or a fraternity party or even someone that you have known for ten years who cannot accept the first or even the second no, is neither worth your time or even your energy to remain kind and calm.
And the actions of another are never your fault.
I’m raising two daughters. I want them to know that they can say no, any time, any place. And I want them to know that if the worst thing that happens after an exchange that makes them uncomfortable is some person, some man, labels them a b**** , then that is perfectly okay.
Guess I just got a solid reminder today of why.
I started reading this book by Gavin de Becker earlier this year, but never finished it. Needless to say, I’ll be doing just that very soon.