“Exercise and orgasms.” I said,” That’s the only thing that works for my migraines now.”
My friend and I were sitting across from each other in a coffee shop across the street from our college campus. We were waiting for our food; the room was crowded with people — mostly college students that I recognized. My friend’s partner is supposed to meet us soon. We were talking about sex and periods.
“I don’t understand why that’s so taboo,” she laughed. “It is what it is.”
“Well, yesterday I was sitting in a coffee shop and I overheard this woman telling her mother about her periods,” I laughed. “It was really funny, because the mother and I..”
“Excuse me?” I turned my head in the direction of the voice. It was a white man. He was wearing glasses, sitting two tables away from my friend and I. He was sitting across from a white woman. She was quiet.
“Would you stop talking about that?” He said, “You’re being very loud. We’re in public. It’s inappropriate.”
I blinked. Then, I blinked again. I looked at my friend and laughed.
“Wow,” she said. “My point exactly.”
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “How fucking dare you?”
I don’t really remember what I said next. I said something about “him leaving if he felt uncomfortable” and my friend said something about “sex isn’t something that has to be hidden.” By this point, I was shaking. Hard. I was angry; offended that this white man had felt that it was appropriate to say anything. If this man had been talking about fucking a woman at a bar with his buddies, nobody would have said anything. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been forced to listen to a group of men talk very loudly about sex on my college campus. We also currently have a President who doesn’t seem to think that it’s a big deal either.
But there I was, sitting in a restaurant, talking about my period, and this man had somehow decided that blood was too much.
“We’re just in a conversation between us,” I said. “You don’t need to be involved. We’re sitting across from our college campus, having a good time. You don’t need to be involved.”
That’s when the man put his hand on his waist — right where someone would keep a gun holster. My friend and I both exchanged glances.
“You know,” he said, “in the state of Ohio, I can have a concealed carry.” The man leaned in closer to me. The woman sitting across from her wasn’t looking at us. She wasn’t saying anything. She’d tried to tug him away from the conversation a bit, but now she was silent with her head in her hands.
Of course, I thought, she was silent. Polite. Complicit.
“Did you know that’s legal?” He said with a grin. “I can have that.”
My friend says something about being confused. “That’s not even relevant?”
“I’m just saying, that would be a good way to de-escalate the conversation,” he said. “Keep that in mind.”
I understood what he was saying. This white man had just said that if he’d had a gun, he would use it to shut us up.
I look at his hip — there’s not a gun there. I worry about what would have happened if there had been. I glance up at the counter where the food is being made. We’re sitting in a black locally owned family business. The owners and everyone behind the counter are black women. I’m suddenly very worried about them — ultra aware of the implications of what he’s said. My friend and I do not back down.
“How fucking dare you?” I said, visibly shaking now. “I will talk about blood and sex and masturbation as loudly as I want. You can go back to your conversation.” I motion to the woman,” Poor woman. Look how embarrassed she is?”
She is embarrassed. She’s also still not speaking. I’m trying to get her to say something and she won’t. I wonder to myself if that’s how Melania Trump must feel all the time. I do not feel sorry for her. I am disgusted.
My friend and turn away from him and keep laughing to ourselves about the encounter. The man goes up to the front of the room and complains to the woman behind the counter — who I know personally. She tells him she’s not going to say anything to us. He leaves frustrated. I’m still shaking.
I am often surprised to the extent in which white men believe that they are the owners of any space they enter and that their comfort is somehow the most important at all times. How threatening two twenty-something women in a black-owned business on a Friday afternoon in Ohio was somehow okay. How this man’s comfort was more important than ours — the idea that two twenty-something women were not afraid to knock him off his pedestal was shocking enough to him to invoke having second amendment rights.
This is background checks for guns won’t solve America’s gun problem.That man likely had nothing on his record to ever indicate that he would threaten two young women in a public setting. He’s just a normal, 40 year old white guy on paper. Probably just your local, fun-loving Dad. Until he’s threatened.
No matter how bothersome or potentially dangerous that interaction was to us — this man was threatened by our openness. Our willingness to talk about our own bodies; how unashamed we were to talk about sex and our own anatomy in public. This is a pattern of violence against women — the idea that being a quiet woman in public is the only acceptable option. Willing to threaten to gun us down for his own comfort — an action that is the epitome of white masculinity.
Threaten me and I’ll kill you.