Let’s say you are a man. In the apartment below you lives a woman with two kids. In the past you’ve helped her write a letter to the local family court requesting a restraining order on her ex-husband because he is known to become obnoxious and a little physical when he drinks too much. You’ve also heard him scream at his very young children a few times when your neighbor, the mother, needed him to watch the kids while she was waiting tables at night.
And let’s say the court refused to hand the man a restraining order, and he can pick up the kids, drop them off, and visit them at the apartment downstairs. And here is a little catch. When he comes over, he parks his car on your side of the driveway that you share with his ex. He releases the kids at his own pace and sometimes even enters the apartment below to spend time with them, being the good dad that he is. And during this whole time, his car is parked in your spot.
Now, since you are a man, you probably would do something to end this situation. Maybe you will let it go once or twice, maybe even three or four times, since you are a nice man. But I have a feeling that after five or six years of finding yourself waiting in your car on the street for the man to move out of your spot, you would probably decide to put your foot down and make sure the guy understands that he should park his car elsewhere.
Now, let’s do an exercise. You are a woman, about five two, maybe ten to fifteen years older than the guy. And you know that your neighbor has enough on her plate. What do you do?
If you are me, you keep your mouth shut to protect her and the kids. And maybe to protect yourself too, because you know the guy is a bully. You hope the man will apologize one day for making you wait for him to move his car. You hope he will say “hi” even once when he sees you. You wait patiently on the street for him to say “I’ll be right out of your way,” and sometimes you don’t even bother and you park on the street.
Until this happens.
You arrive at your apartment in your car, and the guy as usual is parked in your spot. He is getting the kids out of the car, collecting their backpacks from the back seat, and then, looking out to the street he sees my car. I give him a tiny honk. A really small one, because this time I am waiting on the other side of the street and I’m not sure he realizes it is me. The guy straightens up, and then he yells so I can hear him, “You really hate it, you really hate it when I park in your spot. You always have to honk.”
I am sitting in my car, watching him yell at me from across the street. And I am thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You are parked in my spot for the millionth time, and you accuse me of hating it? Of course I hate it, and I hate you too.”
And for some unknown reason, I decide to go full blast. Maybe because I am done being the quiet neighbor, the quasi-polite person I’ve tried to be. Maybe because I don’t like to be provoked. Maybe because deep inside I am a mean person. All I know is that no more am I going to be seething quietly in my car while you totally ignore me when I show up, ensuring that I know you are ignoring me, as you slowly walk to your car, get in, and slowly pull out of my freaking driveway. Because you think you are the top dog in the neighborhood and I am just a nasty woman who clings to her parking spot and causes your little highness some inconvenience. But I am not in this movie anymore, my reptilian brain announces to me. And as I finally get in touch with my inner monster, out of my mouth an avalanche pours out, uncensored, with all the honesty that I can mobilize into my exploding rage and pent up disgust for this bully.
I don’t recognize myself. From inside my car I say to him, “Yes I hate it, I hate it and I hate you. All these years that you’ve parked here. Never once have you apologized…” I don’t remember what else I say while sitting in the car, but a fleeting thought in my head tells me, just say it, whatever you want to say. I probably tell him to get the hell out of my spot and that I am sick of him and his stupid car.
I recently read that strong people use curse words, and I want to come across as a strong person.
The man finally gets into his red Audi, which I think his mama gave him, and pulls out of my spot. I park my car, get out and go to get my mail. He shows up again and, waving his arms in the air, he yells something at me. I turn around and screams at the top of my voice, “You fuckin' asshole, get the fuck out of here!” I don’t recognize my voice. It is high pitched and metallic. A strange voice coming out of a strange woman. But it feels good. So good to finally let it all out.
My neighbor, who was inside the apartment the whole time, finally hears the commotion and comes outside. She shoos him off and he leaves after calling me crazy several times. I don’t mind being called crazy. I know that men who can’t control women call them crazy. Yes, I am crazy. I am crazy for letting you asshole intimidate me for so long. I am crazy for letting any jerk treat me like I am nothing. I am crazy for staying quiet when a man says to me, “You didn’t listen when I talked,” if I dare to disagree with him or if I fail to understand every nuance of his meandering explanation about how something works. Yes, I am crazy, because I refuse to be agreeable and sweet and understanding when a bully provokes me. I am crazy because I hate to be ignored and stepped on and taken for granted and ridiculed because you are six feet tall and I am older than you are.
After the bully left, I regretted not insulting him even more. But even so, the Mexican guys who were working across the street said something I did not understand and then they applauded me. I turned around and bowed to them with my arms stretched wide, feeling such deep gratitude for their show of solidarity. They absolutely made my day.