There has been much in the news lately about the harassment or exploitation of women by the men who employ or supervise or in some way have power over them. While many are coming forward – saying or texting “me, too! – others, fearing reprisals– i.e., loss of job, disbelief, personal attacks – still remain silent.
I have always had a hard time taking “guff” from anyone, especially men. When my son and daughter were growing up, I tried to teach them to respect others, my son especially to respect girls and women and my daughter to expect and demand respect from boys and men. The following narrative will demonstrate how seriously my son Tobe took my instruction.
When Tobe was in his mid-twenties, he had a medical condition commonly known as kidney stones; treatment required him to submit to ultrasound somethings bombarding his kidneys and breaking up the stones so that he could pass them. On the day of the scheduled procedure, he asked me if I would drive him to and from the hospital, and I readily agreed.
After we got checked in, I waited while Tobe changed out of his street clothes and into a charming hospital gown. When he was ready, I went into his room, and together we waited for the urologist to come in and talk to us. It was not a long wait. The doctor who entered was a tall man with a handle-bar mustache; he looked out of place at a hospital. I could imagine him swaggering through the double swinging doors of an old-tyme western saloon.
Tobe introduced his doctor to me, and after a quick, dismissive glance in my direction, the doctor turned his attention to my son. “Do you have any questions about the procedure?” he asked.
Tobe said he did: “Will it hurt? Will I have any anesthetic?”
“That’s two questions, and both of them are yes. If you didn’t get any anesthetic, you’d cry like a mother.”
Tobe looked at me. His mother.
I looked at him.
I had heard the doctor. Should I respond? Yes, I should.
I turned to him and said quietly only one word: “Dickhead.”
The doctor made no reply. There was a brief silence.
“Well then!” the doctor said enthusiastically. “Shall we be off, Tobe?”
Tobe said yes, and we all left the room, with me heading toward the coffee shop.
Later, when Tobe and I were on our way back to his apartment, he said, “While we were in the elevator, the doctor said, ‘I can’t believe your mother called me a dickhead.’”
“Uh huh,” I said.
Tobe continued: “And then I said to him, ‘And she’s a Methodist minister!’”