we were at a pub, a big group of us in a nice place, having fun, joking, laughing and a man we did not know who appeared to be drunk appeared at our table. he made some comments about my friend’s appearance. it wasn’t nice. we ignored him and he persisted and after a bit the only man in the group attempted to change the topic and encourage the stranger to return to his friends. one of the pub staff appeared and gave the stranger a look so he walked past our table and to the bar.
but now the mood had changed. there was a bit of discussion about how nasty that was and we hoped they were not going to keep serving him at the bar when clearly he had had enough. but this did not dissipate the discomfort i ( i suspect all of us) were feeling – i was feeling very uncomfortable and bad for my friend who had been the target of the comments. why hadn’t i said or done something to make the man go away? i felt frustrated but mostly ashamed of my inaction.
i was feeling vulnerable, and wanting to be safe and maybe being quiet, not engaging with him was the right or most effective thing to do, to have him move away as quickly as possible. but i wish i had expressed myself, i wish i said so she could hear as well as him, that she..’is my friend. she is smart and very kind and funny and looks out for us, and we all care for her very much and when you make comments about her like that it hurts us all.’
i guess i don’t really care what he thinks and i don’t suppose she does either. but i think i would be happier in this moment if i had said something like that. because in the end there just are people that blow in and out and say things but it’s how we respond that matters. and maybe the opportunity wasn’t just to meet a need for safety and have the guy leave but to demonstrate to her that we care, that she is one of us.