Dear Mr. A$$hole

When I got dressed this morning I was looking forward to a day of special people. A day of smiles, and some tears. A day of children, friends, hellos and goodbyes.

I did not think of you at all.

When I got dressed in my black skirt and white top under a turquoise jacket the fog was still thick and the air was chilly. But it would burn off. I could feel it. The sun was going to shine from a bay blue sky and the promise of a brightly beautiful day swirled in the still-cool mist.

I did not think of you at all.

Black, white, turquoise. I love the combination of those colors together. Good bar mitzvah colors I mused. Don’t forget to use that new eye concealer. Purple mascara. Where’s that lipstick I just bought? Are the kids ready? I hope I haven’t lost it. Put on your shoes and brush your teeth and get your brother. Oh, here’s the lipstick.

I did not think of you at all.

We have known each other for years, but we are not friends. You are not one of the special people I was hoping to connect with today. We greet each other, wave in recognition as our cars pass, but you know very little about me, and I know even less about you. I do not think of you at all. Ever.

And even though we are not friends – or perhaps it’s because we are not friends – you have something to say about my appearance every time you see me. But not directly to me. To whoever is standing with you at the time – my husband, a mutual friend, even someone I’ve never met.

Something inappropriate. Irrelevant and dangerously close to offensive. Something that elicits uncomfortable laughter. Or a deliberate turn in the conversation.

He thinks he’s being funny, we all think. Even me. Benefit of the doubt. He’s trying to be complimentary. To engage. No harm done. And the conversation continues as before, swirls around me like that gentle mist, cools my flushed red cheeks, slows my suddenly racing heart, squelches the little flare of anger before it bursts into red-hot flames of fury.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” said that goddess of words, Maya Angelou.

No harm done. Until today.

It wasn’t that you said anything any more inappropriate than all those other times. It wasn’t that the setting was changed, or the conversation was different. It wasn’t that the friend between us was someone I hadn’t seen in a while.

It was that I’d had enough.

We are not friends. I do not think of you at all.

And now I am thinking of you.

When I got dressed this morning, it was for me. Just like it is every morning, and for all people everywhere. And unless I invite your opinion – either with actual words, or by the nature of our relationship or circumstance – you may not, not ever, comment on the way I look. Whether in jest or in earnest, to insult or to compliment, to bond with the men you happen to be standing with or for no reason at all, just keep that damn irrelevant opinion of yours to yourself, preferably for always but at least until I am not around to hear it.

Because it’s not dangerously close to offensive – it is offensive. And insulting. Completely inappropriate. Degrading. Dehumanizing. Objectifying. And when I hear it, I feel angry, indignant, insulted, appalled, embarrassed… and then worthless. And how dare you – you who I do not think of at all – have the power to make me feel that way?

I will forget what you said. Maybe not tomorrow. Or even next week. But over time. I will forget exactly what you said. How you said it. I will forget that I was so angry I almost poured hot coffee on your arm. That you actually backed away from me as sharp silver darts flashed from my eyes. I will forget the details.

But I will never forget how you have made me feel, every time those filthy words spilled from the trashcan of your mouth. Humiliated. Worthless. May your own beautiful daughters never feel that way.

And I will never forget how I felt today, after years of politely turning away from your smelly, offensive, recycled garbage: not just angry – FURIOUS! Not embarrassed – OUTRAGED. And definitely not humiliated. You are worthless.

I. Do. Not. Think. Of. You. At. All.