The one-way mirror

Last night my boss gave me a tirade about why Hillary is so awful that it might actually be better for Donald to be elected so that “people will take to the streets,” “we can change our political system.”

Three nights ago, a 70ish year old man gave me an unrequested, slobbery kiss on my neck as he left my table after two drinks. Definitely not unprecedented, but terribly unpleasant, and every time I went in the back my affable, customer-service smile turned into a furrowed, frustrated brow.

“You doin alright?”

the same boss asked.

“Meh, I mean, yeah. An old man just kissed me on the neck and blegh,”

I responded, urgently continuing to put wine glasses into the rack in order to not show him how much it had actually bothered me. I was starting to walk away as he responded,

“Huh–best part of your night!”

Good thing I was walking away so that I couldn’t see my face turn into–well, I can’t exactly think what it turned into. Repulsion? Anger? Shock? Incredulity?

A lesson for everyone: first of all, don’t kiss girls on the neck who don’t want to be kissed on the neck. But what my boss said was actually far worse: joking that I enjoy old white men taking advantage of me?? Here’s how he should have responded (and how I hope you respond if one of your friends ever experiences something similar):

“What?!?!? That’s disgusting!! Where is he? Is he still here? Shall I go talk to him?”

Knowing that such a conversation will not fix the grossness and only exacerbate the awkward and horrible, your friend will say no. Then you say–

“Okay, okay, if you’re sure. You stay back here and hide until he leaves, what can I take care of for you? Do you want a drink?”

Shoutout to Clara, my female friend at work who was properly outraged at the man and at the boss for his response, and who bought me a beer at the end of the shift. Shoutout to Ariel, who responded to my story with her story of a male co-worker twice her age patting her ass to get her to move out of the way, thus reminding me that I’m not alone and these abhorrent interactions are experienced daily by women all over. Yes, that made me feel better because I felt less alone–how awful is that?! Shoutout to Michael and Luke, who were there the first time an old man kissed me by surprise, and who were appropriately shocked.

When I got back from being in Europe for four months, I didn’t know what a Bernie bro was. Based off of the articles posted on my Facebook newsfeed, which swarmed with overly liberal, overly young, overly educated, and overly idealistic Bernie supporters (I went to a small liberal arts school on the west coast, okay), I had decided that Bernie was the guy that should be president. I, too, believe that the system is broken and has to change, in the grand tradition of educated twenty-somethings. From my privileged distance across the Atlantic, I disparaged Hillary for being, for perpetuating, the system I thought so broken. All very easy when I was alone in bed scrolling, but when Spanish people asked me about the upcoming election (which became inevitable in any conversation that lasted more than ten minutes) no one knew who Bernie was. Zero people. I had to try and explain why I didn’t want Hillary to be president I don’t know how many times, each time to shock and awe. People in Europe LOVE Hillary.

People in Europe LOVE Hillary.

They think she’s strong, she’s badass, and that she knows what she’s doing. They think that she should be the president of the U.S.

The first person I ran into that was familiar with Bernie was a stupidly good-looking guy from London. He was visiting his brother in Barcelona on his parents dime, waltzing through life, aka quite akin to many of the people that appeared on my Facebook feed. By that time, Hillary was the clear leader in the polls and Bernie was on his way out of being a threatening candidate. We talked politics, me trying not to *visibly* drool over how handsome he was (his name was Ronan and he had a London accent!!! Like sweet zeus could you get any more dreamy). This Ronan fellow supported Bernie and disparaged Hillary and what she stood for. I got really excited, finally able to talk to someone who knew what was actually going on–and then:

(Please remember to read this in a British accent)

“I almost think that Trump should win, you know? I mean, he’s an abomination, but if Hillary’s in office nothing’s going to change. It’s just going to be the same problems getting worse. If Bernie was still an option then you lot would get the revolution and change that the world needs. But Hillary is too much a part of the system. If Trump’s elected, the whole world is going to turn upside down because it’ll all go to shit. But maybe it might be that it needs to go to shit before it can get better..?”

He leaned back and stretched out his long legs to rest on the coffee table and ran a hand through his dark hair. Stunned by his perfection, I could only nod at that possibility. It seemed radical to me at the time, and just plausible enough to be excusable when it came from a mouth that beautiful. I had also had a couple beers… but I shouldn’t use that as an excuse. I will give myself credit and say that as I got up the next morning and hauled my stupid body and stupid backpack to the airport, that comment rolled around my brain, thudding against my knowledge I had of real Americans, Americans whose lives would change immediately following a Trump election, Americans who ~Ronan~ probably would never encounter in his life.

Less than two weeks later, after being deported from Britain and having my dreams of ever seeing Ronan again crushed ruthlessly by StupidImmigrationLady, I found myself in Portland. One of my good friends was dithering about how to vote for the Oregon primary, which at first confused me. Bernie, no?

That was when she explained Bernie bros to me, a phenomenon I had not encountered in my trans-atlantic virtual following of the election. I can’t remember the words she used, but the image I had that stuck in my mind were the ultra-masculine, “f*** the patriarchy,” liberal hipshits smothering the very breath out of anyone who attempted to support Hillary. I pictured a steamroller of scorn, smooshing all difference of opinion with their “superior” “revolutionary” ideas. My friend described interactions she had had with revered young liberal men, who told her both aggresively and passive-aggresively that Hillary the worst thing to ever happen to America. Ronan’s Trump idea jumped to mind, that utter inability to see past grand ideals to the literal reality of people living in America. Not in London or the hallowed halls of P-town, but people that can’t afford tattoos or flaxseed or holidays to Barcelona.

 

I stood there in my work uniform, a ludicrous white shirt and tie, and listened to my boss go on and on.

I listened to him and didn’t say anything. I was thinking about the flippant “best part of your night.” This guy, and Ronan, and many of the Bernie bros, have zero clue what it is to not be a white male. That was the first time that it hit me. They think that their reality is everyone’s reality, and so naturally, their ideas apply to everyone. White male privilege is a one-way mirror. We can see them in the interrogation room, posturing and talking on and on, creating a rhetoric and society within themselvesoblivious to the rest of us beyond the mirror, trying to laugh at how ridiculous they are while shaking our heads and yet still somehow being kissed on the neck. **

I started to try and tell him that, to point out that he’s a white male and so he can have NO CLUE what a Muslim person fears from Donald assuming power in this country. He immediately dismissed me, and so I gave up, knowing that there was no way to get through to him, that he just saw his own reflection in the “mirror” instead of seeing through to where I stood. I spent the rest of the night quietly fuming, yet smiling and making him laugh because he’s my boss and I need him to like me so that he gives me good tables.

Think how many times Hillary has done that.

And that’s why I used to be for Bernie and now I’m for Hillary. As everyone in Spain told me, she’s strong, she’s badass, and she deserves to be president–regardless of the fact that just by her existence in this election we have the option to stop Trump. At least she sees through one window/mirror, and she has shown valiant efforts to try and see past her own reflection when it comes to the well-beings of black Americans, immigrants, and the very Earth.

** I want to fully acknowledge my own whiteness and realize that I am saying this in my own white privileged female interrogation room, and I want to apologize in advance in case anything I’ve written make those of you beyond the one-way mirror into my room shake your heads in disappointment and frustration. I also want to give a shout-out to all the white males out there that are managing to see a bit beyond their reflection, and to all of those who maybe aren’t there yet but are doing their darndest. Please keep trying, and please don’t think that putting Trump in office will solve all your problems.

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