Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Angry Middle Aged White Men

There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust
-St. Francis De Sales, An Introduction To the Devout Life

I came up against two angry middle aged white men at the Rec Center this week and all I can ask is, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

The first man was in the steam room on Sunday.  Let me tell you about the stream room before I tell you about what happened. The steam room is small and can almost comfortably seat 10 full grown men.  We had a problem at the beginning of the year with people doing their stretching and other exercises  in there but that was finally stopped in March. 

Sunday I walked into the steam room after swimming and found 3 men sitting on the top of the build-in double tiered tile benches straight across from the door and one man sitting at the end of the top of the benches to the right of the door.   In the corner where the benches met was a middle aged white man standing on the bottom bench doing stretching exercises.  He was doing things like holding his arms out at should level and leaning against the back walls and bending forward with his eyes closed and touching his toes- all while standing on the bench.   The only place for me to sit was between this guy and the man sitting to the right of the door.  This put me close enough to the guy standing up for his hand  to comes close to me whenever he reached his arms out.  I looked at him and said, "You are really not supposed to do exercises in here."

His head snapped around and he glared down at me and said he was doing his stretches. I then said that stretches were not allowed in the steam room either. He walked over to me (still standing on the bench) and put his face right in front of mine- close enough that all I could see were his eyes- and said furiously, "I'm a fitness instructor and a PT instructor and I can do what I want!"

I got up and walked out. After getting dressed I found the Rec Center supervisor and told him what had happened. He seemed to know exactly who I was talking about and said he thought the man I was talking about was sitting in the hot tub and asked if I was willing to come with him to see if this was the same man.  I said yes.  It was the same man and the supervisor said he would talk to him.  I went and sat in the lobby and after a few minutes the supervisor came back and apologized for the man's behavior and asked me to report any other problems I may have with the man.  He also said that he understood that sitting in the steam room was supposed to be a relaxing experience and  again apologized for the man's behavior.  I agreeded that the steam room was supposed to be a relaxing experience and  added that for women having some man looming over them in a small place was disconcerting and could even feel threatening.

Monday night I was back at the Rec Center for my dance class and  I was waiting outside the studio where the class was being held when another middle aged white man, this one wearing a martial arts uniform, walked up to me and asked if the Tia Chi class was going to be in this classroom.  I said no.   He asked if I knew where the Tia Chi class was.  I said no.  He ask what class was being held.  I said a dance class. This upset him.  He asked if the Tia Chi class was going to be in the room with the dance class.  I said no. This upset him more.  He turned around and walked into the studio as the students from the class before were leaving.  I thought he was going to ask the instructor if she knew where his Tia Chi class was but discovered this was not the case when I walked into the room and saw the man standing at the back of the studio doing Tia Chi movements.

I walked across the room to where he was standing, since that was my spot during the dance class, and stood beside him. I figured once the class started and he saw it wasn't his Tia Chi class he would leave.  He did not.  He stayed though out our warms-ups as loud rock and roll played and did his Tia Chi moves.  I was hesitant to speak to him after what happened in the steam room the day before but I knew in a few minutes he was going to be in my way so I spoke up.

"Sir, we are going to be using all space in the room now."

Not looking at me, he turned, yanked his backpack up off the floor, stormed off, and made his way around the back of the room and then out the door.

Two observations.

First, when the man in the steam room overreacted and  stood looming over me with his face inches from my face I was shocked.  Shocked because this was the kind of thing my father would do.  Then I was surprised to find I felt no fear.  In fact, I was thinking about the best way to hurt him if he dared to touch me.  I felt totally in control and left because I knew breaking off contact and walking away was the best way to handle this. 

Second,  I was more worried about speaking to the second man because of the first man but knew I was done being afraid to speak up for myself when dealing with angry men who think they had the right to vent their anger any time they wanted to without consequences.

I guess what I am saying is that I am through with putting up with bullies.


Mr. LaP. said...

I call this phenomenon the "Trump Effect". What has happened in this country is that Trump has given de facto permission for angry ultra-right conservatives to not just speak out but more importantly to act out. They have watched over the last number of years as the power of white males and the police has declined. The rise to power of women and minorities has infuriated a significant portion of them. This is not just my opinion but what they have told me. I'm a middle-aged white male so they just love to voice their opinions on these things even though I haven't asked for their opinions.

The Donald's behavior and most importantly the lack of any serious consequences to whatever he says or does has encouraged this segment of society to copy his personality and behavior. In effect The Donald has radicalized a segment of society. Once a person is angry he can lash out at things that aren't the root of his anger. For example:

I have noticed a change in behavior in more people -- more road rage, loss of civility in public and so on. A few weeks ago I was confronted by an angry white man who thought that I had put my swimming goggles too close to his towel on the large rack in the men's shower at the rec center. He was furious. I just grabbed my goggles and left. Had I not done that the situation would have most likely escalated to physicality. This type of thing has never happened to me before there.

The critical point here is that I've noticed many more of these things in the last few months. Not just a coincidence in my opinion...

Nic said...

It's not confined to the U.S.... but I agree that it does seem to be "a thing". Sad times.

Blue Witch said...

NiC is correct: that sort of behaviour is here too. And increasing in both frequency and intensity.

There is a certain 'faction' who have a complete lack of respect for anyone or anything.

I challenged a young white bloke in a huge black Mercedes (blacked out windows etc - looked like a drug dealer) who parked in a 'pick up point' outside a supermarket on Saturday (effetively blocking it), and then proceeded to collect a trolley to do his week's shopping, bumping painfully into me in the process.

"That is not a parking place!" I said calmly but very firmly, pointing to his car. He then proceeded to attempt to intimidate and insult me, until the black security guard at the door (who had chosen not to do anything when the bloke parked there) intervened and told the bloke to move - at which point he shoved the trolley at the security guard and drove off across the supermarket car park at about 60mph, narrowly missing a young mum pushing a full trolley with a young child in it.

Had the security guard not been there I am certain, looking back now, that the drug dealer would have hit me. He was utterly out of control of himself.

But, it won't stop me speaking up again in similar situations - someone has to after all. I don't like bullies.

What amazes me is that no-one else bothers to support you (one) in these situations. Any of the other blokes in your steam room could have supported you, and any of the other shoppers around could have supported me, but all chose not to. That to me is the worsts part of these situations.

Blue Witch said...

In the case of your dance class, why didn't the class leader tell him to leave?

la peregrina said...

I'm glad you speak up, too. I think a lot of bad behavior happens because not enough people speak up.

In the steam room, everything happened so fast they did not have time to react. I left quickly so I don't know what happened after I was gone. In the dance class, it's a large class and I am sure she did not see him.