I work at a place where young female staff are greatly outnumbered by male staff. We stick together pretty closely and all get along very well, despite differences in religion and political beliefs. We try to get together at least once a term to have a nice dinner together and to avoid shop-talk for at least one night.
We planned an event at a restaurant in your ‘trendy’ part of town – very progressive, left-wing, GLBTQ friendly. A colleague we are friendly with tells us she has invited a friend of hers – a former colleague at her old workplace. This was all fine and we make a booking for the restaurant.
We arrive at the restaurant to meet this woman, “Jackie”, whose first words out of her mouth included the choice phrase, “So, we were just talking about how lesbians are less hot than straight women”. That was her greeting to me, having never met me. Given that she appeared to have no intimate knowledge with the concept of an ‘indoors voice’, the buzz of the room hushed a little in response to that. I bean-dipped politely, and we sat down to order our meals.
I have never been so ashamed to be part of a party of diners as I did that night. Throughout the meal, my friends and I shot each other meaningful and pained glances every time this awful woman and the colleague who brought her along opened their mouths. Amongst the catalogue of faux pas included a loud ranking system of the sexual prowess of every known race or cultural group, which she could do because she was “not a racist”, a point she felt she needed to clarify at various times during the night, loudly commenting on any plans we were discussing for our upcoming weddings (“Why bother to even do it if you’re going to be a total feminazi?”, was said in response to me saying I didn’t know whether I was changing my name after marriage), and even loudly proclaiming that she was looking forward to coming to all of our hen’s nights! Eventually the bean-dipping reached the stage where every inch of our clothing was metaphorically covered in it, and the awful woman still didn’t get the hint! She sexually harassed the poor Scottish waiter we had at our table, and called another waiter “ching-chong” when he did not see her flag him down the first time.
It reached a high-note when, upon finding out the race of my own fiance, she asked if we’d slept together before marriage. I couldn’t really speak out of shock, and someone else volunteered that we owned a home together and had been with each other for some time. Her response to this was that, “I must like them small”.
I couldn’t hide the look of anger and insult on my face, and the table went silent as I just stared at her. After a while, the colleague who invited her said to me, “You should laugh, just to be polite”. I merely turned to her, fixed her with the same look, and visibly turned my chair away from the two of them for the rest of the evening. It was such a horrible experience that it felt like something out of an awful sitcom.
I am certain that their horrible behaviour ruined the night of staff and other patrons, and certainly contributed to our bill being much higher than we calculated. (I left an extra tip out of sympathy for our poor waiter.) Rather than going out dancing with my friends after, I bid them an early good-night at eight thirty and left steaming. We now carefully limit the invitations to our dinners out to ensure that this horrific boor of a woman is not there, nor the colleague who invited her. The only thing my friends and I regret is not having the backbone to simply stand and leave the restaurant as soon as the first signs of her complete cretinousness became apparent.
Bullies and boors will implore you to be a “good sport” in response to their grossly inappropriate comments that, in this case, are meant to throw people off balance from the sheer audacity. Having manners doesn’t mean we have to facilitate, endorse, condone or even tolerate outrageous behavior. “Polite laughing” is merely a reward. One has to determine one’s own “line in the sand” and once it’s crossed, it’s time to remove oneself from the situation with as little dramatic hysterics as possible. Rise from your seat, folding your napkin and placing it by your plate at the same time and announce to your fellow diners, “I’m afraid I no longer have an appetite for the conversation and I bid you all good night.”