We were walking in Times Square. My children had teased me earlier in the day about always using caps when I text XO and LOL. So wrong! lol at my self.
Now, as we pass one of many street hustlers – those folks who stand all day handing out fliers to tout attractions-one of them holds out a printed sheet with LOL … in caps! So I point toward it and said “L O L.” He took that as an invitation to engage.
So the street hawker asks me “what’s happening…” and, glancing down at my silver sandals “…twinkle toes?” I saw this as just in fun – naive, perhaps. Then he takes a look at the four of us and asks “who is he to you?” gesturing to my daughter’s boyfriend.
Hmmmm. So many answers went through my mind: daughter’s boyfriend, city guide, great guy, picked out all the desserts – but don’t say sugar daddy cause that has negative associations … and so I blurted “he’s the dessert guy” reflecting his invitation to dessert after dinner on the first night we met – just yesterday.
Then the huckster looked at my 13-year-old son and said “what would you think if your mom came home with a big black guy?”
Okay, here’s where I needed to “Mom UP” and I fell flat. I was shocked. I saw the disgust well up in my son’s eyes as he looked at the man and shot back “she’s married.”
At the same time the “Black Lives Matter” march was proceeding across the Square. The huckster is of African heritage while the four of us are of European descent and … SHIT! How do I handle this? And be completely human-human? And…
What I should have said: “Sir, when you were thirteen years old, walking with your mother, how would you like it if a man said something like this to you? This is inappropriate.” And then walk away. Or, just walk away.
Or, “Sir, you are a promoter. You can promote unity or you can promote divide. Surely there is a more productive way to interact -one that will build connection and foster humankindness. Not through disrespectful verbal assault, but through polite and courteous words.”
Instead, I stuttered. My “Minnesota nice” gear got stuck in the groove of finding something to say and not be offensive or unkind. That gear needs to be adjusted to have NICE STRONG BOUNDARIES and be shifted into standing up for what is correct.
Attempting humor and with a smile, I muttered, “my son would support anything that makes the mama happy,” while my daughter and her boyfriend assisted by shooing us away.
Next, I worked to convince my son that, while this man’s behavior was not appropriate, the incident was not life-threatening . He was afraid, very afraid. Before the trip, his father had told him horror stories about NYC and the people on the streets. I felt under-effective.
So, dear hucksters … if I ever encounter this again, I will walk away. Or I will step into adult shoes and tell you your comment is inappropriate – what would your mother think?
And then, we get home. My husband picks us up at the airport. He doesn’t ask about the weekend. After abruptly answering a few questions I ask about him, we continue the drive in silence. My son breaks the spell by listing all the fun things we did. And then he mentions “the homeless guy” (referring to the huckster) that mom talked to, and how afraid he was.
This got me hollered at for being stupid. For being really stupid. And I was further reprimanded “your stupidity threatened my son.”
Wow. The things I didn’t say.
First, we were not in harm’s way – we were just accosted by remarks that were inappropriate – in Times Square, in the middle of a sunny Sunday afternoon, surrounded by police and people. Second, thanks for giving me any credit for my judgment of such situation (granted, I was “nice” but I didn’t attract danger – just engaged interaction). And finally, FUCK YOU for setting up such fear by telling OUR son that all the homeless people are on drugs and they will attack you. And that all the people shucking stuff on the streets are on drugs because they can’t otherwise stand being out there all day long, and so they will attack you. And to be afraid of people who are different. Fuck you.
But I didn’t say that. It wouldn’t be nice. So I walk away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With experience spanning multiple industries and over many decades, Tamara Parisio brings a seasoned eye and a fresh perspective to find the opportunity in every challenge. With acute clarity, Tamara hones a marketing message for impactful, compelling communication across channels. Tamara’s optimism delivers a can-do approach to meet or beat expectations.
“My goal is to be ICONIC in what I do so that I can invest and spend resources as I desire to enrich the world! And I intend to give fabulous gifts to family and friends, wrapped in particularly pretty packages! … What’s yours? #ScriptYourShift” — Tamara Parisio, Strategic Wordsmith & Creative Director
Tamara Parisio is a Scottsdale-based Strategic Wordsmith and Creative Director with Parisio & Co, LLC. For more information, visit TamaraParisio.comand ScriptYourShift.com.