In the real estate business, my neighborhood is referred to as “up and coming.” The layperson with less charm might call it “down and out.” Others boil it down to one syllable: I live in the ‘hood.
Other than last week’s murder a block over (not a drill, folks), I haven’t been frightened by anything that’s happened here. I feel pretty safe: I live on the second floor, I have a security system, and I have two large dogs. I thought having 170 pounds of dog on the end of a leash would be a deterrent to any would-be criminals as I walked to the park at the end of the street, but it turns out they were an invitation to a very determined suitor.
As I crunched through the autumn leaves in the grassy median, I heard a squeal of tires and looked to the right; a car had veered toward the curb and stopped right next to me. The tinted glass rolled down to reveal the face of a man who sized me up, eyed the pups and said, “What are you, the dog whisperer?”
I smiled nervously, and replied something that would translate phonetically to a nervous chuckle. It’s such an awful response, but I instinctively paint on a grin in awkward situations. That smile must have been the invitation to work his follow-up line: “How about you put a collar on my neck and walk me?”
I have no idea what my face read, but inside, I was horrified. My big guy must have sensed my terror and reacted on my behalf: he pooped.
My would-be sub was thoroughly disgusted, spitting, “I ain’t picking up no dog shit!” For some reason, this regenerated my backbone and I shot back, “That’s part of the package.”
As I squatted down to pick up the manifestation of my anxiety (I’m a good neighbor), he decided to cut to the chase. “You got a boyfriend?” he barked. I’m very grateful for the over-sized sunglasses trend, as I have no poker face and needed to spit out a lie; the less he could see, the better.
“Yes, I do.” (Don’t breathe too heavy, keep the pulse rate normal.)
Now he was curious: “He black?”
I hadn’t assigned a race to my fictional paramour, but, “No.”
“Your loss.” Window up, he peeled out.
I was left feeling that I had inadvertently offended an entire race and gender, and replayed the conversation in my head all the way to the park and back to my house. What could I have done differently? If I had affirmed that my (make-believe) boyfriend was black, where would have that conversation been left? Would he have felt better about me being off the market? Would I have earned his respect? Would I have gotten a fist bump?
This is the problem with being a people-pleaser: this creep suggested a BDSM scenario in his second sentence to me, and I was concerned I had offended him. And that I came off like a racist.
I didn’t take the dogs out of the backyard for the next five days.