I’m pretty good at not saying stupid things to women in male dominated space. I still fuck it up though.
Let’s go, Mexico!
Two of my friends were turning 40 last week, so we organized a long weekend in the sun. The plan: 15 of us would fly to Mexico, rent a casa on the water, and spend 4 days eating, sunning, and surfing.
40 year olds know how to get down.
I live in Montreal now, so I’ll jump on any opportunity to see my friends, especially if it means escaping the cold for a bit. Also, I was told there would be women wearing bikinis.
The trip was a slam dunk. Couldn’t have asked for any better. Except maybe, you know, I could have said less stupid things.
10 of us hired a boat to go surfing for the day
The boats could only take 8 so we had to split up. 7 plus the driver in one boat, the rest in the other.
I hopped in the spare boat with my two friends, and waited on a few other clients to join us. A couple eventually climbed in with a surfboard and a standup paddle board. They seemed nice.
Then she walked up. A tall, beautiful woman boarded the boat with her surfboard. Nice tan, curly blonde hair, tiny bikini. You get the picture.
She hoisted her 10′ longboard onto the boat and stowed it on the rack above our heads. Then she found a seat at the stern of the boat. The stern is what sailors call the back bit of the boat. I didn’t know that, I had to look it up.
“Are you going surfing?”
That’s what I said to her, in front of everyone on the boat. I immediately regretted it.
She looked at me, thoroughly unimpressed. If she’d been rude enough to roll her eyes, she would have. But she wasn’t, instead she just replied,
End of conversation
It was over as quickly as it began.
She looked away. The couple looked away. My two friends snickered, and then looked away.
Of course she’s going surfing. What else was she doing on the boat with a surfboard?
We got to the break, she tossed her board in and dove in after it. I muttered something like,”have a great time” as she paddled away. Honestly I don’t remember, I was still embarrassed.
Male dominated spaces and sports
I kept thinking about I’d said. It was stupid, and a bit condescending. It certainly wasn’t my intention, but I’d failed to consider the environment, and the recipient.
I’m careful not to approach women in male dominated spaces, usually. If I do, it’s not to hit on them, but to be friendly. I try to not be part of the problem.
Surfing is a male dominated sport, and I’d just asked a woman if she was going surfing, even though it was clear she was going surfing. My comment could have been taken as condescending. I’m not sure how she took it, but I didn’t feel great about it.
Ignoring my own advice
I’d ignored every piece of advice I’d ever given:
- Consider the environment, and the recipient.
- Ask open ended questions.
- Find out three interesting things about her.
- Ask her what’s exciting in her world.
Anything was better than “are you going surfing?”. But there you go. I’d said it and it felt lame.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 34 years on this earth, is that an apology almost never hurts.
I say almost because there are times when we’ve hurt someone so badly that the best thing to do is leave them be, forever. This wasn’t one of those times.
I saw her bobbing there on her surfboard in between sets (that’s a surf term but I don’t know what it means) and paddled up to her.
Hey, I just wanted to apologize for my stupid comment on the boat back there, about you going surfing. I was trying to be funny and it came off stupid. I wish I hadn’t said it.
She looked at me and said,
It’s OK. I say stupid things sometimes too. You must have just been excited to see another surfer on the boat.
I wasn’t. I was excited to see a beautiful woman on the boat, but I kept that to myself. I don’t need to share everything I think. Most of it is garbage anyway. The good stuff I try to share with you.
We chatted a bit about the ocean, as surfers do, I suppose. I don’t know, I’m not really a surfer. I like the idea of surfing, but I can do without the feeling of being in a washing machine.
Some waves showed up, as they hopefully do when you surf, and she surfed off.
Apologies are free
The price of an apology is usually a bit of pride and a dash of ego. I was born with an ample supply of both, so giving some up every now and then doesn’t hurt. It helps.
I was glad to have been given the chance to apologize. She was gracious about it. She’d probably chalked my comment as just another stupid thing men say to her. It happens to women all the time. Men are great at saying stupid things to women.
I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore, but I still fail sometimes. It’s OK. I have awareness, and awareness leads me to making better choices down the road, hopefully. Or changing a behavior that no longer serves me.
We found ourselves sharing the same bit of ocean again
There she was again. Bobbing up and down on her surfboard just 10 feet from my friend and I.
I asked her where home was, I was genuinely curious. It was a better question than asking her if she was going surfing, that’s for sure. She looked at me and said,
No fucking way. What were the odds? Would she believe me?
She rolled her eyes and took the next wave, probably to get as far away from me as possible.
Shaun Galanos is The Love Drive. He really does live and write in Montreal.
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