AdviceHey, Bonita!

Is It Sexism or Just Bad Service?

Hi Bonita,

This kid who works at a local eatery my husband and I frequent always greets my husband enthusiastically by name, asks him how he’s doing, makes a fuss over him and completely—I’d say studiously—ignores me. He has no reason to have anything against me that I know of. In fact, a few months ago, I made a point to introduce myself in a friendly way to get beyond this, and though he was perfectly pleasant to me that day, he has reverted to the rude behavior. It is infuriating.

My husband, who usually gives people the benefit of the doubt in these sort of matters, is convinced that the kid is just a run-of-the-mill misogynist. When we were younger—10 years ago or so—this sort of seemingly chauvinistic social behavior happened to my husband and me all the time, until I started insistently pushing my way into stop-and-chats and introducing myself and making with the handshakes, and it always worked. Most of the time, it seems that the perceived rudeness was shyness. Now, I’m almost universally treated as an independent human being and not just “my husband’s wife.”

But this guy isn’t having any of that. My husband has offered to say something to the kid, but since I’ve already tried myself, and because it’s ultimately not a big deal, I’ve asked him not to. Having my husband defend my honor is the exact opposite of what I feel the situation calls for. I’m going to stop eating at the place, but I guess I just wanted to complain out loud. Have you experienced this sort of blah, lazy, banal sexism?

Not Just My Husband’s Wife

Hi friend,

Service industry personnel have lots of reasons for either upping or dampening their customer service on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, it’s hard to truly “serve” a patron who was rude or abusive in the past—which hasn’t happened, according to you, but it’s a good example of why quality of service might change from one visit to the next. Customer service employees are humans, too, and they have to juggle all the same stress and strife that the rest of us do. Add to that the pressure of putting on a sunny disposition for a 14-hour shift, and there are gonna be days where they fall short.

I want to look at this server’s behavior with compassion, because I know from personal experience how difficult that job is and how hard it can be to smile and nod and maintain eye contact when your feet hurt and you’re starving and you suddenly have to work a double shift. It just… sucks. Regardless of that, I believe you, and I trust your own interpretation of this server’s behavior. I’ve certainly had male servers direct all of their attention to my male partner in public, and it’s even worse in my tiny hometown when I’m out with my dad—I might as well not exist.

This treatment is specific to men who serve me, not women. I think they’re operating off of the very antiquated idea that you never speak to a man’s lady, lest you give him the idea that you’re flirting or being “inappropriate” with her. I don’t understand that logic at all, and I feel nothing but insulted when it happens to me. I’m not my boo’s property, nor my dad’s, and you are not your husband’s property, either. There’s no need to treat “taken” women like posted land.

You’ve made a good decision to just stop going there. Patronizing that establishment doesn’t make you feel good, and I see it stirring up your general anger at sexism (i.e., you’re being triggered) and leaving you infuriated. You could mention it to the manager if you wanted, but the server would either just get in trouble, or—let’s be honest—management would empathize with the server, and you’d become the nitpicky customer the staff ridicules every time you exit. Neither you nor the server deserve either of those. Just find a kinder place to eat.

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