Gentlemen and Other Assholes

As a city dweller, I love public transit and support its expansion. I even have a “Broadview” pin on one of my wanna be hipster scarves, pledging my allegiance to my station. Just the other day I watched a little boy on his first subway ride lose his shit under the Bloor viaduct where the track runs outside, high in the sky, above the Don Valley. Seeing this through his incredulous eyes I was reminded of how “cool” these mechanics really are. “That is sick,” I thought to myself, standing beside him, looking out the window.  

But then something horrible happened. There I was, standing on the subway, minding my own business when a good looking man tapped me on the shoulder and offered me his seat. Can you believe that!? He offered me his seat! I just don’t understand why he would do something so awful like that. What did I ever do to him? I know my down coat isn’t exactly sexy but I didn’t think it made me look obviously pregnant!

What an asshole!

I immediately called my husband for reassurance about my figure.

“Maybe he didn’t think you were pregnant,” Stephen suggeted, “Maybe he just thought you were old.”

I will definitely not be pregnant with his baby any time soon.

“It was an older man!” I hung up  the phone.

I  moved on to my father, hopeful for some loyalty and unconditional love.

“But that’s so nice sweetheart,” he said, “I would give you my seat too.”

The sweetheart is a good start but I was looking for some commiseratory outrage here.  

“Okay Dad,” I began, “What if you were on the subway and a woman like me offered you her seat because, you know, she’s younger than you and she wanted to respect her elders?”

There was a strained pause.

“Well you can just sit the hell down! I don’t need your seat, thank you very much!”

That’s more like it.

That happened to me once. I once offered my seat up to an older woman carrying a lot of bags and I think I ruined her life. I felt awful seeing her scowl because my intentions were good. I was only trying to be respectful of the fact that while she wasn’t subway old, she was older than I was, and had her hands full. Thinking about this, I felt awful for the shocked face I must have given the man who offered me up his seat because, whether he thought I was pregnant or not, his intentions were good. 

Why did I immediately assume something negative in his actions? Why didn’t I just appreciate his simple gesture?   

I presume the worst in people’s treatment of me because I have a problem letting people do nice things for me. I put up a fight when friends try to treat me, even to a cup of coffee. I put down compliments people give me. I have trained myself to question people’s kindness because I don’t believe I deserve it. I have difficulty letting people take care of me and be good to me, even when I desperately need it. And right now, feeling a little (a lot) depressed and a little (a lot) unsure of myself, I need it. I want to learn how to be gracious, how to thank people for their kindness, how to sit down on the subway when someone offers me his seat. I want to believe I deserve these things.

I am going to try really hard to let my heart absorb other people’s goodness, to stop seeing these things as a hardship on their part or an act of charity. I am going to allow myself to be warmed by other people’s affection. When someone buys me a latte, says something sweet or stands for me on public transit, I am going to smile and say thank you. But I am never, ever, going to wear that down coat again. That one is being donated. After all, kindness begets kindness, right?