Saturday, January 20, 2018

Hey, It Was Fun Meeting You Last Night

Scene: A child is at Disney World with her father. They're in line for Expedition Everest. The father is excited. The girl is terrified. She whimpers and whines.

This is going to be fun! the father says. You'll love this ride.  He says this even though the child has never liked thrill rides. The Winnie the Pooh ride had been scary enough for her.

By the time they get to the end of the line, the child is outright sobbing. The father ignores her cries and straps her into the seat. He smiles broadly, and when the ride stops, he puts his arms in the air and screams gleefully.

The ride ends. The child has tears streaming from her eyes. The father grabs her hand and says, Wasn't that fun?!

Scene: A child is playing basketball with her father, uncle, cousin, and grandfather. The uncle accidentally steps on her foot. She yells out in pain. No one seems to notice that she was hurt. No one gives her any words of comfort. She starts to cry. Come on. That didn't hurt, the grandfather says. Let's not ruin the game. Let's keep this fun.

The child walks away sobbing. She leaves the game.The father, uncle, cousin, and grandfather keep playing. Every so often the grandfather calls out cheerfully to the child, You're missing out. We're having a GREAT time here!

These are the kinds of scenes that come to my mind when I think about how Aziz Ansari responded to Grace after their dreadful, now heavily publicized, date.

If Grace is telling the truth, it seems to me that she made her feelings pretty damn obvious. One of the last things she says to him is, you guys are all the same, you guys are all the fucking same. This statement comes after he stuck his fingers down her throat (yuck!) and moved towards her, undoing her pants.

Is Anzari stupid? Did he think you guys are all the fucking same was a compliment?

After the not-compliment, Grace leaves. To me, it seems like it would be quite clear that the date hadn't ended on a happy note. And Anzari is an actor and a writer. Right?  Aren't actors and writers supposed to be extra empathetic. Aren't they supposed to be extra observant and understanding when it comes to emotions and behavior?

I don't think Ansari did anything illegal on the date. He was just an asshole—unfortunately a very typical asshole. Most of us behave badly sometimes. We're not as nice as we should be. We're not as nice as the people around us deserve. We're selfish. We're greedy. We're rude. We're inconsiderate. I can't blame Anzari for being human like the rest of us.  I just wish he had acted differently on his date with Grace. I hope this behavior was unusual for him (though I sadly doubt it). I also wish that he responded differently to her grievances.

I wish Anzari had texted Grace later that evening or early the next day. He could have said something like Hey, I'm sorry for my behavior last night, or You didn't seem happy when you left last night. Did I do something wrong? Are you okay? Instead, like the father at Disney World, and the Grandfather at the basketball game,  Anzari tries to hide behind cheerful ignorance.

Hey, it was fun meeting you last night. Then he goes on to ask her to wish him luck on his photography project. Grace writes back this long message about how the date was pretty shit. She's pretty polite about it, though. She's nice. For example, she STARTS her message with, Hey Aziz nice meeting you too. I hope you have some good shots on the roll.

To Ansari's credit, he does give a fairly decent apology after her message.

Or maybe it's not decent.

Maybe it's decent and at the same time awful.

It's fake. That's what it is.

I'm so sad to hear this. All I can say is, it would never be my intention to make you or anyone feel the way you described. Clearly I misread things in the moment and I'm truly sorry. 

If it was not his intention to make Grace feel like a blow-up sex doll, maybe he should have acted much differently.

Women have had such strong opposing views on the story. They range from Ansari is guilty of sexual assault and truly SHOULD become the master of none. Bye bye TV show. There are those who think Grace is too blame. She gave too many mixed messages. And apparently once you give or receive oral sex, you resign yourself to becoming the blow-up sex doll.  Then there's my camp. We don't think Ansari should lose his career. We just think he, and other humans with penises, need(s) to behave much differently.  And we have empathy and understanding for Grace.  The only thing I fault her on, maybe, is naming Ansari. It might have been more ethical if he had been not-named and just described as a Netflix Celebrity.  At the very least, this would have given us all a really fun guessing game.

Besides the naming of Ansari, though, I can have sympathy for Grace because I strongly relate to her.  I have a hard time saying no. I manage to text it or say it, but I usually end up feeling guilty all day. I give mixed messages, because I don't want to hurt feelings. I have desires to lash out and hurt people for hurting me, but then I don't want them to be sad.

I'm all mixed up.

I'm not sure why some of us are like this. Are we born this way? Is it how we're raised?

I picture the child at Disney World. What becomes of her?  Does she learn to firmly say no to her father when he pushes her to go on rides that make her feel uncomfortable?  Does she learn to say no to other people? Does she become assertive—no, not just assertive but confident in her assertiveness?  Or does she learn to say yes and act happy as much as possible?  Does she learn that Daddy is going to like her much more if she screams and laughs on roller coasters, and that men in general will like her much more if she says yes a lot...with a smile.   

Or maybe it's something in between.  In between the assertive woman who gives a firm no and the subservient woman who says yes without complaint, there's the woman who says...yes, maybe, I'm not sure. Okay. I'll do it, but I don't really like it much.  Can we please do something else? Can we take things more slow?  And she's thinking, please still like me. Please don't think I'm boring.  Please don't be hurt. Please don't be offended.  I don't want to be the scaredy cat. I don't want to be the prude.

She's the scared little girl who cries not just because she's scared of the big hill on Expedition Everest but also because she worries she's not cool enough. She's so sorry for that but at the same time furious that she's feeling sorry.