Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Conversations In A Chinese Diner

Tonight, dear readers, I want to share with you a conversation I had with a colleague of mine some weeks back. It was a conversation about beliefs and bathrooms and self improvement that spiraled through the depths and fringes of reason. It was, in essence, a conversation about doing what is easy.

Now, you must understand that conversations with this particular colleague can be challenging at times. We generally start out on one particular subject and then spiral outwards from there. The tangent we end up on may and likely will be on a topic completely unrelated to the original discussion. Sometimes he does this just to wind me up, but most of the time it is just how his mind works. Still, he knows I will listen and follow his lead down the rabbit hole simply because we are friends.

The conversation started in a small Chinese restaurant near our office. It is a small place with only half a dozen tables and a soda cooler near the door. The order counter fronts the galley kitchen where two people industriously clatter pans together in the preparation of food. We took our seats after we ordered at which point he began rather bluntly, "So what do you think of this men in women's bathroom thing?"

I knew what he meant. "Transgendered?"

"Yeah, them. You always know these things" he fussed with his multitude of sauce packets, lining them up by type and size. "I wanted to know what you thought about that."

In my mind, I was thinking 'Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!' But, I have been here before with him. I just have to be careful.

"Well, I can't say as it matters much to me which bathroom someone of that inclination wish to use." Levity usually helps diffuse these things. "I just want them to wash their hands."

He chuckled at that, but I could tell from his study of the plastic cutlery as it related to the pile of napkins that we weren't done with the subject. "I just don't think some hairy-assed guy should be waving his dick around in a women's bathroom."

Jesus! He just said that out loud. I didn't look around to see if the people at the other tables heard him. The place was so small that they must have. I knew I would have to be so very careful now. I wouldn't put it past him to go full Archie Bunker on me.

"I don't think that's what's happening, really. I should think it was only those who...oh, what's the word? Present? Yes, I think that's right. It's just those people who present as female that tend to use the women's bathroom."

"Well, they still have a dick, right?"

I am uncomfortable now. I have to get him away from the subject. "Some do, I think. But what does it matter? They only have stalls in the women's, so it's not like they'd be waving it about."

The food came, finally, and I was never so happy to see General Tso's chicken. The act of stirring and saucing his order of shrimp Lo Mein kept him occupied for a bit. I know why he's brought this up. His daughter is home from college on winter break. His only child, she was educated in a small, private, conservative Christian school and now attends Indiana Wesleyan College two hours north of their hometown. No doubt he's read something about this topic or seen it flogged by one of the fear mongers on cable. He is worried that one of these people (I can only guess that he imagines them as yetis in sundresses and heels) might stumble into a bathroom his child is in waving their prominent and equally hairy appendage about. His reasoning may be faulty, but I know that he is just worried about his daughter. Away from the embrace of small town Indiana and it's pervasive teachings on what is right and wrong, she is alone on campus facing the reality of the world.

I want to tell him that it's only Marion, Indiana and really no bigger than their town. It's about as pale and conservative as someone of that inkling could want.  I could tell him that Wesleyan is about as mild of a college experience as one could ask, but I know he won't listen. It's not the church. It's not the safety of home. I know that I will worry as well when my child goes off to college (maybe not about this, but I will worry), so I keep my composure and press on.

"She's going to be alright."

He grunted, stuck a fork in a prawn and then held it up like exhibit A in a murder trial. "Now you tell me, do you see any fat on this? How can this be bad for me when there's no fat on this at all."


  1. Mike, you not only handled the subject well as best as anyone could, but you also put us in that uncomfortable spot with you. I hear the pots clanking, see the steam from the kitchen, and smell the soy. I feel your friend's worry and concern, and I sense your restraint to shout out facts and, instead, find empathy on some level without sacrificing those facts.

  2. Agree. Great description. And yes, I remember these conversations.

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