“Hey, slut,” Josh said, raising his beer in acknowledgement.
“Don’t call me that,” I said.
“What?” he laughed. Josh looked like a kid. He had all the confidence of a twenty something and the impish posturing of a fourteen year old. He looked like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes—thick yellow hair standing on end, wide eyes, a perpetual smirk and half-there expression. He was a friend of a friend. I met him once before and put up with his abuse, certain that I’d not see him again. Wrong.
“Don’t call me a slut. I’m serious. Why do you do that?”
He moved away from me. “Why do I do what?”
“Why are you such an asshole? Are you in the closet? Is your penis small? No, seriously, I’m curious.”
“I’m just trying to be funny,” he muttered.
“Well you’re failing miserably,” I said. I took a sip of my beer.
“Look, he calls all girls sluts. It’s not you,” offered his friend sheepishly.
“You shouldn’t call any girl a slut. It’s rude. And offensive. And it’s not even clever.” Quiet. A moment.
“Wow. I’m scared of you now,” he said without irony.
“You should be,” I said. Those words felt foreign and true.
“No one’s ever said anything about it before. Are you like a woman’s studies major or something?” I rolled my eyes and walked away. I got a glimpse of Josh’s future. He lives in a suburb. He is married. He loves his wife but says terribly rude things about her. She doesn’t mind for whatever reason. Josh of the future has a potbelly, maybe. Maybe he coaches his kid’s soccer team. Maybe he teaches him swear words, and their mutual rudeness becomes a language of affection. Maybe.
I felt specific, direct. I rarely feel that way. I fear that others will think I’m a bitch so I refrain from saying what I really want. Just get by—that’s the mantra. Scrape against other people, keep your head down, laugh it off, be polite. Sometimes I find value and comfort in that method, but usually it just wastes time.