I’ve come to realize there’s an age when you truly become a ma’am when you live up North. You might occasionally be called miss, but that’s usually a kid whose mom is around your age and knows the dangers of calling a woman ma’am when you don’t live in the South. He’s veering on the side of caution, hoping you’ll be flattered, smiling back at you when you beam your very best smile back at his face. That smile where you hold your head just right, praying to a God you only occasionally believe in that the wrinkles on your neck don’t show.
There are times when you don’t have the energy for that smile, when it’s been a long couple of weeks and an even longer day. A guy who is probably five years older than you approaches as you pray someone is walking next to you because you just used up every ounce of your give a fuck and don’t even have time for this.
“Ma’am? Excuse me, ma’am? Can you take our picture?”
And I do because I’m not a complete asshole. I line them up just right, Dad with his three kids, one of whom needs a little reminder to stay in the shot after the fourth one of him running away.
“Kid, get in line or your Dad won’t buy you an ice cream on the way home.”
Yeah, Dad was pissed about that, but I didn’t give a fuck because I didn’t want to be taking this picture anyway. I said I wasn’t a complete asshole, not that I wasn’t an asshole at all. I handed the phone back to Dad, who asked me where he could buy an ice cream.
“I have no idea, but I’m sure you’ll pass a gas station at some point that has a cooler. Enjoy your weekend.”
I hear you asking why I was so rude about it. I know I didn’t have to be, but I said it was a long couple of weeks and an even longer day. I’d just used up what was left of my smile taking a picture with one of my cousins who was at the baseball with her gorgeous family. And the sole of my shoe had literally just decided it was DONE and half detached from the rest of my shoe, so I was limping along, trying to keep my shit together after a day where everything had been going so well until the Tigers fell apart.
I had a fancy seat for the game, I had a seat at the bar for the rain delay, I had a delicious vodka lemonade, I got to sit in the sun and chat with the great guys sitting behind me. The Tigers shit the bed, but I was having a good day, great even (y’all know how I am about sunshine). And then it was time to go meet some of my family to say hi before going home to relax. I was washing my hands in the bathroom at the same time as a woman wearing a Konerko jersey.
“I don’t know why you all even bother to come here when your team sucks. Why don’t you go support your city?”
“I mean, Detroit sucks, obviously, the city and the team, so shouldn’t you and your friends be there trying to improve it instead of spending your money here?”
I stopped washing my hands and faced her, raging with anger, wanting to run away, but I couldn’t let that go. In all the years I’ve gone to games here, of all the shit I’ve taken, NEVER has anyone been this rude.
“I’m here by myself. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and consider it home. I come to games here because I like seeing my team play. I can’t afford to go to Detroit that often. Usually people in Chicago are really nice. I actually live in the city, and I’m not sure what suburb you must have come from, you rude cunt.”
Her mouth fell open, and my hands were shaking as I walked out without bothering to dry my hands.
As I stood on the escalator to exit, I wondered why do I live here? I love this city, but I couldn’t find one single person to go to the game with me. On a gorgeous day. When everyone else has plans that I wasn’t invited to because I isolate myself. I’m not sure it would be any different in Detroit.
And then I met up with my family. One of my cousins (third cousin? Second? I dunno, but she’s amazing), her husband, and her son who had come here from Grand Rapids to see the game. O is getting to be the age where hugging his weird cousin who is old enough to be his aunt is gross, but we all hugged, and my cousin B may have noticed that I held that hug for an extra beat. I will love her forever for not pulling back. I needed that hug.
As I’m walking away from them, something pulls my shoe and I realize the sole has literally come off of the back half of my sandal. Great. JUST FUCKING GREAT. I’m limping along, wondering why I live here, wondering why I push everyone away, wondering why I don’t live in Detroit, why I even fucking bother.
“Ma’am? Can you take our picture?”
I should have said no, but I hope that kid got his ice cream.