“If I was a big tall guy, would I be a looming, space-taking, oblivious jerk or would I be nice?” I asked the question of no one in particular, but my husband was within earshot. “Oh, you’d be nice.”
I had just crumpled my ticket to the football game in my hand like it was a gum wrapper I was about to throw out the window of the car if I was so inclined, which I’m not. I never litter. Never.
It started with the giant men in line to get into the Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field. Big men with big parkas, hunting pants on, and boots thick as bricks. Each of them took up triple human space — their own physical bodies, their extraordinary garb, and their auras fueled by Miller Lite, begging the question, what is the point of drinking a light beer when you are already giant?
We waited in line to go through the metal detector. I held in my right mittened hand my phone and my lipstick. This is all I travel with these days — these two little items — having long ago left my beloved Coach purse in a heap under my desk. I can’t be bothered with satchels like some damn donkey. I just want to go on my way with my hands in my pockets.
The big looming man on my left reached across me and touched my lipstick. And then he murmured something that sounded like instructions or advice about the metal detector, I couldn’t discern the specifics because I was so focused on the question: Why are you touching my lipstick? Who touches somebody’s lipstick? Seriously, is this something that you would do? I would never. Especially a stranger’s.
So I shouted at him, “I can’t hear you,” which is my reflex response to people I have no intention of listening to and he moved forward, felling trees and scattering small wildlife as he clomped ahead.
Lord, I thought, my hatred of men is getting out of control. I was with a man, my husband. He is substantial but not tall and looming and pretty unfailingly polite and if he’s ever touched anyone’s lipstick, he’s kept it a secret for all these years.
Finally, we are inside Lambeau Field just as the Green Bay Packers are taking the field. We march up to Row 49, which is a major hike, and we get to where there are several men sitting in a row. We stand there, say excuse me and they stand but as they stand, their enormous, booted feet are covering all of the space in front of them so in order to get to our seats, we will have to swing from the zippers on their outsized parkas, one to the next. So I said, “Don’t make it too easy, guys,” and we went to the row below, walked down several seats and then hoisted ourselves up to our seats.
It was then I smashed my ticket in my fist.
My husband, meanwhile, took his seat happily. He’s always happy at Lambeau. I could be in a coffin beside him and he’d be remarking on his good fortune at being at a Packers game when the sun was shining.
After a while, a quarter of a football game to be specific, I reminded him of his promise to get us something to eat after we got our seats. Going back the way we came seemed fraught with danger because of my still-percolating hatred of the looming, space-taking men at the end of the row, so we opted for the other direction. Magically, as if on cue or warned ahead of time, all four men, also tall and plentifully garbed, not only stood but walked to the aisle so we would have an unencumbered exit from our seats.
Oh my God, I thought. They’re so nice.
When we came back from the hot dog stand, the four men again stood up and moved to the aisle so we could walk to our seats without crawling over their knees. Thank you, thank you, we said, like they had sprinkled rose petals in our path. They’re real gentlemen, we decided, and it gave me hope that not all men think they can touch my lipstick.
Later, after he’d chatted them up, which he is prone to do, engage in conversation with other men at sporting events like they have been pals since sixth grade, my husband turned to me and said, “They’re from Nebraska,” which was illuminating and disappointing at the same time.
— Janice Wilberg
Jan Wilberg writes about everything from national politics to outwitting rats in the basement with the help of her two sons. She is a mother, grandmother and a formerly hearing impaired person rejoicing in the miracle of her new cochlear implant. Her blog Red’s Wrap has a tagline that says it all: Happiness. It’s relative.