Feeling: OFFENDED; BUT DO I DESERVE TO BE?
I was so ecstatic with my group for EBC. Such a fun, joyous bunch of people who got on well and could have a good laugh. With an appreciation for puns and quick wit, sexual innuendo jokes were flying fast and chuckles were common.
Then along came (let’s call him) Chuck.
A big, burly American marine, he’d come to Nepal to tackle EBC on his own. Guide? Nope. Porter? No way. Just him and his map. How manly.
He latched onto our group early on, day two or so. All was well. Actually it was good; Daniel was finding the group’s pace frustrating, so he took off with Chuck up the big two-hour climb. All were happy, all was swell.
Earlier on Daniel had said to me, “do you mind being the but of every joke?”
“Not at all,” I laughed. “I find it funny.” But this was when it was all good-humoured fun, when jokes were in my presence and they were light hearted.
That night, Chuck’s addition to our group caused a divide. The dynamics had changed; while up until this point we’d all congregated as a group, we were now spilt at two tables.
Tegan, Sarah and I sat separately and voiced our observation of the change. I don’t often dislike people, but when I do I feel discomfort in their presence. I come across as cold and quite the bitch whenever Chuck was near. I found him rude and obnoxious. I tried to counteract it, but sometimes I just couldn’t. He was just a wanky yank.
I found Chuck crass and crude. His egoism was mind blowing, and his arrogance was among something I’ve never experienced before. He was Amrit two-point-oh. But I could accept this. I believe everyone comes into your life for a reason, either positive or negative. Chuck was here to teach me tolerance and patience.
But suddenly the funny jokes took a sleazy turn. Josh is full of quick wit and banter, so his joshings (had to include that) had me in hysterics. But when Chuck joined in, I went frosty. He seemed to bring out the same sort of side in Daniel too, and I wasn’t giggling with gusto anymore.
Yesterday was a breath of fresh air. Chuck went off on his own, so it was just the original Everest Expendables. I joined in the jokes, laughed like a lunatic and loved it.
Growing up the only girl in between two brothers and always being around boys, I’ve had plenty of presence in conversations discussing girls. I barely bat an eyelid as they rate racks, booyah over bums and fantasise about the female form. Maybe I’ve become immune to the possible offence? I don’t know.
I went to Bali last year with a group of guys and we went hard. Alcohol fuelled antics every day and night, with “scoring” the main aim of the boys. Although at times their talk of “fucking” and such would make me feel cheap and dirty (on behalf of the female population; never fear, I wasn’t the group root bag), I didn’t voice my feelings. In fact, I fuelled more. “Looked at that girl’s titties!” “Fuck she’s got a good arse on her.” Phrases coming from my mouth more often than the guys’.
As always with a young, unisex crowd, conversations during the trek often skewed to sex and such subjects. Games like “Who would you do” and the like came up as we relaxed after a gruelling day. The boys would discuss good-looking girls we’d met along the way, such as an attractive same-sex couple from Chile we’d met in Lukla. “They’re not looking too fresh or hot now,” was one comment on behalf of the boys. A pair of Finnish friends was described as “chubby”.
It was here Sarah said to me about how she found some conversations quite offensive. I hadn’t really given it much thought, but once I was aware I realised that yes, now and then I saw a bit of red at some comments. With Chuck in the mix, this grew too; when I invited Marissa the Canadian for dinner with us, he was all leery and slightly inappropriate in her direction. I didn’t like it, not one bit.
Things reached a head today at lunchtime. The boys were talking about chest hair, then their conversation turned to female hairiness. They were discussing hairy nipples on girls, then Chuck said, “One time I hooked up with this one girl with such a hairy face. I reckon she had to have shaved.” Cue jovial laughter.
I was offended and extremely self conscious. I’m someone (I cannot believe I am admitting this) who is partial to having to pluck hairs from my chin and having to always avoid standing in certain sunlight because of the fair hair on the sides of my face (my brother James – the only person who can ever mock me for anything at all without being berated – often refers to me as “Teen Wolf”). I felt sick. What were these boys saying about me behind my back? Had they noticed my facial flaws?
Suddenly Sarah stood up and told them straight that she found their conversation offensive. The nipple nattering had gone too far. The boys sat stunned as she told them they were being disrespectful and she felt scared about trekking in front of them and wondering just what they were thinking about her body and the way it was.
Good on her. Afterwards she went and sat shakenly on her own for a bit and calmed down. The boys sat silent. One asked if Tegan and I thought they had been unreasonable and we both responded with a firm affirmative.
Josh apologised to Sarah, and the boys went on their way. Us three girls sat and talked about the occurrence.
“I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself,” I told her. “If you hadn’t, I would’ve.”
As we continued on our trek, I mulled and mused over my claim. Would I actually have stood up and spoke out if Sarah had stayed seated? Would I have voiced my discomfort at their discussion?
No. I don’t think I actually would’ve. In fact if I’d been the only girl there I probably would have joined in, making sure my head was tilted to hide my shaggy sideburns. Then I wondered; did my behaviour and banter among boys encourage their derogatory comments about women? Did my chick-checking-out out loud spark the match that in turn fuelled a massive fire? Was I a hypocrite?
I felt like shit. And it got worse.
When we reached the hotel and caught up with the boys, the other two girls went into their room. I was outside with Josh and Daniel, and they asked me about it.
“Is she on her period?” Josh asked, and I could’ve actually punched him in the face. As I tried to explain exactly what the outburst had been about, Josh looked me straight in the eye and told me the truth.
“You threw me under the bus,” he said. “Sarah deserved a sorry. But you and Tegan have been bantering along with us the entire time, then to say we were being unreasonable and offensive? That’s not on.”
I broke out in tears. At first I tired to muffle them and carry on the conversation but I got beside myself and fled to my room (no Josh, I’m not currently menstrating).
He was right. Oh so right. I was a fucking hypocrite. How could I go on about a girl’s fantastic boobs and then suddenly turn around and tell them I found it disgusting when they bought up a body part that proved personal to me? I was in the wrong.
I cried into my pillow for an hour. Hating the situation, my weakness, myself. I was so mad at me.
Then I got a little more rationality. I did have the right to be offended. Their judgement of girls was different to the light hearted banter I’d engaged in. Maybe they found it hard to make the distinction in their minds, but for me it was like a highlighted division between the two. Appreciation of a certain area is miles away from condemning a girl on a less than ideal physical feature.
Eventually I pulled myself together and went to the lounge, where we all played happy games of Uno. It was like nothing had happened, but I kept meeting Josh’s eyes and could feel there was an elephant in the room for us both.
When we went to go to bed (honestly we were all so spent we were all giggly and couldn’t string words together) Josh came to check I was ok from my mid afternoon meltdown. I said sorry to him and told him how his comment had just really hit my hypocritical home. He graciously accepted. I also admitted Chuck made me feel quite uncomfortable, and he said he completely understood; at times he even felt discomfort in some of Chuck’s crass comments. I felt a massive surge of gratitude to Josh; all was right in our little magical world.
I feel like I’ve learnt a big lesson today but I couldn’t tell you what. Self respect? Self acceptance? An awareness of my seemingly innocent banterings? A bid to change hypocritical behaviours? Who knows. All I can say is that something has shifted.
(PS: no apology on Chuck’s part to Sarah in the slightest. I really, truly, dearly hope he fucks right off).