Kyle and I went to see a play this one time, and there was this white woman who irked me by flirting with Kyle. And the thing is, I didn’t do anything about it!
It was at a performance of The Mountaintop, Katori Hall’s play about what might have happened during Dr. Martin Luther King’s last night on earth. I don’t take Kyle to the theater a lot, because most theater in Seattle doesn’t speak to him, but I figured he’d like this play. Even though he’d probably be one of the few black people in the audience.
I was ushering, so Kyle and I got there early. All of the ushers were standing in the lobby talking before we got started.
This one white woman usher started standing close to Kyle. She was smiling at him, making lots of conversation with him, she even put her hand on his arm.
She started it up again when all of us ushers took our seats just before the play started. She ended up on the opposite side of Kyle from me. She was leaning into him, talking to him.
As soon as the show was over, she was at it again. Finally, I told Kyle I wanted him to meet a friend of mine who was also in the audience (this might actually have been true), and I moved him away from her.
I could see everything she was doing. But I didn’t realize exactly what she was doing. Now, as I’m writing this, two years have gone by and I’m wondering how in the hell I didn’t realize that this woman was flirting with my husband! I think it was because it was the first time anyone had done it. And she was doing it so unselfconsciously and blatantly that I figured I must be wrong, cause if a woman really flirts with another woman’s husband right in front of her, don’t they at least look like they’re aware of it?
The next day, I asked Kyle about it. Was that white woman flirting with him?
He said no. He thought she was just glad to be seeing a play about Dr. King while seated next to a black person.
I thought it over, and I figured he must be right. This woman felt some unconscious pull towards a person who looked like the people in the play she was watching. She probably wanted to connect with him in some way, because she was seeing a play about an African-American hero and there was an actual African-American man, right there.
I thought about all of the times I’ve gravitated towards black people, in similar situations. I decided I wouldn’t do that again. Just because I want to connect with them, that doesn’t mean we’re buddies. I don’t have the right to impose my presence on them.
When I posted this story on Facebook, all my women friends commented that of course she was flirting with Kyle. She was so flirting with my man! Nicole, my sister-in-law, commented that Kyle is so clueless about these kinds of things, that’s why he didn’t realize it.
So then I wished I’d said something.
When I asked myself how in the hell could that woman flirt with my husband right in front of me, the only reason I can come up with is that she didn’t realize we were married. Most people don’t assume that Kyle and I are together; even at restaurants waitstaff usually assume we want separate checks. So that woman might have been horrified if she’d found out.
If someone ever flirts with my husband again, I’m going to say something. Like, excuse me, you may not realize this, but this man is my husband. And if she says she doesn’t care, I’m going to claim my power and tell her to back off.
In any case, Kyle and I enjoyed seeing The Mountaintop. As a playwright, I thought that parts of it weren’t completely believable, but that the ending was surprising and amazingly powerful.
And I was glad to be seeing a play about Dr. Martin Luther King with my black husband.