When I eat out by myself I often sit at the bar so I can just take my time and not have to worry about taking up a table or booth for some poor server. I like to read and relax and eat and maybe even do a little work. Which is how I found myself at a new restaurant in a town I’m not familiar with having a nice dinner.

Toward the end of the meal, as I was about to leave, I needed to use the restroom but I didn’t know where it was. And for some reason I felt weird about asking. I rehearsed it in my head a bunch of times. Made (not big enough) motions to get the bartenders attention and failed. Eventually I ended up just leaving instead of asking. Which is kind of embarrassing to admit.

But it got me thinking: a white cis guy probably wouldn’t have thought twice about asking. (I say probably because there are always outliers with social anxiety, etc.) They would have flagged the bartender down. Maybe the would have just shouted across the room to him.

White cis men rarely consider how much space they take up. (And frankly, neither do a lot of white cis women.)

The other day I was in a store with A. I was talking about something on the shelf and pointing to it and a man walked up, walked in front of us, and grabbed something off the shelf. Never even acknowledged our presence. Didn’t think twice about other people around him. Just got in there and took what he needed.

At prayers the man sitting next to me has a booming voice. He thinks nothing of saying the prayers at full volume (even though everyone else is praying quietly). He thinks nothing of coming in on the group prayers just a second before everyone else. He is not nervous about this or embarrassed by it. To him, this is normal.

And I don’t know if women and trans folks and POCI people should just walk around taking up more space, or if we should all try to be more cognizant of the people around us (though not sure that white cis men will ever get the message on that and will just keep taking up the same amount of space) but something has to give.

“Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man” says a popular t-shirt and sometimes I want to pray that for myself. Give me the confidence to take up space. Give me the confidence to ask for what I need. Give me the confidence to stand up for myself and for others. Give me the confidence to know that I am worthy of time and attention.

But even more than that I want white men to be conscious of the space they are taking up and conscious of the people around them. I want them to talk more quietly and not push in front of people (and act as if they can’t even see them). I want them to realize that there is enough to go around: enough space, time, money, food, whatever but only if we all take only what we need and don’t hoard.

And every time white men start to feel like they aren’t getting their fair share, that things are being taken away from them, that they have less than they should, I want them to know that that’s how everyone else feels pretty much all of the time. And that they aren’t getting shortchanged, things are simply equalizing (ever so slowly). 

In the meantime I want the rest of us to take up space, to not back down, to fight for what we need. I want us to be loud and ask for what we want. I want us to go after things and make our presence known. I want us to stop being invisible.

I want us to change how things are done.

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Photo Credit: Marco Gomes Flickr via Compfight cc