Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: growing balls

What Would Sophia Do?

Is it being in New York, with all the tough-talking characters?  Is it being on my own?  Is it out of necessity?  Whatever the reason, I seem to be growing some balls here in New York. 

I think I can both blame AND praise Sophia.  She has bigger balls than me, so when I am with her in Los Angeles, I pull back.  I even go the other away to counteract her, so the scales are balanced.  But — I have seen how she does it, how she deals with people in an assertive manner, and wins the respect of others.  Who needs therapy?  I can learn from the master!  When I get myself into a situation that requires some cojones, I have a model to look up to.  I can ask myself, “What would Sophia do?”

Yesterday morning, I started my day with breakfast at my local Dominican-owned coffee shop.  I ordered the breakfast special — a cholesterol-laden mess that comes with coffee and orange juice for — $3.99!  It probably wasn’t good for my health, but — $3.99!  After I gulped down my meal, I went to pay.  I had a long subway ride to Coney Island to meet Sarah.  I handed the owner by Mastercard.

“Your bill was $3.99.  There is a $10 minimum on credit cards.”

I suddenly remembered that in these days of credit cards and Metrocards, I didn’t have any cash on me.

“I’m sorry,” I replied.  “I don’t have any cash.”

He pointed to a greasy-looking ATM machine standing by the men’s room.

I told him that I didn’t have my ATYM card.  I was from out of state.  This was true, but even if I did have my card, I wouldn’t want to get the “service charge” from this ATM, conveniently owned by “Giovanni Brothers, Inc.”

“I don’t have my ATM card.” I said.

“You’ll have to buy something or I’m going to have to charge your card ten dollars.”

“Why’s that?”

“Cause they charge me for using the credit card.  The breakfast was only $3.99.  It would be like giving you the meal for free.”

Although I knew this was partly bullshit, I was feeling sympathy for him. He was a hard-working restaurant owner.  He probably didn’t have much money to his name. 

I had a debate with myself.

“Of course, I don’t have any money either, but I bet he doesn’t even have a wii-fit.  And a $3.99 breakfast special IS an amazing deal.  Especially in New York.  Should I just buy a tuna fish sandwich and a diet coke to go?”

I forced my brain to stop kvetching.  Did I call my therapist?  No.  I did something better.  I asked myself, “What would Sophia do?”

“Listen,” I told the owner, “You have two choices.  You can charge my Mastercard the $3.99 or I can walk home — I’m just a few blocks away — and I will bring you back the $3.99.”

He caved in.  He charged my card $3.99, cursing under his breath.

Before I left, I thanked him, apologized, and told him that I will bring cash the next time.  I’m still polite.

At the Mermaid Parade, I met up with Sarah and a few of her friends she knows from Flickr, all of them amazing photographers.  They had come to the event to get some cool shots.  I’m not much of a photographer, but I felt competitive, and tried to impress Sarah with my photos.  As she ran around with her cool camera, I tried to find shots that interested me.  Surprising, most of them ended up being shots of women’s asses.

I came across some girls who were hardly wearing anything at all.  I tried to grab a photo of them surreptitiously, but I ended up chopping their heads off in the frame.

“What would Sophia do?”

I called out to them, like I was a paparazzi  photographing Paris Hilton in Hollywood.”

“Hey, ladies!” I cried out. “You look gorgeous.  Can I take a photo of you?  I love your smiles!”

It worked.  I mean, I’ve done this before a million times with YOU on your blogs and Twitter, but NEVER in real life!”

Women DO respond to flattery in real life TOO!

On the way home from Brooklyn, I took the bus.  It was crowded, so I had to stand with several other passengers.  All of the seats were filled, except for one open window seat.  It was part of a two seater.  The outer seat was occupied by a tough-looking guy, a bald black man wearing intimidating Wesley Snipes sunglasses.  He was sitting with his legs wide open, sending out the non-verbal message that “this seat next to me is NOT available.”

No one dared make a move.

For two bus stops, I thought about the rudeness of this dude.  And why was everyone so scared of him?  Even if this guy was someone who would kill you in the alleyway, the chances are slim that he is going to shoot you, during daylight, in the middle of a crowded city bus?

“What would Sophia do?”

Remember, Sophia is a Republican.  Republicans always get a bad rap for being “racist” and “anti-minority.”  Actually, I’ve never met anyone who treats everyone as equally as Sophia does. She doesn’t resort to stereotypes.  She does not get pushed around by the wealthy in Beverly Hills or the aggressive-looking black guy on the city bus. 

There is no way Sophia would let this asshole get away with taking up two seats.

I adjusted my crotch, and John Wayned over to him.  I could feel the eyes of the other passengers burning a hole in the back of my shirt.  I think they were trying to figure out their next move.  Should they stop me?  Should they pull the emergency cord?  Should they jump out the window, women and children first?

“Excuse me, sir,” I said to him, trying to disarm him with kindness.  “Can I get in there?”

“Oh yeah,” he said in a deep voice, sliding his legs over to allow me in.  “Sorry about that.”

After I sat down, I also had to open my legs a little wider, since I could feel my balls growing.

When I Grow Up to be a Man

manly.jpg

A few months before we got married, Sophia and I went to a dinner at at Chinese restaurant with a large group of people.  As we left the restaurant, the two of us had an odd conversation about one of the guests who took the last shrimp from the large banquet serving plate.

Sophia:  "If you wanted the last shrimp, why didn’t you take it?"

Me:  "There are three types of people.  Those who take the last shrimp on the plate, those who take the shrimp after asking, and those who never take it, even when offered." 

Sophia:  "And you’re the last one?"

Me:  "Exactly."

Sophia:  "If you wanted the shrimp, you should have just taken it."

Me:  "I know it sounds stupid.  I would feel too guilty.  It would be like everyone is looking at me and thinking I’m selfish."

Sophia:  "That’s ridiculous."

Me:  "I know.  I’m just like… my parents."

It’s something that always upset me about my parents, mostly because I’m the same way.  Always eager to help out, but too wimpy to take the last shrimp.

I’ve grown a lot more assertive in the past few years, mostly because I’ve seen how Sophia goes after what she wants, and rather than people hating her, they actually respect her.  Maybe that’s because she mostly uses her natural power to help others first.

Today, I still hesitate taking that last shrimp, but at least I might actually take it — once I ask everyone four or five times if they didn’t want it first.

Recently, I’ve been working on the Flash design and content of a online "Stress Management" course.  (You can see a sample here, under ABOUT — but remember, I’m still working on it).  One of the chapters is about "Assertiveness and Stress" and how a lack of assertiveness can add to a person’s anxiety.  One of the most common problems with non-assertive people is their inability to say "No" to people. 

For an interesting perspective on this, read Megan’s post about how she’s finally learning to say "No" to her co-workers’ constant asking for help. 

I thought of the importance of assertiveness while watching the aftermath of the Katrina disaster.   I asked myself, how would I act if I were there?  Would I be heroic and help others?  Would I take off on my own?  Or would I go to the convention center and sit there for days, helplessly waiting for help to come?   I think we all saw what being helpless gets you.

One of the hard lessons of life is that you can’t always wait for someone to help you.   I know I’ve missed opportunities in my own life by assuming that things were going to come to me — like women and jobs.  Sometimes I wonder how I even had enough nerve to propose to Sophia (unless I’m remembering it wrong, Sophia, and you proposed to me?)

Lizriz wrote a post complaining about the lack of "balls" in men today.  They seem to have trouble asking women out and even paying for the bill on a date. 

I’ve mentioned before that Sophia and I had some problems because our basic natures went against the traditional gender roles.  She is the more assertive one, and vice versa.  We loved each other because of this, but we also fought about it constantly.  When it comes down to it, women still want a man who is "manly" and a man wants a woman who acts "womanly" — whatever that means.

Last week, Sophia and I went to an outdoor concert of Latin music.   During intermission, we bought some coffee.  There was a ledge along the wall where we put our styrofoam coffee cups down so we could add cream and sugar.   At the same time, a young girl was walking along the ledge, coming towards us.  Her mother, a well-dressed woman of about thirty-five, a Beverly Hills type, was holding her daughter’s hand, guiding her along.

Daughter:  "Coming through!  Coming through!"

I lifted up my cup so the girl could pass.  Sophia was in the middle of pouring creamer into her cup.

Sophia:  "One second."

Beverly Hills:  "She needs to come through.  There’s no stopping her."

Daughter:  "Coming through!  Coming through!"

Sophia:  "You’ll need to wait a second, I’m almost done." 

Beverly Hills:  "You don’t have to be rude to my daughter."

Sophia:  "I’m not being rude.  You’re being rude.  You can tell your daughter to wait a second."

Meanwhile, I was tensing up.  I hate conflict.  It’s the reason I don’t take that last shrimp.  It’s the reason when Tatyana and ACG were arguing about looting in one of my posts earlier this week, I threw in a sex joke just to defuse it.

Beverly Hills:  (to daughter)  "Let’s go.  "We don’t have to stay here and hear this." 

They left.

Five minutes later, Sophia and I were at our seats, drinking the coffee and waiting for the show to begin.  All of a sudden, I see the Beverly Hills Lady walking towards us.  I can feel my blood pressure rising.   I figured she was coming to say something to Sophia, but instead she stops in front of me.

Beverly Hills:  "You know… you really can do A LOT better."

My body went into overdrive.  I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say.  I came up with a lame joke, making believe I misunderstood her. 

Me:  "You mean these seats?  I think they’re pretty good."

The woman took off.  Sophia turned to me.

Sophia:  "She just insulted me… in front of everyone.  Why didn’t you say something?"

Me:  "I did.  I said, "You mean these seats?"  I showed her how ridiculous she sounded."

Sophia:  "No, you didn’t.  You just wimped out."

Me:  "She’s the one who looks like an asshole if she had to come here and say that." 

Sophia:  "She mocked me.  Why don’t you say something to her?"

Me:  "Like what?"

Sophia:  "For one thing.  You can say the same thing about how you feel about rude spoiled children that you did on your own blog."

Me:  "Look, it’s too late.  I don’t even know where she is anymore."

Sophia:  "She’s over there.  About ten rows up, in the center."

Me:  "Aw, Sophia, it’s a big nothing.  I’m not going to make a big scene.  Forget it." 

Sophia:  "Wimp."

Me:  "I’m a lover, not a fighter."

Sophia glared at me.  If we were still together, it was a look that would mean there wouldn’t be ANY loving for this lover for a long time.   Since we were already separated, it just meant that she wouldn’t speak to me for two days.

OK, bloggers, I’m ready for the attacks on my manhood, especially after I told you how Sophia always comes to my rescue.  At least I now know what flowers to send all of you as apologies for you disappointment in me — from the information you gave me during the last post.   I can buy all the flowers at the same place I did for Sophia.

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