the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

When I Grow Up to be a Man


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.


  1. Josia

    Every day I wonder … there is no way that Neil can up the ante on that last post … how much more personal and revealing can this blog get?? If I bumped into you (and Sophia) in the supermarket Neil – which probably won’t happen anytime soon with us being in different continents – we really would have absolutely nothing to talk about!

    I can give you the spiritual take on this issue but I know you don’t like it when I do that – so all I can say is this: getting down to the root of your being will really bring out the animal in you!!

  2. Neil

    Josia — bringing out the animal in me? Do tell. Now you’re talking!

    …and why would we have nothing to talk about?

  3. Pearl

    Okay, your ex will hate me… but I’m more wimpish like you and it’s my hubby who tries to get me to be more ballsy.(and he also expects me to back him on most everything, but then again, I’m my own person and can’t necessarily do that on everything, if it goes against my personality, so I don’t…and explain my rationale.)

    I’ve learned in marriage and in life, you have to learn to pick your fights, to overlook what’s not as important, to learn how to turn the other cheek even if you’re seething a bit inside and having to bite the inside of your cheek.

    This scenario snowballed when Sophia didn’t let the girl and her mom pass. Was it ’cause she was the Beverly Hills type? I’m used to seeing that same type around here, but I’d have probably let the two pass and maybe bitched about “attitude” afterwards. The whole scene could’ve been avoided.

    You see, that seemingly “Why should I let her pass? Let her wait!!” attitude came through loud and clear in retaliation to the “Coming through, coming through!”

    I might be more on the wimpy side, but I know when I “feel” moved about something, I’ll fight for it, blurt out something or retaliate in a different way…but generally in a nicer, let’s- discuss-it way, ie. mature way. Over the years, I’ve slowly learned to say “no” and I’ve learned to take a first step toward something I want…not necessarily what others want me to do.

    Even baby steps towards assertiveness can be giant steps. Start with those little ones, but I remind you, decide what matters most…before you take those leaps.

  4. Anne

    I’d hardly ever take the last shrimp. And I blame my parents, too…
    But if it had been me at that show, I‘d have given that woman a piece of my mind (even though I hate conflict too), because there’s no way she can’t even have the balls to say something like that to my face, and even if that only meant telling her in no uncertain terms (honestly, I do hate conflict) that her husband can probably do a lot better too.
    Now, if there’d been mud around, that would have been a right sight.

  5. leesepea

    It’s funny, I walk the line between push-over and bitch all the time.

    I can stand up to my mom’s side of the family, because that’s what is expected, everyone there is not shy at all about stating (sometimes, shouting) their opinions, whethere or not they’ve been asked.

    But my dad’s? I hardly say three words. It’s easier to just shrug it off and walk away than to actual say what I’m feeling, because it would shock them all to know I think they’re all full of shit. But since they’re all so cordial to each other, asserting an opinion might be lethal.

    Who knows.

    I would have taken the last shrimp.

    I also would have felt guilty about it.

    I would have made the lady wait.

    I also would have faked a misunderstanding.

    There are no absolutes in my world. Every situation is dealt with case by case. I might be tough with one person and roll over for the next. But it’s how I keep my sanity.

  6. jamy

    You have to pick your battles. Sophia was well within her rights to deny passage to the girl, but some hostility was perceived (was there hostility or not?). The woman was way out of control–but what were you supposed to say to her? Diffusing her nasty comment with humor was a reasonable reaction and what I might have done. Unless being directly insulted (this was an indirect insult) or physically attacted, I would not expect to be defended. I’m not even sure I’d want to be defended in a public place with lots of people around. I was raised to avoid “scenes” at all costs.

    I have taken the last shrimp with and without asking and not taken it. It’s all about who else is sitting at the table. I can think of one friend with whom I would never have the last shrimp. With my mom, I always get the last bite of whatever it is. It makes both of us happy.

  7. Leesa

    We’d be the wimpy couple together. I don’t fight either. I hate confrontation. I would have picked up the cup and nothing would have ever been said.
    Proud? No. But life is calm for me.
    Oh and I like Yellow Roses, btw. 🙂

  8. Petitedov

    This is a big problem i have as well. Learning to say no and knowing that people will still respect me and more importantly love me. I feel lots of times that people will step on you if you let them. And although i think it would have been best if you stood up more for Sophia, i probably would have done the same. Like you said it’s comes from those darn parents of ours. I have to aslo agree that no matter how much feminist rhetoric i hear, i still want to be the “woman” in the relationship anf the guy be the “man.” If that makes me un p.c. so be it. I’m tired of acting like a boy in most of my romantic relationships. Great post.

  9. Lauren

    I’m having a mini heart attack just from reading the tension in your post. I get physically ill around conflict. “Stained underpants” kind of ill. I’d rather a man who diffuses tension with humor then one who enourages it.
    That being said, no one finds a man without balls attractive.

  10. Nicole

    I am someone who is more like Sophia. I would have not only NOT moved but lectured the woman, too. Mostly because I feel a bizarre (and likely misplaced) social responsiblity to let people know when they are acting inappropriately. If it were me, I would have barked back at that lady upon her second approach, but that’s me. Most people are not like me. I wouldn’t have held it against you – not to mention your response was great – you completely made her look like an idiot. Oh, and I NEVER take the last piece. Even when offered. Great post.

  11. brando

    There are three kinds of people. There’s you, there’s Beverly Hills, there’s your ex, there’s me, there’s my mute neighbor in a wheelchair. Well, there’s lots of kinds of people. It seems like the Beverly Hills woman was paying you a compliment and Sophia wanted you to be mean. So you should have poured Sophia’s coffee on top of Sophia’s head to see if her nipples got hard. Some woman like Neanderthals. Yes, I suppose we could drop bombs on everyone in the world who didn’t act the way we’d hope, but really, we should stop referring to balls as courage, because they’re extremely delicate and overly sensitive.

  12. Danny

    I’m starting to think that this is the blog of one of my alters. Or at least that your European ex Sophia and my European ex Sophie are actually the same person. In any event, I can well relate to the issues presented here and I’m still grappling with what you refer to as “traditional gender roles.” First of all, look again at what is “traditional” in Jewish circles. It may be a patriarchal religion but throughout history the stereotype has been the assertive/aggressive woman and the more wimpy shoulder-shrugging male (nose deep into the Talmud). I’m not saying this stereotype is “true” and yet I can’t think of a single relationship in my family where the woman isn’t more dominant in that way.

    I applaud you for asking if it’s okay if you take the last shrimp but my goal would be to ask two times at the most. Asking four times sounds the wimp alarm. (Of course, you shouldn’t be taking ANY shrimp if you want to be a stickler about it, Jew boy.)

    I’ve been in countless situations like the coffee/ledge incident and I would have stepped out of the way and then rolled my eyes at the disgusting behavior of those Beverly Hills types with their major entitlement issues. Then I would have come home and blogged about it.

    The tricky part for me is that I simultaneously admire and cheeer Sophia’s actions in making that brat wait and want to cringe and run to the nearest exit. There are times when I think it is absoutely fantastic to have that kind of attitude (e.g., in the Warsaw Ghetto, stuck on a rooftop in New Orleans, trying to get on a bus in Israel, etc.) and I look at people like Sophia as role models. On the other hand, I think you’re response to the idiot Beverly Hills woman was brilliant and more effective than Sophia’s desire to have you defend her. What would getting into a heated argument with that Beverly Hills woman have accomplished? Your response was appropriate because you weren’t playing her game and instead you were mocking her ridiculous comment with a ridiculous answer. Why should you let her stupidity cause your blood pressure to rise off the charts?

    (I’m surprised people still aren’t obsessing about you and Sophia getting back together. Even your arguments sound way more like a married couple than just friends.)

  13. Bill

    Sorry for the length, but … I can identify with this easily. I am wimpy in a passive-aggressive way. For example, with the last shrimp? I would never take it. If I really wanted it I would wait for someone else to reach for it then I would reach at the same time.

    I would say, “I’m sorry. You wanted it? Please, all yours.” Friendly, genuine smile. Small exchange. (“You take it.” “No, please, you take it.” “No, you …” and so on.)

    Finally, they reach for it again. Then, just as they are about to pick it up, I musingly say, “You know, we could order more shrimp. Do you think we should order more?” I might look longingly at the shrimp. The point is, without really asking for it, I would ensure I would get it – or at least another plateful of shrimp.

    I am almost always agreeable, avoid conflict wherever it appears and experience an Irish Catholic guilt constantly. But the passive-aggressive thing is always there. My poor mother would always cry with exasperation, “You’re nodding your head agreeing but you’re going to do whatever you damn well want. Aren’t you!?”

    Yes, Mom. I agree with people even when I disagree. Then I do whatever I want. It doesn’t avoid conflict so much as delay it, which fits with the procrastinator in me.

    As for the Beverly Hills type mother, I can identify with this situation too. I have a friend, Liz, who is definitely more assertive than I am. Myself, I would have let the kid go by, annoying as it was, because it simply doesn’t seem a big enough deal to get my shorts in a knot about.

    Liz would not. Liz would have done exactly what Sophia did. The only difference is that when the woman returned afterwards with her “a LOT better” comment, before I would have had a chance to respond, Liz would have been on her feet, probably with a riposte along the lines of, “Eat shit and die bitch before I kick your ass back to Beverly Hills.”

    (She’s not a wallflower and has the linguistic skills of a longshoreman.)

    The thing is, we compensate for one another’s excesses. I balance her assertive side, she balances my passive side and we enjoy the comedy of it. The other thing is that while people may expect men to be the aggressive ones, from what I’ve seen of relationships it’s about a fifty-fifty split. Sometimes men are, and sometimes women are. Also, who will be more assertive can sometimes depend on the situation.

  14. ms. sizzle

    I think Sophia was right to not let the girl pass. She was in the middle of something and the girl could have waited. I think that Beverly Hills type was teaching her spoiled kid no manners whatsoever. And then for her to huff off like that just exaccerbated the situation.

    Those kinds of situations are challenging. It’s rare that we get to say what we really want in the moment. I, for one, always go for the joke to ease the tension as I don’t like to cause a seen but I damn well am not going to keep my big mouth shut. I usually come up with something really witty and biting about 5 hours post-experience.

    I can see why Sophia would want you to defend her. I would probably wish for that too. But you can’t be anyone but who you are Neil. And ultimately, that woman is a minor gltich on the radar screen of your lives. She’s inconsequential really. It takes less energy to let it go than to rile up a scene fit for soap opera television.

    It could have been much worse. What if you had said NOTHING? At least your joke was funny.

  15. anonymous city girl

    When I read this I took it as more a comment on those with a sense of entitlement. Who doesn’t ask to take the last bit of anything? A child who doesn’t say excuse me?

    I don’t seek out confrontation, and a lot of times think it does not resolve anything. I also don’t think what Sophia did was confrontational at all. She simply finished her task at hand without giving into some child who was raise with some false sense of entitlment. Who knows, maybe if the child had slowed down and looked at Sophia and said, “excuse me please”, Sophia would have smiled at the child and lifted her cup… or if not at least answered the child in as equally as pleasant tone. Isn’t that what we call socialization? Interactions that teach children how poliet socity works.

    But how can we expect a child to behave any better than her parent? The gall that woman had to say that to you?! I am with Sophia on that one, that warrented something, anything, didn’t have to be a big confrontation. A simple, “Ma’am, please go back to your seat. I will not entertain such a rude and inapproprate comment”, would have done the job.

  16. anonymous city girl

    P.S. I’ll split the last shrimp with you.

  17. kris

    You are you, Neil, and we like you that way. It seems trite, and maybe it is, but your way isn’t wrong, and neither is Sophia’s. Very different and therefore each abrasive to the other, but neither is the wrong way to go.

    And I don’t even think you have to ask about whether you would have been assertive in a life-threatening situation. I know I would want to be in your lifeboat.

  18. Sophia

    Definitely, Kris, when push comes to shove, “in a life-threatening situation” you can be in Neil’s boat. I knowI’ll be getting into the boat with Anonymous City Girl. 🙂

    …hmm, unless I’ll be busy saving Neil.

  19. anonymous city girl

    and there will be no bratty children or their equally bratty parents in our boat!

    I’ll give you a hand saving Neil’s butt.

  20. kristine

    the two of you are nuts. your relationship BOGGLES THE MIND of this blogger.

  21. modigli

    Yeah, Sophia!!! I’m glad she stood up for herself and spoke her mind to the spoiled rich kid and mom.

    And I feel ya on that anxiety thing when it comes to conflict and having to face it. The funny thing is that I am more comfortable confronting strangers about wrong-doings than I am with ppl who are close to me.

    That lady was an @$$. The fact that she had to take the time to 1. find you, 2. walk over, and 3. make a lame elementary school playground dig shows the kind of person she is. Yuck!

  22. Nancy French

    The most shocking thing here is that the parent expects the world to revolve around that kid… to the point of a confrontation. This kid is going to grow up feeling slighted and put upon if the wind blows her the wrong way. People need to raise their kids to respect adults!!

    So way to go, Sophia.

    Neil, you are awesome and brilliant and oh-so-funny. You can’t expect to dominate every category…


  23. Neil

    Common portrayals of male characters from

  24. Jacki

    Hi Neil — Great post. I enjoyed reading everyone’s reactions and about what they would have done in this situation. All of us – different as we are – are what make the world go round.

    What would I have done in this situation? Absolutely nothing. When I was younger I was more of a fighter, but now that I have a few years behind me I just don’t think I’d waste my time fighting those types of battles. It takes a lot more than a few words to change the way people think and angry, hostile words, in my opinion, are not the best way to try to change the way people think.

  25. anonymous city girl

    Oh My! The media perpetuate silly narrow stereotypes of men?!
    Well, we women sure are lucky they don’t so anything like that to us. *w*

  26. Edgy Mama

    I think I’m in love with Sophia.

  27. bluewyvern

    I think your “seats” response was right on the money — if delivered steadily and with confidence, that is. And firm eye contact until she turned around and returned to her seat.

    Some battles are pointless and only serve to increase negativity in the world. I doubt there’s anything you could have said to teach that woman anything, so diffusing the situation and refusing to engage with her is the only viable option, in my opinion. Lecturing those who misbehave is extremely tempting, but as I see it it is likely in almost all cases to be wasted effort, and just ruin everyone’s day. (Believe me — I work as a cashier. Do you know how many retorts, lectures, and indignant outbursts I have to swallow daily?) I’m with you, Neil. I choose peace.

  28. Fun Joel

    Too many comments to wade through, so I’ll just hope I’m not repeating. There’s a difference between being assertive and being confrontational. I feel I’m generally the former, and rarely the latter. I am very clear about what I want and do go for it somewhat aggressively. But I rarely tell people off or whatever. And the main reason for that is not only that I don’t want to lower myself to their level or whatever. It’s also because I don’t like the way it makes ME feel when I do so. It doesn’t make me feel better, it makes me feel angrier.

  29. bella

    I’ll take the lover over the fighter anyday.

  30. Tatyana

    Ahem. When you mistake simple telling of opinion (about looting) for arguing doesn’t look like a lover’s attitude to me.
    At least you see the roles clear and understand Sophia´s reasoning. It could be worse: you could blame her for that scene, which comes way too natural to men (well, to two particular men I know, not you). So don´t be hard on yourself, you´re not worse case.

    Overall: it occured to me, could it be you ghostwrote David Sedaris´ NAKED?

    Assertiveness helps sometimes. I’ve booked my hotel in Algarve (sorry for the foreign k’board, no dollar signs, imagine!) in advance for a certain price and arrived tired and ready for a good shower. Signing the entry form, I noticed a) price increased 1.5 times b) no tub mentioned in my room. In as neutral as possible tone I addressed these issues to the clerk – and not only the mistakes were fixed, I´ve been upgraded. Well, you might say, customer satisfaction is his job; who knows may be he secretly cursing you.

    Could be. But I got what I wanted.

    On the other hand, in a similar crazy mom situation (long story, not for comments) I ended telling her I´m not her brat´s nanny and it´s her job to raise a child a polite person.

    So may be you´re right, I am looking for conflict. And you know what? I´m tired of being made guilty about it.

  31. Jack

    I still think that Sophia is fake. Any day now we’ll get the big reveal here and find out that we have all been fooled and are part of some big blogger reality tv show.

    The incident with the woman and the child sounds like it could have been nothing more than a misunderstanding.

    I have been in a couple of incidents where adults refused to move out of the way because it was a four-year-old asking them to do so.

    That is really not too much of a problem because I am assertive enough to help them move if necessary. I wouldn’t take that last piece of shrimp, but only because I don’t eat shellfish.

  32. introspectre

    I would only take the last shrimp if the other shrimp prospectors were my best friends. Strangers, or even polite company, no. But even with my friends, I would ask a good 12 times first, and still make some crack about how I’m such a shrimp whore and I have no shame.

    (Which is a lie. A shrimp flavored lie.)

    I am a wuss. I HATE confrontation. I’m not sure which is worse: being confronted by random people about random things, or being confronted by my own friends about what a wuss I am.

    Few things make me feel crappier than being confronted about how I’m not assertive enough. It makes my insides feel like squirming worms.

    Damn that rude bitch!

    Have you got a camera phone? Take her picture next time. When she asks why, just tell her you blog about rude people. And thank her for her time and inspiration.

  33. introspectre

    I like the looks of your stress course.

    I have to know- are you the educator, the comedy writer, or the computer nerd?

  34. Brooke

    Sophia – you are uber cool

    Neil – not so much. But I understand where you’re coming from. However, the proper response to that woman would have been “Get lost, bitch”.

  35. amanda

    aw, neil, now there is no question in my mind that you are, indeed, and east coast jew…guilt over taking the last shrimp? i am right there with you. i’d take the shrimp though. and i hate when people behave ridiculously and then an hour later i realize what i could have said to put them in their place. it’s the single most frustrating thing ever.

  36. Neil

    Tatyana — I’ll have to read NAKED.

    Jack — Every part of Sophia is real.

    Religious Jews — Stop wimping out yourself by saying you “don’t eat shrimp.” Imagine the same scenario with the last piece of gefilte fish.

    Introspective — I’m actually all three, but figured we couldn’t charge so much if they knew that.

    Brooke — Didn’t you see what Bella wrote, “I’ll take the lover over the fighter anyday.”?

    Bella — I might be dumping Brooke soon for a new favorite blogging babe. But I’ll wait until after Brooke’s BIRTHDAY on Wednesday.

  37. Leese

    It’s all about picking your fights.

  38. Heather

    I don’t think that this has to do with manliness. Of course, as women, we want our men to be manly, but there is a line. I was reading this and thinking that I am exactly the same. Exactly. I avoid confrontation like the plague and I get extremely nervous when someone within 100 feet of me is even considering it.

    I crack jokes when people are getting too intense and I avoid fighting.

    However, I am generally good at picking which fights I need to perpetuate and which I need to be a part of.

    At the same time, I would have been just like Sophia and stood my ground with the child…

    I’m a walking conflict I suppose.

  39. M.A.

    I hate confrontation too. I’d just prefer it if the world were a friendlier place.

    Secondly how can one define manliness or masculinity? It’s more difficult than some sterotypical John Wayne nonsense.

  40. mysterygirl!

    This is interesting. First, I usually don’t take the shrimp, unless I’m around the kind of people who will take all the shrimp if I’m not vigilant.

    I hate conflict, too. Most of the time, I would have been a bit passive-aggressive and moved my cup while looking skeptically at Beverly Hills, but if I were irritated, I might have acted more like Sophia.

    I would like to live in a world where people were generally considerate, but I will admit to being part of the problem– nice people get nice treatment from me, but jerks get back jerkiness. The longer I live in major cities, the more inclined I am toward moments of jerkiness, and while I find it sort of sickening, at moments it’s liberating, like I’m casting off my pushover skin.

  41. Jack


    Gefilte Fish is a treat. I have spent many long hours at sea searching for the mighty Gefilte, king of all the fish.

    It took me a good 8 hours strapped into a fighting chair to catch one once. And in that case had someone tried to take the last piece I might have torn their arms off.

  42. Pele

    It seems to me that this is more about Sophia wanting you to defend her behavior than about YOUR manhood. By not standing up for her, there’s an implied criticsm of her behavior. The deflection WAS funny, and it DID show the woman how rediculous she was being. But the deflection focused on the woman’s behavior, not Sophia’s. She’s pissed because you didn’t support her choice of behavior.

    Ask once, then take the shrimp!

    Nice blog BTW.

  43. Richard Mason

    I honestly would not have understood what the woman was saying. My first thought would have been, “I could do a LOT better… at raising your child? Probably true, but isn’t that your job? What the hell are you talking about?”

    And that would have been a pretty cutting thing to say, but what would actually have come out is, “Huh? What?” (furrowed brow) And she would have walked away.

  44. Claven

    Whenever someone who I perceive to be a family type sends completly unsolicited bad vibes my way, I tell them to go home and take it out (I even throw in “beat” when I’m already in a foul mood) on their spouse or children. Nothing like hitting them where it hurts. (In no way would I ever condone this actual behavior in a million lifetimes. Its just what hurts them.)

    Also for your quandry on shrimp protocol I refer item number 21 of the Guy Code. “Never hesitate to reach for the last beer or the last slice of pizza, but not both. That’s just plain mean.”

  45. lizriz

    First off – thanks for the link! And here I thought it was just you using your own link to read my blog, A LOT. hehe

    Second, people almost always only give you the respect you demand. One doesn’t have to be bitchy to get respect, but often one is labeled bitchy when they are not simply because they stood up for themselve.

    Finally, I think what we all deal with when someone comes up to us and acts appallingly rude – which that woman was no matter WHAT had transpired previously – is the shock of it leaving us mute. We’re just so shocked at it that we don’t react as we wish we would. Frankly, the fact that you came up with any comeback at all is pretty good.

  46. lizriz

    BTW, Bill, I was skimming the comments and I had this moment of, who is this guy, and how does he know I have the linguistic skills of a longshoreman?

    Then I actually stopped and READ your whole post and realized it was a different Liz! LOL

  47. Hope

    I’ve read your posts often and never commented. This woman with the child is what my mother would call “an enabler,” she is teaching her child that she is entitled to everything and is more important than everyone. There is nothing you could have said to this woman that would have put her in her place. Any angry comment, any curse word would have justified – in her mind – what she was already assuming about you and Sophia. It’s a double edged sword, because what you did made you the bigger person, but that doesn’t mean if I had been Sophia I wouldn’t have wanted to be stood up for. And props to Sophia for not enabling this child. The real world will be a harsh reality for her.

  48. Bad Maria

    I read this this morning but I needed to mull it over.
    1. I will take the last shrimp only after asking everyone at the table if they want it. I no longer feel guilty for doing so (but it was a feeling I had to grow out of).
    2. Why did Sophia feel that her cream to coffee ratio was more important than a child having some last minute activity/fun before they had to sit down for hours? The ledge wasn’t put there to either cream your coffee or to have a child walk on it so why not pick up your cup for literally 10 seconds while the child walks by, maybe even acknowledge their game, and then continue with your task? It’s called taking the high road, it is not wimpy, it’s considerate and it doesn’t cost a damn thing.
    Now if the child were walking across the top of tables, that would call for action.

    I also have a tendency to diffuse situations with jokes and I know that some battles are worth fighting and others aren’t even worth acknowledging. Neil, I think you handled both the situation and the fallout like a gentleman and I wish there were more people like you because truly there would be less stress.

  49. Michael Blowhard

    There’s something wrong with taking the last shrimp?

  50. Neil

    Bad Maria,

    Thank your for calling me a gentleman. But I’ve always had strong feelings of criticism for “gentleman” people like myself, particularly when faced with situations that require something more. One of my favorite movies of all time is the British classic of the 1940’s “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.”

    The movie’s basic thesis is that the old-fashioned gentleman soldiers of the British army were ill-suited to fight the no-rules evil of the Nazis. A perfect example of a gentleman is Neville Chamberlain, who was pretty much letting Hitler have his way, rather than get into “conflict.” Maybe that’s why I was for the war in Iraq, thinking it’s about time we fight back against terrorism and not just sit back like wimps who need to “understand why they hate us.” So, while I appreciate readers understanding my peace-loving ways, I am also attracted to Sophia’s ability to fight for what she sees is right. Of course, this “coffee cup on the ledge” issue is completely unimportant, but we were there first and Sophia had every right to speak out. There was no real reason that I had to compromise my “sugar-pouring” time for this mother and daughter. I very much doubt she would have done the same for me, seeing how she acted later on.

  51. ashbloem

    I must admit that I agree with Bad Maria (a couple comments up). I do not have a problem with confrontation when it is warranted, but I think Sophia actually created tension and conflict unnecessarily in this particular situation.

    I am also afraid of her, and am nervous to commit this criticism to comments. (laughs nervously)

  52. Neil

    Don’t worry, Ashbloem. Nothing makes Sophia happier than someone disagreeing with her and having a girl-to-girl wrestling match. In fact, I would actually pay to see that. Ashbloem, do you work out a lot? Just want to make sure it is a fair fight…

  53. Brooke

    Dumped again. Story of my life.

    P.S. – the war in Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism whatsoever. This may come as a shock to you, but Iraq did not instigate 9/11. I couldn’t leave here without adding that. I’m done now. Carry on.

  54. Megan

    I hate shrimp, so I’d be happy to let the last one sit there forever and rot on that plate. Does that count?

    Thanks for the shout out Neil! I feel special.

    The thing I love about the dynamic between you and Sophia is that your personalities mesh well together; you both bring out something in the other one that is not a natural trait.

    I’m getting better at the assertive thing. Granted, I probably would have let the kid pass because it was a child, although if the mother was bitchy about me taking too long to move my coffee I would have then said something. I’m a pushover for kids, though if I ever have any I know I’ll be a hard ass.

    Neil, you have a big heart. I can tell that by what you write. It emanated from every word typed out. That is very sexy in a man, at least to me. Sophia’s assertiveness is also very sexy, again, at least to me.

    If I didn’t like Sophia so much, I’d volunteer to have a mud wrestling match with her, so long as you’d clean me off afterwards.

    (I can’t believe I just wrote that. It’s so wrong!)

  55. Bad Maria

    Hey Neil, I understand your Neville Chamberlain analogy but we’re not talking about giving up Czechoslovakia here…it was a moment on the ledge and for that matter, maybe the kid was up on that ledge heading right for you before you set the coffee cups down. So the game could have already been afoot as it were…

    Anyway, I frankly don’t think you’re too much of a gentleman, if you were, you wouldn’t be inviting us to weigh in on the issue at all.

    Sorry, if it had been me I would have made a joke about the “obstacle course” my coffee and cream presented, made a show out of the inconvenience of picking it up and the truth is the woman who was trying to distract the kid before the concert probably would have thanked me and apologized for my need to juggle and we all would have smiled at each other.

    Now, the truth is, I have stood up for myself in similar situations (not exactly the same, more of who’s in line first things) and I figured out a way to do it that wasn’t dismissive and didn’t assume that the Beverly Hills clothes meant “bitch on wheels”.

    I think it’s interesting that you felt you had to defend Sophia’s action to me. As far as her reaction, I was just asking questions, not meaning to attack…

    And I still believe that given the utter smallness in the grand scheme of things of the moment, you responded appropriately. (And yes, kudos to you for being able to come up with a comeback to her subsequent rudeness…)

  56. Jay

    I really like your honesty in this point. I am very much like Sophia in that I am way more assertive than my husband is. Most of the time, I think it’s sweet how loving and docile he is, but there always a few times in our marriage when I wish he would step up and be more protective of me. You hit the nail on the head with this post – great job!!

  57. Neil

    Brooke — now that you’re fighting with me over Iraq, I have the hots for you again. You see that I’m always picking the women who are my opposite.

    Megan — thanks for your comments, and your post. If I didn’t read about your struggle with becoming more assertive first, I wouldn’t had then guts to write this.

    Bad Maria — I did defend Sophia, didn’t I?! I guess I’m learning after all. I think my manhood is growing larger by the moment. And I didn’t even have to buy any of those products I get spammed about in emails.

  58. Carolyn

    Kristine wrote that “the two of you are nuts” and “Your relationship BOGGLES THE MIND of this blogger.” Actually I never thought of Sophia and Neil’s relationship as nutty or boggling the mind. I would have to say that they always seem so reasonable and that they are very skilled at understanding each other. That’s why they can discuss anything very openly (even in a blog).

    The rest of the Kramer family loves to discuss anything that’s global or political (Neil was Miltie one of the uncles discussing Stalin and Chamberlin and if so which did he pick?)but tend to shy away from personal topics. I think most of the Kramer men would have been great yeshiva bochers if the family had not left Russia. How do I know this? I lived with Neil’s Uncle Miltie for nearly 17 years. His nickname is Mad Milton, but he’d be in the lifeboat with Neil and never take the last shrimp. I’d be with Sophia and Anonymous City Girl probably. On second thought, Milton would want to be in the lifeboat with Sophia and Anonymous City Girl, and since I don’t want to listen to him complain, I’ll go with Neil.

    Neil, when I read the blog about the shrimp to Miltie he said, “What, didn’t Neil get the shrimp that he wanted? I don’t understand, I don’t think we had shrimp with him? Did someone else take the last shrimp? Why don’t they just get another order so there’s more shrimp for everyone? What Chinese restaurant did they go to? Ask Neil so we can go there when we go to LA. Was it Genghis Cohen on Fairfax Blvd? I have to speak to my brother about this.”

    The problem with Neil and Sophia’s relationship is not that one didn’t move the coffee out of the brat’s way or that Neil didn’t say anything to the bimbo Bev Hills mom, it’s that they really always tried so hard to understand each other’s feelings in great detail and be supportive. They didn’t just come home, not talk, watch TV, go to bed, go to work, etc. If they’d done that like a normal married couple,and not tried to understand each other, they’d never have separated.

  59. Carolyn

    Actually Miltie looked at the blog and he wants to be in the lifeboat with the Dahm triplets.

  60. Neil

    Uh-oh, I’ve been outed by the extended family. This is way more dangerous than my mother reading the blog. How am I going to make fun of the next bar mitzvah I have to go to?

    Welcome Carolyn and Uncle Milton.

  61. danielle

    Ooh, I can see I’m going to like Carolyn… and look forward to more revealing comments!

  62. Nancy French

    Yea! Uncle Milton can be in my life boat.

  63. Bill

    I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like having my extended family on my blog weighing in with the world on my relationships and life. How much do you spend a week on therapy? I think it may be about to go up.

    Anyway … thanks for the reference to The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – great movie. With a young and fetching Deborah Kerr playing not one but three roles! My mother always loved Deborah Kerr, as did I. Though we liked her for different reasons. At least, I think they were different. On the other hand, it would explain a good deal about my parent’s relationship. (Maybe I’m the one who needs to spend more on therapy.)

    Lizriz … yes, LOL. Maybe you guys should start a club?

    As for the the question of how to respond to these situations … it’s hard to be someone other than who you are. Me, I’m more passive than assertive and for good or ill, I’m quite happy that way. I don’t think the coffee incident is extreme enough to say one response is more appropriate than the other. I sometimes wish I was more like a Sophia but I kinda like myself being more like a Neil. (Does this make me wishy-washy? I suppose so. “Sue me, sue me, what can you do me?”)

  64. akaky

    First off, “Coming through” is not the appropriate phrase for this particular situation. “Excuse me”, alternating with “excuse me, please” would have been the thing to say. “Coming through” has an aura of command to it, I think, and if I dont acknowledge your right to command then we get this sort of situation. That being said, I would have done the same thing you did, Neil; I would have told a joke instead of cutting this dolt the new bunghole she so obviously needs because her head is stuck way up the one she was born with. Next time something like this happens give Sophia something sharp and tell her to have at the rude cow.

  65. Janey James

    I think we can leave ‘sex roles’ out of this one.

    I am a woman who hates confrontation. Even more embarrasing is the fact that I often can’t help the tears when I confront. This complicates things by making me angry at myself. It might even look like I’m vulnerable when you don’t want to cross me.

    While I hate “unnecessary” confrontation, for that reason, I do like a challenge. I wish I was a quicker thinker who could come up with comic responses on the spot. My burbling lack of wit when insulted has nothing to do with being a wuss. It also has nothing to do with ‘backing down’.

    So, I can empathize with men who don’t like confrontation. I avoid it too.
    Sex roles aside, it is possible that Sophie felt that your avoidance of the situation would have been different if you had been the one under attack? Your response could imply, “See what I put up with? …and I’m such a nice guy!”

    It could be that Sophie likes butting heads and you don’t. It could also be that on some level she saw you as being seduced by an opportunity to raise your profile by putting her down.

    Some of the strongest and most manly men I know are not into confrontation but they would follow up. You wouldn’t have had to strut over like John Wayne, but a show of solidarity was in order. Having botched the first part, how about walking over to Beverly Hills with Sophie and, with ‘presence’, calmly stating that you just want to clear something up. The exchanges that passed between you were inappropriate and you did not like the way that she (Beverly Hills) put Sophie down, that Sophie had a right to finish pouring her cream and that if Beverly Hills had time to come back and insult Sophie, she must also have had time to wait for cream to be poured before taking her seat.

  66. alley rat

    You shoulda punched that lady’s daughter in the nose.

    you know, i always thought that the person who was insulted should defend themselves. but then, i’m one of those manly women, so what do i know?

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