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Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Pistol for the Asking

Since I returned from the Yale Writers' Conference in New Haven, CT, where an Italian man tried to whisk me away to be his lover, my husband has been trying to explain men to me. The tall Italian proposed we meet for pizza or coffee. I never suspected that the gentleman with the thick accent who said he was a writer, too, intended anything other than enthusiastic exchange about the publishing industry. It would have been rude not to share my email address when he asked. Besides, he said I have the perfect name for a writer and a beautiful complexion.

"He was just being friendly," I said to my beloved.

"No," said my spouse. "You don't understand men. He didn't want to talk to you about writing."

My husband provided a simplified overview of men: If an old man helps me change my flat tire then offers to buy me a co-cola, the old man is just being friendly. If a man whose age falls within a 30-year range of mine helps me change my tire and offers to buy me a co-cola, he's not actually helping me change my tire. Nor is he just buying me a co-cola. Nor is he just being friendly. 

I can't pinpoint what any of this has to with my Italian lover. He never offered to help me change a flat tire and I doubt he knows what a co-cola is.

Nonetheless, I soaked up every minute of the Yale Writer's Conference and explored almost every square inch of Yale University, from the Cathedral of Sweat
to the Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

 to the Yale Museum of Art.
I resided in the Berkeley College dorms. I went to the bookstore and bought the t-shirt!

A note about the dorm: the shared bathroom facilities located in the hall were designated unisex. I was simply beside myself. College has changed since I was an undergrad. Men and women sharing the same restroom and showers? I once drove all the way from Oklahoma City to Atlanta without using the bathroom because I didn't want to go in a gas station stall. But I doubted I could "hold it" for five days at Yale. And I certainly wouldn't be able to think straight if I did.

So any time I was in the bathroom, I made crying noises. No man will enter a room where he thinks a woman might be crying. 

Throughout my participation in the conference, I absorbed the nuggets of wisdom shared by Colin McEnroe, the facilitator of the humor group. I sat through a public reading of explicit material couched in the framework of literature while an 88-year-old lady, whom I'd assured she was attending readings by the humor group, glared in my direction. I workshopped the manuscripts of highly talented writers. I found the indoor practice polo pony at the Payne Whitney Gym and informed the front desk attendant of its exact location should a visitor ever ask him such a strange question again.

And I do understand the difference between a man who is just being friendly and a man who is not. Saturday afternoon before I was to depart New Haven on Sunday, I went to Sterling Library to print out my boarding passes. The young man behind the desk did everything he could to thwart my effort and he roundly succeeded, sliding across the counter and leaving posthaste as soon as I asked the location of the printer.

On my way out of the library without my boarding passes, the security guard asked me if I had found everything I needed. He had no idea the rant he was bringing on as I berated "that rude young man." After enduring my tirade, he apologized on behalf of the library staff. "Thank you," I said and strode away quickly because I could feel the hot, angry tears welling in my eyes.

"But ma'am! Ma'am!" he called after me. "I still have to check your bag." He sorely regretted beckoning me back when he saw the tears trickling down my cheek. At that point, I could've walked out of there with his pistol for the asking and used the unisex bathroom in complete privacy.

Wow! Was it ever an incredible experience! Yes, I'd love to do it again.

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