something new: in which i defend pit bulls challenge bigotry without losing my cool

I was at a nail salon. Not an upscale spa, a loud, basic, ramshackle kind of nail salon. Two women sitting side by side for pedicures were speaking loudly and drowning out all the other noise. 

Loud Woman One was telling the whole salon about her upcoming trip to San Francisco, where her grandchild lives. She was listing all the things to do in San Francisco. Then she was telling the whole salon about traveling with her dog.

Loud Woman Two says, loudly, "You know what dogs I hate? I hate pit bulls. They are horrible dogs. They bite people. They kill people."

My head jerked up. I stared in their direction. 

San Francisco Tour Guide said, "Well, the thing about pit bulls is, sometimes, if they have good parents, they might be OK. My daughter's ex-boyfriend had a pit bull. He got him when he was a puppy, and he trained him very well, and it's a very sweet dog now. He also has a Min Pin, and the Min Pin weighs 12 pounds, and you know what, that little dog is the boss."

Breed Bigot says, "That dog is probably not really a pit bull. If it was, it would be horrible and vicious."

I tried to look away. 

I wasn't sitting near them and I wasn't involved in the conversation (although they were talking loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear). 

I tried to look away. 

But I felt sick. I literally felt sick to my stomach. I knew if I didn't say something I'd feel sick all day.

I called over to them, "Pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other dog. You're repeating myths and lies."

They continued talking, oblivious.

I tried again. "Excuse me! Excuse me, what you're saying about pit bull dogs is not true. It's bigotry. It's like saying, 'All Koreans are this,' or 'All Black people are that'. Pit bulls are ordinary dogs. They are often the victims of abuse."

Breed Bigot wouldn't look at me. She turned her face away.

Tour Guide said, "It's like I was saying, good parents make good dogs."

I said, "I hear what you're saying. I agree." I looked at Breed Bigot, but she was refusing all eye contact. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but you're repeating lies. What you're saying is bigotry. It's wrong." I stared at her. "Statistics show that pit bulls do not bite more than any other dog."

Tour Guide said, "Do you know down in the US, which dogs bite the most? Golden Retrievers. It's because there are so many of them there, so they are where most of the bites come from. So you see, statistics can say anything."

Ignoring the idiocy of this statement, I said, "I hear what you're saying. Thank you."

Then I stopped.

I let Tour Guide have the last word.

I apologized to the person doing my nails, and ended the conversation.

So what's new?

In the past, I would have gone right over to them, gotten in their faces. Raised my voice. Expounded on the virtues of pit bulls and their victimization. And I don't know what else. Because when I'm in that zone, I can't think. I'm pure anger.

Then in those old days, I might have been slightly (but only slightly) embarrassed afterwards, depending on how far I went. I might (or might not) apologize for going too far. But a younger version of myself could be counted on to let loose. It never felt like a choice.

So here I am. I'm 61 years old, sixtyfuckingone years old, and I have finally figured out how to speak up without attacking. I can finally control my emotions enough, manage my anger enough, keep my composure enough, to speak up without making a scene. 

I still haven't figured out how to shut up completely, and I'm sure I never will. But at least I didn't bite her head off.


laura k said...

We do not accept anonymous comments. If you make statements about pit bulls -- or anything else -- be sure you know your facts. I don't write out of ignorance, and I don't deal in anecdotes. But if you don't have the courage to use your name, don't bother.

laura k said...

Try reading this..

Amy said...

Good for you! I have a hard time speaking up in those circumstances (not specifically about pitbulls, but whenever I hear someone say something clearly wrong---like Trump really won the election) because I fear conflict. I also worry that if I do engage in conflict, I will go overboard. It's hard to know where to draw the line, and it sounds like you drew it just right.

johngoldfine said...

Good parents report (I prefer to think of myself as a benevolent boss more than as a daddy, but ymmv):

When my dogs do something civilized or show their intelligence, a lot of times people say, 'You're so lucky you got good dogs.'

I'm thinking, 'It's 10% nature, 90% nurture, you dummy. We study and we work and we play to make these dogs "good"--no luck about it.'

Our human appetite for conspiracy theories, hoaxes, paranoia, cruel mythologizing, smug ignorance, 'dispositive' anecdotes is boundless, and our victims, including pitbulls, are legion.

laura k said...

Amy, I might have been better off if I feared conflict a bit more. :) I always threw myself headlong into it. That has lessened with age. I can ignore or not respond a lot more than I used to.

John, so true! Also the human tendency to draw sweeping conclusions from the tiniest of sample sizes.

allan said...

Oh, don't ever shut up completely.

With God's Help said...

Nicely done. And definitely don't shut up, the world needs your voice.

laura k said...

Thank you Allan and WGH. You know I never will. :)

laura k said...

I am getting quite a few anti- pit bull comments, something I didn't expect. In keeping with my comment policy, these comments will not be posted. If I have the energy over the next week or so, I'll pull together a post with facts about pit bulls -- or, more accurately, about the dozen or so breeds and mixes that people now refer to as pit bulls.

In the meantime, I will refer to a book review I wrote in 2017, and of course to the book I was writing about.