Published on Aug. 3, 2017
August 3, 2017
by Molly Wingate
Ever looked at someone being amazing and said, “I want to do that?” If you haven’t seen Representative Maxine Waters of California reclaiming her time, take a look.
Waters demonstrates the effectiveness of the ultimate response to mansplaining or any splaining. Directly and audibly point out that the speaker is abusing your time and attention. Sure wish I had learned about this sooner!
Splaining: You don’t have to take it!
Recently I wrote about how a car dealership wasted my time and disrespected me. I called is mansplaining, but my 25-year-old son, who was more angry about the dealership than I was, expanded my perspective.
“Car repair places do that to me all the time, and I’m a mechanical engineer! Either I already understand what they are explaining, or I really just don’t want to know. When will I be able to drive my car away? How much will it cost? That is all I want to know.”
I get it. When someone splains something to me, I have an internal monologue. “Please don’t tell me about stuff I don’t want to know. I do not care what you drone on about. I am being patient with you, but I might hit my limit before you stop yammering!”
Until I talked with my son, I thought only women had to put up with it. Now I know: no one does.
More than anyone wants to know
Recently, a barista splained a soy latte to me. I’ve enjoyed drinking lattes for longer than the barista has been alive. I became slack jawed as this very hip young man went on at length about how lattes are made and told me that soy gets cooked like tofu when it goes through a steamer for a latte, so his shop doesn’t serve soy lattes. His self-satisfied, tight grin as he literally looked over his glasses at me was almost comical. When he didn’t make a suggestion for another nondairy alternative for a latte or even ask me if I wanted a plain coffee, I stood astonished; so astonished I exclaimed, “Huh!” and walked away.
As a 60-something with salt and pepper hair, I am no longer surprised by being treated as if I am a barely visible imbecile. I was late for work and was counting on the soy (or whatever) to add some body to my coffee so I could call it a meal. How great if I had known to start repeating “reclaiming my time, reclaiming my time, reclaiming my time” during his homily! I know said barista’s boss, so I shared my “customer service” experience with him some days later. But I still went to work without any coffee.
Stopping the verbal train
“Reclaiming my time” in the case of Representative Waters was an appropriate way to point out that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was taking away from her precious seconds in an official government hearing. In fact, he was wasting the time of everyone at the hearing, clearly hoping to run the investigation off of the rails. She objected, even though he spent time flattering her, as she pointed out. (Really, you have to look at this clip. It is only 41 seconds long!)
In Quaker parlance, we call this type of interruption “eldering.” A well established and respected Friend stands up while someone is speaking to indicate that the speaker should stop speaking. This can be pretty dramatic during worship where everyone is seated except the person who rose to speak. When Quakers meet to handle their business, the clerk can gently elder someone who speaks off the point or repeats what has already been said. These approaches move things along with respect, and they can help save face. I appreciate Quaker eldering. It emphasizes our focus on integrity and speaking plainly. I have often wished that eldering was practiced in the wider society, not just the Religious Society of Friends.
So you can only imagine how excited I was to see the clip of Senator Maxine Waters reclaiming her time. She plainly and politely declared that the speaker was exerting his privilege and trying her patience. From a Quaker perspective, she said, “I am offering to you the opportunity to realign your efforts to be in integrity with the purpose of this conversation. You will not ignore me.”
This is like Christmas and my birthday all in one. I cannot wait to use this new gift, to plainly say, “Reclaiming my time, reclaiming my time.”
Now, where is that unsuspecting barista?