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Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Never Black & White (And I don't mean Oz)

from website:  http://joeltalksmovies.bangordailynews.com


This is not a movie review.  Or at least it's not the review of the pictured movie, so much as a review of the experience we recently had seeing the movie...it'll make more sense once you read.

For my daughter Emma's 11th birthday we went to see Oz:  The Great and Terrible.  She had eight or so of her friends with her, and a couple mom-friends of Leslie's came to help.  I brought Lily, but we had arranged it so that Lily wouldn't have to sit and wait through Emma's birthday party (which was held the hour before at the theater) and could instead go straight into the movie.  We figured it would make it easier for her.

The theater was more crowded than I liked, and Emma picked the row (which was closer to the back), but we positioned Lily such that she wouldn't be kicking anyone in front of her, and her mom and I were flanking her.  

She did pretty well.  She was quiet, and enjoyed the theater, her eyes on the screen as the new movies were  previewed.  But she wouldn't sit in the chair.  She's short, and probably the people behind her could see over her, but they were younger too, and so I started getting stressed a little bit when our attempts at getting her to sit were eliciting angry responses from her.  The more we coaxed, the more worked up she got, getting louder with her "Nos" until finally, the man from the row in front of us turned around and angrily said, "You need to get her to quiet down."

And I went cold all over, and my heart started to race, and I vowed that whether or not I agreed with the sentiment, I would not meekly apologize for my daughter's outbursts (which were quiet understandable). 

 I've been in this position before.  A woman complained about Lily's volume and I, embarrassed and wanting nothing more than to be polite, excused myself and moved to a less crowded area where Lily could be Lily...but I burned the whole time, my heart racing, and my mind imagining revenge scenarios and open letters to newspapers that would excoriate her for being such a callous bitch. 

The truth is THIS time we were still in the previews...and so I fired back, "Why don't you pay attention to your business, and let us handle ours."  All in all, I felt like that was about as subdued as I could muster without names or profanity.  Leslie picked up Lily and carried her out and down the steps to the front of the theater where it was less crowded, but I was was still seething.  

He said something else...I don't even remember what it was.  "Why don't you shut up?" I think I replied.  I sat there fuming a few more minutes, trying to calm myself down and master my emotions.  In the row beside me and in front of me were eight 11 year-old girls there for my older daughter's birthday party.  I was conscious of Emma, sitting there, seeing/hearing this all unfold.  She wanted nothing more than to have Lily at the theater on her birthday.  She was so excited to see her when we came in.  

I felt my pulse pound like a threat of violence and I excused myself to take the "backpack" (glorified diaper bag) down to Lily and Leslie at the front of the theater.  I walked behind the guy and his wife.  I wanted to kick his chair, very nearly did...but stopped myself...that's all I needed on Emma's birthday, was to get in a fist fight in the theater and get escorted out by the police.  

Instead I said, "You're a real piece of work."

"You used bad judgement bringing her here," he replied...of course he replied.  Of course he was unrepentant.  Why would he be sorry?

"You're an idiot," I said, by way of goodbye, internally applauding my ability to make a statement without injecting "fucking" into it and joined my wife.  

The movie started but I couldn't concentrate on it.  I was so...fucking...mad.  And the worst part of it was that on some level, I knew we should have put Lily in a place where she wouldn't be disruptive to other theater goers if she misbehaved, which put me in agreement (to an extent) with the jackass barking at us from one row up.  We had done a pretty good job of planning our way into success for Lily...arrive late, seat ourselves protectively around her... And maybe that made it harder to get over. 

The girls were way in the back of the theater, left in the care of some friends who we hadn't even asked to take over (but they got it...it was one of those unspoken things).  

We'd have gotten there, eventually.  We'd have realized that Lily wasn't going to stand for sitting (heh...stand for...you get it) and eventually moved her somewhere she could roam a little between seats.  We'd done that with past theater visits and with trips to see the Pirates play.  It was just galling to have that fat sack of shit...erm...gentleman (still a little mad) in front of us call us out.  It made me want to apologize; "play the autism card" by way of helping him understand that we were working on it, while simultaneously making me want to punch him in his fat face and tell him to shut up and sit down and if he had a problem he could move...and that conflicted feeling made me mad at myself AND him.

Lily was very well behaved at the front of the theater.  She stood for the entire movie, but nobody was behind or in front of her, so nobody raised a stink.  She chatted happily, but nobody heard her over the din of the theater.  She was mesmerized by the colors and movement and not frightened or overwhelmed by the volume that the theater speakers reached then surpassed.

As the movie was approached its end, I took Lily up the steps and out to the car so that Leslie could pay the theater for the party, and collect the girls while I drove to pick up the pizzas for the girls to eat at our house.  I felt a little like a coward not confronting the guy again, but at the same time understood that no good end lay in that direction.  Leslie told me she was going to chat with him and I shrugged it off.  I secretly hoped that she'd shame him into an apology.

The result however was more what I expected.  She explained the situation to the man after I'd gone.  Explained that we were pushing Lily and challenging her and that we didn't want to assume she couldn't handle something until she'd been given the chance for herself.  He remained unimpressed, convinced perhaps more than ever that our judgement was flawed, that we should never have put her in place where we knew she could potentially impact the enjoyment of others.  Leslie told me his wife remained silent throughout.  

Leslie told him he had to live with himself and that he wasn't a good person.  Doubtless her vocabulary was similarly censored by proximity to so many impressionable young ears.  Ultimately she confessed she was left unsatisfied.

When we got home, the girls all played and ate pizza, and it was discussed briefly that they just thought he was a "bad man".  A "bad, mean man".  I wish sometimes that I was able to look at things that way again.  I wish that I could see things in the simple black & white way that kids do.  They're still in the "Kansas" part of the movies of their lives, but I've moved on to Oz, in full color and not quite what it seems.  I don't know...I want to go back to Kansas again.  I hate having to side with some fat jackass (no...his girth has nothing to do with whether he's right or wrong...but I'm still pissed, and it's my blog) "against" my own daughter.  

There's no place like home...there's no place like home.


38 comments:

  1. This hurt to read. I've felt those emotions, too. I've never seen red so fast as when someone reprimands my son. People can be such assholes.

    Good for you for not bowing down to him. Good for you for not getting a felony arson assault. And good for Leslie for standing her ground. It might not have worked with the douchecanoe, but it might have with his wife...

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    1. I thought maybe his wife would have said SOMEthing. But she didn't.

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    2. I'm hoping that she said something to him after they got home. But probably not. People are the worst.

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    3. yeah. who knows what HER homelife is like.

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    4. I tried to make eye contact with the wife, but she shuffled out right behind him. I left them with, "You are a mean person, and you have to live with the, but I am glad that I don't". I sort of said that for her benefit as well...I would have been mortified, but I got the feeling that she was used to that.

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  2. My heart started to pound as I read this. I've seen red and bitten my tongue many times. Good for you for challenging Lily, doing what was right for her, and not getting arrested. And good on your wife for talking to the man too. What she said was perfect.

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    1. I wasn't prepared for it. It just happened. I don't know why I wasn't though. This is the first scenario like this that I've blogged about, but it's happened several times. And I know it happens to most/all of us.

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  3. I admire your restraint. It is so damn hard to stay in control when someone is criticizing how we parent our kids, especially when there is a hint of justification for their reaction. They have no idea. I am glad you didn't leave or get kicked out, and that Leslie stepped up to talk to him. Just because he didn't get it, doesn't mean you weren't right to try. And yeah, he was a jerk, and you were right.

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    1. i saved my lack of restraint for the pizza later. I kicked that pizza's ASS.

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  4. It's so sad to me that people can lack any kind of compassion for other people. I mean, we've all been annoyed by other people's children, whether they have special needs or not... but we soften when we realize that it's not like the parents are just being inconsiderate douchenuggets, that they're trying and they're facing challenges just like anybody else does in life. (If they are being douchenuggets, well, then I guess it's okay to stay annoyed.)

    I don't think this dude would soften if he took a bath in Woolite.

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    1. He looked pretty soft to me. But maybe that's not what you meant...

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    2. Teddy bear soft, not wimpy soft!

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  5. Oh this was hard to read. We go back and forth - do we bring him? How many escape routes do we have? Who can be left in charge? And it's all because of comments like these. My older son wants his brothers there and I wish the world was as tolerant as he is.
    I wish his wife said something too. I hope she kicked him in the shin after Leslie walked away.

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  6. He definitely sounds like an idiot. You did the right thing but if you had gotten into a fist fight - I don't think anyone would blame you.

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  7. OK, I'm going to say the bad thing. And you can all shout at me as much as you like.

    While the fat jackass was less than polite and tactful about his displeasure he HAD shelled out his hard-earned cash to pay for movie tickets and had taken his wife out. For all anyone knows, they might have some horrendous things happening in their lives - for example, the silent wife might be undergoing radiotherapy for cancer - perhaps this is the first time they have been able to leave the house and go out for a long time. Maybe he was in pain from a chronic condition. Maybe they lost their jobs and are terrified about what will happen to them. Plato said "be kind to others, for everyone is fighting a hard battle" and my dear late Dad always reminded me of that. You cannot know what is going on in another person's life, so you can't judge them. Heck, maybe HE has Aspergers or HFA and the sound Lily was making hurt his ears.

    When we're in 'free' places with our kids, we can demand parity, but when we're impinging on something they paid money for, then we have to be more sensitive.
    And you were - you thought you had got the situation sorted out by choosing your spot in the cinema and surrounding Lily, but it didn't work and before you could move, the guy in front complained. OK, annoying and embarrassing, I get that. And yes, he was being a bit touchy, but hey, at least you got it sorted out before the movie started, as soon as you'd realised that Lily wasn't ready for this challenge today. And Emma and Lily both enjoyed the movie and the birthday treat. Though to be honest - is a birthday treat the day to try challenging Lily? Or is it wiser to go with what you know works and leave the challenges for another day? You could have booked the tickets for the whole group in a quieter part of the theatre where Lily could be Lily.

    The guy probably sat and seethed through the movie just as much as you did. And he probably felt like a shit for making you move when you were there with a big group of kids.

    But he was right - your judgement was not great. IMHO. Buy hey - congratulations on solving the problem so quickly and neatly and BIG congratulations on not cussing. It's very hard, I know.

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    1. That's sort of my point. I wanted to be mad...i wanted it all to be his fault. But I see where he's coming from.

      I have two issues with what you've said. First "is a birthday treat the day to try challenging Lily?" Yes. No...but yes. We weren't arbitrarily saying "let's use today as a litmus test to determine what Lily can handle." We were saying, "Let's try to make Lily a part of Emma's birthday celebration." There was always the possibility that it wouldn't work. Always. And there was always the escape of me taking her home if she couldn't handle it. No irreversible consequences. No possibility of her being trapped in a horrible situation. If it was too much...I would take her home. So yeah. On Emma's birthday we will always try to let her little sister take part in her celebration.

      Second. I disagree about our judgement not being great. This is Lily's fourth movie in a theater. Three out of four (I count this one as a success) were successes. The movie hadn't yet started. Lily, once moved, handled it fine. I see no problem with judging that she'd be able to participate. The biggest issue was one not of judgement, but of timing. Obviously by the time the man elected to open his mouth and tell us to quiet her down HE'D had enough. I was stressed out too. But we'd have more than likely moved her regardless, and only because we were trying to force her to sit down was she being loud. So no, I don't think our "judgement" was bad. I think we could have reached a decision to move to Plan B sooner...but I won't fault our judgement. Lily handled the movie just fine.

      I have no issue with anything else you mentioned. All good stuff. Maybe he was...maybe she was...maybe, maybe, maybe...

      I don't think he yelled because he thought HE was the bad guy. I think he yelled because he thought WE were the bad guys. He wasn't yelling to be mean spirited. He was yelling because he felt wronged or inconvenienced or...whatever.

      Like I said...black and white is nice sometimes, when we can just assume that anybody who disagrees with us is a mean, bad man.

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    2. I'm so glad you understood what I was trying to say, Jim. Maybe the guy reacted because he was a jerk, maybe because he had something going on in his life that made him sensitive.

      I totally get that you were trying to make Lily part of her sister's birthday celebrations, and quite right too. I bet Emma was really pleased to have her sister there. And I think it's great you had a back-up plan. That's how it works for parents, and you are obviously great parents to both your daughters.

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    3. I am so sorry but I have to respond to your reply Birdie. I recognize the point of blogging is not to only get responses where everyone agrees with you and you are certainly entitled to your opinion. In fact, I rarely ever comment and stay back in the shadow of the blogging world. But I cannot hold back. I do agree that this gentleman (and I use that term loosely)did pay for a ticket like anyone else in that theater and deserved the right to hear the movie. However, if you are a person that really needs it to be quiet whether from personal stress, or asperger type sound sensitivity, then not sure why he and his wife would select a children's movie in the afternoon (when children typically attend) and choose to sit next to a large party of young girls. We did not sit next to him, he chose to sit next to us. Maybe not good judgement on his part. Why did we choose a birthday party to challenge Lily...That was based off of a request from my daughter (the birthday girl) who adores her sister and has not shared many parties with her. Emma got to choose her seats in the theater, and was very proud that she chose seats in the back where Lily typically has had the most success...she could not have foreseen that was going to be the most crowded area in the theater which is why Lily was getting so anxious. Her behaviors began while the lights were on and previews being shown. Jim and I were already in game plan mode. The man had to notice that we were attempting to handle the situation responsibly but did not give us a chance. I moved Lily for her good, and to safe any embarrassment for Emma. Lily had a great time at the movie and did sit on my lap in the end for at least 50% of the time. At the end of the movie, I did go back to address the gentleman. I asked if I could have a moment of his time. I tried to explain the situation of my daughter's birthday party and owned our errors in the situation. I did not feel that we used poor judgement, but were attempting to create a birthday memory for my daughter. None of us could have foreseen the situation, but we had our exit plan ready. I am not sad that we challenged Lily...I think we did right by our girls. I was sad to see that this man refused to see any other side than his own. I did have other patrons apologize to me on his behalf as they left the theater. I was filled with many emotions and clearly still am. On one hand I was proud of our response with the situation, and hopefully set an example to our daughter on how to be a positive advocate for Lily, but i was also sad that I was unable to share in Emma's birthday due to a very impatient and using my words, "mean man".

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  8. What I would have wanted to say: "Shut it fuckface or you'll be picking up your teeth in front of your wife"

    What I would have said; "Oh, sorry."

    So, clearly I am super impressed with you telling him off and exercising restraint. Great Job!

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  9. Awww, Jim. I'm sorry.

    For waht it's worth, I think you and Leslie were totally on the ball -- give Lily a good challenge, see if she rises to meet it, and then adapt without harming anyone. Brilliantly executed, IMHO.

    And that poor excuse for a human being that had to have his word? I got one word back to him.... Karma.

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    1. Thanks, Karla. Did you know Karla and Karma are almost the same thing?

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  10. I think what bothers me the most is that he refused to apologize or back down, even when it was explained to him what was going on. OK, so we've all been annoyed (myself included, which is why I don't go to movie theaters much anymore) by people being loud in theaters. (But to be honest, it's not kids that bug me. Kids will be kids. It's adults and their refusal to turn off their cell phones for a couple of hours. GET OFF MY LAWN! Sorry. Moving on.) And when you stood up to him, he was all bristly, as macho confrontational asshats are known to be. But when Leslie explained to him what was happening, the human response (at least as I see it) would have been to apologize. Or at least to say, "I see what you're saying, and I'm sorry I reacted that way." Or SOMETHING. Not just continuing to stubbornly asshat it up.

    Also, and on a personal and much less mature note, you and Leslie and the kiddos are my people, and I don't like anyone messing with my people. And now I want to find this man and give him a swirly in the high school locker room. LEAVE MY PEOPLE ALONE YOU BULLYING DOUCHEKABOB.

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  11. I'm pretty sure you showed more restraint than I would have. I'm sorry you had to deal with the jerk.

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  12. There is an odd trend happening lately where parents are expected to refrain from bringing their children out in public, on airplanes, anywhere. I understand that your movie bud wanted to watch in peace, but your daughter has a right to experience new things as well. Less judgement and more acceptance from 'mature' adults would help kids learn to navigate the big wide world in whatever capacity they're able to.

    You showed more restraint than I would have. Canadians are nice, but we also wield a mean hockey stick. ;)

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  13. This was a hard read; I could easily imagine having that kind of experience with Nik. Maybe not at a movie, but *somewhere* where we had to share space with people who don't know, don't understand, or --as Birdie pointed out--may also have their own "stuff" (all encompassing term) going on.

    I think the biggest takeaway here is this: you and Leslie had a plan and worked it AT LILY'S PACE. That's a win. Emma got to have her beloved sister share her birthday party and already knew it might not look like the average one. WINNING. You showed admirable restraint and (don't fall off your chair) maturity for the sake of your daughters. MORE WINNING. You and Leslie both stood up for Lily's right to have her movie experience, too. SO.MUCH.WIN.

    Sometimes, winning doesn't always feel good right away. I hope this one settles in and makes you proud. Ish. :-)

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  14. Any first communication from a stranger that starts with the words "You need..." is not going to make you best buds. Even someone without much in the way of social skills knows this. He was telling you how to parent. Then, he told you how your daughter should behave for whose benefit - yours? Nope. I don't give a s*&_) whether he had something horrible going on in his life or not - and my strong suspicion is not because when you do - you have empathy or, at least, recognize something might be going on in the lives of others and couch your words accordingly. This guy was a selfish, mean-spirited ass. No one can teach a mean spirited ass to recognize where he's gone wrong - that would transform him to an understanding guy.

    So, it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that placed him in front of you during Emma's party. Karma will get this guy some day. I hope your responses, which were the height of restrained comebacks btw, burned a hole right through that very thick skull of his and continue to eat away at what little conscience he may have... (As you may have guessed, it's good I'm not the only lawyer in my family because there might be a need someday to bail me out....) ;)

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    1. You raise some good points, Karen. "You need" is very aggressive and is UNDERSTOOD not to be a talking point or polite invitation to discuss. It is a command, pure and simple.

      And you're right about another thing too...I am NEVER more aware of the struggles of others...and being sensitive to them...than I am when I am struggling myself.

      Game/set/match...judgement: The guy's a douchekabob.

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  15. For some reason I am stuck on the fact that this happened during the previews. You planned so much and handled a new strategy so quickly that his rudeness to Leslie is so unacceptable! (Not that the rudeness to you was any better).

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    1. We're not inviting him to my daughter's next party, that's for sure.

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