A big man passed me on the winding staircase at a pub. In the cramped space, his broad shoulders brushed against mine. Oh, I’m so sorry, he said anxiously and hunkered in upon himself. No problem, I responded lightly. And off we went in our separate directions.
His response stayed with me. And it wasn’t that his sorry wasn’t a reflexive polite Canadian quirk. It was his shrink-back response of the sea anemone. Like his size was an affront to me. Like his maleness was a sin.
You’ve seen him too. The man who goes out of his way to cross the road so he doesn’t come to close to you at night. Because.
His discomfort with himself (or was it his discomfort with me?) was discomforting to me.
How did we get here?
Instead of saying “no problem”, here’s what I would have liked to have said to him:
You say you’re sorry. For what? For being a man? For having broad shoulders? For taking up space? For your ancestors?
Me too, brother.
But what if you didn’t need to be sorry?
(I know it’s hard. You’ve been blamed and shamed and belittled for the wrongdoings of your forebears.)
What if we stopped apologizing and just say, started from here?
Heya sister. Heya brother. I see you. We're here now. There's plenty of room for both of us. As we are. No need to make yourself smaller for me. You doing so does not ensure that I’ll take up more space. That’s on me. (Click to tweet.) I bow to the divine masculine and feminine in you. (And yes, you are oh so divine, you in your magnificent God-given frame that is a reflection of your soul. And no belittling or blaming or shaming will change that. Doesn’t work. Never did.) And from here, in bowing reverence, let’s celebrate who and how we can be. Hold space for me to do my good work without trying to control me. I’ll hold space for you to do your good work without trying to coddle you.
Let’s get this thing right, from here on out.
And while we’re here, let’s make a deal: let’s save our sorries for our own missteps, mistakes and missed turns. (Click to tweet) Let’s learn from them.
And then let's move on.
Shoulder to shoulder.
That's what I would have liked to have said to him.