BEING JUDGED IS FUN! Said no one ever.
Last night was our annual financial meeting.
A room of casual millionaires listening to a great man give his point of view on the market and the future.
This Great Man has been correct every single year we’ve been attending this dinner and that’s why I never ever want to miss what he has to say. I’ll let you be the judge of my financial status (which I’m pretty sure you have already done…because that behavior seems to be ‘natural’ these days doesn’t it?).
Thankfully, The Great Man happens to be a dear friend of my husband. He has taken us through the deepest saddest and toughest times of our lives as husband and wife. You would like him because he is real, honest and sincerely cares.
He knows I’m vegan and asked my husband if I’d like a vegan meal as opposed to the giant italian style dinner they normally serve. Mistakenly, my husband said YES. For the record I’d NEVER EVER want to be accommodated for my diet or health choices. I’m a big girl and I’d be just fine sipping a glass of red wine and passing up the food. I was there to hear The Great Man speak anyway.
Husband Unit informs me that there will be a vegan dinner for me. I got pissed instantly.
“No, please tell him no thank you. I’ll be fine.” I calmly reply via text. Meanwhile I think I got an ulcer at the thought of being cared for “specially”.
“Too late. I’m not telling him no.”
“OK” I shot back, irritated.
Recently I’ve been through the Super Wash of Criticism and Being Judged. It’s been painful and my stomach is in knots trying to navigate past it. People I thought were my allies shoved knives in my back quietly. Why? Why? Why? I repeated to myself.
In a casual conversation I discovered what I’d been through is nothing new to other Small Business Owners. It seems all business owners have customers with “good ideas”, “great advice”, “you should”s and “you shouldn’t”s to give you.
When you are a Small Business you listen. Sometimes the criticism is hurtful but you still listen with an open mind. “Never take it personally” my Chiropractor reminds me pretty much EVERY visit. “You can’t take it personal.” “It’s business, don’t let it get to you.” Well that’s not who I am now is it? I’ll save that for another post.
Back to my dilemma at the Millionaire Meeting…
We took a spot at the second to the furthest round table from the presentation screen. I was a little concerned about being able to see and hear. We were six tables back, about 40 yards maybe. The table was supposed to seat 8, but it was set for 10. Not much elbow room. I was happy for The Great Man because I’ve watched his business expand and the men and women (mostly in their 60’s and above) arrive excitedly to hear him speak. People were there on their own initiative and it was PACKED.
The first speaker, Mr. Surfer (names changed to protect their identities by the way), started us off. I watched intently and tried to hear him. The acoustics were tough and people were still arriving so I didn’t catch much of what he was saying.
I began to discover the table in front of us had two individuals that were there for the free food with zero interest in what was happening at the front. They carried on talking over Mr. Surfer and even cracking jokes. BUMMER. I felt it was just plain disrespectful too.
I cupped my hands to my ears to hear better. It worked.
Mr. Surfer finished his presentation and turned it over to The Great Man.
I leaned in and pushed my cupped hands closer to my head and ears.
The food began to be served while all of this was happening. Clanking spoons on Family-Style size trays of food, people whispering to pass things, glasses clinking and REALLY old people trying to QUIETLY ASKING TO HAVE THE SALAD PASSED. This was going to be tough so I mentally prepared myself to not get my knickers in a knot.
I sipped my red wine slowly then cupped my ears again.
The Great Man had the front of the room mesmerized. No one was passing food or talking. What he was saying was interesting AND important.
The table behind me seemed to be filled with all men in snazzy suits. One man in particular had pin stripes on. Reminded me of my days in the big Corporate World: The Suits. These were the “Important Men” in the room. The were clean shaven and looked sharp.
They also completely forgot they were in a meeting with The Great Man speaking and were talking amongst themselves even chuckling and laughing at their own conversations. I turned to look, unable to hear The Great Man, hoping to give them a hint that it was tough to hear.
That’s when Philip, the BMOC of the Dining Hall arrived. He was standing behind my left shoulder about one foot. “HELLO LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I UNDERSTAND THERE IS ONE OF YOU HERE THAT HAS REQUIRED A VEGAN MEAL!?” he f’ing thunders loudly.
I winced and turned to face him – my neck was red hot and I was embarrassed. Exactly what I was afraid was going to happen was happening. I was very sure he did that on purpose but I took a breath and quietly said, forcing him to kneel down to hear me, “Would you not make a spectacle of me please? Maybe bring it down in volume a few notches?”
“OH, SORRY ABOUT THAT. I SEEM TO TALK LOUD ALL THE TIME. I’LL BE SENDING OUR COOK OUT TO DISCUSS THE MENU OPTIONS FOR YOU TONIGHT, OKAY!?!?” he was 1 decibel quieter and 20 decibels higher in condescending tone.
I turned to my husband, my stomach was in knots, and looked him in the eyes visibly upset. He got the message and chuckled leaning over to the person sitting next to him mumbling something about “oh man I’m gonna be sleeping on the couch tonight.”
I turned back to Philip and said, again quietly, “Look, I would prefer to not have any special treatment.”
“OH DON’T WORRY, MY COOK WILL COME TO YOU AND TOGETHER YOU CAN DETERMINE WHAT IT IS YOU CAN EAT TONIGHT.” Yep, still loud and yep, still condescending.
I took a deep breath and thanked him very much. He went away. THANK GOD.
The giant bowls and plates of Chicken Parmesan started to come out along with the Salmon and Spinach. I kept myself busy helping the nice millionaire Janice next to me and her 97 year old father Spencer (he looked like Spencer Tracy to me) who was so nice as well. Side note: neither of them could hear anything as well…she repeatedly asked me what The Great Man had just said and was scribbling notes and clarifying. I did my best to help but The Suits had brought it up a notch and were a little louder.
Waiters were buzzing around being super helpful to everyone. These young men (I did not see any women) were on-point! Clearing the tables as fast as a dish was empty, filling glasses, keeping the booze flowing…great team.
Philip arrived with Eduardo, The Chef. “HELLO AGAIN. I HAVE THE CHEF EDUARDO HERE FOR YOU TO DISCUSS HOW WE CAN ACCOMMODATE YOU TONIGHT.” They were both wearing name tags. I can read.
I hear Husband Unit groan behind me…and next I hear a soft bit of laughter between him and his buddy in the next seat.
Eduardo squats down next to me on my left (my husband is seated on my right).
He’s calm and quiet and I tried to explain that I didn’t want ANY of this special treatment. He stared at me blankly.
I told him I was just fine with everything and he did not need to do a thing for me and thanked him profusely for the gesture.
“So you are OK with the salad?”
Yes, I assure him quietly. I’m really OK.
“Can you tell me what your food allergies are? I can make something for you, really no problem.” he whispers back.
I LOVE THIS MAN FOR NOT MAKING A SPECTACLE OUT OF ME.
“I’d prefer not to eat dairy or meat.”
“OK no problem. I can make something for you. We’ll bring you a salmon with no butter on it.”
I now stare at him blankly but say, “it’s OK. I’ll just have this salad you’ve prepared here.”
“But the salad has blue cheese on it.”
“I can handle taking the cheese off. Seriously, no problem.”
“OK you can eat the calamari too. It is no butter in the batter. (sic)”
“Is it possible to get just vegetables and maybe some light pasta.”
“Yes! Yes I have colorful squash and broccoli and carrot.”
“Perfect – thank you so much. And please, just a child size. I don’t eat much.” and I show him with both of my hands how much I meant. I felt this was necessary because of the size of the dishes being served around me were feeding 8-10 people. This place is very generous in their servings.
The Chef went away…quietly. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I let it out slowly.
Suddenly the calm was broken, “DID YOU GET EVERYTHING YOU NEEDED FOR YOUR SPECIAL MEAL?” boomed Philip standing above my left shoulder but speaking to the entire table (and The Suits as well it seemed).
I’d watched Philip moving around the room at other tables.
His excuse for talking loudly to me “because he always does” was pure bullshit. He was expressly quiet at every single other table.
My gut was right: he was judging me and going to make me pay.
Him and all of The Suits.
At this point I wondered if this was a joke. When my husband and I have our patience taken to the edge we both look around to see if we’re on an episode of “Boiling Point” or the like.
Nope, no cameras. Just The Suits having a great time, Philip making a spectacle of me and The Great Man yammering at the front of the room with a slide on the screen and a laser pointer bouncing all around.
I whispered to Husband Unit, “I’m going to stand at the front so I can hear a little better.” I scooted my chair back slowly so I wouldn’t knock over my neighbor then inconspicuously moved to the front of the room.
IT WAS A MIRACLE!!
The Great Man’s voice was clear. I wish I’d brought my chair to just sit and hear him.
I stayed up there for about 15 minutes leaning against the wall. It was time to go back to my seat and disconnect from the best lecturer I’d heard in a decade.
As I walked toward the back I noticed, again, the Millionaires at the front tables all craning to not miss one word The Great Man was saying.
Sitting back down, Philip arrives with my meal. My “please keep it small” request was DENIED! The two-foot long oblong PLATTER was set down after space was made on either side of my space (remember, room for 8 yet set for 10..NO SPACE FOR THIS GIANT PLATTER).
Will this unspoken torture end soon?
Now I felt obligated to eat. Philip did not say a thing as he walked away (THANK YOU BABY JESUS).
The Suits yammered on in their own world, I poked my fork into my vegetables. My stomach was twisted in knots at this point and I was not hungry at all. AT ALL.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not the food was good.
What mattered to me was how gracious The Great Man had been to offer. I ate. Slowly.
When I was full I pushed my trough toward the center of the table hoping one of those On Point Waiters would grab it…and they did!
I listened as best I could to The Great Man finish his presentation. He was talking about having a dream and sticking to THAT. Letting him help all of us accomplish THAT DREAM.
A photo of me and one of my dreams popped up on the screen. My stomach dropped. I looked around nervously hoping the next slide would hurry up!
Time stood still and that slide stayed up there.
I felt my hearing go, pretty sure a natural response in a state of panic.
I had NO WHERE to run and prayed NO ONE would match my face to the Vegan Spectacle that anyone with decent hearing experienced.
Click. The next slide.
Philip: shame on you for your condescending behavior.
Husband Unit: please never ever accept “special treatment for my vegan choices” on my behalf. Ask me. Chances are I’m going to go with the flow.
To Anyone Bothered By My Personal Or Business Choices And Willing To Act or React On Them: Am I your only target? Think about it for a second.
Please remember and realize: I do not treat anyone this way. When you treat me this way you are making my life harder than it already is. You have no idea. Please be kind or kinder.
In closing, karma.
PS: If you would like to meet The Great Man, PM me.