I was rear-ended at 60 mph while stopped at a light, literally adding insult to previous injury. The guy was like, “Since you already have disabled plates, I hope this means you won’t sue me. I’m studying to be a special needs teacher, I have student loans to pay, and two children to feed. I’m on my way to my parents’ house. I just came from church.”
To this, I thought, “Jesus, he’s laying it on thick. That last part about church was overkill. Idiot. Whatever. I’m tired. He looks super tired. He was probably texting. I don’t smell alcohol. His eyes are glossy. He could be stoned. Wish I were stoned. WTF do I care about another blow to my body at this point? The last thing I want to do is spend my hard-earned sliver of alone time waiting for the police to come and take a report, followed by 10 hours in a flu-infested emergency room waiting to get x-rays. I’m hungry. (Hadn’t eaten all day due to a crazy, busy project deadline… for my child.) I just want to carry on with my plans for the evening.”
“Are you ok?” He said.
“My neck hurts,” I said, not sharing the fact that my neck ALWAYS hurts. (Been working on curbing my compulsion to overshare unnecessary details with strangers. Still needs some work.)
This really triggered a freak-out in him. His voice cracked like he was being possessed by his former pubescent self. “Oh my god! Are you going to sue me? I don’t have any money. Can we just agree to let insurance handle this?”
I’m thinking, “Shit! Is my insurance going to go up if I report this? The car isn’t that noticeably damaged. I can drive it. Damn! Another freaking thing to add to my to-do list. I don’t feel like calling the insurance company and dealing with the BS of paperwork and reports. Is this some kind of karma?” (Yes, even when talking to myself I can’t resist making a stupid pun.)
I looked at him like a mother and softly said, “Calm down. Accidents happen. Our roles could have been reversed. Don’t beat yourself up. It could have been worse. Let this serve as a wakeup call to slow down. I’m not agreeing to anything until I give my body time to see how it recovers from this. Give me your insurance card (which had just expired), let me take a picture of your driver’s license and car plates and let’s move on.”
He said, “Do you want me to talk to your husband?”
Did that accident pull us through a wormhole in time to the 1800s where my husband manages my affairs? This guy was starting to piss me off. I can handle being rear-ended. I can’t handle a frontal assault to feminism.
I gave him such a dirty look of disdain that he looked like he wanted to cry.
He kept doing that slight lunge of “Can I hug you?”
I kept taking a step back.
It was like we were doing the zombie tango.
I was trying to put the vibe out of “Relax dude, but give me my space. I don’t want you to feel as bad as you are acting like you feel, I just want you to feel bad enough that you start paying more attention when you’re driving. But there is no way in Hell I am going into full-on mom mode and comforting your ass with a hug when I am the one who was just hit!”
My days of being a hugger, in general, ended when I started having hot flashes. Now I hug with distance between bodies to maintain circulating air flow so as to not spontaneously combust from the inferno scorching me alive from within: the massive metamorphoses our patriarchal culture minimizes as simply “going through the change.” Yes, I’m sure that’s exactly what Dr. Bruce Banner says as he’s turning into the Hulk, “I’m just going through the change,” because THAT is what menopause feels like, folks, turning into the mofo Hulk!
In the midst of the eternal flame burning me up from the inside out, creating a fully functional meltdown of sweat beads forming above my lip, behind my neck, and under my breasts, I often want to rage a growl of frustration to anyone attempting to hug me. Sometimes I scream, “Get away! Save yourself! It’s too late for me!” And just surrender like the witch after Dorothy tosses the bucket of water on her and screech, “Oh, what a world! What a world! Ohhh! Look out! Look out! I’m going! Ohhhh – Ohhhhhhhhhh!”
Instead, I don the mask of the actor. I take a deep yogi breath through my nose, raise my voice an octave or two, and in a syrupy delivered tone, I invoke Madeline Kahn in Young Frankenstein. With the people I have an established hugging relationship with I take a step back, offer an air hug instead, and utter “Taffeta Darling,” with a knowing smile. Newbies don’t get hugs.
To Mr.-Just-Got-Back-From-Church, I offered neither the monster nor the phony.
I was on my way to some much needed ME TIME: a walk on the pier and a movie with a junk food dinner. My ability to make “pleasantries” had expired for the day.
I sent the 40-year-old man-boy on his way, popped some Tylenol, and moved on with my night.
Drama was not on the schedule.
I’m hoping I can play that 1800s card now and pawn the reporting duty off on my husband… like the way all the holiday planning gets pawned off on me. Neither one of us wants to deal with this kind of life stuff. We’re all artists in this house; all we want to do is create. Who has time for “adulting?” Certainly not busy, overwhelmed creative adults!
Carry-on with life maintenance we must. Or not. I’m in pain. But I’m middle-aged; I’m always in pain! I have no interest in going to any more doctors than necessary; and if I want to visit a lawyer, I’ll save myself the trip and gab with my car salesman neighbor. Same diff, right?
The guy’s insurance adjuster called to get a recorded statement from me. I said, “Next time your client decides to hit it from the rear, you might want to make sure he’s wearing protection. FYI, There was no rubber on his bumper.”
Even bureaucratic agencies need a mic drop every now and then.
Sage Justice is a mother and a freelance writer who rocks a Menopause Mohawk. She’s written for The Mighty, Kveller, Life Learning Magazine, and Mothers Always Write. More on her blog Sage-Living.org and rare appearances on social media via twitter @Sage_Justice1