Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Another Story Behind The Story

I had a new humor piece published yesterday at Frazzled. As with many of my humor pieces, What We All Want To Say to the Grandfathers at the Playground has a backstory.

Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Last year I spent a couple of afternoons alone at a popular town playground with a kindergartener who had a half day of school. Great times, great times. On one of those visits I witnessed an older man yelling at a child who did not appear to be his family member. The old guy moved off, and I saw a woman holding a little boy in a Spiderman costume who was sobbing. Okay, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the kid just happened to have a sad thought at the same moment a stranger was shouting. Nonetheless, I stuck to my kid like a leech the rest of the time we were there, prepared to take care of that guy if he came near my boy. 

Then the guy actually spoke to me! As we were discussing leaving, I told my little guy that I had cupcakes in the car. (Because I did! Honest to God, I had cupcakes in the car!)  Lo and behold, the guy and his child companion were walking along beside us, he heard me, and said, "Yeah, good luck with that." I am ashamed to say that I just laughed and hauled our butts out of there. I should have said something like, "I don't need luck, sir. I have cupcakes. You should try it. Also, I don't yell at other people's kids unless they're about to run into the street, but that's just me." 

Yes, cupcakes do appear in this humor piece.

This whole thing happened close to a year ago. I have been enraged ever since. I like to think of myself as being too zenny to hold a grudge, but...maybe.

I finally started putting together things to say to guys like him as a humor piece, because I wanted to have something I could submit while I was feeling down about the short story I've been working on for months and not finishing. So that worked, anyway.


noochinator said...

No, you did the right thing not responding to the crazy guy in the park. If you engage, you enrage.

Gail Gauthier said...


Did you see some of the comments from readers of this piece at Frazzled. Oh, my gosh, I have never dealt with anything like that. Talk about whether or not to engage. I did respond, because I didn't want to give them the last word where readers could see it and have that has their last impression. I haven't heard any more from the first person, and I wouldn't be surprised if I don't hear from the other two. Not because of what I said, but because I suspect they are just flaming and running.

noochinator said...

Well, a negative comment is still a comment-- comments are good, they mean people are reading and being affected by the piece.

Yeah, it's good to respond in a positive way to a online comment. When I see a negative review of a business, if that business responds with a calm explanation it's impressive to see.

At estrogen-soaked sites like Medium and Frazzled, a reader has to expect a little bit of male bashing. Complaining about it is like a guy going to an exercise class led by Richard Simmons, and then complaining that Richard patted him on the ass.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the need to leave negative comments, and I thought the piece was fine and very true to life. I've never been too Zen to hold grudges, and you are well within your rights to hold as many as you want.

Anonymous said...

The man acted like a real jerk, and I’m sorry you and the others had to endure his bad attitude.

Years ago, while working as an acquisitions editor for a book publisher, a retired man sent me the manuscript for his memoir. One story in it focused on a time he brought his granddaughter to the park. They first stopped at the convenience store for ice cream cones, and the granddaughter ran ahead to the park while he paid the cashier. When he later arrived at the park, he sat down on a bench holding both cones while his granddaughter played loudly with the other kids on the swings. All the mothers there glared at him until one came over and asked him if he was a pervert trying to lure children with ice cream.

When he said “No, that’s my granddaughter over there,” the woman didn’t believe him. He shouted to his granddaughter, who eventually heard him and responded “yes, Grandpa?”

The woman then turned her back on him
and returned to her circle of friends, offering no apology.

I am retired now and have unfortunately have dealt with similar gendered and ageist rudeness. We don’t respect older men the way we did in decades past. I’ve come to realize why suicide rates are so high among men in my age group, and why there was so much vitriol within the comments section where your article was published.