The Entitlement of Men

Last week, at a café in Las Palmas, a man approached my table and asked if I was leaving. I was not — I still had half a drink and a book to finish. But, sensing that I was tying up seating for four as the afternoon approached cocktail hour, I figured I should wrap it up anyway.

Before I could agree to move on, a waitress stepped between us and gestured to an empty table behind me. “This is your table,” she said to the man. “Or,” she added, pointing to another option two rows away, “You can take that one.”

The man sighed. “I prefer the view from here,” he explained. He motioned to the ocean in case the waitress forgot where it was. “If you’re finishing?” he asked me. “I’ll sit here?”

“I’ll be done in a few minutes,” I said, waving him away. I no longer felt the need to rush if there were several other options for him to choose from. If he wanted this specific table, he could have it when I was done.

“OK,” the man said, pulling out the chair opposite mine. “Do you mind if I sit here while you go?”

I could barely believe his nerve. Not only did this guy insist on having an occupied table, he couldn’t even be bothered to wait a few minutes to sit at it. It was male entitlement at its finest.

“Yes, I mind,” I snapped. “I’m not finished. There are other tables.”

The man held up both hands and backed away like I had just produced a live grenade. “I didn’t think it was a big deal,” he complained. “I’ll wait outside.”

“GOOD IDEA,” I yelled.

And then, because I am full of good ideas myself, I sat there and wrote the whole thing down. I hope he used the time to enjoy the view he cared so much about.

During the past ten years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time transcribing such events. I think it’s a means of coping, a way to rationalize the absurdity of the requests and the veracity of the insults — to confirm that something happened the way I thought it did. When I put the details on paper, it’s easier to see these interactions for what they are: shallow moments created by insecure men who feel entitled to something I have.

The other thing that’s easy to see when I write these stories down is the humor in the situation. Perhaps not in the moment, but later, when I read it back. Two months or two years from now, when I review my time in Las Palmas, I know that I’ll laugh about the man in the fanny pack with the too-short bathing suit and his clueless entitlement — which gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to laugh about it in the moment too. Maybe, in time, I won’t have to spill so much ink over something so seemingly insignificant. Maybe, with some reflection and introspection, men can stop doing these things in the first place.

Until then, we can laugh. Here are my favorite anecdotes of male entitlement from 2010 to the present.

A coworker in New York suggested I ask a woman I can’t stand for help that I didn’t need.

“I’d rather just do it myself,” I said.

“Meow!” he crowed. He made a big show of rolling his eyes at our male supervisor, as if to say, Women — am I rite?!

It was rich coming from him. Just the day before, he had come into a meeting in the same room with the same people and called our boss “a motherfucking cocksucker.” Immediately thereafter, he held up a pocketknife in the shape of a bullet and said, “I’m carrying this everywhere I go as a reminder.” No one had any idea what he meant by that and, as far as I know, no one ever tried to figure it out. He continued to walk around our office brandishing a weapon and I was given a lecture about “teamwork.”

This man was entitled to a double standard.

A guy on dating app kicked off our conversation by asking for my phone number. When I declined to share it, he sent me a series of profanity-laced messages which culminated in him telling me I was “barely cute” and that he hoped I didn’t break my neck the next time I “climbed those ropes or whatever.” You know, typical Tinder stuff: I didn’t want to give a man my personal contact information and, in return, he would like to see me paralyzed from the waist down at an aerial class.

The following day, still fuming, he sent a follow up message: “I’m a funny, smart, successful homeowner. You’re nothing special. Next time someone asks politely for your number, you should give it to them.”

This guy was entitled to anything he asks for… as long as he says “please” and “thank you.”

At a takeout counter in Manhattan, the man standing behind me in line snatched the credit card receipt I was signing right out of my hand.

“That’s mine!” he snapped. “Or are you going to sign my receipt too?”

The way he said it implied that I had already taken something of great value from him, like his place in line. I highly doubt I did, if only because I’m sure he would have pointed it out already.

“I think it’s mine,” I insisted, taking the receipt back. “Yes, it’s mine,” I told him as I turned around and finished signing my name.

Well,” said the man said, his voice dripping with condescension. “Maybe next time you should check before you just start signing things.”

In hindsight, I suspect that this man was going through a divorce or some other life trauma that involved money and/or signing slips of paper. That had nothing to do with me, but it didn’t seem to matter. He was holding his ground, if only for the practice.

That man was entitled to never have to carry the burden of his own mistakes.

An Airbnb host in Prague, who wrote me the sparsest of reviews, then sent a private message explaining that he is an entrepreneur and if I had any good business ideas, I should go ahead to send them his way. He could make them happen in a way my lady brain couldn’t even begin to imagine!

This man was entitled to all of the investment without sharing any of the returns.

An Airbnb host in Berlin asked me to let in a washing machine repairman sometime between noon and 4 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon — or “sometime Thursday” if that’s better for me. When I told this man that I not only wasn’t available to do such a thing at that time on that date, but at any time, ever — he became irate, sending several CAPS-LOCKED text messages in quick succession about manners and culture.

This man was entitled to a favor even though I was paying him for a service.

Feeling rather entitled myself, I ignored his messages, called him at his vacation home in Israel and demanded a $200 refund. He sent it immediately because he knew Airbnb would agree that I deserved at least that much if I filed a complaint.

A man seated in the last row on a flight to Reykjavik tripped over several people (myself included) to retrieve his bag in the overhead bin two rows in front of his seat. A woman traveling with two children tried to edge him out, saying, “Excuse me, but we have a very quick connection,” to which the man, in blissful ignorance, replied, “Oh, I’m just getting my bag.”

A minute later, when he realized that passengers could disembark from the rear door of the plane, he attempted to trip back over the same people in the aisle, this time while carrying a giant suitcase and two lose plastic bags. I stood in his path like an Amazon with a 20-minute connection window. “No,” I said simply. “You can wait there now.”

This man was entitled to be at the front of the line even if he had nowhere to be.

A clerk at a sporting goods store in Helsinki tried to sell me the only pair of women’s size 10 sneakers he had in stock. They were Brooks trail runners that looked like a cross between a Croc and an orthopedic lace-up. I declined to try them on, which the sales clerk could not understand.

“Why not?” he asked.

“No thank you,” I repeated.

But why not?” he asked again as though I owed him a good reason or two when what he really needed was a lesson in backstock.

I left him there, holding a overpriced, hideous sneaker that was too heavy for indoor distance running from a brand I never heard of that no one else was willing to buy.

He was entitled to an explanation.

An elderly man at a café in Helsinki stood next to the table where I was typing away and asked, “What are you writing — a love letter?” Before I could respond, he crouched down and popped his head over my shoulder. “Is she writing in English or Finnish?” he asked, as though the rest of the café was wondering the same thing. I snapped my laptop lid shut and then, in perfect English, said, “I’m sorry. I only speak Spanish.”

A few months later, I saw the same man at a different café sitting next to a woman, several decades his junior. He was holding an empty pet carrier which, he explained, he had been carrying around for the past few days in case he encountered the cat that had (rather understandably) run away. Barely a minute later, he started argument with the woman about her pronunciation of the word opinion, of all things. When she told him not to talk over her, he got up, swung his empty cat carrier over his shoulder and stepped onto the sidewalk. “You know,” he said, with way too much confidence for a man looking for a lost cat at a coffee shop terrace. “You need to order something if you sit here.”

This man also had not ordered anything, which means that he is entitled to a double standard. But we already covered that one, so I’ll go with this: This man is entitled to say whatever he wants without having to listen to anything he doesn’t like.

To the gentlemen who have made it through the whole post and now feel the need to tell me that “not all men” behave like this — that, at the very least, they personally do not behave like this — please fight the urge to comment. You’re not supposed to act like this. No one is. You don’t get accolades for behaving like a decent human being. If you have something to say, save it. Better yet: prove it. Women don’t need to hear your defense now from the comfort of the Internet when the stakes could not be lower. We need to hear it when we’re being talked over in meetings and shoved aside on the train and catcalled on the street and harassed in bars. When you start doing that, I’ll be the first to praise you.