A few weeks into the January yoga teacher training, my roommate strongly advised me to break out of my senior citizen schedule that put me into bed at 9:05pm every night. “You need to get out of your self-imposed yoga bubble. There’s a birthday party on Sunday night, and you are going – hang out, make new friends, and have a conversation about something besides your breath and lengthening your spine.” She had a point. I needed to mount my personal power pony and ride out of my comfort zone. It was about a twenty minute drive from my house, so I carpooled with my neighbors. The party was at a beautiful B&B called Sierra Pontifica, and the location on top of a hill just outside of town provided the most glorious view of the sunset. I silently blessed my roomie as I found myself in light conversation with a cute British surfer, a Corona in my right hand and homemade guacamole in my left. Stu rivaled the average surfer boy in intelligence and wit, and our interaction was an even mix of flirty banter with weightier topics – he even called out a few logical fallacies. It was fun to be back in the saddle again.
Soon my neighbors drifted over to us, each one holding a sleepy child. “We’re leaving early to put the kids to bed, but that doesn’t mean you have to come with us! Stu, can you give her a ride home? Your house is really close to her neighborhood...” Stu smiled, “Sure, no problem.” After dusk slipped into darker shades, the host brought out paper lanterns to light and we sent them over the balcony. I felt like I was in a movie as I watched them drift out of sight overhead. Guests began to leave, and by midnight the party had diminished to me, Stu, and the staff that lived on site – Leo the bartender and Kara the waitress. I excused myself from the circle to go to the bathroom, secretly hoping that when I came back my ride would be ready to leave. I was tired, yoga practice began at 5:15AM, and everyone knows that I am not a sunshine morning person.
I got back to the bar just in time to see Stu and Kara disappearing up the stairs. Leo raised an eyebrow, “So were you going to settle up the tab for you and Stu? I need to close my till.” My power pony snorted as I used the last of my cash for our drinks, which also meant that I had no way to pay for a cab home (ATMs are not on every street corner in the jungle). I tried to keep my voice neutral, “Um, Stu was going to give me a ride home…” Leo smirked, “I’m pretty sure THAT’S not going to happen. You can stay the night with me, preciosa.” I think I need to work on my withering stare, because he didn’t seem to notice that I was giving him one. Changing tactics, I smiled persuasively, “Or! You can give me a ride home. Right now.”
Walking back from class the next day, I passed by Stu getting out of his white truck parked in front of his house. He waved me down saying, “Hey, I was hoping to talk to you about last night.” I turned to face him, “Okay. Do you always leave girls stranded after offering them a ride home? Or just sometimes?” He inspected the ground, then said, “Well, I guess it was a bit of an off night, really…” I continued sweetly, “Leaving me with the entire bar tab was also a nice touch.” This seemed to hit home, and he reached for his wallet, “Here, let me pay you back for my drinks. I insist.” At first I waved it off, but I eventually accepted. He put his wallet away and looked me in the eye, “You know, I really had such a beautiful time…” my spirit pony flattened her ears as I softened and waited for him to explain in his British accent how he really enjoyed our conversation and felt terrible about things. Then he finished his sentence, “…with Kara, such an amazing night that I really can’t say that I’m sorry about anything.”
Before you could say ‘Princess Kate’ my power pony bucked me right off and disappeared into the distance. I had no words. Stu turned and left, and I metaphorically picked myself up out of the dust, brushed off my lululemon, and continued my walk home.
For a few months I mourned the death of chivalry, and I blamed Britain for spooking my steed. I didn’t understand why someone would treat me that way, leaving me divided between invisibility and insecurity. Then I began to realize that I was responsible – I was the one who surrendered bridle control (and self-worth) into his hands. No wonder I hit the ground. It was a cliché, Hallmark epiphany of sorts: people belittle or affirm your existence at times, but critiques and compliments don't define who you really are – keep the reins in your hands.