I’ve been called a lot of things in my life.
Fat. Nerd. Loser. Dork.
And plenty names far worse that are not fit for print here (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Last week, a new name was added to the list: skinny.
Of course, it preceded a string of expletives – but, hey, when you’ve taken great pains to lose weight, you take the kudos where you can find ‘em.
Even if it wasn’t meant as a compliment in the first place.
In fact, it was – in literal terms – a death threat.
Last Friday evening, after dinner out in Langley, I stopped by the mall, my fiancée and another friend in tow, to pick up a dress shirt I was having tailored so I could wear it when I get married in a few weeks.
The shirt is a checkered pattern, white and pink. Our wedding colours.
After picking up said shirt, I was carrying it through the mall when I heard, from behind me, two men – both in their 40s – start making fun of me for being in possession of a shirt they had determined, channeling their inner Mr. Blackwell, to be less than manly.
I, of course, fired back that I didn’t need their advice. We continued – me and the two girls – on our way and into another store.
Two minutes later, Neanderthal 1 and 2 – both clearly drunk – appeared in the entryway, yelling, and, here’s the best part: threatening to wait for me in the parking lot, where, they proclaimed, “We’ll $*#@-ing kill you, you skinny $%@#$%!!”
So there I was, after everything – the creation of Pink Shirt Day in 2007; the rallying against such behaviour in the years since; and, perhaps saddest of all, the death of bullied teen Amanda Todd, the Port Coquitlam girl who took her own life just last month – standing in a mall, flanked by two women, being threatened for the colour of my shirt.
A pink shirt, of all things. So cliché as to not be believed.
But here we were nonetheless.
The situation escalated from there, as these things often do, though I stayed out of the rest of it, as these two grown men switched their focus to an unsuspecting 18-year-old kid, who was shopping nearby with his girlfriend. He wasn’t wearing pink, but he’d upset them when he offered his opinion.
Eventually, security was called, the men were hurried out by their wives and children – proud I’m sure — and we were escorted safely to our vehicle.
I told the story numerous times over the next few days, and the response, mostly, was the same: bewilderment.
How can any adult, friends asked, be so remarkably immature, so close-minded, so oblivious to any of the anti-bullying sentiment being discussed everywhere from television news to online to schools and workplaces?
A valid question, but any reasonable point would have been lost on these two.
They obviously fancied themselves tough, macho guys. The kind of people that evolution eventually makes disappear.
Afterward, I was amped up on adrenaline, but it didn’t last. Something like that would’ve rattled the 17-year-old me, but that was a long time ago.
I’ve grown up since then. Most of us do.
Between then and now, you gain a little perspective, and – if we’re lucky – the wherewithal to stand up to people who push you around.
Some of us wear pink, too, and don’t give a damn what other people think.
And some pick fights in men’s wear.
“Y’know,” the security guard joked with me as we walked to my truck.
“There’s no cameras in that part of the mall. You coulda decked him.”
I laughed, and replied I’m not exactly the type – at 31 years old, two weeks from being married – to get into fights.
“Of course you aren’t,” he said.
“You’re a man.”
Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.