When he comes to buy eggs from us, he usually brings his son. He takes off his t-shirt and ties it around his face, while his son stands there, poking around, without a mask. Again.

The kid is 6 or 7. Much older than kids I’ve seen wear masks all day. In other places. Here, no one wears masks. Except when they’re shopping.

I say, “Hi!” and “let me get …” my partner, who has this customer’s order ready and knows what to charge (inflation changes prices constantly). He’s out cutting grass under the walnut trees.

Because it’s the fourth or fifth time this neighbor has failed to put a mask on his kid (let alone wear an actual one himself), when we have free masks for customers to use… I add, kindly, in Spanish, something like… “by the way, your boy should be wearing a mask, too…”

He is immediately furious. He starts to mansplain me why the whole mask-wearing-thing is ridiculous… Are you just going to be afraid forever? He goes on and on. Shouting.

I immediately become defensive, and start to explain myself. I tell him why I think mask-wearing seems like a pretty good and harmless idea to me, when picking up a food order.

He interrupts me after less than a sentence, and yells another reason why he believes my precautions to be ludicrous. I defend myself with another explanation. I’ve got plenty, after all.

Luckily, I stop myself, realizing how quickly I began explaining and defending myself, when there was no need…. to a male customer standing on my land… to buy eggs from my chickens… who was aggressively criticizing and trying to shame me around our clear mask-wearing policy (which is also legally mandated and now 8 months old).

So I get more clear. I say something like… “I’m not trying to change your beliefs about mask-wearing. All we ask is for you to wear a mask while you’re here.”

But I never actually finish saying this, because each time I repeat it, he interrupts me, and yells another reason why my faith in mask-wearing is ludicrous. Insane. Fearful.

I try again.

I am interrupted again.

I give up trying and go get my partner.

My heart is pounding.

No one has ever spoken to my husband like that when coming to pick up an order.

Ever.

What surprised me was how quickly I began to explain myself, despite being yelled at by a neighbor and customer, who’s standing on my land.

What saddens me is to think about how quickly this man, in front of his little boy, began to speak this way to a woman on her farm. How aggressive he became with a simple request for him and his boy to wear protection, so she could stay as safe as possible, while doing her job.

I choose the word protection on purpose.

Because a woman having to give reasons to a man about why he needs to wear protection… so she can protect herself and her body… on her land… in her bed…. is an ethical, and maybe a political issue. It’s definitely an issue of education, perhaps of culture, and one deeply connected to women’s rights.

My mind and energy has been thrown off again today, but I am thankful for something, though it may be shocking to hear.

I am thankful that I did not have this conversation in a bed, while a man tried to convince me that wearing protection was only for the fearful.

I was not lying naked beside a naked man… frantically explaining and defending my beliefs, begging him to respect my wishes around him wearing protection…

For in that alternate scenario… the very step that I decided to take in reality, while standing, fully clothed, on my land — that of (kindly) asserting that the need to wear protection wasn’t up for debate — would have taken much more courage.

What happens if I insist? What happens if he refuses to wear protection? What if I make him even angrier? What might he do then?

Back to reality — and the question I’m left with today:

Would I have been so direct if my husband hadn’t been at home?

And another, more abstract one…

Does my habit of explaining myself when making a request (something I’ve heard is more common in women then men)… come from a learned sense that this is a safer option for a woman, compared to making a clear demand?