The Institute:Daddy Issues(2)By: Evangeline Anderson
I don’t know why that kind of thing stopped—maybe because society has shifted or maybe because feminists like me have trained it out of men. But for whatever reason, Salt hadn’t gotten the memo that treating a woman like a precious creature unable to do things for herself wasn’t done anymore.
At the beginning of our partnership, I fumed silently for about a week of this overly deferential and—to my mind—sexist treatment. But things finally came to a head when we stopped for lunch at my favorite restaurant and my partner ordered for me—telling the waitress exactly what to bring me and exactly how to make it—before I could even open my mouth or look at the menu.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” I demanded, after he gave the waitress our order and she left to go whisper with her friend.
I was sure they were talking about Salt. With his black hair, pale blue eyes, and his immense size, he was well worth looking at. He also has an air of quiet authority that acts like catnip on a certain type of woman—a kind of gravity that almost never lifts. I think it’s because he smiles very rarely, which is not because he’s unhappy as I initially thought—it’s just not done where he comes from. He once told me there is a Russian proverb—‘a man who smiles constantly is one step from being a fool.’ And you can call Salt what you want but he’s no fool—he actually has a brain in that big, muscular body. You ought to see him play chess—I’ve never beaten him, not once, and I was on the chess team briefly in high school.
But back to the disastrous lunch.
“Why did you order for me?” I asked him, well and truly pissed.
He shrugged, looking mildly surprised.
“Is what you always order.”
“Yes, but what if I wanted something different?”
“Then you should have told me. I would order it for you,” he replied calmly.
“You don’t get it,” I sputtered, getting angrier than ever. “I like to order for myself! And I like getting my own door and pulling out my own chair and putting on my own coat…all this weird ‘I’m such a gentleman’ bullshit you’ve got going on is wasted on me! I’m your partner—not some date you’re trying to impress so you can get laid. So stop it.”
Salt had looked more than mildly surprised at my outburst.
“But as you have pointed out, you are my partner,” he said reasonably. “So I must take care of you.”
“Would you hold open the door for another guy? Would you order his lunch for him?” I demanded.
“Of course not.” Salt gave a rare laugh, as though it was a ridiculous idea. “But you are female, Andi. So I take care of you.”
Salt’s face darkened.
“I may still have too much Russian accent but my English comprehension is quite good. I know the meaning of these words, Andi—I am not these things.”
“How are you not?” I demanded. “You just admitted that you treat me differently because I’m female. That’s the very definition of a chauvinist.”
“You don’t understand…” He leaned forward and put a hand on mine though I don’t know how he dared touch me when I was so obviously pissed off. “Yes, I treat you differently,” he said in a soft, low voice. “You are female. And women are to be cherished…protected. Not because they are weak or stupid—because they are precious. You are a woman and my partner, Andi—this makes you doubly precious to me. Therefore, I take care of you. Yes? It is the Russian way.”
I was still pretty angry but the look in his ice blue eyes was so sincere it actually made me reconsider. Still… “the Russian way?” Was he serious with that bullshit?
Apparently, he was. That night, after swallowing both the sandwich he had ordered me (and insisted on paying for) and my pride, I did what I should have in the first place—I did my research.