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.”

“Why…you…you chau­vin­istic…miso­gyn­istic…as­shole!”

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.

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