“Hi, um. I’m sorry, if you wouldn’t mind, ummm, I actually asked for a hot coffee, not iced. Thank you so much. Sorry.”
Adrenaline rushes through my body, and I’m sweating. You’d think I just had a near-death experience. But no, what really happened was that a person in a cafe got my order wrong—and for once, instead of just drinking it and saying, “Oh it’s fine, I like iced coffee too. I’ll just drink this,” I decided to get what I asked for.
The guy behind the counter is a tired looking 30-something wearing a worn-out t-shirt that says, “Namaste in bed.” He snatches the plastic up from my hand and holds eye contact for a couple seconds too long. I make up that he’s doubting me, and I imagine he’s thinking that I had, in fact, asked for iced not hot.
As I watch him toss the iced coffee in the trash, my insides start to scream with defensiveness and insecurity. How could he think that? Of course I asked for hot, it’s freezing outside! Who in their right mind would ask for an iced coffee in this kind of weather? Certainly not me. I’m sane. And I promise I asked for hot. Please, please don’t hate me.
But of course, I don’t say any of this out loud. Instead, I say again, “Thank you so much. I’m so sorry. I greatly appreciate this. Sorry.” I sit back down where my computer and warm french baguette are waiting for me.
Roy is his name. I read it on his name tag as he approaches me with a porcelain white mug. But wait, what is that? Is that foam on top? Oh nooooooooo. It’s wrong, again.
He drops off the mug, and it looks like a latte, not coffee. I take a sip just to make sure as he walks away. It’s sweet. It tastes pretty good. But, it is not what I asked for.
My inner dialogue goes something like this: I could just drink this though, I mean, it tastes good. I really didn’t want to drink any sugar today, but shoot, he already remade it. Should I just drink this?
No! Because it’s not what you want or what you asked for!
I give my inner voice a nod. I take a deep breath, inhale courage and exhale fear. I’m going back in and I can do it! I pick up the mug and set it on the counter. Roy turns to me with a raised eyebrow. There’s a little sweat accumulated above his upper lip.
“Hi again. I’m sorry but ummm—is this a latte? It’s, umm, super sweet. I’m sorry, I ordered just a hot drip coffee with coconut milk. Again, I’m so sorry to bother. I really appreciate it.”
Without a word he grabs another mug and fills with coffee. He pours coconut milk into a metal saucer and slides them across the counter towards me with a smile.
“Thank you! Sorry again. Thanks!”
As I walked back to my seat, I felt another rush of adrenaline. This time it feels like getting off a roller-coaster. My arms are tingling and I have a post-accomplishment smile on my face. I did something I was afraid of and got the result I wanted. I demonstrated to myself that I don’t have to settle and that I am valuable and worth people’s time (I know, pretty deep for a situation that happened before 9 a.m.).
Every sip of organic coffee and unsweetened coconut milk tastes extra delicious. If I had been sipping on that latte, it would’ve been tainted with disappointment in myself.
But as I think more about my little triumph, I notice how many times I said, “I’m sorry.”
What exactly, was I sorry for? And why did I feel the need to say it so many times?
So often, I’ve been afraid to be powerful, to stand up for what I want, and be unapologetic for who I am. I think back to times when I was a kid and was told to “behave” and to “act like a lady.” Or to, “smile and be grateful for what you have,” which in itself is a good lesson, but in tone, it was meant as, “don’t make trouble.”
As a woman, I have had limiting beliefs about who I’m suppose to be and how I should behave. Humility and gratitude should of course be present, but to be apologizing so profusely and to worry about what people think of me for being forward is silly. Beyond that, it’s not only not unnecessary, but it’s also damaging because my own apologetic behavior perpetuates that women should act that way.
Now, more than ever, after this absurd presidential election, we need women to take up space in this world proudly. We get to be unapologetic for using our voices and owning our power. Because if we are to be influential in the shift of how women are perceived, compensated and respected, we’ve got to start with ourselves.
Sure, this was a low-risk opportunity to be assertive, but what I practiced was important. Maybe tomorrow it’s placing boundaries in my relationships. Maybe next week it’s negotiating or demanding fair deals in my business. No situation is too small or insignificant.
Today, that meant getting the damned coffee I ordered.
Author: Kristy Arnett
Images: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May