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August 16, 2011 / Anna Louie Sussman

The Laughing Monster

Despite the fact that I have a blog, and broadcast my thoughts to the internet every now and then, I’m actually a pretty private person.  My first instinct wouldn’t be to blow someone up or shout her or him out for doing something lame, if said person was a private citizen (public figures, by contrast, are fair game).  But on Sunday night I encountered one of the biggest assclowns I’ve ever met.  He is so assclown-y, in fact, that I would like the whole world to know.

I was enjoying a convivial farewell dinner in London with a group of five vivacious, accomplished women writers and journalists at St. John’s Bread and Wine.  The entire night was wonderful, and I laughed the whole time.  At one point, talk turned to pregnancy, and the two pregnant women in the group had one of the more honest and hilarious conversations I’ve ever heard, prompting more uproarious laughter from my end.  Around twenty minutes later, a business card slid near my elbow.  I looked up to see the messenger, a tall man in his 50s sporting a bushy take on the Hitler ‘stache.

He neither winked, smiled, nor licked his lips like LL Cool J, so it didn’t feel much like a come on (note to men: slipping women your cards generally fails, anyway).   In fact, he rather glared at me.  I turned over the card to find this charming, charming message:

Note: this reads “Madame, You are a MONSTER, a laughing monster, very primitive!  I fear my ears are destroyed. W. W.”

Now, here is a lesson for anyone who thinks they can silence a laughing woman such as myself with a hyperbolic 18th-century putdown scribbled on a card: YOU MUST BE STUPID.  THIS IS ONLY GOING TO MAKE ME LAUGH HARDER.  ONLY NOW AT YOU.  So, laugh we did, and all six of us were laughing directly at him.

Happy ending: I ignored his glares till he left the restaurant, and the waiter, who was horrified at his behavior, gave me a compensation bag filled with baked goods.

Suggested pro-loud-woman activism:  Tweet a link or a joke of something funny today (and every day – why not?), with the hashtag #laughingmonster.  Make yourself laugh, make your friends laugh, make me laugh.  Or, send this guy an mp3 or .wav file of your laugh!  Remind him that women are not just to be seen, but heard, too.

 

35 Comments

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  1. Alice Fordham / Aug 16 2011 9:26 pm

    I laugh loud, Anna! I totally feel you on this. Also, yay St John’s evening. Love that gaff. x xx x

  2. senshikaze / Aug 18 2011 12:51 pm

    ……
    Am I missing something, or is everything NOT about men treating women like property? I know ZERO men who act like women are property.

    This guy was an asshat. But I bet he would have been an asshat to anyone.

  3. Susana / Aug 18 2011 1:09 pm

    What does this have to do with women’s rights? He was not implying that you were any more offensive than an obnoxious loud man. Sounds like you were being incredibly rude by disturbing the other patrons.

  4. Kristine / Aug 18 2011 1:44 pm

    There is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy dining out because someone (male or female) is too loud. You can laugh at an appropriate volume. And why take this on as a female empowerment issue? Not all women are loud.

  5. J / Aug 18 2011 2:08 pm

    Jesus christ, this isn’t an issue of sexism. This is an issue of someone being annoyed by your behavior and having the audacity to inform you of it. This warping of one slight against one woman into a greater disdain for all women is a good example of why so many people malign feminism.

    • Anna Louie Sussman / Aug 18 2011 11:23 pm

      I highly disagree. I’ve outlined in other comments why I believe his action was sexist. I also don’t see what, if he felt comfortable expressing his sexism towards me, would prevent him from expressing it towards other women who may be laughing ‘too loud.’ And him feeling like he has the right to do that is why so many people malign sexism.

      • Jolene / Aug 26 2011 6:05 pm

        He does have the right to slip a note to someone. It’s called communicating. Yes, he might not be talented at it, not like a journalist or writer could be, but at least he did something where most people would have sat fuming for hours and bitched about the “noisy women at that place” after – myself included, and I’m a woman.
        Being in public means respecting other people, and screaming laughter is not super polite. And I know, because I laugh and talk loud myself, and have often been told to try to keep it down ; by my own mother, of all people, and by friends, and boyfriends, and try to remind myself to keep it down a bit. Agressing a stranger by “sending him mp3s” of our laughter seems incredibly childish and a weird response to a personal affront.

  6. Mags / Aug 18 2011 2:31 pm

    While Dr. Wegener’s response was inappropriate, your response to his rudeness was/is disproportionate–both at the restaurant and here on your blog. Dr. Wegener should have simply asked to be moved or, if that was impossible, asked management to request that your table be more considerate of other patrons who would like to hear the conversations at their own table. In the face of his rudeness, you might’ve taken the high road and simply apologized for being so loud. I understand that it’s humiliating to be called out so rudely, but does it honestly make you feel better to respond in kind? Why escalate to internet vigilantism?

    Also, I don’t think the waiter’s response is evidence that you were right: he probably lost out on a tip from the rude doctor who had left in a huff and figured he could save the day (tip-wise) by offering you a bag of baked goods that would be thrown out at the end of the evening anyway.

    I’m not seeing a feminist issue in any of this.

  7. vikkitikkitavi / Aug 18 2011 2:33 pm

    Apparently contrary to what others think, I absolutely agree that the dbag’s response to you was sexist. Instead of speaking to you as an equal, or asking the restaurant management to handle the situation, he attempted to shame you by implying that your volume level was unladylike, which, I guarantee you, he would not have attempted to do to a man.

    • Anna Louie Sussman / Aug 18 2011 11:21 pm

      Absolutely – I do not think for a second that he would have approached six men and attempted to intimidate one of their group into being quiet, particularly after the fact. He felt safe doing that to a group of younger, smaller women. That’s lousy.

  8. Zoe / Aug 18 2011 3:26 pm

    I get terribly annoyed with people – men AND women – who don’t seem to be aware of the world around them. One example of that is bellowing in restaurants. HATE it. Not everyone wants to listen to you – so keep it down. Use your Indoor Voice.

    I think you acted in a mean, small way by posting his personal information. Shame on you. You got called out for being loud in a restaurant. Accept it and move on.

    • Lila / Aug 18 2011 8:01 pm

      But it wasn’t that she was merely “called out for being loud in a restaurant”. He chose to hand her a note (rather than speak to her directly) that attacked her personally, calling her a “monster” and “primitive”. A note that politely asked her to lower her voice would have been quite acceptable. That kind of immature attack on her character is not.

      • Zoe / Aug 19 2011 10:16 am

        And two wrongs don’t make a right. His way of handling the situation wasn’t great, but who knows what his motivation was? Maybe he thought it was more polite to quietly hand her a card. Actually, I think I would have rather have been handed a card than called out publicly with people around me to witness it. But no one knows, which is why the random accusations of sexism grate on me. The author ASSUMES it was because she was a woman (‘primitive’ and ‘monster’ aren’t traditionally gendered words). She ASSUMES he wouldn’t have done the same to men. Lots of assumptions, lots of guesswork. Also, the weird xenophobic Hitler references aren’t immature attacks on his character? That was really outside the pale. So. Him: passive aggressive. Her: childish & vindictive in her response.

        And I think people who are loud & self-centered in public spaces DO often have a very primitive grasp of what constitutes polite social behavior. That, or they just don’t care about other people’s right to also enjoy an evening out in comfort. There’s give & take. And just because she wishes he would have approached her in a different manner than he did doesn’t signal some sort of over-reaching anti-woman rhetoric.

        Poor manners (on both ends) are the issue here, not her gender. Appointing herself as a spokesperson for feminism, using this as her flag-planting hill, embarrasses me as a feminist.

        (PS – loud, high-pitched laughter is fuckin’ GRATING. Yes, women are more guilty of this because guess what? We have higher pitched voices. Sometimes an annoying laugh is just a laugh, not a metaphor for men wanting to control us all. Sheesh.)

        (PSS – As someone who worked as a server for many years through college & early 20’s, trust me, her server wasn’t ‘shocked’ either. We pretend to be. Because it’s our job. But we all bitched and complained about the disruptive diners as well. Well, servers bitch about a lot of people, but the loud squawking laughers/talkers were definitely on the list.)

  9. jen / Aug 18 2011 3:32 pm

    I am confused… did you actually say anywhere that this was a sexist issue? i kinda took the comment “pro-loud-woman activism” to be tongue in cheek.

  10. Zoe / Aug 18 2011 3:41 pm

    ……..also, did you ever for a moment consider that you just posted the private information of someone else? I have a million business cards I’ve randomly collected in my wallet, and scribble on the back of them all the time. There’s a good chance that you just set up some completely innocent guy.

    • kmm / Aug 18 2011 4:11 pm

      THIS!!! times a million. How could you be so careless with the work information of a person who might have had absolutely nothing to do with the situation??

      • Mags / Aug 18 2011 4:56 pm

        Not to support this type of behaviour (on either side), but the note was signed “W.W.,” so he is likely Wilfried Wegener, whose information appears on the reverse. The action of posting the card with contact information is still careless, however.

  11. Not Afraid of Loud Noises / Aug 18 2011 7:06 pm

    I agree that this is not a feminist issue, but THIS JUST IN when you are in public sometimes you have to hear other people laugh. I believe that’s why they call them public spaces. If you do not care for the laughter of others, then I suggest the “to go” option.

    • Zoe / Aug 19 2011 10:22 am

      There’s a middle line however. Neither of us were there and as such can’t judge if she was being really annoyingly loud or if he was being overly sensitive, but have you never been out to dinner or for drinks and there was a group of people that were just SO loud and boisterous that they were disruptive to the people around them?

      Generally, if you’re so loud that the people around you can clearly hear your conversations, you need to use your Inside Voice. Sure, you don’t HAVE to, but then don’t be shocked and amazed when people think you’re a loud asshole. That’s all. Own it.

  12. Anna Louie Sussman / Aug 18 2011 8:15 pm

    Thank you all for reading and leaving comments. Here’s a bit more of what I think, if you’re interested.

    1. I *do* think this is a feminist issue, because the presence, including audibility, of women in the public sphere has been and will continue to be a feminist issue across the globe. I’ve lived in countries where most people on the street are men. That’s intimidating. By the same token, someone trying to silence me – not my voice, mind you, because I’m not a loud talker, but my laughter – is also intimidating, particularly if you take into account the language he used.

    In the same vein, I highly doubt this man would have approached a group of six men and tried the same tactic. He would likely have expected or feared physical retaliation. I’m pretty sure he did not fear that from me, and thus felt comfortable delivering an obnoxious, offensive note to me for no other purpose than to be a schmuck.

    2. I should have noted his timing. It was at the tail end of his meal. After he handed me the card, he glared at me for a while, and then left. If I was really destroying his ears and/or ruining his evening, I wish he would have approached me in a civilized and not primitive manner and asked me to keep my laugh down. I would have been slightly taken aback, but of course if I’m making it difficult for him to hear his dinner companion, I am happy to work harder to rein in my laugh. I’m not out to poop anyone’s party.

    3. No one sitting closer by our table seemed to mind my laugh. Also, I laugh the same wherever I go. I go to restaurants all the time. This is the first time I’ve been called a “monster” and “primitive.” Sorry, “very primitive.”

    4. The waiter read his note, was shocked but terribly amused, and shared in a good laugh with all of us. The tip at St. John’s is automatically added to the bill. Your explanation is wrong, Mags.

    Thank you all again for reading and weighing in.

  13. Anna Louie Sussman / Aug 18 2011 8:27 pm

    Oooh someone just posted this on Jezebel. I like very much.

    “Why are you afraid of women?” I asked a group of men
    “We’re afraid they’ll laugh at us,” replied the men.
    “Why are you afraid of men?” I asked a group of women
    “We’re afraid they’ll kill us,” replied the woman.

    -Margaret Atwood

  14. Ariadne Dee / Aug 18 2011 9:44 pm

    I’ve come over from Jezebel, and I’ve got to say, I’m saddened by what seems to be the predominant response to your story. Thanks for adding the further details in your comment here, but I wish you didn’t even have to.

    • Anna Louie Sussman / Aug 18 2011 11:19 pm

      Thanks a lot, Ariadne! Yes, a friend at dinner commented that some readers seem to have ‘willfully missed the point’ of the post.

  15. lurker / Aug 18 2011 10:16 pm

    If you walked over to a group of African-Americans who were being too loud in a restaurant and asked them to quiet down, I’m sure they could concoct a very compelling blog post in which you were not merely a racist, you were a continuation of the ugly history of white women who have treated African-Americans as though they were lesser beings who were expected to obey the commands of whites.

    And yet you wouldn’t agree with them, would you? You would view that incident as one single person making one request, and you would think they were being too sensitive. You’re certainly not a symbol of anything, right?

    Your self absorption is truly staggering. WW may have been a jerk, but my guess is that he got a lot closer to the truth of the situation than you did.

    • Anna Louie Sussman / Aug 18 2011 11:18 pm

      If I walked over to a group of African-Americans who were being “too loud,” whatever that means, and asserted *on the basis of my white privilege* that I disapproved of their behavior, and they were monstrous and primitive, and they were exceeding the limits of the behavior I deemed appropriate for people of their station, you bet your ass that would make me a racist and a continuation of the ugly history of etc etc.

      This is my interpretation of what the man did to me. He came over and asserted, *on the basis of his male privilege* that I was a monster and “very primitive.” He did not do this to get me to quiet down so he could enjoy his meal. His meal was over. He had no more food coming. I strongly believe that somehow my exuberance angered him, and caused him to lash out at me. Why, I don’t know. I could have this all wrong, but that is the sense I got.

      I’m not sure why this makes me self-absorbed. I have a loud laugh that a good many people delight in. Some people don’t. If I’m causing a specific problem, such as disturbing their evening out, they are welcome to broach that with me, hopefully with some respect. But I’m not going to suppress my laughter my whole life because it’s too hearty and full-throated for some people. If that makes me self-absorbed, I guess I’m okay with that. In fact, here’s a very sweet note I got from a friend. The email was entitled ‘your laugh':

      While I know that fellow’s gesture in London did little more than make you more determined, I thought it appropriate to let you know that there are still many who seek to hear that laugh [if not inspire it] regularly. I count myself among them.

      Yours,
      Tamer

      • Zoe / Aug 19 2011 10:42 am

        OK, but don’t you see the irony of being angry that he chose to be passive aggressive/cowardly/non-confrontational……and now you’re doing the same thing?

        Why didn’t you confront him when he handed you the card? Why didn’t you ask him what he meant by it? Wouldn’t that have been the right thing to do, in that not only would you have been standing up for your own ethics (as stated above) but dispelling the (perceived) notion that he could get away with approaching you with no retribution because you’re a woman?

        Publishing the personal information of a man that – in your own words- you have played judge, jury & executioner on because “This is my interpretation of what the man did to me…..Why, I don’t know. I could have this all wrong, but that is the sense I got” isn’t something to be proud of.

        I wonder how you would feel/reacted if it had been a woman to approach you, and you couldn’t have immediately assumed it was a case of sexism? Would you have still called it sexism, just of the self-directed-institutionalized variety?

  16. Dean Stephens / Aug 19 2011 12:25 pm

    Jesus christ. So an obnoxious asshole is being loud in a restaurant. Patron A. asks her to be quiet (albeit in a weird passive-aggressive manner). And patron A. is somehow anti-feminist?

    Stop using feminism to excuse your bad behavior. The only assclown (whatever that is) I see in this scenario is you.

  17. David Gibson / Aug 19 2011 12:37 pm

    I do agree that this could have been handled better on his part.

    Publishing his personal information for all the world to see – not cool at all. It really does make me think of a manipulative child trying to “get back” at someone for a perceived slight.

  18. Helen / Aug 19 2011 2:27 pm

    I can see his point. I’ve been next to over the top loud groups of people and while I may have not approached them, my silence was not approval of their volume. So the other patrons silence doesn’t mean they didn’t mind. And you yourself stated you laughed all night and then had “uproarious laughter” at the end of a story and that may have pushed him over the edge. His not was not directed at your party but simply at you alone.

    However his response wasn’t the most polite response. And since I was not there, for all I know your laughter was still at a fair volume. Maybe he was overly sensitive. I am not trying to say you are wrong to be upset, I really don’t know.

    However I am concerned about your call for people to blow up his inbox with laughter. All you are doing is proving his point on your own etiquette. By all means tweet away. I do however think you might want to reconsider the emails.

  19. Sleepy Time Tea / Aug 20 2011 5:28 pm

    This must be the most attention your blog has ever garnered, so I guess “The Laughing Monster” is getting the last laugh.

    Considering many of the responses though, is there any chance of you keeping it to a dull roar so that people (sexist and otherwise) can eat in peace?

  20. Turtle-dee / Aug 22 2011 1:12 pm

    I think this man’s behavior was boorish. And let’s be clear, he was the one who was careless with his personal information. If he had politely asked this table of women to lower the volume this would be a non-issue. I think many people are missing the point here. Yes, we’ve all been annoyed by people being too loud in public spaces. Perhaps these ladies were, maybe they were not. None of us was there so we’ll never know for sure. However, even if these women were too loud, I’m sure it was not done out of maliciousness. The gentleman could have called the waiter to go over and discreetly ask the table to keep it down. Instead he used his business card (And why is that exactly? So everyone would know he was doctor, I assume, and therefore qualified to pass judgement on anyone and anything he chooses?) and wrote an aggressive personal attack. I doubt they were in a fancy, 5-star, museum-like establishment, sounds like they were in a more casual setting. Laughing loudly in a restaurant is not unusual behavior. Insulting people who annoy you is uncalled for and immature.

  21. Amy / Aug 24 2011 10:46 am

    Up until I read this I thought I was the only one who ran into miserable strangers who get thrills out of lashing out at people that they don’t know. During intermission at a production of the RSC’s King Lear, a priggish fellow kept turning around and glaring at me. After the third time, I asked him if there was a problem and he said, “You have the most assinine laugh I have every heard.” I wish I could say that his remark didn’t hurt me, but it did. I’m used to hearing compliments on my laugh so I was devastated. The effects of this encounter stayed with me for days.

  22. TokyoYR / Aug 26 2011 5:20 pm

    You were hurt and offended by the rude actions of a stranger. In hopes of retribution, you posted his personal information online, and then couched your version of the exchange in feminist language in the hopes of arousing the anger of more strangers, to assault the original stranger.

    Get a life.

  23. Bobby-boy / Sep 11 2011 10:05 pm

    Convincing points addressed by both sides.

    Yes, he sounds like a complete and utter ass. But was it truly necessary to name and shame him?

    In this day and age, it seems like almost everything is misconstrued or twisted into an attack on a person’s gender, race, religion or sexual preference.

    Keep the blogs coming. Made for an interesting read.

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