Even though I had never been to a yacht club and didn’t really know any more about yachts than your average grade schooler, I felt I knew the basics. Yachts are big, expensive, affluently named, and usually white. Along those same lines, I assumed most owners of such aquatic vessels to be ‘big’—in a sense-of-self sort of way—well-off, also affluently named, also white. Before serving popsicles at a local yacht club event, I admittedly carried around a generalized notion of yacht owners.
These assumptions didn’t change. Let me try to explain. We’ll start at the beginning.
Some things are for certain. Here are a handful of them:
1. Water exists.
2. Yachts exist.
3. Men exist.
4. Women exist.
5. Cancer exists.
Without the existence of these five crucial components, the yacht club event would not have existed. Men and women would not have purchased sixty-dollar tickets to attend a fundraiser orchestrated by A Notable Cancer Society*. They would not have brought their children, their partners, or their friends. They would not have gathered along the yacht club harbor to peruse and explore a variety of pristine yachts, eat shrimp n’ grits out of tiny plastic cups, or stand in boat shoes to converse with other human beings in boat shoes. The orange-tinted woman standing across from me with a glass of rosé cupped in her fingers would not have complained about the heavy-handedness of her spray tanner. The neurosurgeon of thirteen years would not have told several women that he is a “breast man,” in addition to the fact that he is a proud father of three girls, one of whose birthdays is tomorrow. Interjected between this light conversation, there would not have been the occasional uttering of the word “cancer,” or the term “survivor”.
There also would not have been a troupe of twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls volunteering at each yacht. They would not have been marked as volunteers by sporting crisp sailor hats, white t-shirts, and black shorts. They would not have been seen laughing in groups of three, taking selfies, lounging on the stairwells of yachts, or complaining about sunburns acquired at the nearby beach.
I would not have been there with a popsicle cart. Dr. Brower*, also, would not have been there. He and I would not have met as he painstakingly descended the stairwell of his yacht in none other than—surprise!—boat shoes. I would not have stopped with my popsicle cart to let him finish descending and pass in front of me. He would not have urged me to move first, with the accompanying explanation that, “Women always have the right of way,” to which I replied, “It’s too bad the rest of the world doesn’t agree,” and to which Dr. Brower did not respond.
The day would not have quickly become overcast and windy. The gloomy weather would not have made service exceptionally slow. I would not have had the chance to listen to the conversations of the Corona-sipping neurosurgeon, the self-professed “breast man.” Similarly, I would not have had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Brower, or to listen to how others discussed him in a high, Southern drawl.
“Do you know Dr. Browah?”
“Dr. Browah, the OBGYN!”
“That Dr. Browah!”
“Dr. Browah, of course!”
This high-brow regarding of Dr. Brower would not have made me feel like I was in a novel, or a period TV show. I would not have had the chance to see Dr. Brower usher a troupe of volunteers into his yacht for a couple minutes and, upon ushering them out, have the following conversation with an unknown, older man:
Unknown Man: “Why, what were you doing with all those girls in there?”
One volunteer turns around, raises her eyebrows. She is aware enough to catch the innuendo.
Dr. Brower: “What, now?”
Unknown Man: “They came pouring out like it was a clown car.”
Dr. Brower: Laughs. “I was just showing them around.”
The volunteers walk away, out of earshot, toward food and friends.
Unknown Man: “Don’t get into trouble, now.”
Dr. Brower mumbles something I don’t quite catch.
Unknown Man: Laughs. “You dirty old dog, you!”
Without the men, the women, the yachts, or the water, the existence of the cancer would not have quickly been forgotten as the purported reason for everyone’s attendance. (I admit, too, that I also forgot about the cancer. There was so much to be distracted by, and I gave myself fully to it. And while I momentarily worried for a volunteer with especially sunburnt legs, even I was guilty of the quick-forgetting.) Without these things, and without the quick-forgetting, the day would not have quickly disintegrated into a gray-tinged revelry of choppy waves and empty conversation.
Days after the yacht club event, I am seated across from Tara and her husband, Erick*, at a local café. Tara is in the Coast Guard and was also at the yacht club event. We somehow found each other, two woman writers stranded at the end of the world, water lapping near our feet, both of us in proverbial shoes we never planned to be in. Tara, in literal boots. She used to joke about joining the Coast Guard. Now, it’s her full-time occupation. At the yacht club event, she was the only woman in uniform. It turns out Dr. Brower also made inappropriate comments to her. In fact, it turns out he had made inappropriate comments to others, as well, both at this event and at previous ones.
Oh, I hate not being surprised.
At the yacht club event, I came vis-a-vis with a man nearing the end of his life, a man who has—knowingly or unknowingly—reflected on his eighty-seven years and come to the conclusion that he is a good man, a man deserving of respect. The yacht club event also exposed me to a new kind of person, a flock of people who seemed—at least to me—to be intensely invested in agreeing, in being agreeable. Dr. Brower is given accolades for his practice, his continual trespasses are forgiven with his outstanding commitment to gynecological practice in mind.
I wonder if this outpouring of gratitude for these men, this stitched-in apology for everything they’re about to say, for everything they’re about to do, I wonder if it will ever stop.
I wonder if yachts can sink as easily as they can float. I wonder when enough of us will overwhelm them with the heaviest of stones.
* Name omitted.
* Name changed.
* Names changed.