A friend of mine from my athletic club has this ongoing joke about this woman that likes to take steak from buffets and stick them in her purse as a to-go bag. You’re not supposed to take leftovers from the buffet at the club but she manages to do it, and I’ve only seen her caught a few times by members of the staff.
Yesterday was the members Holiday party which I usually attend, but this year I decided to work out and go home. I had finished my work out and walked through all the women getting ready for the party with hair and make-up and excitement. I got to the sauna and sat down alone. I was thinking about all the previous years I’ve attended the party. Somehow I always seemed to stick out and not really fit in with the other women. So here I am all sweaty in the sauna when the steak lady walked in. She was dressed in a bathing suit with a cap and goggles on her head and she said to me, “You’re not going to the Christmas party?” I’ve never spoken a word to her, and didn’t realize that she knew me and replied, “No, I’ve been banned.” I was half joking cause I can get carried away at those parties, so I made a decision to take it easy this year. Soon after I went to the bathroom and she was all dressed up and ready to go in her Christmas clothes with bright red sparkly boots and furry pants like a reindeer. She was combing her hair and applying makeup all alone in the bathroom while all the other women were out in the locker room laughing and enjoying themselves. When she saw me she said, “Don’t worry, I’ve been banned too.” Immediately I felt bad. I was going to say I was just kidding around, and was trying to be on my best behavior, but for some reason her comment made me sad. I’ve never seen her with anyone. I know people around the bar and restaurant make fun of her quirkiness, and they always laugh when they watch her steal the steak, and shove it in her purse and I also was one who contributed to making fun of her thievery. But at that moment I realized how mean it was to make fun of someone when you don’t even know them. What made it worse was she knew me somehow; I guess by seeing me around and when she asked me why I wasn’t going to the party it was more like she wanted me to go or something. Like I said, I’ve never spoken a word to her, or have seen her converse with anyone, and she didn’t seem to have any relationships with anyone so it was weird that somehow she had some type of comradery with me.
Right before she exited the women’s room she turned and said, “You know how the club is.” When she said it the first thing I thought was yeah, it’s a “men’s” club first and women come second. Then I thought about the underlying sexism that I’ve always witnessed at the bar, and being a women you are supposed to be on your best behavior, quiet, and demur. She was far from demur. I am far from quiet and have always hung with the guys like a guy when most of the women that frequent the bar are all done up and “ladylike.”
As I walked home my phone beeped and my friend who was at the party sent me a picture of her standing in the middle of the room at the party. She was wearing a hat with reindeer antlers on it, and a tacky Christmas sweater. His comment read, “Steak Lady!” I knew he wasn’t making fun of her in a malicious manner, but I thought to myself, she’s not just a steak lady, she’s a real person. I was grateful that after all these years of making fun of her from afar, I finally had a glimpse of who she really was and we had more in common than I once thought.
You won’t find me stealing steak, but you will see me chatting it up with the steak lady next time I frequent the bar.