I Wish We All Lived in Beyonce's World
The following experience is NOT unique. It's not something random that happened to JUST me. It happens all the time and while the details change the facts don't. It's an experience that happens, people hear about it, and they don't get as angry or as worked up as they should. Here it is...
Several months ago, my husband and I lived in a small, not so baby friendly apartment. Our lease would be up when I was 8 months pregnant and our options were to move then (omg, no! I'd be worthless) or to wait until after the baby and move (omg, no! So much extra baby stuff to move) so I decided to contact the landlord and see if there was any way he would allow us to terminate our lease early. I emailed, explained the sitch, and suggested that we would be happy to find new tenants to replace us, on our dime and our time. He responded with much congratulations, complete understanding, and agreed that we could terminate the lease early if we found new tenants who would sign a new, full lease at X amount of dollars. YAY!
Thus began a full month of searching for new tenants. The place was small and he wanted a higher rent and we were already moved out and the apartment had sat empty for almost a full month before we found new tenants that would work. They applied, they were accepted, they gave their deposit and rent money and we turned in our keys. All we had to do was receive our deposit back. My husband scrubbed all the floors, we cleaned every crevice, we left the apartment better than when we found it.
The landlord contacted my husband and said he would be taking 100$ from our deposit to repaint and patch some nail holes. WAIT! NO! First - we only lived there 5 months - what is there to repaint? Second - in the state of California it is illegal to charge to repaint. In fact, there's really very little that a landlord can legally withhold deposit money for and in those cases it needs to be a literal hole in the wall. NOT nail holes, which are considered normal wear and tear. In fact, the law specifically says just that! So I reached out - I send a text with a picture of the law, I restated what's considered normal wear and tear, I tell him that I'm happy to chat about any issues. My husband fears the drama, I fear the truth. I prep him that our landlord will try and talk to him first. After all, this is the same man that upon first meeting, I would ask him a question and he would turn and respond only to my husband. This is the man who made a comment to my husband how I must like to shop because that's what women like to do. This is the man who has never once looked directly at me. And let's get this straight - this isn't some guy who's old and out of touch with the world. He's in his forties, a restaurant owner, and has a family. This man could be any man. This man is a predictable man because the next day he texts my husband. My hubby relays the message so that I can call the landlord....which is exactly what I do.
It was a full 30 seconds before I could get any words in. My first sentence was "Can you please stop shouting because I simply don't understand what you're saying." The following went something like this:
- Him: I did you a favor by letting you break your lease early.
- Me: We didn't break our lease, you legally let us terminate our lease upon us finding new tenants.
- Him: Yes, as a favor!
- Me: So that's what the 100$ fee is for? Letting us out of the lease? You never mentioned that.
- Him: No, the 100$ is for painting.
- Me: But that's illegal in the state of CA. I believe I sent you the law.
- Him: Yes, I know it's illegal.
- Me: So then what are you charging us for?
- Him: Because the new tenants aren't satisfied and want the place repainted.
- Me: The happiness of the new tenants is not my responsibility. Our lease has been terminated because they signed a new one and you've received payment. If they want something done, it's your responsibility.
- Him: I did you a favor by letting you break your lease early.
And thus it went. FOR AN HOUR. It was not as civil as that - court was threatened. Now here is the part that really gets my goat - throughout this entire hour, I was BERATED with comments like "Sure, you can talk. Just like a woman, you love to talk." and "What does your husband think of this?" and my personal favorite "Ok Mommy, you're clearly not getting it and I've got more important things to do." That last comment was the last straw. I asked him to not speak to me like that because I was not his "mommy" and I'm trying to have an adult conversation. I caved and got my husband on the phone and guess what - the tone of the landlord changed. No more demeaning comments towards me and within 5 minutes, the issue was resolved, not to my liking but as good as I felt I could do. I hung up and burst into tears.
This isn't a story so that you feel bad for me. It's about putting experiences like this out there for people to see in order to raise awareness of the reality that most women experience on a daily basis. Why was I so adamant about dealing with this without my husband? Because he didn't want the drama, he didn't understand why we couldn't just let 100$ go. But it wasn't about drama and it certainly wasn't about the money. It was about what was right and this landlord was STEALING from us. If we had left a hole in the wall that required repair to make the space livable - fine, take the money. If it was about 15$ for a quart of paint to retouch - ok, I get that. But the space was 500 square feet and the landlord touched up the spots by himself - not exactly worthy of taking 100$. Because it's illegal and if he's doing this to us, he's probably doing this to other tenants that DON'T know the law. Because this happens to me EVERY SINGLE TIME. I've moved almost every single year I've lived in California and have had to deal with this every time - EVERY TIME! My husband has never once had this happen. I know the law because I've been forced to write a legal document opposing another landlord and his illegal withholdings. The most important reason though is because this is the reality of how men speak to women. Brazen attitudes, demeaning words, condescending tones.
I spoke to my husband later. Hours after the phone call I came home and was still upset. He listened and heard me and tried to put himself in my position. He did everything I needed him to do. But the truth is my husband will NEVER understand because no one will ever call him "mommy" in an argument in order to degrade him. He'll never speak to someone only to have them turn to me and respond. No one will ever ask him to put his wife on the phone so the adults can figure it out. He'll never have an experience like this and have that feeling of being so small and so overlooked and it stay with him for days. I remember saying to him "I hope we don't have a girl." I remember having this familiar experience with the new thought of the life we are about to bring into this world. I thought about all the hard things that would naturally happen if our baby was a girl. I was sad for my baby, sad for the fact they might run into people who put them down based on their gender or their age or who they choose to love. It hurt to think that our baby might feel degraded and small just because they were a girl. And I hated myself for wanting a boy solely because life would be easier for him.
And so I wish we all lived in Beyonce's world. A world where women are people too. Where women are a force to be reckoned with. Where just because I have a vagina - the same vagina that brings forth life - I'm not second class. So teach your babies where they come from, the strength that it took to get them here, the power that had to be harnessed so that they could come Earthside and hopefully, just maybe the world will become a better place.
Have you had a similar experience? What did you do in response?