Stand My Ground?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have been searching for the right place to exercise. Finally, I joined
the local Y and have been enjoying it. I start my day with 8:00 tai chi,
a class with many people who have been doing it together for years.
On Fridays the class is participant-led; the oldies gather at 7:30 to do
a long form the rest of us don’t know. But the routine takes until 8:10.
Each week the rest of us stand around each week waiting. Last week I
said “Consensus is you should start sooner or end on time so we can
start our class on time.” They got all huffy but then said they would
move to a different room and came in when they finish. This week
they started making catty remarks about “Sarah says…” I spoke up
because the other women were intimidated. Not much intimidates me,
but I feel disssed and vulnerable in a place that had been a welcome
retreat. I’ve pre-paid for a year.

Stand My Ground?

Dear Stand My Ground:

The alternatives you posed were quite reasonable. Given that the
oldies were being selfish about wasting other people’s time, it was
appropriate to speak up. But I can understand your feelings of
vulnerability. An alternative strategy might have been to ask the Y
staff to say something or post a notice, or to just start doing your
regular routine on time in another part of the room. No matter what,
you would probably have been tagged as the complainer simply for
being new, if the others had been putting up with the rudeness for a
long time.

You don’t say how you’ve responded to the “Sarah says…” comments.
It sounds as though you’ve been quiet and internalized them. If you
want to continue tai chi there, and end the verbal abuse, consider
responding the next time with: For the record, it was not just me who
was standing around having my time taken. This class is for
everyone’s participation. So it seems reasonable that at 8:00 we
should all be equal. It’s great you know something special. If you
prefer this room, perhaps begin at 7:15. Or else, please join us when
you’re done in the other room. But name calling seems antithetical to
the spirit of what we’re gathered here to do.” It’ll be uncomfortable for
a little while. But then it will blow over. They can’t like you less and
may respect you more.