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A Mob is Ugly
First Day
LTs at the Movies

In 1975, I told my tenth graders that I needed to confess something. Students love drama. I confessed that I had once screamed at several women in a saloon, and I felt terrible. "I was a brute."

"Why did you scream at them?" Noreen was shocked.

"They wouldn't dance with him!" James wasn't; he was going to play.

"Nothing like that, wise guy... I better not tell you. You'll never forgive me."

"Of course, we will! What happened?"

"Well, all right. That night, I was having an onion and cheese sandwich..."

"That's disgusting!"

"Wait a minute! How can I confess something to people who think a sandwich is disgusting? I know you'll never forgive me." I pressed my lips together, shut my eyes, and slowly moved my head back and forth.

The boys laughed, and the girls told them to shut up. "We promise to forgive you!" At this point, the girls would kill to hear my confession.

"All right, here we go. Before seeing a play at La Mama, ETC on 4th Street, my friends and I were having dinner..."

"An onion and cheese sandwich is dinner!"

"Excuse me. Do you want to hear this story?"

"Sorry." James was afraid of the girls who really wanted to hear the story.

" McSorley's Ale House on 7th Street. McSorley's is the oldest bar in New York, and they didn't allow women in."

"Who cares? Women don't eat onion and cheese sandwiches."

"That's the point of my story. Why would a woman want to eat in this place? It's a man's place. Sawdust covers the floor, and knife carvings scar the thick pine tables. It's a great place for guys to drink beer without the pressure of being attractive to women."

"No fear of that!" James smiled when the class laughed.

"Listen to you. You're mocking me."

"The next mocking person will die." Noreen glared at James and turned back to me. "Go on, Len."

"Well, we were eating our sandwiches when several women gathered outside the bar, but one of the bartenders locked the door."

Some of the boys clapped, but most of the students looked at me and waited to hear more. I didn't smile.

"There were six or seven women chanting something about their rights, and a television crew was filming their protest. We didn't care; we knew we were right. There were hundreds of discos in the city. Why did they have to come here? This was a saloon."

"Why did they bother?" The boys were on my side.

"They wanted to integrate the bar on principle; they were feminists. Gulping our beer and chewing onions, we wanted to preserve our manhood and drive back this female invasion."

"What did you do, Lenny? Throw an onion at them? Curse them out? 'Shoo, shoo, go away, you darn girls!'"

"I wish I had said darn." Today, of course, women would quickly echo our invective, but in 1970, women cursed discreetly. Discretion didn't stop us that night. Never before had so many men cursed female strangers in a public place.

"Len, I can't believe you're a male chauvinist pig!"

"I never thought I was. I didn't see how this would advance the rights of women. I wanted to preserve the tradition of McSorley's."

"How would you like it if someone stopped you from going somewhere, because you were a man?" The girls looked concerned; the boys sat back and became the audience. I was on my own.

"I wouldn't like it. But there was something far worse than our discrimination against them. Looking at these women, I saw surprise in their faces. They knew they were not wanted, but they didn't know they were hated. I looked around the bar, and I saw what the women saw. The men were ugly, because they had become a mob, and I was one of them."

"What happened? Did the men kill the women?"

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