It certainly wasn't the first time I'd dealt with unpleasant people's intrusive energy and not even the only time at this local watering-hole's Sunday afternoon gathering.
But it was the first time I used this particular technique to deflect an unwanted exchange and, I must add, it worked like a charm.
Admittedly, I was taken aback to find myself on the receiving end of harassment against the unlikely backdrop of a San Francisco gay bar. Yet, shit happens wherever there are people. On this afternoon, the instigators were two guysone younger, tall and lanky, dressed all in neat black with a militaristic twinge to the outfit; the other older, a stocky redhead with a long straggly ZZ Top beard, in a T-shirt that read 'Redneck Stud'. I, meanwhile, was pleasantly minding my business with a friend and a Bud Light.
Oddly, I cannot recount much of the actual content of the discussion, if one could legitimately call what we had that. What I recall most vividly was the early mention of the words 'Jew' and/or 'Jewish' within the first couple sentences and that, coupled with the proud redneck T-shirt slogan and the general tone of these guys' appearances and conversational banter, was enough to put me on guard. A quick glance shared with my friend confirmed he felt similarly.
In the otherworldly way we intuitive folks often find ourselves amidst uncanny coincidences, Jewishness had been a topic of chitchat not half-an-hour earlier. After my friend had spotted a Jewy-looking boy across the bar he thought was cute, I mentioned how many times guys had expressed interest in me as part of their 'Jew fetish' and openly wondered whether, in fact, people could tell I was Jewish just by looking. Apparently, as I was now learning, they can.
In this familiar and well-populated setting, I didn't exactly feel my physical safety was threatened. But I also didn't want these guys, who apparently (or so it surely seemed) bore me ill will, to adversely affect my good mood and contaminate me with their yucky energy. Actually I didn't want to interact with them at all. On the other hand, I also didn't want to add to the negativity with my own outward antagonism, pouring fuel on sparks by 'fighting back' when there, arguably, was no fight happening.
Yet, looking out for my psychic security while the younger all-in-militant-black guy (the talker of the two) dropped some comment (whether true or bullshit) about his friend and 'just out of San Quentin', I chose a most impersonal defense strategy: I decided simply to 'mirror' their energy back at them.
And I did so with zero subtlety. I held my two hands up in front of my face, palms facing outward at them as if warming myself at some campfire, and reflected everything back their way. I held a smile on my face and a cordial-but-chilly attitude, and refused to budge from where I stood.
Within moments, it was clear to them what I was doing. The talker made some crack, asking me if I was a 'hippie or something', since I was 'using my magic' on him. I answered, 'No, I'm just a nice guy.' He got a kick out of that reply, grabbed one of my hands to shake it. Whether the gesture was sarcastic or not didn't matter; I consensually offered my hand.
In this now-futile task of egging me on, he even directed a snide (and not especially sincere) suggestion to his redneck friend, acting as if I had acted offended (which I hadn't): 'Then I guess you owe him [meaning me] an apology.'
Politely, I said, 'Nobody owes me an apology,' a sentiment with which big and silent (and frankly a little bit scary) Mr. Redneck appeared to agree.
After a mere couple minutes of attempting to ensnare me in some quarrel or similarly contentious back-and-forth, but to no apparent success, the two guys went on their way.
I, however, had successfully deflected their antipathy by repeating the word 'mirroring' over and over again to myself in my head while holding my hands firmly in front of my face the whole time, blandly smiling.
Yes, I looked silly.
And, yes, it worked. So well, in fact, that I can't remember much of what else the guys saidI so effectively blocked it out (and the beer didn't help), it never fully entered my consciousness. Merely bounced off an impenetrable boundary.
All I knew was that I didn't want to engage with them. So I didn't.