Not today, patriarchy, or how I decided today was the day I was not taking it anymore

This land is my land, too, so stay in your lane

airport

(Noonish – I have updated my rights and lefts! Sorry, earlier readers.)

Did you guys read this? How to play Patriarchy Chicken: why I refuse to move out of the way for men

It came out a few months ago. When I read it, I thought, “Oh! I am not the only one and there is a name for it!”

How many of you have experienced this? Think about it. If you are a woman, I know you have, but perhaps you have never thought about it because it’s so, so normal. This is the water we swim in. How many times have you unthinkingly, automatically stepped aside because a man is walking toward you and he does not appear to be changing his path so he does not hit you?

Sometimes, this is legitimate. In the US, we tend to walk on the right. If I am in the middle of a sidewalk or a path and someone is approaching on my left but there is not enough room for me to remain in the middle, then of course I move to the right. My space – the part of the path that is legitimately mine – is the right-hand side. I do not own the middle.

But if I am already on the right and an approaching man is walking on his left, it is very rare for him to step to his right. Our unspoken dance is that I will move to my left so he does not have to move at all.

Have I mentioned this pisses me off?

I decided years ago that I was no longer going to move, but I get tired and I forget. I have to be thinking about it all the time. If I am not, I revert to stepping aside.

But after reading the article, I had renewed determination. And I still lapsed!

I was in the airport, walking on the right, next to a wall. A man approached me. There was about a gajillion feet of space to my left and about 0.3 feet of space to my right.

And yet – and yet – he was unyielding. He was on his path, looking at his phone, assuming that of course the world would clear a path for him.

And the world did.

I saw him coming.

I saw that he was not looking where he was going.

I automatically stepped to the left.

To. The. Left.

In the US, I should never have to step to the left. We step to our right.

He was so sure that The World would clear a path that he didn’t even look up.

I stepped to the left and then I remembered and I thought, Why did I even do that? What is wrong with me?

Which is why when I saw the man in the photo approaching me, I thought, Nope we are no longer playing this game.

I kept walking on the exact path he was on. I had just walked past the wall and into a gate area. I had stayed straight.

I waited for him to notice he was in the path of the people approaching him.

I waited for him to step to his right.

He did not.

I kept walking.

He kept walking.

He did not swerve.

I did not swerve.

I refused to swerve. It was my lane. I was in the proper place.

He kept coming.

So I did what I do when I remember I am not playing Patriarchy, which was I came to a complete stop.

I became Lot’s Wife. (What was her name, anyhow? Cindy? Denise?)

I became the immovable object.

He almost collided with me.

I did not move.

I did not move.

He surrendered.

He stepped to his right and around me.

And he probably thought to himself, if he even could articulate it, “Bitch! Why is she in my way?”

And I thought, A strike for equality.

 

 

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Oh bless your little heart

Why I worry about what people say up here because they speak a different language in the Midwest

Image result for steel magnolias
Read this story.

After two days of meetings with our new VP, a co-worker turned to me and said, “Wow. You’re just so – fearless. You say what you think.”

I answered, “Um. Well.”

He continued. “I’m always worried I’m going to say the wrong thing or that people are going to think I’m stupid. But you go right ahead!”

I pointed out that I had been at the company for less than five years and that he has survived for 41, but I have to admit I felt a tiny bit of pride.

And then, ten hours later, as I was trying to sleep but was unable to sleep, his words popped into my head again.

What he said was not necessarily a compliment.

Ouch.

Or maybe it was.

What language was he speaking?

Was he speaking the sincere, straightforward, direct language of the upper Midwest?

(See also, How to Speak Midwestern, by Edward McClelland. Yes, Marido, “boughten” is a word so you be quiet, you.)

Or was there a code I had not translated?

When I lived in Memphis, I somehow found myself in charge of selling ads for my neighborhood’s annual home tour. I was supposed to recruit others to sell ads as well.

I failed miserably in recruiting and I didn’t even know I was failing. Every single woman I asked told me some variation of, “Thank you so much for asking me! I would just love to! But I can’t! I wish I could!”

In retrospect, my hat is off to them in their amazing ability to politely tell me to go to hell are you kidding me I am not going to go door to door to local businesses to ask them for money?

And I have tried to learn from them and use that approach for saying no. It’s more effective up here than it ever was in Memphis because of course in the South, the native-born women know that technique and know how to counter it.

There is a code in the South. They all know what to wear. I went to my first Junior League meeting (long story) in jeans, tennies, and a t-shirt and discovered a room full of blondes dressed in heels and Lily Pulitzer, blown-out hair and perfect makeup. I would show up at baby showers at noon when the invitation said the party started at noon and I would be the only one there.

And I would have taken a statement such as my co-worker made as a compliment more or less, thinking to myself, “Indeed! I speak TRUTH to POWER! I am not afraid of THE MAN!”

(Even though I should have been, as I was the one laid off in my group when corporate ordered a ten percent reduction in headcount. When your boss tells you that he doesn’t understand what you do and tells you in your review to “quit using so many big words because it makes people feel stupid,” well — that is not a good sign.)

Anyhow.

In the South, if another woman had told me, “Wow. You’re just so – fearless. You say what you think. I’m always worried I’m going to say the wrong thing or that people are going to think I’m stupid. But you go right ahead!” it would not have meant, “I wish I had your courage but I do not.”

It would have meant, “Whoa. I cannot believe you say such stupid things and say them out loud and say them out loud in front of the people who could fire you. You sound like a complete idiot but it’s good for me because they are watching you instead of watching me.”

And then the other woman would have added, “Bless your heart.”

“Why Are Women Different?” It’s been almost 30 years and I am even more pissed off than I was then.

And now they tell us there is research to prove that women think better when it’s not so damn cold? Like we didn’t know that?

 

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So I have been cranky lately because

  • I am either freezing cold or boiling hot but never the average of the two,
  • There has been a huge re-org at work and I no longer work for my wonderful boss, who was the entire reason I took the job in the first place, and
  • I read the book, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by Caroline Criado-Perez, and am now noticing all the things I never even thought could be different, like how there is just enough space between the slabs of concrete in the sidewalk to catch and ruin the heel of your leopard-print high heels, because that’s Just The Way Things Are.

Actually, I am beyond cranky with the things Criado-Perez points out. I am ready to start a revolution. Are you with me?

Oh wait. Some of you might not understand the reference in the title. In the early ’90s, either Time or Newsweek – I can’t remember which one and I can’t find a reference online, published a cover story titled, “Why Are Women Different?”

Bless their stupid patriarchal little hearts.

Women were pissed. Some of us still are. And as we get older and see even more stuff – even those of us who used to believe nope, women were not oppressed we have had the same opportunities as men (that would be me), we are more pissed.

So. Back to Criado-Perez and her pissing-me-off book.

I took Invisible Women with me on the train to Chicago. I spent almost the entire time taking photos of various passages and texting them to my two amazing co-workers (who are also no longer reporting to our amazing boss, so we are cranky about that together).

I finally stopped when I realized I was spending more time taking photos of the book than reading it.

But here’s a passage we can talk about. I think every women reading this has experienced this phenomenon at some level: the emotional labor.

I work at a company that is almost all men. This is almost always an excellent thing: I have never once in five years had to wait to pee, which, in my mind, is one of the true measures of civilization — not only that we can pee indoors but that men and women wait the same amount of time to pee.

But this environment throws into stark relief the usual male-female BS that we sometimes take as part of the landscape.

Every time there is a potluck or company-sponsored meal, the women do all the setting up and all the cleaning after. Women are less than ten percent of my site, but they do 100% of that kind of work.

When my wonderful intern started a few summers ago (have I written about this? I can’t remember), my male boss and I met with her to talk about office norms: what to wear, when to take lunch, etc.

I also told her not to bring cookies. I told her not to help set up the potlucks. I told her not to help clean up after. “Don’t do any of the ‘women’ stuff,” I told her, “unless your boss directly orders you to. You want to be known as Grace, the Amazing Engineer, not, Grace That Cute Girl Who Bakes Brownies.”

My boss, who is married to a wonderful woman and whose daughter just completed a master’s degree in chemistry, protested.

“I help and I bring food! And nobody thinks less of me!”

I gave him my best withering glance.

“You are a middle-aged man and you’re director level. Nobody is going to diminish you for those things. Men get admired for that crap. Women are just expected to do it. And if [your wife] has not already given this advice to [your daughter], then you need to tell her today.”

Read the book and then let’s talk.

I will leave you with this:

How an engineer thinks, #542

Because I embrace diverse points of view, I am always interested in the brutally reductionist perspective

Me: Uh oh. The white part of this dress is somewhat transparent.

Marido: So?

Me: The underwear I have on are blue with white flowers. They will show through.

Marido: So?

Which – he has a point. I am pretty sure nobody will be looking at my butt, but I am vain enough that I do not want to commit a fashion faux pas.

Me: And these white underwear have a dark band. Who thought that was a good idea?

Marido: Maybe the band lines up with one of the navy stripes.

Because keeping romance alive takes work it doesn’t just come like gravy you know

That’s why Marido and I had our most recent Date Night at the Wastewater Treatment Plant I KNOW YOU ARE SO JEALOUS

MMSD

Some people think there is no way to keep the weak knees, butterflies in the stomach, listen to the mix tape he made you, want to mash him against the wall and snog feeling.

They say, Oh you know. Once you’ve been together for a while, it becomes routine. It becomes, Oh is it Wednesday again? But I already put in my biteguard.

They say that it becomes, How long has it been since you’ve had a shower? Oh? Yeah, it’s been four days for me.

They say it becomes routine, boring. That you become more like siblings and less like lovers.

My friends.

I am here to tell you that it does not have to be that way. The Hot can stay in a relationship. The mix tapes. The weak knees. The Sexy.

You know what I’m talking about.

How? How do you keep The Hot and The Sexy in a relationship, you – you – you writer of this blog who just realized she has not given herself a name?

When I comment elsewhere, I call myself Texan In Exile. So yeah.

What’s the secret, Texan In Exile? You say I can keep my relationship all that in the boudoir?

Yes. Yes you can.

Just do as I did and jump on those tickets for a tour of your local sewage treatment plant.

For a bonus, tour the facility in Milwaukee and get to see where they make Milorganite, that patented all-natural fertilizer made from dead microbes that have feasted on wastewater and that stands for Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen.

There is nothing like talking about what gets caught in the screens and in the Archimedes screw to help you reconnect with your partner.

There’s nothing like watching skimmers sweep over the top of the primary clarifier, where organic sediment sinks to the bottom of the tank, to make you remember why you fell in love in the first place.

There’s nothing like peering over the rail into the pools where the wastewater is infused with microbes to make you short of breath.

This, I tell you, is the formula for keeping The Sexy in your relationship. Trust me on this.

 

 

I am not dead. I am lazy. And having hot flashes AND WHAT THE HECK IS THAT ALL ABOUT?

And if hot flashes boil you from the inside, then why are my feet always cold?

M&Ms

So much has happened and yet nothing has happened. Does that make any sense? I mean, I have been busy, but have done nothing and experienced nothing of consequence except things that are not mine to tell. I have just been busy and lazy.

So I will talk about this: hot flashes.

I thought I had luckily skipped that part of life. Last September, when I had my mandatory physical to keep my health insurance premiums down to scarily painful from excruciatingly painful (and I still have a $5,000 deductible, so – no walking on icy sidewalks – MORE ABOUT THAT LATER YOU HAVE TO READ “INVISIBLE!”), my new doctor asked why I was still taking birth control pills and I told him because otherwise I break out and he told me stop right now you’re a migraineur do you want to have a stroke?

I do not want to have a stroke, so I stopped.

And nothing happened and nothing happened and I was feeling quite smug that perhaps I had skipped what is apparently one of the less pleasant parts of middle-aging, which is hot flashes, but then.

I suddenly felt as if there were a fire in my belly and it wasn’t the kind that inspires you to invent great things or train for a marathon.

It was the kind that made me really really hot from the inside out and then it spread up and down and sideways and I could feel my face flush and then I had to take off all my layers AND I WAS AT WORK AND THIS WAS NOT CONVENIENT.

I asked my two (female) co-workers a question I have asked them over the past year but mostly always as a joke because our office space goes from arctic to tropical in about three seconds and without warning: “Is it really hot in here or am I having a hot flash?”

And they told me nope, we were at Arctic 3 so I must be having a hot flash.

But my feet?

My. Feet. Were. Still. Cold.

What the hell? So the one thing that you would think a hot flash would deliver – heat – is the one thing it refuses to give me in the place I want it?

Why does God hate women? That’s all I want to know.

And then we go to nighttime hot flashes, which not only wake you up but make the sheets and the pillow hot.

Yes. A hot flash makes your head hot. I didn’t even know my head could get hot but it can.

And then it keeps you awake.

Again. Why does God hate women?

The only good thing I can think of is maybe all this heat burns calories? So I can eat the Jalapeno M&Ms my friend Wendy sent me from Texas?

Bon appetit, y’all.

 

 

 

On the joy of meeting in person the people you have been working with for five years

And the challenges of cross-cultural communications, or, as my classmate Simone Redrupp, who was FABULOUS, explained in her great presentation, what’s high context and what’s low context and what does that imply for shoes and football?

american-football-flag-american-flag-stars-and-stripes-163356

 

(Seriously – if you need to hire someone to do cross-cultural training, hire Simone. She works with Erin Meyer on The Culture Map, which is fascinating reading.)

Item the first: For a month preceding the conference, we got emails about the agenda and the dress code. On one night, we would be going to the Cowboys’ stadium. Dress code was, “Sport coat.”

Which – which one of my 20 sport coats do I wear?

Item the second: At 5:38 p.m., on the day we were going to the stadium, for which the bus was leaving at 6:15 p.m., a VP announced, “Women, please don’t wear high heels. You won’t be able to go onto the field.”

My Spanish, English, and Italian women co-workers gasped. “But – that’s all we brought!” they said.

If only there were a way we could have had that information before we came all the way to Dallas. If. Only.

Item the third: The morning after the event, my lovely wonderful German co-worker, whom I finally got to meet in person after working together via skype and email for a year, said, “I do not understand why they told us not to wear high heeled shoes. It was safe to play soccer on the field once we took them off! We are not stupid! We do not need to be told not to play soccer in high heels!”

“What?” I asked. “I left before the tour.”

(Thank goodness there was an early bus and my boss had said it was OK to take it.)

(And no, she is not stupid and none of the other women are, either. I work in a company of very smart people. I am always the stupidest person in the room. It makes work so nice!)

“You know!” she said. “When they told us no high heeled shoes on the field, I was insulted. People were kicking a soccer ball around (1). I could have worn my nice shoes and just taken them off to play!”

“Oh Elise!” I said. “Bless your heart! Do you mind if I tell Theo and Ben what you said?”

“No,” she answered.

I turned to the two American men standing next to us.

“Elise thinks that the VP was concerned for her safety and the safety of the other women. She thinks that’s why he said no high heels last night.”

Both men laughed.

Elise furrowed her brow. “What?” she asked.

“It was not about your safety,” the Americans said. “This was about the grass!”

“They care more about grass than people?” she asked.

Well yeah. Pretty much.

 

(1) Yes, this was happening on the Cowboys’ field. There was also a football. But we were more than half non-Americans. Soccer rules.