This is going to be one of those posts that could get me in trouble. And while I welcome – and cherish – all comments, tonight’s little rant is mostly directed at the women reading this, women who may decide never to stop back here, and never comment, again. But I hope that’s not the case because you often prop me up and keep me from teetering right off the edge. (And for the men who read this, and the men who comment: you are some of my favorite people ever, even if we've never met.)
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a theme keep resurfacing in my life and today, a woman I work with synthesized the whole thing in one succinct statement. As we caught each other up on the details of our lives, she explained some of her attitudes and behavior by saying, “You know I’m really gay man inside, right?”
Now, before anyone gets offended, this was in no way a slight to men or women, gay or straight. I knew exactly what she meant. She described herself as someone (in her case, at least partially) driven by testosterone, who is attracted to others mostly driven by testosterone. Put another way, she meant exactly the same thing another friend of mine and I said to each other earlier this week. We were discussing our (admittedly perhaps, harsh) approach to a business challenge and I said something like, “I must have misplaced my estrogen somewhere along the line.” She totally understood what I meant.
Let me sum up here: sometimes I feel like I’m SO not a girl. I don’t understand how women tick, and I don’t mean that in a nasty, catty way. To coin a phrase, some of my best friends are women. It’s just that often, I watch other women, or listen to them, and realize that I’m about seven lifetimes away from doing or saying anything like that. What follows is a partial list of stuff I don’t seem to have a natural affinity toward doing, any inclination to do, or any real interest in pursuing:
Decorations: The one and only time I decorate our home is at Christmastime, and I do have to admit I go a little crazy there. But when my boys were younger, I tried to be a good mom and celebrate holidays in a ‘mother of small children’ kind of way but even I can admit it was half-hearted, if that. (Quarter-hearted?) Suffice it to say I never put out flags of any kinds, or valentine hearts or shamrocks or gourds or turkeys or pilgrims. On or about October 29 each year, I’d unpack a few pumpkins and skeletons from a box tucked away in our storage area and scatter them around. Sometime every spring I’d find some bunnies and eggs, just in time for Easter Sunday. That was it. Absolutely it.
That’s kind of pathetic; you don’t have to tell me that. Put it this way: walk into our house on February 14 and take a good look around. I guarantee you it will look exactly the same if walk in again on July 4.
Thing is: I love to see a beautifully decorated room. I love to walk into someone’s home and see that she’s taken some time to welcome a season or a holiday and has shown it in her surroundings. So what’s with me? How did I not learn this?
Decorations, part 2: sweaters. There are two kinds of women in the world: women who own holiday sweaters and women who don’t. This isn’t a judgment; just an observation. You won’t be surprised to learn I don’t own a holiday sweater of any kind. I don’t know why, exactly. I don’t dislike them, and in fact felt a little out of place NOT wearing one while my boys were younger. Seemed like every woman I ran into at various school events had the season cheerfully displayed on her sweater (some more, err, cheerfully than others but let’s leave that discussion aside for now.)
And yet – never bought one. Never wore one. How did I not learn how to do this? How is this not a natural part of my middle-class American Mom DNA?
Supplies: First aid, snacks, wipes, and various other small miracles women pull out of their purses on a daily basis. I never carried a small bottle of Tylenol, a pack of Band-Aids, tissues, or a small scissors on me to be prepared for possible small emergencies. (Still don’t, to this day.) I never carried a tiny container of goldfish snacks for the boys; I never had a damp washcloth in a Ziploc bag to wipe sticky hands or faces.
I love that some women can reach into their bags and practically stitch up a minor injury or splint a fractured finger on the fly should it be required. They always carry treats, comforting little extras of all kinds and always enough for everyone. Amazing. Admirable. And absolutely foreign to me.
And speaking of their bags, I never quite got that memo, either. I went through a brief purse phase when I was in my twenties, and I sort of outgrew it. Purses haven’t meant much to me since, although I have purse envy quite often. Women always have better, nicer, cooler, more stylish purses than I. And I never really seem to do much about that.
Okay, I think you’re getting the picture here, right?
My point is that given my interactions with the women I mentioned earlier, maybe I’m not such a freak. Maybe there are more of me out there than I think. (Maybe not.) Then again, it’s probably not an accident I would connect with women friends who are simpatico with my point of view.
It could also be that because I’ve been in the workplace for more than thirty years, I’ve lost touch with some of the softer sides of womanhood. The sides that celebrate things like valentine hearts and purses with a million cool little sections to hold dozens of cool little things. The sides that remember that Halloween comes every year at the end of October and any thinking about the costumes the kids would wear to go trick-or-treating should probably take place earlier than the afternoon of October 30.
So is there a conclusion here? Can I really just fall back on my “I blame Gloria” catch-all explanation for everything I find confounding and mildly disturbing about the reality of womanhood these days?
Why yes; yes, I think I can. Somewhere along the line, Gloria and her cohorts planted some kind of seed in at least some of us, a seed that grew into a veritable garden of overcompensating for our gender – as if that were a hindrance - and trying too hard to be “neutral.” At this point in my life, I can’t tell how much of this is me and how much of it is her. And it’s kind of pissing me off to tell you the truth.
But I don’t think I’m entirely a lost cause. I still totally have faith in my shoe-of-the-month club concept, for example. And I have, right now, at least eight kinds of black slacks hanging in my closet because you can never stop shopping for the perfect black slacks. Let’s not even get into my Colin Firth issues.
My real question is: how did I get to be a certain age and still have so many doubts? Are we all kind of faking it – the confidence, the stiff upper lip, the Helen-Reddy-ness of it all? Maybe some of us don’t. I’d love to meet the woman who doesn’t. She would be formidable and fierce and fabulous.
Maybe we all go on ‘girl weekends’ or ‘girl getaways’ and ‘girls night’s out’ or ‘in’ so we can reassure each other that we’re not insane. That taking divergent paths toward womanhood doesn’t mean we’ve traveled on parallel paths that never intersect. Not at all. Sometimes I feel like we’re just a nation of Kate’s and Allie’s, trying to figure out the next steps as we enter the last 30 or 40 years of our lives. And if that’s the case, it feels good to have all kinds of companions along the way.