I took my car in for an oil change the other day. As I was checking out, the man working the counter asked if I’d like to schedule some routine maintenance work on the spot, or if I’d prefer to call back at a later time.
“Oh,” I said, “I’ll call back to schedule – I need to cross-check my calendars* before I commit to a date.”
“You women,” he said. “Always so busy, constantly running around. Hard to nail you down.”
Now, I am typically a painstakingly agreeable and polite human. If you google “conflict-averse” I’m sure there is a gif of me repeatedly sprinting away from uncomfortable situations. One of my dearest friends used to joke that I only have a “flight or flight” mechanism. There is no fight to speak of. That is 100% accurate.
So, in this instance – a mostly benign, vaguely harmless, ultimately silly comment, I’d typically smile, shrug, and get the hell out of there. And then probably sit in the car and think, “Meh, something about that was kind of sucky.” But for some reason, what he said really rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was lack of caffeine. Maybe it was my general hatred of automotive errands. Or maybe it was this lingering question: if a man had responded in the same way, would he have said the same thing? “Oh, us men – we just can’t seem to get our sh*t together to commit to a car appointment, can we?” (Read that out loud and try to keep a straight face. Not possible.)
Before I realized it, I had opened my mouth, and I was talking. And what I said was:
“Well, yeah – that’s what happens when you run the world.”
I would love to say I 👏🏻“CLAPPED BACK”👏🏻 (with thanks owed to Queen Beyonce,) but that would be tonally inaccurate. I said it quickly, half under my breath, and with a big smile. But, he course-corrected his sentiment. “Oh,” he said, “my wife always has so much on her calendar. I don’t know how she does it. “
So here’s the thing: maybe that’s what he meant all along. This man may be a huge supporter of women’s advancement. He could have 3 daughters who he has encouraged to be bold and fierce, and to never apologize for things they don’t have to be sorry for, and to pursue a career in a STEM field, or the arts, or public sanitation, if that’s what they damn well please. I don’t know for sure. I’d like to hope so.
But either way, it got me thinking (or to quote the great Carrie Bradshaw, “I couldn’t help but wonder...”): How many times in the course of our daily social interactions do those stereotypes about women get casually thrown around – by men and women alike? And how can we seize those opportunities to inject a different message into the conversation? To make change, one conversation at a time?
So now, my ears are perked up for other chances to try this out. I’m hoping the more I express these kinds of ideas, the louder I can start to say them. The longer I can hold eye contact when I do. The less smile-y I can make my mouth when the words are coming out. I’ll let you know how it goes. I have a feeling it’s going to get real awkward...but I guess I’m OK with that.
After all these years, I’m starting to feel a little bit more “fight” creep into my psyche. There must be something in the water...
I think I’m ready to bring it.
Who’s with me?
*This, by the way, was a lie. All my calendars are, of course, synced on my phone, and exactly two clicks away. The truth is that car-related decisions make my head spin, and I wanted to look through the estimate with my husband. However, for obvious reasons, it will be a cold day in hell when I tell a mechanic, “I’ll have to check with my husband and get back to you.”
Photo By Jerick Parrone - Beyonce Knowles in Antwerp. CC BY-SA 2.0,