The Feminist Agenda: A Typical Day in the Belly of the Beast.

On the surface, today was a good day. I was able to get a lot of work done yesterday during a four hour bonus quiet time, and now I’m only sort of behind instead of in complete panic mode.

Actual picture of me working and going to school full time.

And because I was able to get a lot done on an actual work day, I was able to take care of some family things today. Like guilting my nearly 18 year-old son to help me take my gramps shopping in the morning and then going car shopping in the afternoon (okay evening, too, because it’s car shopping and OMG they need to streamline that shit).

You might offer me a knowing nod and a pat on the head, sympathizing with helping an elder relative ease into his new life at the retirement home. And then you might give your congratulations on the purchase of my brand new Pacifica, as one usually does in times like these. And I would appreciate it. Because, hey. New car! New Minivan! New ways to embarrass my kids!

But this isn’t a story about a typical day. This is the story about the undercurrent of what looks like a typical day.

Backstory: A few days ago, Gramps called me with a request to find some sort of shelving for his new place at the senior facility he recently moved into. Wanting to make him as comfortable as possible (and pacify his need to see his great-grandson) I offered myself and The Boy for a Saturday shopping extravaganza to Target. Also, for all kinds of reasons, I needed a new car.

Present day: While shopping, Gramps and I “found”  a shelf that would fit his room (that means I pointed him to the shelf I picked out a month ago but couldn’t buy without his consent), and we bought it. Said shelf was in a heavy and bulky box that I could’ve managed. And yet, I chose to let my strapping 17 year-old handle the heavy lifting.

And I knew I was letting his brawn do the work I didn’t want to do. I also knew that I would be perceived as over-protective and bossy if I chose to lift the box into the basket or carry it from the car to Gramps’ room. I knew both my son and my grandpa were expecting the youngest and supposedly (okay, he is) strongest to do it.

I wore this persona.

Fast forward through three dealerships and two test drives later. I was sitting at a table, after the deal-making handshake, when the sales guy saddles up next to me with is all-knowing nod and says, “Daddy loves you.”

I blinked as all of the sound in the room went silent. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“DADDY LOVES YOU.” He winks.

I look at my husband who was returning from a water fountain excursion. He has a confused look on his face. “What did he say?”

I told him. We both blink.

But here’s the shitty part. I didn’t say anything. Well, that’s not technically true. Inside I was all like…

But on the outside, all I did was shoot him an obviously fake smile that made him over explain what he meant.

BUT I SAID NOTHING. WHY?

Here’s why:

  1. A man says something that touches a sensitive nerve and, instead of reacting, I question why I’m reacting the way I am. Why does X make me feel Y? I question my own feelings of worth. Stomach churns on what should be said, but never makes it past the esophagus. This is a pattern.
  2. I’m afraid of being seen as some hysterical female that over-reacts to a harmless idiom that really marginalizes and negates the equality of a female partner to a man. I mean, it’s just a funny thing to say, right? Everyone knows he isn’t really my “daddy,” especially since we make the same amount of money and have a shit ton of education between us. I mean, in a few years, we’ll be Mr. and DOCTOR…I’m hyper-sensitive to what a lot of people use as nicknames for each other. Who knows if this guy would say the same type of thing to a man…”Mommy loves you for buying this car…” Even though, deep down, I know he wouldn’t. But what if he would…?
  3. If I make a scene, I won’t be perceived as lady-like, because ladies never make a scene unless we’re fainting over our men or the heat or some stupid shit.

None of these are good reasons. And yet I remained silent. (If you don’t count the millions of scenarios I played in my head.) In retrospect, I’m ashamed to admit this was my reaction. Because I always thought I would stand up for myself better than that if I ever needed to. I think of my mother and how she risked her very livelihood to stand up against blatant sexism, and I am mortified at myself. See her experience here.

And I was wrong because I couldn’t Gloria Steinem the sonuvabitch. But I did do something.

I left. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them why I left, but I did. There was an issue with the original deal that never got sorted, so I used that as an excuse to not deal with that sales guy again.

Funny thing, money. It makes people do just about anything you want. Which is cool, but also WAY scary. I was barely a mile down the road, and Condescending Sales Guy called with a deal. Lots of deals. Like, $2000 of extra deals on top of what we’d already demanded. We couldn’t say no.

Not going to lie. I feel a little dirty having gone back to purchase the car. But I do know this: we got the absolute best deal we could’ve gotten, plus a ton of extras on top of it. Free navigation, three years of oil changes, and a nice gift card to the auto store filled with stupid things I don’t need. And that’s what seems to matter these days. Instead of measuring integrity, we count how many dollar bills we keep out of “the enemy’s” pockets, because that’s what success is. Capitalism warfare.

Doesn’t relieve the mounting pressure in my gut, though.

Someday, I’m going to be able to tell a man outright when he offends my sense of independent femininity. I know this may take a while, since it took me nearly 35 years to be able to even say the word “penis” out loud and not die of embarrassment.

But baby steps, right?

Meanwhile, I’m left with the irony of how I handled two aspects of the same day. In part one, I used the damsel card to appease my own laziness and the men around me. In part two, I succumbed to the shame I inherited with my uterus, even though I’ve had great examples of how to overcome it.

I guess the main lesson is to try and do better next time. Own the mistakes that need owning and don’t belabor the ones that don’t. I will eventually forgive myself, and I will work on forgiving him. Because that’s what needs to happen. Until then…

My car has pretty good bass.

*DISCLAIMER*
I am a White, cisgendered female, and I’m not immune to the issues other people face. This post is not intended to marginalize any other person’s experience. I experience other issues vicariously through my students nearly every day.  This is simply an account of my own experience with the frustration with what it feels like to be categorized by something beyond control.

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Teacher of humanities, student of mythology, writer of words, and mother of two polar opposite teens.

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