I was sitting next to Manohar, aka Manny, best man from my wedding at a dinner recently. Earlier he toasted my husband for his “great choice in restaurants.” Feeling underappreciated, I quipped, “I chose the restaurant.” And then I immediately felt like an itch with a capital “B.”
Later, I convinced my friends to try the soup dumplings. My colleague, Yan, had introduced me to these tasty parcels of deliciousness in Shanghai years ago.
Toward the end of our meal together, Manny leaned over and said, “Christine, there’s one dumpling left. Why don’t you take it?” I looked at him with a face he knew just how to read, and he replied, “Come on. You ordered them. You love them. Do you think any of the guys would hesitate to take it?” I acknowledged that he was right and with a big grin on my face and soup on my chin, I enjoyed that little pocket of perfection. Then, the guilt set in. I felt it for days.
Who was I to take that last dumpling?
That same week, I was with a younger, female colleague and listened as she politely refused a compliment and countered it with a self-effacing comment. It was the classic:
- “This old thing?”
- “Please, you go first. I can wait.”
- “Take the last one? Oh no, I couldn’t.”
- “This might be a dumb question, but….”
- “I was just wondering if….”
All that lady-like speak that undermines us and allows some clueless or cruel men to take us for granted or worse, degrade us, objectify us, and sexually harass us.
As women, we’re often afraid of being labeled “over-sensitive” or “unable to take a joke.”
We have an inner dialogue that no one hears unless they’re an intimate friend or a patient partner. It’s that constant voice in our heads that says:
- “Why do you care so much how I wear my hair – you’re my colleague, not my lover, for goodness sake.”
- “Why do you care how much I’ve packed for this trip? What’s it to you?”
- “Yes, those are tears. Don’t worry. They’re not deadly and I’m not falling apart. Just give me a minute. On second thought, wanna join me? You look like you could use a good cry.”
- “I’d love to see you wear stockings, apply lipstick, curl your eyelashes or straighten your hair just once – never mind every doggone day! Better yet, let’s wax your legs!”
- “Maternity leave is not a vacation; it’s recuperation.”
- “How do I do it all? I am married. He is supportive. And our children do have two parents.”
- “I miss my children when I’m away because they’re the cutest people I know. But believe it or not, I have no idea what ‘mother’s guilt’ feels like!”
- “And, I think my husband is sexy as hell because he’s on the PTA and in a carpool.”
I was about to apologize for speaking my mind and showing emotion, as society has taught me to do. Instead, I’ll say, “thank you for reading.” And, if you’re a woman who can relate to my rant above, ask for respect in whatever form you need it – be it a promotion, a raise, some credit, or a simple foot-rub (damn those heels!). Don’t be afraid. Take a deep breath, count to three, and…