“I’m no lady, sir, nor may you call me dear.” That is my mantra, the first part borrowed from a movie I recently watched (The Secret Garden) and the latter of my own creation. I never aspired to be a lady, much to my mother’s disappointment. Her list of my unlady-like transgressions was a long one and I think at times she wondered if there had been a mix-up in the hospital nursery and she was given the wrong infant to take home. I suppose that is a possibility. I’m mostly joking, but it doesn’t really matter now. My mother gave up early on in the game trying to inspire my feminine side, whatever that means. Suffice to say I was a disappointment, but if I think about it, I can’t think of a single one of my close friends who would have thought life’s success is measured as being a “lady”.
I have my own chainsaw, and a man once commented on that fact qualifying for the descriptor of cute. I may not be in the company of Paul Bunyan wielding his axe to take down a forest but running a chain saw does not fall under the category of cute, not ever, and most women are quite capable of doing so. When a man is adept in the kitchen or holding a baby with tenderness, I wouldn’t classify those skills as cute. I would think of him as a human being with a good skill set to navigate his way through what matters in life. I am not a good cook, nor do I care. I can’t fly an airplane and I can’t walk a tightrope and I struggled to fly a kite as a kid. I don’t lose any sleep over the omission of those particular skills from my resume, so cooking is just another missing entry. I have had some stellar culinary moments, but generally speaking I am merely an adequate cook.
I’m in a mood today, some would call it. I had an experience yesterday where a young man I encountered in a business setting called me dear, with a tone that implied I am redundant, and as a friend recently described to me, the feeling of being irrelevant or treated as if she were.
My father’s example and my relationship with him set my understanding of men. He told me his mother instilled in him the clear sense of equality between men and women and he raised me to believe the same. He didn’t often cook meals for us in my mother’s absence while I was growing up, but I have a clear image of him at the kitchen sink washing dishes and humming while he went about his task. He helped me make my bed when I was just learning and the two of us were very adept at folding sheets fresh off the clothesline. He taught me there is no skill that should be classified as a man’s job or a woman’s job. We are all human beings walking the same road of life. We come with a different set of equipment but there should be no difference in how we are treated and how we are paid when doing the same or similar job. We seem to think it acceptable that jobs that fall under the category of “care”, such as childcare, providing care in seniors’ homes and the like, are minimum wage jobs. Women usually fill these positions and as such struggle to earn a living wage. Yet a man standing with a stop sign at a road construction site makes substantially more money and can find these jobs with greater ease. Some of the problems of the pandemic were created and exacerbated because women have to have more than one job to cover their cost of living and in moving from one job to another helped the spread of Covid.
We have a long way to go to find equal footing for all people on this planet. It’s easy to point the finger at one segment of society and hold them responsible, but in the end, it takes our collective effort to achieve true equality. In the meantime, don’t call me dear, because the next time it happens, I can’t promise I will be tolerant. I’ll try, but there are no guarantees.