Sitting at the coffee shop with my friends, I asked, “Should I write something funny or sappy in my blog today?” I was thinking that I had the themes for both types of posts.
“Funny,” said my friend, the quintessential Southern Belle.
Her husband just smirked across from us.
“You couldn’t pull off sappy for more than a second or two,” she said with a cock of her eyebrows.
“Well could you?” I asked not knowing if I should feel complimented or vaguely insulted.
She laughed. Her husband laughed.
I looked around our group. We are a motley crew. Meeting most mornings for almost twenty years, we are direct, honest but usually kind. As far as I know, no one has gone to jail or caused bodily harm to another person. We call each other on our faults.
“When I was a teenager, the women told my mother to teach me Bridge. It was the only acceptable outlet for my wit and intelligence,” she said.
“Where did you grow up?”
“In Atlanta during the 60s and 70s,” she said.
Now this is a woman who can wear handmade shoes, stark silver jewelry, and all black outfits, maybe a midnight sweater, to a pre-8am coffee klatch. She is gracious and kind with a kick-ass sense of humor and intelligence that runs circles around 99% of people, men and women.
I thought about how women are told to behave. The Orthodox Jewish women are told to shave their hair and wear wigs. Only God knows if men can contain their lustful behaviors after seeing female hair. I think of the Islamist head and body coverings to shield women from men’s eyes. We are told to dress and act modestly to avoid rape. But we … must … be … beautiful. Just not too beautiful.
I remember my encounter as an undergraduate in pre-med classes.
“You’re bright. You should go into pharmacy,” said the pre-med advisor.
Fuck you, was my first semester thought but I couldn’t keep up the fight against the covert and college sanctioned hazing. The male students with their not-so-nice jokes, their watching to see if I would cry or throw-up, their exclusions until I knew that I was not wanted in the field of medicine. Except as a nurse.
Even worse was my shame – I couldn’t make it in that environment. Their jokes and exclusions hurt me. Then came the many statements of “You did the right thing” when I dropped out.
I still hate them. I still hate their judgment of my abilities based solely on my chromosomes. I hate that I bought into it. And I am glad my coffee friend did not accept it. She went on to get multiple degrees in Engineering and taught her daughter to go after her dreams. She never learned to play Bridge.
2016 is not the time for pleasantries. This is my year for gracious, defined as generosity of spirit, indignation.