The Art of Being a Woman

The workplace is a relatively new place for women. It may not seem that way since it has become more common and more accepted to hire women for various roles this day and age. And why not? We’re good at almost anything! It’s a wonder why there aren’t more competent women in plain view, whether in government or as senior executives and the like. (One thing I’ve always wondered is why the world of food and cooking is so dominated by men – women have been particularly practiced in this area for a while no?) Women only entered the workforce in a big way during WWII, just over 75 years ago, and haven’t left since.

So being the new guy (er, woman) has its challenges and one which continually perplexes me is that little problem called attitude. Or maybe anger. I’ve found that anger and attitude seldom have space in the workplace for a woman, and anyone in the workforce can attest to the multitude of situations that can lead to such feelings. In a man, these qualities might be cherished as long as they don’t get out of control. It might even be a promotable quality, but never ever in a woman. In fact, the women I have seen in positions of power are stoic. They seem almost to have lost their femininity and have replaced it with a thin layer of meanness. Well, I use the word lost because it’s my opinion that all women are inherently feminine, even while adopting masculine traits.

The truth is male dominance in the world has given rise to a peculiar duality in women of our generation. Gone are the stockings and requisite red lipstick. You can wear a three-piece suit and still look like an attractive woman – in fact, it’s preferred! But in order for anyone to take a woman seriously, in order for a woman to go really far, she has to keep her cool.

I’ve never been a good example of calm in the face of adversity. How I feel shows up transparently on my face in any given circumstance. I have been known to have shouting matches with mostly male colleagues at the office. I just don’t particularly enjoy being patronized or enduring the kind of arrogance that’s so prevalent everywhere. So I marvel at women who have found a way to manage their cool – they are imposing in an ever so slight a way. They can be exacting without being an all out bitch, and they garner respect not just for their title but for their aptitude and intelligence.

Women are unfairly characterized as over-emotional and irrational. When the story is written by men, of course the woman is silly. But I counter this with the number of highly insensible decisions and actions that have been made just in recent weeks: take for instance, the rogue traders of the world taking on much too much risk for the glimmer of a hope of extreme profit. Seems pretty nonsensical to me. Or as another example, the recent decision by Congress that the tomato sauce on pizza can be considered a vegetable is a hilarious one. (For the record I know Congress is a mix of the sexes, but majority rules in this case.) Now, that’s silly.

Managing your cool, then, is not simply an act of breathing deeply and being zen. In order to get to the top, a woman has to continually toe the line between being a woman and acting like a man – and that is an art.



Talk to a Stranger Like a Kid

It is an amazing thing to watch how a child reacts to a situation at hand, whether surrounded by strangers, having a toy snatched from their hands, or being handled by a non-parent. Knowing they have so little experience in life affords a rare opportunity to see a person at his or her most genuine. Whether they revel in the attention of new faces, resort to shoving, or cry like a banshee reveals so much more than the long overwhelming explanations of our behaviors gained from years of therapy and introspection. Since children are so honest without any pretense, we’re more likely to forgive them for being human than we are each other.

I see a bit of myself in my nephew’s reaction to large groups of unfamiliar people. I’m most comfortable with friends who know the intimate details of my life, and though I do enjoy the company of others who don’t know me so well I have found that this depends on the mood of the moment. During dinner last night, my nephew persisted in his night-long pledge to be a whiny brat and hardly strayed from his parents until he found himself in a fit of laughter: a group of us had found entertainment in the Michael Jackson Experience dance game for the Wii and he obviously caught a show. Clapping along, he lost himself in the music and found a similarly engaged companion in me. The rest of the evening passed with smiles and delight.

I was quite the opposite as a child apparently. I was an extreme extrovert, highly entertaining in my love of singing and dancing, and strangers became best friends in minutes. That’s me without the prejudices and insecurities that life has imposed on my personality.

These days I can hardly muster a friendly chit-chat unless forced out of courtesy, though I can’t say I’ve ever regretted complying. I recall a recent interaction with a woman at Sephora who was on a quick errand run for her go-to concealer. While the clerk went in search of the appropriate color, I suggested she try a brand I had just used, finding it surprisingly more effective than the one she was about to buy. She didn’t end up taking my advice, but we commiserated about the hardship of covering up those dark circles under our eyes. Best friends in minutes.

Have you had a similar experience with strangers in your life? Going out on a limb here but I think the world would be a more pleasant place if we talked to more strangers.


Fast Food Traveling

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been eating salads the whole week to get started on a 5-month long diet and exercise plan. I haven’t quite had the inspiration to hit the gym yet, but at least I’m eating greens and staying away from my favorites like french fries and onion rings.

Since I’ve been a good, disciplined little girl, why not use this weekend trip home as an excuse to live a little? Let me tell you, the first thing in my sight was a Dunkin Donuts and I immediately felt an uncanny desire for a chocolate glazed. Before I got myself in trouble, I walked away to the convenience store to get a bottle of water. Somehow the mountains of potato chip bags don’t distract me, but a bag of mini Oreos catches my eye. There’s just not a whole lot of options out there for the starving “really-need-to-lose-10-pounds” kind of traveler!

Behold, out of the corner of my eye I catch sight of a bag of swedish fish. Thank goodness! A snack I won’t feel guilty about… And I give myself a pat on the back for narrowly avoiding my first hurdle.

Seated comfortably, I’ve delicately stuffed half the bag of swedish fish in my mouth – feeling pleased with myself but still wishing I had the donut anyway – when I spy the nutrition label… 30 grams of sugar in 7 pieces!

I’m no expert at reading the labels but something tells me I just negated that salad I had for lunch today. What’s the point in skimping on the calories if you’re hungry enough to eat sugar for dinner?

No use in throwing the rest out. I mean, besides costing me a pretty 2 bucks, mom wouldn’t like it if I wasted food… There are starving children in the world after all.