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Monday, August 6, 2012

Never Forget Who Broke That Egg

One of my buddies confided that he can't stand it when his other single friends goad him into going "tom-catting around" on a Saturday night. I laughed, because I hadn't heard that expression before, yet it so neatly captures what the vibe of that evening was going to be; but then I felt bad for laughing, because the expression really bothers my buddy, here he was confiding that his dick-swinging trim hunter pals would tease him if he were to say, "hey guys, do we have to be so gross all the time?" A brainy, sensitive type, he would be thrilled to find a long term relationship with a sane woman. But when he's with "the guys" he feels labeled and corny. Group of dudes all out sniffing around.

Dude, I totally get it. When you're invited out for a "thing" that grates against your sensitivities. And you know full well it's your sensititivies that are too, well, sensitive.

When a group of grown women in their 30s and 40s talk about having "girls night out" my upper lip curls on the right side. My pupils dilate and a long slow breath leaves through clenched teeth. If you see my face like this, you might think I'm about to launch into a lusty rendition of "Rebel Yell." But no, this is just me trying to keep my mouth shut. And not melt your face with a human rights tirade.

Because it's such a commonly used expression, I don't want anyone to see that "girls night out" turns me into a fire breathing dragon.

Here's my problem. I'm my own thinking person who can go out any night I feel like it without pre-approved gender-specific designation, and without a specially created societal sobriquet that grants me permission. Apparently I'm the only one. I once had a friend say to me, in all seriousness, no joking, that the reason they didn't come to local rock shows any more was, and I quote, "I have an excuse, being married and all." If by getting married you cease to be your own person, good luck with that.

I know, I know. You're thinking "jeez, lighten up." You're thinking that you and your girlfriends just want to order pink drinks and put on a raunchy act about about "I'd hit that" over the marginally attractive bus boy. You want to bitch about your husbands for a few hours, eat fried things and pledge to start dieting first thing tomorrow. I know this, and this is why I hide my face and say nothing.

I'm not unaware that breathing fire is an extreme reaction to drinks with friends.

I fully accept that this is all me, and I will offer you that this is hardwired into me by my upbringing. My mother. Because despite all of the examples she demonstrated about standing up for myself and not letting anyone make an asshole out of me, she also wedged me into a role in the family that I would never have had to endure but for the fact that I was born a girl. In our family, girls didn't get to have after school activities, girls didn't get to learn to play an instrument, girls didn't drive a car, girls weren't the boss, girls didn't decide anything. It's almost kind of no wonder that the conflicting messages for thirty years of my life led to an ultimate catastrophic breakdown in communication between us. For those of you just joining our program, I did not speak to my mother for roughly eight years, since around 2003 or so; in the past two we have tentatively reconciled.

But the message was: girls are limited. The message comes across in the form of put-downs, shut-outs, denials, short shrifts, stuck in a corner all because I was a female in an Italian family.

The response becomes, after too many years of this, hey guys, cram it with walnuts, how about that. Then slide down a banister and cram it some more, how about that?

You have to understand that "girls night out" sounds the same to my ear as "women drivers" or calling a young college girl a "co-ed," or if a person who is forthright and confident and makes declarative statements while looking you in the eye happens to be a woman, someone at some point has probably called her feisty.

I got called feisty once. Just once. I'm sure the look that I gave Steve the Transport Manager at my old job withered his soul a little, as it should be. It's not the definition, it's the connotation. The dictionary definition of feisty is not a put-down, but the connotation contaminates the speaker's intent. Feisty is not a compliment to a professional adult woman. When a muscular Rottweiler looks you directly in the eye and plants his feet and gives a single, serious low bark to let you know to keep your distance, that's power. When a small lapdog is leaping around your ankles and yapping its baseball-sized head off, that's feisty. It connotes determination and aggression, but unwelcome and amusing.

I'm not feisty. I'm pissed. How far do you want to push me, are you just trying to guess the point at which I'll snap your fucking neck? So far no one has found it yet because I practice an inner peace. I have to, or the stupid ones win.

I bristle every time I hear "coed." This is an early nineteenth century description from when women were legally, as in by actual law, prevented from pursuing higher education. The first generation of girls who rejected barefoot/pregnant and boldly took classes at formerly all-male campuses were the result of movements for "co-educational" schools, and so the girls on campus became the walking, talking talismans of the "co-ed" effort, called co-eds for short. The term hails from an era when women fought and won the right to go to college, despite the usual mountain of narrow-minded, pig-headed old white asshole protest against leadership roles for anyone who isn't a white heterosexual Christian man.

Use that expression today? Get my boot in your ass. I dare you.

"Women driver" I haven't taken seriously since Marcia emasculated Greg with the Brady family car, a 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic.

I'm sorry, but to my ear "girls night out" always sounds like it means an exception, the implication being that the rest of the nights are NOT for you. If you're female you're supposed to be "in" or at least if you are out, then you should be out with a specific man. To me "Girls night out" reeks of "Aw, aren't WE all dressed up to go have fun? You make the most of it, because after this it's back to the total lack of fun you set up your life to become."

Yes, yes, I know. I didn't say it made any sense. I am just admitting that expression carries a lot in it for me and explaining why and how. For you it probably doesn't, and you can talk about it with me or you can write it up in your blog.

But never forget who broke that egg.