Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Falling victim to 'isms

I grew up primarily with my father, and if he thought there was anything I couldn't do, he failed to ever mention that. As a result, it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized sexism was alive and well in some quarters. Truthfully, I'm not much of a feminist, but I do believe in Gender Equality as a way of life. Having all choices available to both genders. Equal pay for equal work. Not subscribing to traditional gender roles for society as a whole. I don't think it particularly matters what it is you choose to do, but having the choices is key.

Which leads me to my driveway, naturally. When we bought this house, with its three car garage, we looked forward to the snowy months when we would no longer be scraping cars in the early morning hours. We failed to factor in that, instead, we'd be shoveling the driveway. It was a trade-off and one well worth it. Shoveling snow is good cardiovascular exercise, whereas scraping off a car involves huddling miserably in the snow.

When we moved here, the people who owned this house before us gave us a tutorial on the pool, as well as telling me about our next door neighbors on both sides. Francine (not her real name), my neighbor to the East, is a widow. She's somewhere around seventy-five-years-old and her husband had died not long after they had moved in.

"We take care of her walks and drive for her when it snows," the former owner informed me, "maybe your husband or son could continue the tradition?"

I managed not to shoot the man a disgusted glare. In this household, I'm the one most likely to be home during the day. I'm the one most likely to be wielding a snow shovel. Hey, I work out. Lift with your legs, and all that. Goooooo endorphins.

"Sure, we can take care of that," was all I said in reply. I was rather proud of the amount of restraint I had shown. Normally I'd read someone the riot act over such an assumption, or at least let them know what was what. Why, I must be mellowing, I thought, with a self-congratulatory smile.

Today as the snow falls heavily, I've been outside shoveling on three occasions. My son is now home, and he'll be taking over, because this much snow calls for teamwork. On my second shoveling I began tackling Francine's walk.

The truth is, I've never really spoken to Francine much. She's a little bit hard of hearing, and will tell you that as soon as you meet. For the most part I wave heartily in her direction, rather than discuss things at a shout. As I made my way to her driveway, Francine popped out of her garage, snow shovel in hand.

"I've got this," she said, in a loud, cheery voice. Gesturing towards the snow with her shovel.

"Are you sure?" I asked in the accustomed increased volume.

"Oh yes! It's good training for my skiing, you know," Francine stooped to begin shoveling and therefore missed the startled look on my face. "We call it the Over the Hill Club. Isn't that great?" I allowed as how that was indeed, great. "I didn't ski when I was younger, but after my husband died, I didn't have a running partner any longer, so I took that up."

Well this was becoming mortifying.

"I'm sorry, David told me you'd need me to take care of your walk and drive." I said, feeling my already pink-face beginning to flush with embarrassment. I'm sure people in the next county must have heard me, as I might have been overcompensating to distract from how flustered I was.

"Oh him," Francine laughed. "He meant well, God love him, but between you and me? He was a bit of sexist."

I laughed ruefully and bid my very fit, very capable neighbor a good day.

The phone was ringing when I walked through the door, and it was my husband telling me he'd soon be home.

"What are you doing?" He asked.

For a moment I considered saying, "Being thoughtlessly ageist and sexist, what are you up to?" but instead I told him that I was making chicken and dumplings for dinner. Even if Crow Pie might have been more fitting.

I set to work chopping some vegetables and couldn't help but laugh. David might have been a bit of a sexist, but I think I accidentally won the 'ism trophy for the day.

After all, in one fell blow, I combined ageism and sexism. Well, I suppose the only way to work on ones faults is to go ahead and recognize them. Admitting them to the internet at large probably is a fitting enough penance.


DUTA said...

I share your view on gender equality. Indeed, 'choice' (as in having a choice) - is the key word.

It seems you've got a good house and a good, capable neighbour. Enjoy it all!

The Bug said...

I'll have to remember all that cardio business when we get snow. Not sure Dr. M will let me try to shovel though since I'm still recuperating. Maybe you can get Francine to shovel YOUR drive LOL.

I always love your comments on my blog - although you just reminded me how very SAD I was that Willow & Tara broke up & Tara died. Sigh.

Barry said...

Is that what shoveling our driveway is, a good cardio-vascular work out?

I will have to remember that when I need motivation in January.

Kathryn said...

I think you're too hard on yourself.

Even i managed quite a bit of snow shoveling last winter. Light shovel, a little at a time, amazing what i could do!

I have some more (brilliant, of course) thoughts locked in my head, but i'm too sleepy to catch them. Thanks for the tip on insomnia. :)

Land of shimp said...

Hey DUTA, that's precisely it, isn't it? I don't think anyone has to set the world on fire with their dazzling choices. Feminism is a word I don't use frequently because it seems to carry the "Sisters, we must make powerful choices!" to the great glory of womankind, which is fine, and an understandable mindset.

However, my point-of-view that being a surgeon, for either gender? Legitimate choice. Being a homemaker is also a legitimate choice, and an important role. The point is not the glory of the choice that is made, but having the full range of choices available to both genders. If a man has a more nurturing parental nature? There shouldn't be any stigma with being the primary caretaker for his kids. Same thing goes for a woman, whether she wishes to be a primary parent, or a captain of industry.

I guess I like Gender Equality as a POV because it becomes about choices suited to the individual, having nothing permanently closed off due to gender, for both sexes.

The Bug, yes indeedy, shoveling snow, when done correctly is an excellent form of cardio combined with very light weight training, cool, huh? Emphasis on the "Do it correctly." It actually helps to warm up a bit before doing it. Stretch, walk briskly for five minutes, whatever...and don't overlift because snow, when it gets wet? Prime stuff to do a number on your back.

Be careful with your shoulder, maybe this is stuff for next winter, with your rehabilitated shoulder :-)

Barry, it really is! Raises the heart rate, get the blood going to muscles, and involves lifting (with the legs, with the legs!). That also helps balance blood sugar, woo hoo! Next time it snows, think of it as getting in your exercise for the day and it stops seeming so, "Jeez, this a chore." and it feels more productive. Hehe, it is actually all true, but it's also a good way to rationalize a motivation, eh?

Thanks Kathryn, I do appreciate the sentiment behind that. I don't think I'm being too hard on myself though. I'm always encouraging my son that, "You know, nothing fatal happens when you admit that you made a mistake, or were wrong, and it's the only real way to learn from a mistake."

Mistakes are good learning experiences, even when they are slightly wince-inducing, you know? I screwed up, plain and simple. When David told me about my neighbor, even though I would be ticked that someone else made that assumption about me because I'm a woman, I didn't question it, and why?

Partly because when I met my neighbor, the first thing she told me was that she is a little hard of hearing. Now, I'm a bright enough person, I should darn well know better than to associate hearing loss with anything other than just that -- the loss of the ability to hear as well. Instead, somewhere in my mind, I translated that into infirmity. It was stupid of me. I shouldn't have done it, and I really do think of myself as knowing better than to do that kind of marginalizing sort of thing.

But I did it. I'm not beating myself up unduly, but the best way to not do that again, that I know of? Own it, admit it, examine it, figure out how I did it.

And then try my best not to do it again, on a conscious level. It really isn't about berating myself, it's about being willing to admit that sometimes I really don't do as well as I could -- and if I'm willing to figure out why I screw up? Maybe going forward, I can actually do better. It's what I encourage my son to do.

Screwing up is the mark of a good, or a bad person, you know? It's the mark of a person, plain and simple. The screwup is a human failing, trying to do something positive with a screwup? Not a bad goal as we go forth in life .

Or maybe I'm wrong, I don't, but heck, I'm still trying :-)

I hope you get some good sleep, and soon. It's so fatiguing to try and function without a proper night's sleep.

Jo said...

Oh, Alane, your 75 year-old neighbor sounds like a spring chicken. Running? Skiing? I'll bet she doesn't think of herself as old, and I would guess she appreciates that you don't treat her as old. Her earlier neighbors obviously did treat her as old. Don't feel guilty...! Keep an eye on her when she shovels her driveway, just to make sure she doesn't keel over, but otherwise, the exercise is probably good for her.

Miss OverThinker said...

Can I say that I just love you.. and not because of this post.. although I read it yesterday and like all your other posts really liked it..

You did it once again, thank you so much for your words. I actually printed your comment and read it very carefully.. there is a lot of wisdom behind what you said.. and the line " are what you pretend to be" really resonated with me as well - I have seen that transformation in me too lately.. just faking optimism has helped me a wee bit.. not as much as I would like, but it has made a difference.

Land of shimp said...

Jo, she really is remarkably fit! I will keep an eye on her, I promise. Unfortunately every winter, in the snowy areas of the world, people do collapse from heart related problems when shoveling snow.

But as I told Rob later, "I boogied out of there before she could tell me that she was training for a triathlon, which seemed the most likely thing. Then I would have had to spontaneously die, as a point of common decency."

It really was funny, on top of everything else. That'll teach me to think anyone frail on the say so of someone else!

Thank you, Miss Over Thinker, I really do appreciate that. Isn't that a wonderful sentence? Vonnegut really was displaying a deep understanding of people when he wrote that. I didn't care for the book, but loved that sentence, that concept, ever since. It's funny how we can read something, and sometimes it becomes a part of us, isn't it?

I'm so glad you liked what I wrote, and truly grateful that it in anyway helped. Long ago when I read that sentence, it really helped me.

Words really have magic.

Amy said...

Oh, Alane, I'm still catching up on reading your posts and this is a GREAT one. As one who is over 60, I have experienced both ageism and sexism. I agree with Kathryn tho - don't be too hard on yourself - you were being a good neighbor and the intention alone says much.

I also love that saying that Miss Overthinker commented on - it reminds me of the Abe Lincoln saying, "you're as happy as you make up your mind to be." Not very good English but sooo true.

Now, I have to say, having just returned from a strenuous trip (we did two hikes that were really tough), that downhill skiing at age 75 is a bit risky. Personally, I'll take hiking any day of the week - less chance of broken bones!

KimQuiltz said...

You hooked me into this post from the first two sentences. I'm 48 years old and I'm STILL mad at my dad for not teaching me that not every man out there felt that women only had different moving parts, not different brains and capabilities. *g* Your neighbor sounds like a great role model.

Land of shimp said...

Thanks, Amy! I think that's part of what mortified me so much, not merely that I'd just gone for a wading session, hip deep in 'isms, but also the fact that this woman is so much braver than I am. I have some surgical reconstruction in one of my legs, due to a car accident fifteen years ago, so I literally can't ski, but even when I could? I found it scary!!

I do appreciate the "don't be too hard on yourself" thing because really, the impulse was to help out a neighbor, but beyond that, it was very startling to discover that my neighbor is probably a very interesting person who I haven't been getting to know because she's a little hard to talk to.

I know we're pretty much supposed to make mistakes, and that they are our best opportunities to learn how to do better. That mistake had layers in it, and ...particularly as a woman, and one who is just on the cusp of discovering what ageism is like... Yeah, mostly I'm glad that happened, and I don't think it's a coincidence that Francine brought up skiing and running in one conversational exchange.

I guess what I'm saying is that without realizing it, I was seeing a labeled box, where there exists a highly competent human being. It's not a fatal flaw, or one to rake myself over the coals over, but it is one to learn from...particularly since I'm likely to be in that box myself in my life.

Isn't it wonderful how a seemingly simple sentence can contain much bigger concepts? I do love the complexity of language, and how small groupings of words touch on much bigger truths. Again, it's funny, because I don't particularly like the book Mother Night, but Vonnegut's sentence about pretending practically has mass, it has so much impact.

Hello Kim :-) I know exactly what you mean, and it is funny, isn't it? On the one hand it's, "Thanks for never teaching me to limit myself, Dad." on the other, "But it would have been nice to know how many people will seek to do so!" It's just a funny concept, "You rocked! But you also left out the other half of that fortune cookie just by being better than your fellows."

My neighbor is also old enough to have seen firsthand the changes in the gender spectrum...which sounds neat in concept to have witnessed but I'll bet it was a pretty tough row to hoe up close. Still is, at times, clearly.