Woman or Work Colleague, But Not Both

I was just reading this article on women in science and it had an interesting quote at the end from Eileen Pollack.

“American men can’t seem to appreciate a woman as a woman and as a scientist; it’s one or the other.”

I would extend that comment to say that, in my personal experience, men will either view a woman as someone to potentially sleep with or as a work colleague, but not as both simultaneously.

When I first started out in my professional career I used to have hair to my waist.  Long, thick, flowing, blonde.  Noticeable hair.

I usually wore it in a braid or a bun, so it wasn’t “on display.”  But, every once in a while I would feel like wearing it down.

I quickly learned that this was a bad idea.

Because men who were listening to what I had to say on Monday were dismissive of the exact same comment on Wednesday.  And the only difference between what I said on Monday and what I said on Wednesday was that I had worn my hair down on Tuesday.

These weren’t even men that had an overt sexual interest in me either.

It really was like there was a switch in men’s minds and they could either see me as a sexual person or they could see me as a work colleague, but they couldn’t do both at once.

And the effect seemed to last about two weeks.

I figured I had a choice.  I could be sexy or I could be a work colleague.

I chose to be the work colleague.  Another woman who started at the same job at the exact same time chose to be the sex object.  (Or perhaps she didn’t choose to be that, she just happened to hook-up with a couple of co-workers and that pretty much cemented her status.)

This woman was as intelligent and capable as I was.  But, in terms of career progression, I moved ahead much faster than she did.

Part of that was because of who our mentors were, but I also think part of it was because of that categorization men make in their minds.  They dismissed her because they didn’t see her as a work peer.

How do I know this wasn’t all in my head?  That I wasn’t just perceiving things that weren’t there?

An example.

One night we were all out at the bar celebrating a co-worker’s birthday.  One of my male co-workers who was notorious for hitting on women (he’d hit on a friend’s wife just a few months before) got very drunk.  The drunken comments he made to me were about the fact that my recent promotion had put me on his level even though he had five more years of experience.  Shortly after that he cornered a female co-worker of ours and tried to grope her.

Now, perhaps, even in his drunken stupor he was smart enough to know that if he’d tried to grope me I would’ve taken his hand off.  But I think it was more that he thought of me as competition and pretty much forgot the fact that I was a woman.  A fact I was grateful for.

I think this is something young women need to consider when starting out their careers.  (Especially in male-dominated fields.)  It’s nice to think you can have it all.  That you can be sexy and gorgeous and intelligent and accomplished and everything else.  But, the fact of the matter is, when a man is thinking about bending you over the boardroom table, he isn’t listening to what you have to say about that new corporate initiative.

It’s a very fine line that women have to walk.  It helps to be attractive and put together.  It doesn’t help to be sexy or sexual.  And finding that balance is a challenge.  Especially because sometimes that line moves on you unexpectedly.  One off-color comment, one flip of the hair, and you’re dealing with the fallout for weeks.

For men I would say that if you find yourself dismissing a woman’s ideas at work that you should step back.  Try to separate what she’s saying from who she is.  Maybe look at the idea when you’re not around the woman who originated it.  Maybe have people submit ideas to you anonymously.  Or review them without knowing who made which suggestion.

And for women, know that, even in this day and age, there are consequences to how you present yourself in the workplace.  It isn’t fair, but it’s life.

Bad Breakup Advice

I was reading an article called “The best way to break up” on Yahoo!.

They should’ve titled the article “How to Be a Patronizing F*$! When You Dump a Chick.”

On slide one they recommend that a man treat breaking up with a woman like a business meeting, complete with an “implementation deadline” and a plan to be somewhere else after he’s had his say.

On slide two they say, and I quote, “And, as with any cornered animal, don’t touch her.”

Cornered animal?  Wow.  The person who wrote the article has a lot of respect for women, don’t they?

This is the same person who recommends that a man ask the woman questions like, “Why do you think we could never agree on holiday destinations?”

Now, let’s just stop a moment and picture this break-up.

You’ve been dating someone six months.  They invite you to a neutral coffee shop that neither of you have been to before.  They tell you that they have to leave in half an hour for an appointment.  And then they inform you that they’re breaking up with you because they just don’t feel compatible enough with you and ask you, “Well, why do you think we were never able to agree on what to do on Friday nights?”

Hurry, now.  Time is ticking.  They have somewhere else to be.

I just read the next slide.  Even better.  The article recommends doing all of this in a newscaster’s voice.  Because, you know, being cold and impersonal will help soften the blow.

Oh, and the last slide.  If she reacts poorly to the man treating her like an employee he’s firing (instead of someone he possibly cared for) and says nasty things on Facebook the man is supposed to send her a polite business-like response asking her to please discuss this in private because she’s damaging his reputation.

Here’s a thought.  If a man is in a relationship that requires a talk to end it, then he needs to man up and spend the time to end it properly.  By, I don’t know, acknowledging the woman’s feelings and appreciating the fact that she may be hurt and want explanations and that that may take time.  She may even cry.  She may even want to discuss it.

Even if a man has moved on emotionally, he should suck it up for a few hours to end things well.  Not follow The Distant Entitled Jerk’s Guide to Getting Out of a Relationship.

My advice: A break-up is not a business transaction.  Don’t treat it like one.


Having Fancy Degrees and Dating

I’ve had this post bookmarked for ages: She Got A Big Ego?: Thoughts on Dating With a Doctorate because it resonated for me even though I don’t have a doctorate and am not Black.

It still raised interesting points for me as a white woman with a few fancy degrees under her belt.  (And whose undergrad majors included psychology and anthropology, which were referred to as “fuzzy” subjects at my lovely alma mater.)

I, too, have had those conversations with men where they seemed intent on showing me just how smart they were.  Conversations that, quite frankly, just annoy me.  I’m not a facts and figures person.  I’m a concepts person.

I suck at Trivial Pursuit.  I misremember shit all the time.  Was that a 1098 form or a 1099?  Who cares?  Did it change my point?  I’ll go look it up if it matters.

And do I really want to engage in some game of one-upmanship with a guy that I’m trying to get to know?  Nope.

But when men find out about those lovely degrees from those fancy schmancy schools and that high-powered career, they suddenly fall back on this need to prove themselves.

Problem is, correcting everything I say or burying me in minutiae doesn’t show me how smart a guy is.  It shows me he’s annoying and insecure.

Analyzing a complex issue from multiple sides?  Now THAT impresses me.  Seeing the nuance and variety in things?  That too.

Appreciating people of all types even if they’re very different from him?  YES.

I think that’s why many of the men that I’ve most enjoyed dating were not intellectuals or highly educated.

Don’t get me wrong.  They were SMART.  Hella smart.  We could talk about anything and everything.  And if they didn’t know something, they were willing to admit it and still smart enough to analyze the situation and give sound advice.

Of the top two I can think of right now, neither one had gone to college.

Didn’t change the fact that I enjoyed spending hours talking to them.  (And a lot more than I enjoyed talking to some of those guys that I sat in classrooms with every day who now have their own fancy schmancy degrees.)

Who knows?  Maybe this goes back to the fact that I’m just a trailer park queen at heart no matter how far away I go.

But for me, a relationship is about compatibility not competition.

This is why in Don’t Be a Douchebag I encourage men to be themselves and be confident that they deserve to be with that woman.  It isn’t about money or degrees.  It’s about who you are inside.

(Now, that’s not true for every woman.  It is for me.  But some women are all about what they can tell everyone else.  “He went to Harvard and works as a hedge fund manager.”  For women like that, well, if you don’t have it you don’t have it.  So, move on.  And if you do have it?  Maybe you should consider whether that’s the type of woman you want to be with.)

Songs I Like That Creep Me Out

Every once in a while there will be a song that comes out that I really like.  Until I start listening to the lyrics.

And then I wonder, what the hell am I listening to this for?

One recent example that has received more than its fair share of criticism is Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke.

Pretty sure no one needs a link to it, since the damned song is everywhere.

I’ll be driving along in the car, it comes on, I start singing along and then I think.  “Ew.  That’s just…not right.”

It shows an offensive attitude toward women that I do not need to rehash here.

Damned catchy sound, though.  Very hard not to bop along to.

I’ll share this feminist parody of it instead:

The other song that I keep hearing and liking until I remember the lyrics is Redneck Crazy by Tyler Farr.

Another catchy song.

But the lyrics are about a jilted ex parking his truck on a woman’s lawn, getting drunk, and throwing objects at her house.  Seems she broke the heart of the wrong man according to the lyrics.

Um, showing up drunk at your ex’s house and threatening or engaging in violence is a RED FLAG.

Here’s a hint to any men out there:  Don’t let a woman know you identify with this song.

Because no woman wants an angry, psycho ex.  (At least no sane, rational woman does.)

It may seem harmless to get a little drunk and do something stupid to your ex, especially if she cheated.  Or to fantasize about it.

But, you gotta remember that a lot of women are killed by their partners every year.  Or, more often, their recently ex-partners.  (Men like that do not take it well when a woman leaves them.)

A man who identifies with doing something like this, even if he never has, is a man who would send me heading for the exit as fast as I could find it.

Which is why every time I find myself listening to this song, I change the channel.  It’s got a great sound.  But the message sucks.

Skip The Photo When Online Dating

I found an interesting article today on msn.  (Okay, so the article isn’t exactly fascinating, but what it was about is.)  Here’s another from Daily Beast.

There’s a new dating website, Twine, where you aren’t allowed to see a picture of your matches until after you’ve started communicating with them and both agree to it.

I haven’t used this app at all, so can’t vouch for it.

But the idea is one I advocate in my book. Because (in my experience) far, far too often men get fixated on appearance and miss all the red flags that things are not going to go well.

I wish more men would look at women’s profiles and figure out if they have anything in common with a woman before they look at her photo.  It would turn out better if they did.

Sadly, that’s not how it goes.

(Might also be why Twine currently has about sixteen women to one man signed up.)

So, if you’re a guy and you’re looking for a lasting relationship, it might be worth giving this a shot.  Get around that whole “pretty smile” blindness that kills your ability to meet someone compatible.

Conflicting Goals In A Relationship

I’ve dated some great guys in my life.   Guys that were an absolute pleasure to be around.  Guys that made time disappear or fly by.

But a lot of them had one common issue:  They weren’t looking for what I was.

They were fun and we enjoyed each other’s company, but we had very different goals in a relationship.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I was listening to my iPod and Thursday by Jim Croce came on.

Part of the song says that he knew the relationship would have to end because he was looking for a lifetime lover and she was looking for a friend to be there after all the other men had gone.

It’s easy to spend far too much time hung up on someone like that.  Because, at least for me, I don’t click with most people.

I get along with people just fine, but there are very few people in this world that I truly enjoy spending hours with.

And one of the most difficult choices to make is to walk away from someone you do click with when you realize that the relationship will never be what you want it to be.

But it really is the best thing to do.  Because you have to be open to finding that person that will be all you want and you can’t be open when you’re holding onto a relationship that really doesn’t meet your needs.