There is now another woman in this little company where I work. After 10 years of being the only female among 25 males there is finally someone else here with two X chromosomes and a full supply of estrogen. This has been a wonderful experience for me because now I can show someone else my new ______ (insert appropriate word such as purse, nail polish, perfume, etc.), and she will at least act interested or will be able to converse about it intelligently. So what if she has a pretty raw vocabulary? I mean, big fucking deal, right?
I am old enough to be J’s mother; in fact I am old enough to be practically everyone’s mother here. As the financial guru of the company, I hold a position of respect and authority. The guys generally try to behave more or less like gentlemen around me, and have a habit of calling out “woman on deck” when I step out into the warehouse – meaning that everyone should watch their mouths. If a “motherfucker” slips by their lips, they will usually quickly look over at me and apologize. I worked really hard on cultivating that kind of atmosphere around here, as I sadly realized that most young men these days seem to lack basic knowledge of how to behave around ladies.
J, on the other hand, has been hired as one of their peers. As a woman in a traditionally male job, she needs to be able to roll with the punches, plus be able to dish it out as well as take it. This is why she has a pretty colorful vocabulary. This morning, she used the C word in front of a bunch of guys. You know, the word that starts with C, that means Hoochee, but ends with U-N-T. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a man here use that word. I’ve rarely used it myself, and never around a guy. As soon as J___ dropped the C-bomb, I immediately noticed a couple of pretty shocked looks from the guys, who may have been waiting to see how I was going to react…
I guess I was feeling rather emboldened by my newfound sisterhood. This is the only explanation I can come up with for what I blurted out next, which was “Hmmm. Not used to hearing a chick say the word CUNT, are you?“ Just saying the word gave me a little thrill because, really, it’s a pretty nasty word, and for it to cross that male/female barrier, especially when it’s female-to-male – well it’s almost taboo. As soon as I said it, I wished I could have scooped the words out of the air and swallowed them – any way to take them back – but such is the nature of speaking without thinking first. And then I got my figurative fanny slapped when the guy closest to me said “I know SOME girls say it, but generally not in mixed company like that.“
That is when I had the flashback…
When I was 14 or 15 years old, my mother caught me and my boyfriend making out on the couch, his hand up my shirt. The boyfriend beat a hasty retreat from the house, and I was called in to my parent’s room for a “talk”, where my dad gave me my first introduction to the concept of The Double Standard. He lectured me on the various reasons why young ladies needed to set higher standards for themselves, and ended with the ominous warning: “Boys talk about fast girls, and fast girls are never respected. You do not want this to happen to you.” I’d like to say that I heeded his words, but it was the 1972, and nearly everyone was reveling in the sexual revolution. So I learned to limit my sexual explorations to the back seats of cars, away from the watchful gaze of my parents, but from time to time, I would occasionally overhear snippets of conversations in the hallways of my high school, amongst teenage boys about “slutty girls who put out.” Years of experience later, I now fully grasp the importance of what my dad was trying to tell me in his awkward way: It may not be fair, but females are held to a higher standard of behavior than men. I believe this is just a cosmic fact and serves to keep the scales of human behavior balanced. I’ve not always been the model of female decorum, especially in my younger, faster years, but after raising a son to be a respectful young man I can now say that I get it.
Do I think I in any way damaged my reputation or my credibility with the young men here? Not really. I’ve been far harder on myself than they would ever be. But it was a quick reminder to myself about how easy it is to sink to a level that I’m no longer comfortable in. Ah, such is the nature of getting older and, hopefully, wiser.