I was thinking about the whole idea of political correctness as I set out this morning to buy some poultry feed. It was kind of an odd thing for me to be doing, given that we don’t actually own any poultry or live on a farm, and doing something so outside of my normal routine got my mental wheels spinning.
From what I can tell, the message of political correctness seems to be that while we respect and honor each other’s differences we don’t actually focus on them when we interact with each other, but rather focus on our common humanity. While this is a nice idea in theory, I have found in my life that I do occasionally need to take some differences into account, especially when I find myself in an extremely masculine environment like, for example, a feed store, and it is painfully obvious that I do not fit in.
My personal M.O. in a situation like this is to morph into “helpless female” mode: big eyes, self-deprecating smile, and a speech that starts out with some kind of comment like, “Well, my husband usually takes care of this for me, but today he sent me and I really don’t know what I’m doing.” This is not at all politically correct, but it is extremely effective. This is why I am able to do things like buy poultry feed, get our knives sharpened, talk to the internet customer service people, and get our car serviced. In these situations I am more than happy to let people who actually know what they are doing tell me what the best thing is for me to do, and then pay them for their services or products.
There are some people with whom this approach doesn’t work, such as one gentleman I met while I was working at a construction company. He firmly believed that because I was female and was working in the office, it was my God-Given Responsibility to make him coffee. Now, I don’t drink coffee, so it never occurred to me to make any (not to mention the fact that I don’t actually know how). Also, I have found that people who do drink coffee can be very particular about how it is made, and it is better to just let them do it themselves. But when I tried to explain this to him, this was his response: “Well, my wife didn’t help me build our house, but she still gets to live there.”
This approach also seems not to work with techo-guys who work at computer stores, as I discovered last fall when my husband and I had to make some technology related purchases. We decided to split up the list and I was deputized to go and get one particular item. I memorized exactly what he told me to ask for, went up to the counter, turned on my “vibe”, and …nothing. Not only nothing, but I was actually passed by at least three different sales guys. However, the second that my husband started walking in my direction, salespeople FLEW over from all corners of the store, tripping over themselves in their eagerness to sell him something. (Not that I am bitter).
It is also fun to flip this around and to not act like a stereotypical female with someone who is expecting it, like my mom. She grew up in the 1950’s when women went to finishing school, wore gloves, discussed etiquette, and always had a hot dinner on the table for their husbands even if they also had a job outside the home. When I was first married she and I had a lot of conversations like this:
My mom: “Well, I’d better let you go now so you can get dinner ready.”
Me: “I’m not cooking.” Or even better, “It’s [my husband’s] turn to cook tonight.”
My mom: Deep gasp, followed by silence, followed by a quiet, “Oh.”
As Shania Twain sings, “The best thing about being a woman/is the prerogative to have a little fun.”
And, I do.