Archive for the ‘Self-esteem, self-respect’ Category

This morning I stopped by the neighborhood convenience store to get some coffee. Over the years of doing this, I’ve gotten to know the owner and the people who work there. As soon as I walk in, they start ringing up my purchase. We usually spend a minute or two, chatting and laughing.

The last few days have been unbearably hot. Temperatures in the high 90’s to low 100’s. It is very unusual for the area. I don’t have air conditioning and was feeling tired from the lack of sleep. It was already warm at 8:00 this morning. I put on a summer dress, pulled my hair back and slipped on a pair of sandals for work.

Not that what I was wearing was important to me, but apparently it was to the men in the parking lot.

I have had a few people approach me when walking into the store. Panhandlers for the most part. Usually a quick “Sorry, I can’t help you” is sufficient. One time, someone called me a bitch when I said no. I ignored him and walked into the store. I mentioned it to the owner and before I knew what had happened, he rushed outside and yelled at the man. “Don’t you EVER talk to her like that! Go away! Get off my property!”

The man cursed under his breath, but he left. The owner didn’t come back inside until the man had gone around the corner.

I was surprised and pleased by what he had done and told him so. He blushed and apologized. He liked to run a clean and hassle-free store.

I fell a little in love with him that day.

So this morning when I pulled up and saw all the city workers in the parking lot, I gave them almost no attention. The city was digging up water lines and the workers were everywhere.

I parked and got out of my car. As I was walking into the store, I heard a bunch of cat calls.

“Whoa! Hey there! What’s your name?”

“Where you going, sugar?” someone said. All 5 of them laughed.

I had the door open.

I turned around to see who they were talking to.

They were all staring at me, laughing and slapping each other on the back.

I let go of the door.

I turned around and walked towards them.

They quickly stopped laughing as I got closer.

When I was a few feet away from them, I stopped.

Suddenly, they weren’t so brave. Suddenly things weren’t so funny anymore.

“What did you say to me?” I asked. I was calm but my heart was racing.

“Oh, nothing…” one of them said. The pavement had all of their attention.

“No, really…what did you say to me?” I asked. “I didn’t quite hear it.”

No one would answer me. I looked at their trucks. They worked for the city.

“Those your trucks?” I asked.

“Oh, hey now, we didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that you look…”

“How do I look? Huh? You think it’s OK to talk to women like that? You think it’s OK to scare us or make us feel unsafe TO WALK INTO A STORE? Is that it? Can I get my brothers to talk to your Mom’s or daughters or wives that way? Would that be alright with you?” I asked and waited.

“Don’t be so sensitive,” one said. The other 4 looked at him and cringed.

“What’s your name? All of your names?” I asked. I reached into my purse and took out my notebook and pen and waited. It didn’t matter if they told me or not. I wrote down the license plate numbers.

They protested and rambled about how sorry they were.

“So, you guys work for the city. I pay taxes so that means you work for me. Now, since you work for me, you have to put up with me being ‘sensitive’ because you know what? I can now get all of you fired. You might want to think about that the next time a woman, ANY woman, walks by. We have every right to live our lives without being harassed,” I said and walked away.

I didn’t hear one word as I walked away, nor did I when I came out of the store and got into my car. They had driven off in their trucks that I paid for.

I called the city as soon as I got into work and gave them all the information I had. The woman who took my call apologized several times. She was upset and shocked and thanked me for reporting it.

For what it’s worth, I’m 58 years old and haven’t cared what a man thought about me or my looks since I was 16 and tried to get a boyfriend. And even then, he had to reach my mind before he got anywhere near me.

Now, anyone else wanna mess with me?

Didn’t think so….

I read the words on my monitor and all I could think of was that it wasn’t real. I must have nodded off on the couch this Sunday afternoon and was dreaming. I just needed to wake-up and the horror would be gone and the memory would only be that of a nightmare.

I blinked several times and knew that I was awake. Of course I knew that, but when betrayal hits, you can’t fathom it. It doesn’t make sense. You have no warning. Being a native of California, I was quite familiar with earthquakes. One moment everything is as it should be; the next moment, everything was moving. It always takes a few seconds to figure out why you are suddenly dizzy and why a book jumped off the shelf.

But the words were real. I had written them. I had sent them privately to a friend whom I had known for years and years. I had been troubled for a long time. She was my confidant and was one of the few people who I could let my guard down with, talk things out and know all would be better once I did.

The email was written to repair a transgression I had committed months before. This was not uncommon for me to admit when I was wrong and had erred. I had not harmed her but I needed help and advice, so I told her all about it.

Everything I had done, felt and thought was in that email. I had revealed my sins in great detail and was seeking forgiveness and comfort.

Instead she copied and posted my email on her blog.

For 7 billion people to read and comment.

The trolls arrived in full force. I was ridiculed, trashed, mocked and dragged through the mud from people who didn’t even know me. People flocked to it and then began to email me.

I was judged for being human who had made a mistake and was trying to rectify it. I had committed a reprehensible and unforgivable sin – I had been honest.

She had also given them my email and then sent another one to everyone I knew. It was 3 pages long and she trashed me once again. Hundreds of my friends received it.

My friend had done this to me and to this day, I do not know why.

And then an amazing thing happened before I could even think about what was going on.

My friends circled the wagons around me. They did it quietly and quickly.

Not one of them mentioned it to me or brought it up. Not one word was written or spoken, but random text messages came with smiles, goofy faces and funny jokes.

Wherever I went, I was given random hugs and kisses on my forehead with no words spoken.

Just a deep understanding and acceptance of who I am and who I am NOT.

Out of the madness, grace and beauty arrived in the form of smiles and laughter. I had the wonderful and exhilarating freedom of the entire planet knowing my deepest and darkest secrets and I didn’t care.

I realized I didn’t care what people knew about me or what they thought.

The betrayal had set me free and to this day, I’m glad it happened because I was lucky enough to find out who my friends are and who has my back.

And I refused to stop trusting people because that is who I am. The only one that can hurt me is me. No one else has that power over me.

Those that bash, mock and betray others are in their own prison that they made for themselves.

Let them stay there and should you walk by them once in a while, throw them a piece of raw meat. It’s fun to watch them scamper for it and stomp over each other to get it.

And as you walk away, smile and be grateful that you know who you are and who your friends are.

And never stop being you. Don’t let it change you in a negative way, for that is the true loss you shall suffer. Not the betrayal but the giving up of yourself because of it. You are the only one that can give away your integrity. No one can take it from you.

No. Hold your head up high and say “Yep, I did that and that and that. So what?”

Because what people accuse you of tells you what they have been up to.

You need not look further.

It’s on them and let them have it with a great big smile on your face.

“No they’re not,” Josh said and laughed.

“Yes they are,” I said. “In fact, you’re dating one right now. She’s a Day Walker, so she is harder to spot. Plus she doesn’t sparkle in the sun.”

“Sparkle? What the hell are you talking about now?” he asked and dipped another buffalo wing in the bowl of sauce.

“Never mind about the sparkling. Bit of an inside joke,” I said.

Josh chewed on his food and thought for a moment. I waited. He had asked me for my advice. I at first refused. It’s usually a waste of time and energy to give anyone advice. They never listen.

But I made an exception for him. He has been a good friend for years and sincerely wanted my 2 cents. I had time to spare and since he was buying me lunch, I relented.

“You do know, don’t you, what a vampire is, right?” I asked.

“Yes of course I do but they aren’t real. That’s just fiction.”

“Are you sure? How do you know?” I asked. I was starting to have fun. “Just because you’ve never seen something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Like Big Foot.”

“Oh, you believe in Big Foot now? What the hell have you been smoking?”

I leaned forward and tucked my legs underneath me. “Marlboro Lights. What I mean is, I don’t know if Big Foot exists but it’s fine with me either way. But I do know vampires exist. I’ve seen them, I’ve met them and I’ve even dated one or two of them before. They are the people who suck the life out of you and still want more. They are dead inside but still walk around. Some vote and procreate and drive. Makes life more difficult than it needs to be.”

“But why are you saying that about Karen? We’ve been dating for months and it’s been good…for the most part,” he said and took a huge bite out of his hamburger.

“Well, let’s see here. What was it she said to you the other day about the flowers you brought her?”

He cringed for half a second, but I saw it.

“She said she was tired of getting roses from me, but..”

“But what?” I asked.

“But I should have known that.”

“Oh, so now you’re supposed to be a mind reader? How about the time she asked you to be honest and when you were, she threw a tantrum, hung-up on you and wouldn’t talk to you for three days?”

“That was my fault because…” he said and stopped.

I dipped a buffalo wing in the sauce and waited.

“Then there was the time you took her to her favorite restaurant and she complained about the service the whole time. And let’s not forget when she said she didn’t like you talking to me. Remember that time? Huh?”

He nodded his head and looked down at his lap.

“In fact, I bet she will get very upset today when she finds out you and I had lunch.”

“No she won’t,” he said.

“Oh really? Why not?”

He looked out the window and then at me. “Because I’m not going to tell her.”

I stopped eating and looked at him. He was serious.

“Right there is your first clue that something isn’t right. Josh, you’re one of the most honest people I know! The fact that she doesn’t like your friends is the second clue. The other red flags are her slight and subtle criticisms about what you wear, where you work, what kind of car you drive…”

He raised up his hand.

“I just want her to be happy,” he said.

I threw the buffalo wing at him. It hit him on the chest and left a stain. He would now have to do some laundry that weekend.

He picked it up from his lap and tossed it on the table. He glared at me as he wiped his shirt with a napkin.

“Her happiness is not your problem. It’s her problem. That’s why she’s a vampire and you are a willing donor. She looks to others to make her happy. She feeds on them and is never happy. You ever known a vampire to sit back after a feeding and say they have had enough and light up a cigar and smile?”

A slight grin crossed over his face. “No, I can’t say that I have. I get your point.”

He thought he did, but he didn’t. He was on the wrong side of the equation. He was trying to make someone happy which is impossible to do. Plus vampires are only happy when they’ve sucked you dry and you die a slow and painful death. Watching all the good emotions leave and the negative ones show up is what they feed on.

And they never stop.

“Well, do what you want but I have to warn you of something,” I said.

“Oh, and what’s that?”

“If she ever pulls that pouting routine around me again, I will put a stake through her heart.”

“I believe you,” he said.

He made sure she and I never saw each other again.

He was at least smart on that point.

“Hi, I’m Chanteel. It’s nice to meet you Susan,” she said as she shook my hand and sat down.

Immediately a few of the other women chuckled and shook their heads. One of them took a piece of paper, rolled it up into a ball and threw it at her. “Oh, really now? Now your name is Chanteel? Where the hell do you get these names? You got a book or something?”

More of the women started laughing. Chanteel just smiled, took the ball of paper and smoothed it out.

I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I ignored the interruption of the class. “It’s nice to meet you too, Chanteel.” I handed her some materials. “We are just getting started, so you haven’t missed anything. We are on page three, so just open up your book there and jump in.”

She smiled and nodded. She was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful women I had seen. She was blonde with deep blue eyes and cheek bones that went on forever. Her hair was pulled back, but it was thick. She wasn’t wearing make-up because when you are in jail, it’s not something you are very concerned with. Your basic concern was surviving each hour, each day and each week until you got out. Some never knew when that would be as all of the women I was working with were in custody waiting for trial.

Some had been waiting for two years. All of them were overweight and lethargic from the food and being in their cells 23 hours out of 24. None of them slept because of the constant noise and stress and many spent most of their time lying in bed and crying. If they weren’t crying, they just laid there, staring up at the ceiling or the bunk above them.

This was a new group of incarcerated and battered women I had been given to help. I was there to teach them about self-respect and learning how to get along better with people. Yes, it was a lot to do, but I found most of them receptive, needy and quite pleasant to work with.

Let’s face it. Life doesn’t get much worse when you are in jail and have lost your children to foster care. Any and all help is appreciated and it was a very rare occasion when anyone of them gave me any trouble. Those that did were usually just too stressed to do anything else but sit and cry.

Chanteel looked to be in her mid-30’s but I found out later she was only 23. This was her third time in jail and her probation officer had pushed hard for her to get into my program. There was just something about her that made you want to help her even though you knew when she got out, she would most likely revert. He wanted her in the program so it would look good for the judge when she went before him. I don’t even remember the charges that were pending against her but she was not violent. Just stupid.

She was as pleasant as could be until I started talking to her after class. She hung around to talk with me. I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to listen.

Within three minutes I could see she was way out of touch with reality. Her conversation with me jumped from one topic to another with no rhyme or reason. She would be mid-sentence and then start another conversation about something completely different.

But I sat and listened and became quite fascinated by her. She was a dichotomy of complete brilliance in her thoughts and observations and insane from the life she had led.

She was only 23, but she had been through more tragedy and heartbreak in those few years than anyone else I had known.

I worked with her as best as I could during the next few weeks. She was always pleasant and kind. Each week, she would tell me she had changed her name. I always made sure to call her by her new name. The other women would just snicker. This never seemed to bother her.

I asked her one day why she changed her name so often. She bit her lip, looked down and gave my question quite a bit of thought before answering.

“No one has ever asked me that question before. They usually just laugh at me.”

“Well, I’m curious, so tell me why.”

She smiled. It was a beautiful smile. “Because I am trying to figure out who I want to be. I hate who I am and what I’ve done, so I want to be someone else. I try on different names to see if I like them. So far, I haven’t liked any of them.”

This made sense to me. “Yes, I wish I could do that sometimes myself.”

I eventually got in contact with her Probation Officer because, quite frankly, she fascinated me. I never ask about a persons past when they start my program. It is not relevant. What is relevant is today and maybe tomorrow.

There wasn’t much he could tell me but I was able to gather from him and my contact at the facility that this young woman entered the foster care program at the age of 6 months and it has been all she has ever known.

She tested highly on her IQ and she was literate and able to read and understood what she read.

That is all I will say about her, but trust me – you don’t want to know. It broke my heart.

After one particular night with her, I left the facility sad. When I got home, I called my Mom, hoping she was still up.

As soon as she answered the phone, she asked if I was OK.

“I’m fine. Just wanted to say hello.”

‘You’ve been in jail again, haven’t you?” she asked.

Ah, my Mom knows me so well. “Yes, I was there tonight.”

“Yes, I love you. Yes, you’re welcome for having a wonderful childhood. No, you aren’t my favorite child. You all are.”

This made me laugh. “There was something else I wanted to say.”

“Go ahead,” she said.

“I’m proud of you. I’m proud of what you had to overcome and I’m proud of you for not raising us like you were raised.”

“You’re welcome. Now get some sleep and don’t start crying. I’m proud of you too.”

I never saw Chanteel after that. She had been released but had asked for my cell number. We don’t give these out but the Program Director told me about it. He had told her he couldn’t give that out and said she started to cry as she walked out the door with her suitcase and nowhere to go.

“If she calls again, give it to her,” I said.

He raised an eyebrow. “You sure Susan?”

“Absolutely.”

Every few months, I get a phone call from her. She told me the last time I talked to her that she settled on a name (which I am not going to say) and I liked it. It fit. She always lets me know how she is doing but never tells me where she is. That’s OK. I don’t want to know.

‘Do you know why I call you Susan?” she asked the last time we talked.

“I have no idea.”

“Because you helped me and I’ve stayed out of jail since then. You like me just the way I am.”

Yes I do.

“There but for the grace of God go I.”

She spent two years trying to kill me emotionally and spiritually and to this day, I still don’t know why. But I know she tried and failed.

It was in the 5th and 6th grade when this happened. The school I was going to was right down the street from me and all of us students knew each other. We all lived within walking distance and were all friends for the most part.

There were always new students coming and going, but being female and of the age where what others thought of me defined who I was, I didn’t always get to know the “new kids” simply because I had so many friends that I had grown up with.

The school decided that since we were going to be attending Junior High soon, they would acclimate us to having to move from one class to another rather than having only one teacher for the entire day.

This bothered me because I loved my teacher, Mrs. Aronson. She was VERY old since she was probably in her 60’s and I was 10 but I loved her and she had been the only teacher I had known since first grade.

But the “Powers That Be” wanted us to learn how to go from classroom to classroom and have all of our materials with us, so the journey began and I was put in a Math class with a teacher called Mrs. McDougal.

The moment I saw her, I froze. She was much younger than Mrs. Aronson and very pretty. She dressed sharply and had the most beautiful hair I had ever seen. It was straight where mine was curly. She was thin and I was approaching puberty and starting to have very strange things happen with my body.

She stood at the front of the class and glared at us. She then did roll call and quickly rearranged where we were to sit. She didn’t know most of us and I had never seen her before, but she pointed her finger at me and said “Susan, come over and sit right here,” which was the first seat in the first row, closest to her desk. I got up, grabbed my books and sat down. She then pointed to another girl, whom I didn’t know, and had her sit next to me. Her name was Donna. Once Donna sat down, Mrs. McDougal sneered at us and then looked at the class.

“This is where the stupid people sit,” and then laughed.

I didn’t understand what she meant and Donna and I looked at each other. When it dawned on me that she was referring to both of us, I felt my face turn red and the tears sting my eyes. Donna had the same reaction and we said nothing and could hear the other kids laughing at us.

For the next 2 years, she picked on us. I never said a word to my parents because I thought she was right because she’s a teacher and teachers know everything, right?

Plus I then became convinced that I was stupid and I didn’t want anyone to know. My brothers had always called me that and I gave as good as I got, but that’s just sibling’s doing what we do – tease each other and then be friends again.

But now I had someone, an ADULT, telling me at least twice a week how stupid I was. Sometimes she would call Donna and I up to stand in front of the class and point to us and say “This is what a stupid person looks like” and then have us sit down again.

I can just hear you, the reader, shaking your head and wondering why I didn’t say anything. Well, if you don’t know why, then maybe you don’t understand what it’s like for girls at that age and how vulnerable we are. You might not understand or remember what an adult’s words can do to a child.

They are worse than bullets and do much more damage. This is the reason I will always believe what a child tells me. Always, no matter what.

I somehow made it through her class after 2 years, but to this day, I have never been good at math. My parents hired a tutor for me and for a while, it got better. I can figure other things out and my IQ is high enough, but I will always consider the day that calculators were developed to be a holy day for me.

Years later, when I was married, I said something about this to my husband. To say he went sideways is an understatement. Up until that point, “me being a stupid person” was something I felt shameful about and was always afraid someone would find out. It took a lot of talking with him to pull the whole story out of me.

When I told my Mom about it, she almost cried. She had no idea and if she had, she would have been down at that school, told them what was going on and had me pulled out of that class. She understood why I never said anything but I suspect that it has never set right with her. It wasn’t a matter of trust in talking about it. That was not why I hadn’t said anything.

It’s a matter of shame regardless if it’s misplaced or not. If you believe it, then it’s true for you. All other points of view are not valid. What you think and believe about yourself is what matters.

Ironically, what happened to me is something that I value because it has made me very good at my job. I teach and I know what it’s like to learn something new and be confused and yes, somewhat stupid until you master it. It takes the right materials and the right person to guide you through it.

It takes someone who knows what it’s like to feel stupid and to understand that you aren’t stupid – you just don’t know something.

As an aside, after I told my husband about it, he asked me if I knew where she had lived. I did as it was right down the street from my old childhood house. He got a wicked look in his eye and asked me if I wanted to go visit Mrs. McDougal. I said I did, so we jumped into the car and drove over there.

I stood on the sidewalk and looked at the house. It had been many years since I had been there and I was convinced that she had either moved away or hopefully died. We walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. I held my breath.

She answered the door and at first, I wasn’t sure it was her. She had not aged gracefully, which made me feel better. Her skin was badly wrinkled, she was no longer attractive and her hair was the same. I then realized that the hair I had envied for so long had always been a wig.

I asked if she was Mrs. McDougal and she hesitated for a moment. She was hunched over and was wearing a dirty robe even though it was late afternoon. She nodded her head and for half a second, I felt sorry for her but that was all.

Here was a woman who was evil. God knows what other lives she had destroyed.

I told her who I was and it did not register with her. That pissed me off. I explained that she was one of the worse human beings I had ever had the displeasure of knowing and that there was no excuse for what she had done to me and Donna.

When I said Donna’s name, I saw the light go on in her eyes. My husband was standing next to me and never said a word but glared at her.

“Oh, you remember, don’t you?” I asked. She stood motionless.

“Well, I wanted you to know that you didn’t succeed. I am fine and I turned out to be a really good person, despite your efforts to kill me. But if I ever see you again…” I said and let the sentence hang in the air. She nodded. We turned around and walked away. She didn’t close the door until we had driven off.

I hope she’s still awake, waiting for me to come back.

I just read this article and almost slammed my fist into my monitor: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2085226/PLUS-Model-Magazines-Katya-Zharkova-cover-highlights-body-image-fashion-industry.html

Or this one: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/01/most-models-meet-criteria-for-anorexia-size-6-is-plus-size-magazine/

Earlier I had read this article and cried:http://www.popeater.com/2010/12/30/model-isabelle-caro-dies/

Why? Obvious reasons to me.

I think it comes down to one thing and one thing only – a hidden agenda. An evil hidden agenda that states the only way to control someone, is to keep the truth from them and don’t let them see. As long as you can get someone to agree that there is something wrong with them, you can convince them that you have the answer.

What do some not want you to see? How wonderful and fabulous you really are and you shouldn’t change.

Does this sound like a conspiracy theory? It sure is.

What would happen if women, in particular, accepted themselves just as they are?

What would happen if women learned to love themselves and their own unique beauty?

What would happen if women were encouraged to work together and not against each other?

I can tell you what would happen. First of all, it would ruin the fashion industry as it currently is. We would laugh our asses off at what they are selling. Don’t forget, fashion is a business just like any other and they WILL cater to what the majority wants. It’s good business.

It would just about shut down the TV industry because women and young girls would see how unrealistic TV is and turn off the station and read a book or better yet, write a book. Or two. Or three. Maybe take up painting or any other creative endeavors and work on who they think they are and not what someone else is trying to sell them.

What would happen if you looked in the mirror and liked what you saw? I’ll tell you what would happen – you wouldn’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the beauty products you and I both know don’t work. You know they don’t do what they claim.

You would realize that aging is a natural and beautiful thing and then you would question why all the models and celebrities are photo shopped and you would boycott the products. We might even be doing them a favor. Can you even imagine the amount of pressure these women are under? What would happen if we loved them just the way they are? They might just become a bit happier with their work and focus on their work and not their looks. Wouldn’t that be cool?

You could bring the beauty industry to its knees and they would not recover until they started to finally tell the truth in their advertising. The truth is NOTHING can alter the shape or texture of your skin. NOTHING.

You would stop reading the evil women’s magazines that oh-so-subtly tell you that you aren’t quite good enough. You are too tall, too short, your breasts are too small or to big. It doesn’t really matter, you see, how you are. You’re wrong so buy this product…

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice AS LONG AS YOU DECIDE WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU! As long as you look outside yourself, you are going to get slammed and I have to say, that’s on you.

You can change how you feel about yourself in one easy step – just decide that you love yourself and that’s all there is to it.

There is no magical formula. It doesn’t matter how many books you read about it or how many people you talk to; until you decide to DECIDE, it’s all bull shit.

Get rid of the external influences. Shut off the TV, don’t buy the women’s magazines and just love yourself just as you are.

Boycott the things you disagree with. I do that all the time. It’s kind of fun. I’ll disagree with anyone on anything simply because they are trying to get me to agree. It doesn’t matter what they are saying. They could have the best idea in the world, but if I get one hint of someone trying to convince me of something and not address my own intelligence, I’m not going to do it.

I’m a bit of an ass like that, but I’m good with it. I can make my own decisions and decide what is right for me and the second I get a sense of someone is trying to get me to think a different way, my alarm goes off.

They are trying to sell me something that will benefit THEM. Nope. Sorry. Not gonna happen.

You can stop the insanity right here and now. Just disagree and tell others to also. It’s in your hands and no one else’s. Your self-esteem is in your control completely.

Stop looking elsewhere for validation. All that you need is right there.Tap into it and it will rise to the surface.

Stop buying into all the nonsense.

I can’t believe that there are young women who don’t know who Gloria Steinem is.

Many of them are clients, some are friends of family members and some are young women I run into or talk to from time to time.

This came up, again, recently and when the young woman asked who I was talking about, my head really did hit the table. I lost all my steam and couldn’t fathom how someone could not know who this woman was. I lifted my head back up because she was worried I was having a stoke or heart attack (I get that I’m a bit older, but for God’s sake, I’m not that old) and I rubbed my forehead and then my eyes. I assured her that I was fine and stared back at her.

“You really don’t know who I’m talking about?”

She slowly shook her head and said she had heard the name, but had no idea. She looked as if she was in trouble and her voice wavered a bit. I put my hand across the table and told her I was going to tell her who she was and what she did for me personally.

I was born in 1955 and am considered a Baby Boomer, though I’m not sure what that means and I am certain that I don’t care, but it’s important to some people.

What it means is I’m the tail end of a generation that was last raised with what we call “traditional values.”  We grew up believing that the world was structured a certain way and that was just the way it is. I then became a teenager in the 60’s and all of that changed as if overnight. It really is one of those things that you would have to experience to fully understand, but my generation changed so many things in a very short period of time.

But this post is about Gloria and what she did and how much better things are for women because of her and the movement she started (or contributed to) and why she’s important.

I’m not going to talk about her specific actions. Much has been written about her, but I want to tell you what it was like before she spoke up and you can make the comparison with how things are now. For you.

Girls had to take typing classes. I am glad that I learned to type, especially now with computers and the internet, but this was long before then. The reason was because the only jobs available to us was clerical or nursing or working in a library or teaching. We were expected to go get married either right out of High School or college but our main focus was to find a husband and become a mother. We were told that was our future and typing was a skill we would need in case we didn’t get married right away and had to get a secretarial job.

It was very common on job applications to ask you and insist that you gave details of your period. I remember filling out an application one time and I read that part and felt myself blush and stammer and not know what to say. I got up from the chair I was sitting in and walked up to the desk to ask the woman if I had to answer this. She was much older than me; I was 17 and she was in her 30’s and she smiled and said I had to. I asked why and she said it was a precaution in order to determine if I would miss work. She looked a bit startled by my question and I think she never thought about it. This was the usual and you’re not suppose to question “What everybody knows” so I sat back down, lied and continued filling it out.

In High School, I was not allowed to take auto shop because I was a girl. Simple as that. I had also asked (there is a reason my blog is called what it is called) if they could make an exception for me. I had a new car and my boyfriend was taking the class and he was completely into cars. Many a night I sat by him in the freezing cold or sweltering heat, handing him tools while he was under the car. He explained things to me as he went and for a brief moment in High School, I understood how cars worked. Now I wanted to learn how to fix them and was told that I wasn’t allowed to. The teacher even told me to go back to Home Education and learn how to cook because that was the skill I would need when I graduated.

My first “real job” was at McDonald’s when I was sixteen and I could only work the front counter because, well, that’s all that girls were allowed to do. At that time, McDonald’s was a great place to eat. We made our own fries and milk shakes. Girls weren’t allowed near the machines nor were we allowed to cook. Ironic, isn’t it?

We were paid at least 1/2 of what men were paid and I’m not sure if that’s improved as much as it should, but it is better.

It was not unusual to be handed empty coffee cups by men and told to get them a cup of coffee nor to do only the clerical work only. It was well understood that you would never get promoted and shouldn’t expect it. It didn’t matter if you were smarter or better than a man, you would never get promoted. HE had a family to support and you were just some silly woman with nothing better to do than to work.

Talk about sexual harassment? It was common, accepted and to be expected. Men were allowed to slap you on your ass, make comments about what you looked like, what you were wearing and ask any and all personal questions. You had no one to complain to and if you did, you were told you were overreacting and being irrational.

I’ll never forget the time that a sales rep walked into an office I was working at. I was sitting at the front desk at the time and was the Office Manager and was catching the phones while some of the staff were at lunch.

He walks in, doing his door-to-door cold calling, and sees me. He asked if the owner was in and I told him he wasn’t. He looks me up and down and takes something out of his briefcase and tells me he wanted to leave it. I said fine and then he realizes it’s his last copy. He hands it to me and tells me to go photocopy it.

I stare at him. He tries to hand it to me again and then slowly puts his hand down. I point to the photocopier and tell him to do it himself and if he doesn’t know how, then he was shit out of luck.

I could see him bite his tongue and think about what to say. He asked when my boss would be back and I let him know he’ll never get an appointment to see him and that we aren’t interested in his products or service.

He calls me a bitch, turns around and walks out. He had given me his card, so I immediately call and ask to speak to his supervisor. I get him on the phone and tell him what happened.

“So? I guess you were rude to him and have forgotten your place.”

“Say what?” I ask and he repeats what he said.

I hung-up and lit up a cigarette and cursed the male species.

This post could go on for a long time, with many stories and I haven’t even touched upon most of it. But if you don’t know who she is, find out.

Gloria made us visible and important and helped us to find our voice. She told us we were worthy of equal rights and respect. No one had told me that before and I didn’t know until she arrived on the scene. Love her, hate her or just don’t care who she is, your life is better because of her work.