Apologetic Women

Beginning in 1961 and going all the way through the 1980s, a British author named Peter O’Donnell wrote a series of books about a female version of James Bond. Her name was Modesty Blaise. Anyone remember her? I loved those books and still do – Modesty was the total package in what I looked up to in a female heroine: smart, strong, able to kick butt, and most assuredly taking no prisoners. In her first adventure story I think O’Donnell was afraid that she would be less relatable to female readers if she didn’t have something “feminine” about her. To solve this he gave her the annoying character trait that after a tough mission, she would seek out a quiet place to have a good cry. I know, right!?

In another book – I forget the title now – she and a male friend have been captured and imprisoned by the bad guys. During the ordeal she’s giving her male friend all these orders so that they can successfully extricate themselves out of the situation and not get killed.  A positive thing one would think. But then she says, “Sorry to play the bossy bitch.”

I was outraged with that bit of dialogue. “Yeah, sooo sorry I’m over here trying to save your life and all…” It was just so out of character for her and so unnecessary, but apparently O’Donnell, again, wanted to give her that “feminine touch” so that his readers would know that just because she could beat up three men with one hand tied behind her back, was a dead-shot with all sorts of guns and so on, she was still ladylike enough to want to apologize for having to order a man around in an effort to save both their lives!

I thought about Modesty Blaise a few days ago when I went online to try to find a very interesting list about how male and female bosses who exhibit the same strong behavior are perceived very differently in the workplace. I’m sure you know the one. It starts out with “A man is a leader, a woman is bossy” and makes comparisons from there.

I couldn’t find the list but I did find an article from March 31, 2014, entitled “The Social Science Behind Bossiness,” by Daria Burke. In it she points out, “A study cited by the Girl Scouts of America in support of the [Ban Bossy] campaign found that by middle school, 25% of girls are less likely than boys to assume leadership positions for fear of being called ‘bossy.’  This raises an important question: How are we supposed to level the playing field for girls and women if we discourage the very traits that get them to the top?”

Girls learn that they are expected to behave differently than boys (and of course boys learn this too.) For starters, they can’t be bossy. And if they can’t be bossy they must be polite (which I don’t think are mutually exclusive qualities). They must always mind their manners and help out around the house. Boys can be taught manners too, of course, but if they do something rude it doesn’t really raise eyebrows in the same way as if a girl were to do something equally as rude.

I attended a professional women’s conference years ago. The motivational speaker there talked about this “apologetic” phenomenon and pointed out that women say “I’m sorry,” all the time.  However, men rarely do (she was speaking of professional/workplace situations, not personal relationships and the like).  Or at least not to the extent that women will.  She explained that language is power and being “sorry” when there is nothing to apologize for weakens a person – especially in the business world.  Men do not want to appear weak whereas women, in an effort to get ahead, want to appear likeable.  I’m not so sure about that, but the presenter certainly made her case for it.

A previous employer of mine, a gentleman who is probably of seriously genius intelligence, told me the same thing once. There was an error at work – I assumed it was mine. It was not. But assuming it was mine, and prior to even getting at the root of the problem, I apologized profusely for having made it.  Mr. X said he believed women are all too often more than willing to accept blame and therefore apologize automatically before they even realize what they’re actually apologizing for…that it’s almost as if it’s ingrained in them. Doesn’t matter what the situation is.  If we reach for the same book as someone else or we reach for the same coffee cup in the meeting room or if we go to speak at a meeting and another person speaks at the same time, the woman tends to back off and say “I’m sorry” first.

A friend of mine had a different take on this. She said that she apologizes automatically even when she isn’t in the wrong, not because she thinks she is wrong, but just because it’s polite. And she was confident that all those folks she apologized to really knew that it was they who should be apologizing to her, not the other way around. According to her, the polite thing is always to accept the blame even when someone else is at fault. Ackk!! I’m not sure who made up this ridiculous rule, but I agree that women do tend to feel this way.

But is being overly polite any better than feeling inherently wrong all the time? (Of course, I didn’t point out to my friend that she was talking about social situations, not situations where she was a businesswoman who really needed to command the respect of her peers, both male and female.)

I realize that I’m basically talking semantics.  However, semantics are important. I think that was the motivational speaker’s point.  Language is power. Words are power. They change the entire context of the conversation. The entire feeling of a sentence can be changed when you swap words that are seemingly synonymous, as can the “appearance” of the person uttering them.

For instance, instead of saying “I’m sorry,” all the time, maybe women should say “Excuse me” more often. It might seem like a small, even silly, change, but that way they aren’t actually apologizing constantly (for something they haven’t done wrong), yet they’re not sacrificing politeness and, hopefully, at the same time they retain a bit of their personal power.

The Cat Whisperer

For those of you who remember Damien Thorn, well, he had nothing on my cats. Oh sure, Damien had all of Hell behind him. What Damien didn’t have though was a PR guru like my daughter. She can explain away an uprooted potted plant or shattered crystal bowl with such finesse that you’re A) impressed with the prowess of the cat who is suspected, and B) admiring the cuteness of whichever one is stupid enough to still be in sight. Don’t think the cats don’t know this either.They suck up to her…big time. It’s a conspiracy I tell you. So allow me to introduce my daughter — the cat whisperer.

Sarah and Shaylee

Sarah and Holly

Reading is FUNdamental

It might be a bit of an understatement, but I love to read. It’s one of my favorite activities. On average, I read two or three books a week. Sometimes I do it to keep the brain firing but mostly it’s just flat-out fun. To me, there’s really nothing better than curling up with a book that takes me to faraway places with interesting characters, especially after a hard day at work.

One of my favorite genres is horror. I know, I know. Very relaxing, Wendy. I like the modern classics. Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft are a couple of my favorite scribes, but I’ll give just about any horror author a decent shot at winning me over. Mysteries—both hardcore authors like Alex Kava or whimsical writers like McCall Smith—can often be found on my nightstand. Agatha Christie is a true favorite. Then there’s science fiction, another favorite. Old, new, it doesn’t matter. I read it all. Even genre-bending authors like Kay Hooper who intertwines mystery-thrillers with a psychic/supernatural twist can be really fun. As hard as it might be to reconcile this next one given what you know about me, I do enjoy Jane Austen as well.  And yes, I’m also a comic book nerd. I know. Big surprise there, I know.

Even though I am a legit, full-grown adult I have not escaped the blast radius of the cataclysmic Young Adult boom either. Harry Potter?  Yep, I’ve read them too.  Look down on them if you must, but I don’t believe that everything you read has to be on par with Dickens. I’d heard that some parents kept their kids from reading these delightful books because they thought it celebrated witchcraft and their kids would turn into Satan-lovers or something ridiculous like that.  That was a minority of parents and I’m thankful for that because that book series single-handedly got an entire generation absolutely bonkers on reading again. It was great. The books couldn’t come out fast enough and the kids were thrilled to be READING!  Imagine that!? READING of all things!  And parents were trying to squash that. I just don’t understand some people.

At a time when the fear that iPhones and tablets and PSPs and social media were going to rot the brains of our youth, the Harry Potter collection got them reinvigorated on flipping through paper pages. They were reading. Not posting or updating or following or pinning. And I totally get why. I freakin’ loved those books. And they were not all easy reads as one might expect. J.K. Rowling did not hold back on the drama, the emotions, or the suspense. These novels were super exciting in spite of, or maybe because of, the emotional roller-coaster the author put us devoted readers on, and worthy of all the accolades they received.

A few people I know pointed out, as if I didn’t know, that—gasp—those are kids’ books. Their eyebrows would arch as they not so silently judged my reading selections. This air of pretentiousness is starting to pervade our literature choices and I just want to say, let’s not get too snobby, people.

Take book clubs for example. If you’ve ever joined a book group, you know that they usually don’t read “fun” books. No light romances or whimsical mysteries or horror novels for them. Heaven forbid they admit that they like a fun story more than some bloated philosophical 3,000 page masterpiece that takes forever to get through.

No disrespect to Tolstoy of Dostoevsky or Nobokov, but I don’t quite get why a club would choose a book where it’s hard to really understand the “point” behind them even after you’ve read them twice or even three times (but you say you do just so you don’t look stupid in book club)! Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re classics. They deserve their place in the annals of great literature, but I’m just going to say it: No one really enjoys these books. The problem is that most people in book clubs only say they do so their peers won’t look down on them or think they’re “reading challenged.”

That last paragraph was not just all speculation. I belonged to a book club back in the day. It was mind-numbingly boring. I gave it a good college try though hoping it would broaden my horizons but I only lasted a couple of books. The material they chose was sooo stale. To my credit, or discredit – however you want to view it – I could read the material…easily…I just didn’t want to.  I know, I know, that sounds like something a toddler would say, but oh well. Why read something you’re not going to enjoy? Before bowing out I did notice that no one else in the club seemed to relish the book list either. Yet no one spoke up and said, “Can we please just pick out something fun to read?”

I think it’s high time we remove the snobbishness. I say, if you’re reading, that’s great! It doesn’t matter what you’re reading just so as long as you’re enjoying it because it’s supposed to be a truly relaxing hobby. So, please, read anything. Read comic books or Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Danielle Steele. Just have fun doing it.

Reading builds the mind and offers an escape from everyday life. While it’s good to learn and improve yourself by stretching your comfort zone, there’s no reason why it always has to be overly challenging or arduous. You should never sulk or heavy sigh when you think about the book you’re about to crack open. Read a book that’s fun sometimes instead of always choosing material that hurts your brain. And don’t let others bring you down for what you read.  Ever.

Remember: Reading should be FUNdamental!

girl reading

One more reason I’ll live forever

Okay, so we’ve already established that I’m pretty much going to live forever.  But according to the latest health article I found (okay, well, it’s not exactly a health article), not only am I going to live forever, I’m going to be sexy as hell doing it.  If you  think this has anything to do with salty language — well,  you’d be right. I mean really…just whose blog did you think you were reading?

The summary of the article, if you don’t want to read it (it’s pretty short though, so you can jump in without fear) is basically that people who curse live longer, healthier lives, and based on a survey of both men and women, tend to be “hotter.”

From the article:

“Several studies have found that swearing is a healthy practice that encourages emotional strength. Which pretty much debunks the theory that cursing is the language of the ignorant.

In one British study, researchers found that we swear to cope with situations that make us feel strong emotions, and that a good string of expletives can actually help us endure pain.

Not only do we feel more confident when we curse, but apparently it makes us a whole lot more attractive, too.”

Who would have ever thought that not only would my…ahem…occasional cursing… NOT be my downfall, but would in fact be a reason I get to stick around for a great while longer, enjoying the luxury of health, “hotness,” and a fairly unrestricted vocabulary.  It’s a win-win-win.

cartoon red riding hood