The satisfaction I felt this morning installing a printer driver on my Linux run laptop flowed through me like a champagne waterfall at a Kardashian wedding. I had purchased a brand new laser printer just the day before with my own money and had carried the awkward beast to my car by myself, and then later, brought it inside my home and set it up out of the box running a test print within 20 minutes.
I’ll be honest that I feel this way often. When I carry 50 lb bags of bird seed on my shoulder, I beam. Every time I change the furnace filter, I glow. In summer, I gaze at the grass after mowing it for much longer than I should. In the past 24 hours, I used a Phillips screwdriver twice. Once to take apart my vacuum cleaner and fix a clog and again, to put my new license plate on the back of my car.
It’s not that satisfying to do loads of laundry, piles of dishes, to cook endlessly, or to shop for shit. As a female from birth, I’m socially programmed for these tasks along with child rearing (which I said hell no to). The heterosexual expectation is a division of tasks very much reinforced by industries and institutions that don’t like a lot of crossover.
I knew from middle school that I wanted a career on the technical side of broadcasting. I’d watch a guy at a local PBS station edit shows in the studio when I was 15 years old, just absorbing. One day, I was asked to run a studio camera as a volunteer for a live production because a worker didn’t show up. The whole team was older than me and male. I did a good job even though I was mildly scolded to try to keep up with getting camera shots even though I was new to the job. It was a moment of belonging for me that I never forgot. They treated me like everyone else on the set even though I was just a teenage girl.
Throughout my broadcasting career, I earned a lot of respect for not being afraid to hang heavy studio lights from the studio ceiling using ladders and a wrench, learning every piece of equipment as best I could, and being introduced as the best master control operator we ever had by a few bosses.
The simple fact was that I always liked to know how things worked. We had Child Craft Encyclopedias (hey, I’m old and no, there was no internet then or even home computers) and I can remember day after day of leafing through the volume that detailed how machines worked. I’ve never understood robotics but to this day, I can remember reading and rereading those pages and staring at the comic like robot figures wanting desperately to know more. There was a sophisticated world out there and I wasn’t about to let my gender dictate my direction.
There were males that told me I should be in front of the camera instead of behind it. I spent little time even entertaining such rude assumptions. I have worked in front of the camera dudes and guess what? It’s not as much fun talking to a teleprompter as it is pushing buttons that light up.
Is this an appropriate time to say that I have always intensely hated dolls? Creepy childhood indoctrination to goad us into motherhood? I played baseball instead.
So, what is the pride in accomplishing activities usually relegated to the other gender? For women, I feel like a good part of it is the reassurance that we can be independent and live independently and even thrive apart from male relationships. We don’t need your money, your physical strength, your handiwork, your physics major, your tire changing magic. In most cases, we live longer than men, so if you’re lacking in half the household skills, what are you going to do when hubby dies?
I’m not being morbid. I’m practical. This is logical. Common sense. Survival. Will you hire lawn care? On one paycheck? Cry? Start a Go Fund Me account to fund your refusal to take care of yourself? It’s not harsh. I’ve never wanted to be that person, so I decided not to be that person.
And it goes both ways, honestly. Everybody knows a story about that one bachelor who lived with his mama into his 30s and when she died, he didn’t even know how to shop for toilet paper. Like what the fuck? I mean, everybody hates to dust and cleaning well does take some skill but how do you go that long without buying shit at a store to eat or drink or wipe your butt?
The division of gender in all areas of society has long confused and exasperated me. Why are there still two sections of baby clothes in the store with extremely different colors and patterns and style to them? When shopping recently for my niece, I went through both sections. I was actually pleased to see the NASA t-shirts in the little girls section since science has long lagged for the ladies in terms of recruitment and education. And oh, they weren’t pink. I do like pink, for the record though, although everything my mother bought me in the 80s was pink, including my radio, so I blame her.
There is still so much discussion about who women can be in this age. I hate it but I also recognize that so many of us have accepted our genderized destinies with little fight. Don’t wear the face if it doesn’t fit. If some man won’t let you touch his lawnmower, run him over with it. And if your boy likes flowers, get out of the way for God’s sakes and stop directing him to the toy trucks. Wouldn’t you like this better? NO! He wants the flowers and glitter, God Damn It. Leave that kid alone.
You be you. And let them be them.