I have learned so much this week my head is near exploding.  Sometimes a week is filled with one main theme, or one thing in which we were busiest or made the most progress.  We can look back on a Friday afternoon as we count down the minutes until 5 o’clock and go, “Man, I ran like Usain this week!” or “Man, thank goodness thatproject is finally complete.”

Well, this week – as in hello today is only Wednesday – my entire body has caffeine shakes over the amount of sh*t I don’t have room to even fathom, let alone process.

Monday morning, 4:10am:  alarm, sigh and eye roll, out the door to run.  Badly, but the temperature was glorious and I was alone and felt empowered in the swearing at and shutting off of my watch.  Take that, you innate object that can’t talk back.  I win.

By 7:00am I was showered and out the door, ready to jump into the crazy world of work.  However before the house alarm was even set, my phone was lighting up as if it sixth-sensed an intruder.

Call me plz about a personal issue.

Two things:  I am a grammarian and shortcutting even in texts drives me insane, and personal issue?  Probably not the best person in your phone’s contacts to ask.  I haven’t heard from this person in almost a year, so my gut that I rarely listen to but is usually right told my stupid head that it was probably because said person was about to inquire about a divorce.

Yep.  Again, clearly not the resident expert on how to avoid. 

Yet because we have hometown ties, because I hate to let anyone down, because I am GASP! nice and compassionate and hate to see people hurt, I responded.  And, I think maybe even helped.  (Don’t divorce, valiant efforts, lots of counseling, even more prayer…we’ll see.  Or actually if my prayers are answered, I won’t see.)

Therein formed the theme of my week, all three fully completed days.
Yesterday as I was in the middle of working and reworking and thinking about how to handle an ongoing account, I received an email from Angela.  Her emails always cause me to stop whatever I’m doing and prepare to read either some issue regarding something we’re working on or some commentary on something we’re not.  She’s succinct, smart, beyond sarcastic and always a welcome break.
Side note:  Angela’s email arrived after I had finally stopped laughing at the one that I read about an hour earlier from a cohort in our Kansas office.  The stuff that flies out of his mouth or comes across occasionally on my PC screen is ridiculous.  You literally cannot make any of it up.  It went something like this:
“I think my customer meant to send this to you on this email chain, not Bethany Strange who is within his organization.”
“Thanks.  And yeah, like THAT’s all I need – a last name of Strange.”
“I went to school with a girl named Jodi Roudybush.  Freak’n awesome.  Hadto date that.”
Ok, I know – but in the midst of our constant high-pressure and nonstop world of sales, childish humor sends me into fits of hysteria.  I’m sure I was laughing the hardest in that moment because I knew he would later confirm the answer to my very rhetorical question of, “Did you really date her?” with an affirmative. 
Angela’s much more mature email was forwarded and simply said, “Love this.”
So did I…

Months ago, I turned her on to The Skimm, which is a sardonic newsletter of sorts wherein two female writers “skim” the headline news and add their witty spin before pushing it out to incredibly thankful and fellow sarcastic folk like us.  Angela was apparently returning the favor now by sending me a newsletter (that I immediately subscribed to the second I finished reading) also written by women – smart women in Hollywood (and no, that’s actually not oxymoronic).

In the newsletter was a well-written article by Jennifer Lawrence.  Even more compelling than its sentence structure was the topic: gender equality.  The article was simply titled, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?”

I began reading that article which such fervor it was like I was lapping up chocolate ice cream at the bottom of a bowl that had been stirred around frantically in an effort to turn it into soup.

And I quote:
It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable. When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).
Obviously I have already carved out time to watch every movie this girl has ever made, and am seriously chastising myself wondering why in the name of all things holy have I not yet seen American Hustle.
How ironic.  That is the exact movie which caused her to stop dead in her (still fairly young) tracks and ask herself the question of, “Why in the **** am I paid less than these guys when without me, there is no movie?” 
<my hand straight up in the air>  Oooh Oooh!!   I know the answer!  She hustled.  She worked her ass off.  Her acting chops are solid, her screen presence is commanding, and she is…cough, ahem, hello again my dear friend feminism…every guy’s dream.  Oh, wait.  What do I mean by every guy’s dream?

I mean that in this clichéd fantasy freaking world in which we ALL live – actors and non-actors and salespeople and teachers and fill a profession in as you may – men absolutely think that if a woman a) knows sports b) has a potty-mouth c) is “just one of the guys”, i.e. cool chick d) can quote movie lines and e) still bake and do their laundry and put on knee pads at their very whim/any day that end in ‘y’ – that their dream has finally come true.

Only guess what?  That lasts about a minute.  Or a day, a week, or sometimes even a year.  I can assure you – that emotionally masked dichotomy does not last a lifetime.  One of two things inevitably happens.  Either the man begins to feel emasculated by his dreamy counterpart who is literally doing nothing differently that what attracted him to her in the first place – or – she will begin to feel resentment for being the lone wolf in the relationship, one presumably she thought would be based at a minimum on truthfulness and equality.

I hate the term “Alpha Female” when used to describe a kick ass woman.  But let’s be honest, it’s a real thing and any woman (Jennifer Lawrence, I’m lookin’ at you) who falls under that heading is pretty much screwed.

Societal expectations are hard to ignore, probably because, oh…I don’t know…we live in a society; the real-world actually exists.  And the real-world tells women that we should behave in a certain way as long as it is the “accepted” way – “accepted” being (short version, my blood pressure is spiking) synonymous with “in our places” and not stepping on anyone’s toes.
Whose toes, you ask?  ANYONE’s, I said.  That’s the bitch of it.  We can’t step on a man’s toes because he, according to society, is supposed to be the “Alpha” and we sure as sh*t can’t step on female toes because they are competing to gain the attention and courtship of men.  Whaaaa?
To JLaw’s point:  she said she felt as if she should apologize for making so much money.  Until she saw the salaries of her male counterparts, that is.  In that moment, she realized two things:  her male counterparts were definitely not apologetic and society teaches women – no, scratch that – it demands of women that we apologize for being us.  Wherein “us” equals unintentionally making anyone, male OR female, feel inferior.
You know what she said in response to that demand?  “F that.” 
Right answer.  I mean really, what else is there to say?  As we all totally grasp and as Rihanna sings…haters gonna hate whether you’re doing bad or good.  It’s on them, not us.
I once walked into an appointment years ago and was greeted by a CEO who was sitting behind a gigantic leather desk centered in a gigantic windows-on-all-sides office.  He looked up, dropped his jaw, moved his eyes up and down what felt like a hundred times and then uttered in a voice of disdain, “Legs like that should be illegal.  You can sell me anything you want.”
The first thing that popped into my mind as my stomach tried to keep down all the instant queasiness was, “I’m sorry.”  Literally that’s what I thought.  “I shouldn’t have worn a skirt and made you say that.” 
Thankfully, adrenaline and protection-mode kicked in and in the blink of an eye, I felt my cheeks replace the redness of embarrassment with the redness of anger.  I simply stood there, looked that idiot square in the eyes and said, “I will never sell you anything.  My brain is even better than my legs and you are an a**-hole.”
And then I cried all the way back to the office, like I had done something wrong.  It took me many years to figure out I was crying because I let myself down.  I had wanted to apologize for being me instead of sticking up for myself.  (Forty-two year old me says, “sorry me.”)
Fast forward roughly 17 years later to last week.  I was on the phone with two male cohorts as we waited for a prospect to join the call, and we were making light about how busy things are lately.  I was enjoying the camaraderie until one them said, “Well if I made the money Beth makes, I wouldn’t care about working this hard.”
I have no idea what they think I make, nor do I care because it’d be inaccurate and more so because it is the platitude of all salespeople. Not exaggerating, that was the second time in two weeks that kind of comment was made, the only difference being the male voice saying it.
I immediately felt ostracized both by and from the team.  Further, it took everything in my power to neither immediately think I should apologize, nor respond sounding like the unemotional B that the “Alpha Female” is stereotyped (read: plagued) by.  Instead I said, “My kitchen has nothing but coffee creamer, wine and straight up Gluten spaghetti in it, and my kid is in college.”  All true. 
What I was silently thinking in my (non-stupid, much more experienced) head was, “This is ‘Murcia boys…land of the free, home of the brave – I’m not the one stopping you from making more money.  You are.” 
Women are not the enemy.  Nor are men.  WE are the collective problem.  Humans are greedy, fallible, sinful, and  a whole slew of other not so great things.  People are fragile.  We have breaking points.  We fall down and we get back up.  We laugh, we cry.  We try and we fail.  And we also occasionally do really well at things we care about doing.
Yes, there is disparity.  But there is also something called common decency, compassion, and an understanding that when we throw each other under the bus, we will never solve any kind of problem worth solving.  Blame is its own form of failure.
I’m sorry…is it Friday yet?

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