Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Category: feminism

Teaching the Intern

I decided to take the intern out for lunch. We walked slowly between antique brownstones that spoke of comfort and stability without a thought of money. They, as we, welcomed the leaves of fall, which brought out the variations of brown in their steady walls and their hovering gargoyles.

I took us to a sushi house a couple blocks away, where the 2 roll special could get us a plate full of at least 16 pieces of sushi, a salad and soup. I added an order of edamame, ostensibly because 22-year old guys eat A LOT of food. Especially the skinny ones. But I also happen to love edamame.

He asked me questions about some of the contracts he had seen while filing them away in various cabinets, and I did my best to encourage his interests while trying to sound informed enough that he would believe my answers. I have worked in the business for three years, which isn’t quite enough to answer some questions, though I like to think that he was envious of my knowledge.  I spoke of my early years in New York as if they were a decade past and encouraged him to check out this weekend’s festivals and grab a copy of Time Out NY to take his girlfriend on a tour when she came to visit.

When the bill came, I casually took it from him. The lunch was on me. It’s not like he was getting paid for his internship; it’s the least I could do. He protested gracefully, but also with a hint of anxiety, adding, “I really feel uncomfortable with you paying.” But I insisted, mentioning how the boss had bought my lunch earlier in the week, and so I was simply passing down his generosity.

As we finished off the last pieces of edamame, he looked thoughtful, and then said, “You know it’s funny, waiters, they always bring the check to the guy at the table. And here you just paid even though you’re the woman.”

Before I thought he just wanted to support himself, to pay his half. I had done the same thing in my years as an assistant. But perhaps he actually wanted to pick up the entire tab simply because I was a woman and he was a man, determined to abide by the standards of society. This, I decided, was incredibly naive.

“Well,” I said, “The waiter didn’t really seem to mind so I guess it’s OK.”

“No one asked you to change it”

I read a wedding post today where it was noted that “the wedding is kinda like married life, it often comes with unresolved feelings.”

Now that wedding day is more than a month behind me. Jon and I have continued into married life, which, to those who ask how married life is treating me, I have to admit is much the same. Of course there is a legitimacy that comes with our legal union. As Jon quotes from a Seinfeld episode, Everything sounds better with ‘my wife’ in it. (And Kramer confirms with “My wife has an inner ear infection.”) We can now pick up each others’ dry cleaning, and I don’t feel so weird going to the vet, where I used to hope they wouldn’t refuse treatment because my last name was different from our dog’s. Now it’s the same.

But I also changed my name at work. And in addition to all the bureaucratic hoops that I have to navigate to make sure I still have access to email and people can still find my phone number on the directory, it seems I also have to confront social opinions on marriage and the choices that come with it. It’s something I admit I naively didn’t think I would encounter by following the social norm and taking Jon’s name.

A senior member of my department came by wondering why he couldn’t find me on the office chat. I explained that IT had just fixed it so there might be a lag before it showed up in searches. I concluded with, “Oh, this whole name-change thing is quite a process.”

“Well, no one asked you to change it,” he said with a pointed look. And walked away. (Yes, he studied gender studies at a school in NY and no, his wife did not change her name)

First of all, society kinda does ask me to change it. But I esteem those women who keep their name because they feel a connection to their father’s family, or because they have an established professional reputation, or simply because they were born with that name and they see no reason to take on this new family name for the sake of society’s preferences. Those are good reasons. And what’s more, women who keep their name put up with a lot of snarky comments and confused reactions. But none of those reasons really applied to me. I wanted Jon and I to have the same name because we’re in the same family now. This seemed the easiest way to do it.

But this comment, aside from popping a little How dare you! thought bubble in my head, makes me question how wifedom is changing my view on feminism. Maybe not necessarily my own view, because I’ve always taken the side of Women Have Choices! Yay! Let it continue! But more the side of those who advocate breaking all gender roles. I find that as I wife, while I do break some traditional gender roles, I actually like others. And what kind of feminist does that make me?

Unresolved feelings indeed.

Coffee shop mommies

I open the door and squeeze in between strollers, the smell of coffee and friendly chatter replacing the rumble of buses and cars on the street. My eyes wander across the strollers with wispy blond hair escaping from underneath blankets and hats, mothers greeting each other and other women wearing expensive looking sweatpants.

How my morning coffee spot has become the Mommy Coffee place rather than the more typical Morning Suit Coffee locale, I’m really not sure. But I’m definitely the only one wearing a pencil skirt and tights.

I nod to the owner, indicating that I’d like the usual. Coffee with milk, no sugar. And while it’s true that this is my favorite coffee in town, I’m not sure I would come here at 9 a.m. every morning if I wasn’t on my way to work.

Saturdays, vacation days, even sick days for me are an opportunity to sleep in, spend more time at home with the dog, read my Kindle on the sunny third floor. Why is it that these women leave the house? It’s cold outside, the coffee shop is packed, and while it does allow dogs and has free wi-fi, none of these women are taking advantage of those two features.

Maybe, like me, they just like good coffee. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s something that happens when women have children — that they just need to get out of the house for some adult company? Or do they want to show off their fancy strollers and the luxury of being able to wear sweatpants at 9 a.m. on a weekday, of being clearly well provided for without having to work.

The shop owner and I exchange coffee for a handful of quarters and I step back out onto the street with the suits.

A Belt is not a Ring

The Belt arrived!

I was somewhat worried about it, because it’s been about 9 business days since I ordered it! But it was coming from Canada.

Jon is going away tonight for his brother’s Bachelor Party in Michigan. I going to try to fit a proposal in sometime between now and when he calls a cab to the airport… eek!

A belt and a ring

You think we women are the only ones who get overwhelmed and freak out with that awful gut feeling that you can’t, you simply won’t be able to do the things that the Wedding Industry insists that you do to make everything perfect? The men apparently suffer too.

The more I talk about color palettes and bridal parties, decorations and venues, the more he feels the pressure to do his part, the proposal, not only perfectly, but also quickly, so that I can start with all my plans. And I get that, so I’ve stopped talking to him about it because I don’t want to put that awful pressure on him.

And now I feel disconnected. Which is wrong. The marriage/wedding/proposal is about US. And this has become about him planning a proposal and me planning a wedding without talking about anything. So I’m making it about us again. And I’m planning a surprise proposal too, and then we can plan the wedding together.

Knowing that it is important to him that he surprises me and makes a moment of it, I’m not going to steal his thunder. I’m going to propose to him after he proposes to me. I’ve decided to order a custom leather belt from an Etsy seller, with the following text hand-stamped into it:

A belt is not a ring. But with a little effort, it is never-ending. The belt is not–God forbid–sparkly, but it does hold your pants up. A belt and a ring, together? Supportive and beautiful; Sparkling and strong. From Maryland to Boston, Hoboken and beyond. This is our love. Will you marry me?

I thought about getting a ring, but a) I don’t know his ring size and the rings I liked were not re-sizable; b) I think he’d like a belt much better; and c) I really like the juxtaposition between a leather belt and an engagement ring. It’s kind of poetic.

I’m very happy with the entire plan. Please let me know what you think. I realize that it slightly questions traditional proposal etiquette, and gender expectations, but I like that. I also realize that I could propose to him instead of waiting, but I think he’s very excited about his plan and to ruin it would be crushing.