The Kind of Woman I Is

A couple of years ago, I had the literary pleasure of reading Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.  This very well-written novel is set in America before the Civil War and tells the story of three black women who  accompany their white masters annually to a luxurious resort in Ohio.  One year, a new girl arrives and she is a bit of a wild child.  Her fierce red hair is not braided down or otherwise tamed like “normal” black women, and the others find themselves often gossiping about her.  One day, someone asks her if she even knows how to braid, and her response was something like this (imagine hand on hip and a pointing finger),

“Of course I know how to braid!  What kind of woman you think I is?”

As crazy as it might sound, this really struck home with me.  There are a lot of things I know how to do now because I thought I was expected, as a black woman from the South, to know how to do.  I taught myself (with much advice and encouragement from my husband) how to cook as an adult because Southern women are supposedly good cooks.  In my 20’s, I joined a choir, did vocal warm ups, and practiced singing daily because all black women can sing, right?  A few years ago, I ditched the chemicals and became re-acquainted with my natural hair for several reasons, but one of the top five was that I did not want to be that black woman who doesn’t know how to do her own hair.

Woman washing and cleaning. Household series.

But does it really matter?  In the 21st century?  Does it still say what kind of woman you are based on what you can do?

This could go for any woman, regardless of race or ethnicity.  Does it matter now if you can sew or not?  Does it matter these days if you run an orderly household?

Many standards, and dare I say stereotypes, for woman have fortunately gone by the wayside, but many times I wonder if the desire to be that woman is still in us.  All women don’t want to be Bree Van de Kamp, but do all women have something that they deem a necessary skill they must accomplish as a personal sign of womanhood success?

I think it’s funny that Mawu (the wild child in Wench) found it so appalling to be accused of not knowing how to do hair, like that was the absolute simplest task and, duh, everyone knows how to do that.  I think the equivalent today would be if someone asked me if I knew how to…no, it’s the same.  I think if someone asked me today if I knew how to braid, I would respond the same way (even though I just learned).

Well, almost the same way.  I would definitely keep the hand on hip and pointed finger, but instead say, “What kind of woman do you think I am?”  🙂Urban Ethnic Girl With Attitude

Crazy Women Drivers!

Ladies, I’m so very sorry.  wallpaper-car

I honestly don’t know what came over me.  I have no answer for what I did, and I can’t explain it, but I definitely, and quite accidentally, fed the misconception of women being horrible drivers.   Normally, I’m a great driver.  When I worked at a private daycare long ago, I picked up the after-school kids and brought them back to the center, and in order to do that, I had to take safe driving lessons and be certified to drive the van.  Ever since then, I have been an overly alert driver and super cognizant of my surroundings.

So I really can’t explain the other day.

Baby girl and I had just left a kid’s birthday party and were headed home when I decided to stop for gas.   The area we were in was not completely foreign to me, but it was under construction.  The gas station was tucked within the shopping plaza and kind of back to the left.  As I approached it, I saw the ONEWAY signs pointing in to the gas station area.  No problem.  I followed the signs, pulled up to a pump, and got my gas.  When it was time to leave, I couldn’t see any ONEWAY signs showing me how to get out of the gas station.  Just chain-linked fences  surrounded the station keeping the large construction beast machines at bay. I waited for another car to exit so I could follow, but none did.  (Maybe they were waiting for me?)  So I drove towards the fence to the left and followed it back towards the entrance.  It actually led to a brand new roundabout.  When I got to the roundabout, I could see a small street to my immediate right that led back out to the main road, and I could see the shopping plaza, full of ONEWAYS, none of which pointed out.  Hmmm…I took the small street.

As I was driving my huge, white, SUV down the little two lane road, things started to feel weird like when you’re not sure which way a shirt goes, but you put it on anyway and find out later that it WAS on backwards.  I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a STOP sign.  Wait.  I can see the STOP sign.   That was my first clue, but, for unknown reasons, I kept driving.  As I continued slowly along, I glanced in my right side mirror and saw an arrow on the ground behind me pointing straight back.  Oh no.  This can’t be.  Next, the inevitable: a car came down the little street towards me.  The driver gave me a non-smile, put his left index finger up and made circles.  It had been confirmed.  I, the ever-careful, super-safe carrier of children, was driving the wrong way down a one-way street.  At that point, I couldn’t go back.  The street was smallish and it curved, and my car was too big to make that trip backwards so I continued on.  I got to the main road, my destination, just as the light turned. and four lanes of traffic headed in my direction.  Everyone could see me right in the midst of my dumbness.  I sat there, waiting for a break in the traffic so I could make a hard right onto the street when a small car pulled into the turn lane…and sat there.  The little car with its little driver just sat there, and soon another and another and another car was in line, waiting to turn down the ONEWAY street that I was blocking.  I looked at the driver and he didn’t even frown.  He didn’t yell at me.  He didn’t flick me off or lay on his horn.  He just sat there giving me the saddest, most pitiful look while shaking his head:  Crazy women drivers.  I could hear it in his eyes and in the way his head tilted as he slowly shook it back and forth.  It would have been better if he was angry, but the pity was almost too much to bear.  The light never changed to release me from his condemning gaze.  Instead, all four lanes of traffic stopped so I could turn and flee from my humility.  It didn’t even matter that the lane I turned into was an expressway on ramp headed in the wrong direction.  ::sigh::  At least it wasn’t an expressway exit ramp.

Ladies, I’m so sorry.

Now who’s eating humble pie

I met a new friend in my CrossFit class last month, and we get along very well.  We have a few things in common and often chat before and after class.  This month, our friendship left the gym and went out for drinks and appetizers.  Because of her name, accent, and appearance (caramel skin and eyes, straight-ish brown hair with highlights), I just assumed she was Hispanic and didn’t think much of it.  But then one day, she was holding my daughter and fluently speaking German to her!  Not Spanish…German.  I was so surprised that it took me a second to realize that my husband, who also speaks German and not Spanish, was chatting with her in not-Spanish.

Not Spanish.

I couldn’t believe it.  I found out over drinks yesterday that her mother is white American and her dad is Sudanese, and they raised their family in Germany.

She’s German.

Now who’s eating humble, misconception pie…. 🙂