First, I had to think long and hard about how to even log in to this account to be able to write on my own blog that I used to write on multiple times a week, so I realize that no one may read this because you don’t know that I’m still here. It’s been a minute since I’ve written…but if you’re reading this, welcome. I miss writing and I’m here because I’m a little bit fired up.
I used to spend a LOT of time in coffee shops when I was writing a book (I don’t want to talk about it…it’s in draft form, begging for a revision that I already have in mind, and I’ll get to it someday but who knows when). I usually had earbuds in, but occasionally I’d grow tired of the music and instead listen to the din of noise around me. I feel like I got pretty good during that time at reading people who were there in my usual spot. Most people were pretty considerate of those around them.
Lately, when I have work to do between appointments, I sometimes settle in for an hour or two at a coffee shop. I did just that today. Again, when I’m working I generally have earbuds in, but the group of three at the table next to me was so loud that I could sometimes hear them over my music. So I had some idea of what they were talking about.
From what I gleaned, Mid-50s Lady had a small business she created (the product was on the table and you’d die laughing at how ridiculous it was, but in the interest of keeping this anonymous, I’m not going to link to it…I’ll just say that there’s something for everyone, right?). Slick-Guy-in-His-30s was self-employed, had contacts in the radio industry and does marketing-ish stuff, and she wanted him to help her get her product out there, in magazines and on the radio (and I hilariously heard him trying to explain podcasts and streaming content to her). Other Man at Table, with his back to me, was also in his late 50s, and after 90 minutes next to them, I still have no idea why he was there because he seemed clueless about both her product and marketing in general.
M50L left after a while, and the two men remained at the table. I was still listening to music, their conversation was a bit quieter, and I was just working away at writing a report I needed to get done. I took out my earbuds when I got up to refill my iced tea, and as I came back to the table, I heard Slick Guy say he was looking for a full-time graphic designer to work with him, how he had trouble retaining people, blah blah blah. He then told a quick story of a recent female employee who thought she deserved a raise, and he told Other Man at Table why she didn’t. But I left my earbuds out when I heard Other Man at Table say something to the effect of how he’d just seen a story last week about women still making 70 cents on the dollar compared to men.
“You know why, though, right? It’s because women aren’t as reliable as employees. Got a sick kid? They’ve got to go get them, and then their work doesn’t get done. That’s why they don’t get ahead. And then if they stay home with kids, they completely lose their skills.”
MMMKAY. So now you all know why we’re here on the blog today.
I shot Slick Guy a look that probably scared him because I’m positive I looked possessed. He knew I heard this. I looked back at my computer immediately, and listened to Slick Guy say something to the effect of how he could kind of understand needing to tend to kids, as he was a single dad, so he sometimes had to leave work, too, etc. Then he quickly tried to move on and wrap up their conversation and go.
In the moments I forced myself to stare at my computer instead of sharing with this gentleman what I thought of his opinion, I bit back a million words, and trust me that some 750,000 of them are not fit to publish. I side-eye glanced at the tables around me: a young woman studying her medical books; a middle-aged couple having lunch; another young woman working diligently on a spreadsheet. I decided in that moment not to let the redneck girl in me unleash a sweary tirade lest I set my fellow women back further. I forced myself not to tell him I’d taken years off to stay at home with my boys (did he have children? Who raised them?), and that I’d since gone back to work (clearly having gained NO skills while I raised children), and that I was sitting there, reliably meeting my deadlines and getting my work done while he was running his mouth and perpetuating the stereotypes that keep women from ever catching up, all while making less than I probably would if I’d just stayed in the work force all those years.
The funny conclusion to the story is that those guys left, and Other Man at Table left his coffee cup sitting there (this is a place where you clean off your own table)…y’know, cause an underpaid woman was probably going to clean it up for him. A woman did walk up to the table and asked those of us in close proximity if it was taken; the man from the couple sitting close immediately commented, “No, the man before you left it there.” My ears perked up and I looked at him, and he said, “Did you hear what he was saying? I told my wife I’d be fired if I said that about a woman. Are you here working?” I nodded, and said, “And, I’m one of those women who stayed home for years, too.”
His wife said she had, too, and then gone back to work. I told them I’d had to force myself not to respond to the loud talker. They both smiled and wished me well as they left a couple of minutes later.
Equality. It’s not really a thing just yet, friends. But keep being reliable, ok, ladies? We’re gonna get there.