There’s some guy who recently started using the computer three spots down from me. I have no idea which department he works under or what his job title is. Since I recognize (and empathize with) occasional looks of blank boredom, I assume that he is an intern like me. Despite our close quarters, neither of us have taken it upon ourselves to say, “Hey, I work three computers down from you. What meaningless career-climber tasks are you doing today?” Not for any other reason except to be polite because we’re, you know, human beings and neighbors. For me, it’s mostly because I’m absurdly shy when I’m here. For some reason whenever someone that I don’t know says hi to me in this building, I can only manage a squeak and a nerdlette smile. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My only theory is that I’m actually anxious about being too childish in front of these sophisticated-literary-types, whereas I’m totally and utterly encouraged to be silly and entertaining at my other job (it’s theatre, folks, what do you expect?). There, I’m the polar opposite, often teasing my higher-ups and engaging in loud frivolity at every turn.
Anyway, so here I am, On the Rise Career Woman, scopin’ out possibilities, impressing superiors, writing important emails. And, yes, occasionally lugging buckets of slush to and from the mailroom. Sometimes they get pretty heavy (mostly when would-be authors try to bind the damn books themselves, oy), but it’s not impossible. You just have to do that funny, I’m-carrying-something-unwieldy walk. No worries.
I pass the guy as I’m waddling to the mailroom, we do the catch-eye, look-away thing with the polite smile of people who have recognized that we’ve shared the same workspace for three weeks and have said nothing to each other. He passes me. Then he stops and says, “Do you need any help?”
And you know what I do?
I fucking GIGGLE and shake my head, “No, that’s alright. Thanks!” I even use my upper-register. Shudder.
UGH!! BAH!! The only time he feels compelled to say anything and it’s because a girl is lugging something unwieldy and I react like a total vacant moron. Tee hee. Gee, thanks, mister. Thank God I didn’t let him carry for me.
I don’t want to get on this guy’s case; I’m sure he’s a totally nice guy, has no problem with women in the workplace (after all, mostly women work here), loves his mom and I’m sure that he meant nothing by it. I’m not even mad at him. It has nothing to do with him at all and, in fact, I have no way of knowing that he wouldn’t have offered a man help if he had passed instead.
Regardless, what made the moment stupid was MY reaction, not his. I’m just annoyed with myself for acting like a giggly damsel. I read feminist blogs, I belch feminist rants, I loudly snort in disgust at sexism. But without thinking, I just played into the same stupid gender roles. And it just made me think about the original issue. Why CAN’T I be funny and vivacious in front of people I want to impress? Why do I secretly feel that if I’m small and mousy, but work really hard and do good work that I’ll succeed more than if I’m spunky and fun, but work really hard and do good work? And is this even gender-bias-related or is this just me being a total paranoid lunatic?