Monday, October 3, 2011

"How Are You Girls Today?"

Beautiful Annie invited me and I invited Amster and Elizabeth.  The patio and the lobby of The Loft were filled with groups just like ours.  It was Saturday morning and we were there to watch Miss Representation, a Made-In-Northern-California examination of the objectification of women in the media.

It was my treat, so Elizabeth could satisfy her craving for Dr. Pepper.... well, it was Mr. Pibb but she said she was just as happy and I chose to believe her.  We settled down in the 2nd to last row and talked about boys and books and Emily Dickinson while Amster waited for Annie to arrive after dropping off boys at soccer.

It was a normal Saturday morning.  It was almost as if I'd never been shot.  There aren't a lot of those moments; I treasure them.

The movie wasn't didactic or pedantic or screeching.  It was neither too long nor too short.  It was a Goldilocks Film - "just right".  Dianne Feinstein, Condoleeza Rice, Olympia Snowe... their testimonies were moving especially when paired with the statistics.  This is how ro*co films describes it:

While women have made strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States still ranks 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, depression rates have doubled among teenage girls, and cosmetic surgery on minors has more than tripled in the last ten years.
It was hard not scream.  It's possible to gift the film to a school near you; I can't think of a better use of your discretionary funds this holiday season.

OK, I signed the pledge to spread the word and I've done my duty.  Now we can return to my lovely Girls' Day Out, which moved from the movie to May's Counter where Amster bought my lunch and where the title of this post originated.  May's serves fried chicken on waffles with syrup.  There are other foods, but this particular dish is what drew us there that afternoon.  Between us, we three capture the market on carbs and grease; we were in heaven, drooling, wanting everything. They'd have fried pickles as a starter, I was saving room for peach/blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

Our waiter arrived and smiled as he asked "How are you girls today?"  We three looked at one another and burst out laughing.  Only Elizabeth was younger than he.  As a middle school student she falls squarely in the category of "girl".  But Amster and I are older and wiser and haven't been girls for years... decades.... eons.

Poor waiter, standing patiently, wondering what the hilarity was all about but not wanting to interrupt the fun.  As Amster rolled her eyes at the immediate incarnation of the reality we'd just seen on screen and as Elizabeth silently begged me not to say anything I explained the movie and our reaction and then listened in amazement as he closed his order pad and told us his side of the story.

He's still working on the appropriate way to greet his guests.  "Guys" offends some women.  "Ladies" feels patronizing.  "Y'all" would be fine if we were 2000 miles east.  He felt our pain, and we felt his.

As I come closer and closer to 60, being called a girl felt complimentary at the moment.  Then I stopped and realized that I was living the point of Miss Representation; I was flattered to be considered youthful, girlish....and I couldn't help following the thought to powerless, foolish, un-threatening.

It was vaguely unsettling.  I've internalized what the media values on a deeper level than I'd realized. Why would I want to be a girl again?  I have learned and grown and turned into a fairly functional and productive adult.  Why would I want to go backwards?  Why did I smile when he greeted us that way?  Why did it feel good?

These are the kinds of questions that have been running through my head since that lunch.  I don't have an answer, but I am examining the paradox.  It seems like that's a good place to start.


  1. Gosh, I hadn't thought of this as a way of keeping women in their place, but I hate being called Ma'am. And I know it sounds petty, but I hate being called Mrs. Spencer. I'm just Megan to everyone. I say, "Mrs. Spencer is my Mother-in law". It's childish and yet I let myself be relegated to being a girl. I never thought about how I'm keeping-up the personification of women as "girls" by my very own actions. I just keep thinking of myself in my 20s and not my 40s. To let someone call me Ma'am or Mrs. means that I'm getting older.

    It's a Catch-22. We want to be respected and treated like grown women, but then when others try to do that, we look at it as patronizing. For me, I just feel really uncomfortable being older and treated that way. Then there are times when I want to be treated like a grown-up and I'm treated like a girl. Maybe if I just accept that I am a woman in my 40s and demand to be treated that way, I will never be treated like a girl. I know I cannot have it both ways and yet I try.

    You've given me something to ponder...

    Glad you had fun out with the ladies. ;)


  2. It's one of those issues with which we struggle. I just read Ronni's blog with her discussing basically this subject from another angle. I thought about putting my thoughts there but decided I'd be better off writing about it in my own. It's a tough one is all I can say. And I am sure waiters and sales 'persons' struggle with it regularly as the society changes what it expects.

  3. Personally I feel that "folks" is a most underused group term.

  4. Thanks for sharing...I'm hearing about the movie a lot these days and now I know it needs to be on my list of must-see movies. This post alone has given me a lot to think about...


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