How are we to move forward?


A few things have happened lately that have made me think about what it’s like to be a woman in this world.

Before that, I just went around well, being a woman.

I should just start at the beginning. It was this article that started it all.

Since I read it, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.

Because, unfortunately, it’s true.

Take today for instance…

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We have a salesperson who comes to our door roughly once every three weeks selling frozen food to us. The food is generally of pretty good quality and I specifically like the frozen fish as there’s more choice than at the local supermarket, plus it’s mostly been fully deboned.  To top it all, it’s cheaper than buying fresh fish (don’t forget, I’m feeding oodles of kids here).

Normally, our salesperson is a slightly ditsy lady. She has a tendency to forget something from my order and a couple of minutes after she’s left, I see her hurtling right back down the road again with my missing items. Though once, admittedly, it did take her until the next day to notice my forgotten eclairs.

Her arrival always sets our dog off. The previous frozen foods salesman was an absolute dog fanatic. He used to spend 20 minutes playing with our dog during every visit, as opposed to five minutes taking my order. Sometimes he even filmed our four-legged friend with his mobile phone, so that when he went home he could relive his work day with his wife. Any moment he had left to spare he whiled away showing me pictures of all his other customer’s dogs.

Our dog (Lexi) still recognises the van. Despite the dog enthusiast having moved away over a year ago. It was a mutual love-love relationship.

So he left and we are now visited by the sales lady who is nice and tries really hard but is obviously completely overwhelmed by the hairy one. Lexi really, really encourages her too to be a dog enthusiast. But so far, she’s still rather intimidated.

Now, knowing what I know, I should be more careful checking off my goods versus my bill. But it’s difficult. As you now know, there is the manic dog, who’s jumping up, trying to catch a lick, then throwing herself, belly-up, onto the ground, desperate for a full-on belly rub down, while barking all the time.

Despite consistently having been informed from the company a good couple of days before that the lady is due, I have always, always forgotten and then been ‘surprised’ by her arrival, and that leaves me totally embarrassed on two major points:

  • The house is always a tip
  • I have never ever looked through the catalogue and I have no idea what it is I want to order.

Which means: any random child who just happens to be around takes the opportunity to yell out excited ideas of what we really, really don’t need.

Now the frozen food company doesn’t only sell fish. They sell anything at all that they have possibly thought of that could be frozen. Which naturally includes cocktails and doughnuts, snails and lasagnes, dumplings and… well, it’s just easier to tell you that they have a catalogue filled with more than 150 pages of tempting offers.

As a grown up, the tempting-ness of these offers become less seductive because I have the ability to look at the price and at my bank balance. Unlike any of my children.

So normally the picture looks something like this: with one arm I’m trying to wrestle back the dog while with the other I’m shushing the children. Who, if there happens to be more than one of in the room at that time,  have entered into a full on battle of ‘What We Need More Of – Ice Cream or Cake’ otherwise known as the S’cream Cake Wars.

And then, after all that, there’s the freezer to contend with. It’s always almost full when the frozen food salesperson arrives. Either because I’ve been on a soup making mission or because my husband has thoughtfully been shopping just the day before and filled it with frozen pizzas. No, he never knows when the frozen food salesperson is coming either.

I always buy way too much and end up emptying the ice cube tray and stuffing the kids with ice cream before dinner in order to fit in yet another fish finger.

So you get the usual picture.

The woman arrives. I battle and spend. My husband emails me because the bank suspects fraud as his wife has spent so much on the debit card again. The dog pines and sometimes escapes when the poor saleswoman accidentally leaves the front door ajar. And she returns, red-faced and panting, “Sorry, your dog is now running around the sports field again. Oh, and here’s your tuna fish pizza.” And not one single child is satisfied with what I bought.

Instead they are bickering.

Again.

While I am re-rearranging the freezer.

But today it was different.

Today, a man came to the door and as soon as I saw him I knew that I knew him from somewhere, but I couldn’t quite figure out where…

That’s because I have absolutely no skill at all when it comes to the competency of facial recognition. Seriously, I once watched a film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in it. Half way through I was completely confused and I had to interrupt my husband’s viewing pleasure and interrogate him about it. It turns out, I couldn’t tell the difference between these two main characters and thought they were both playing the same role. My husband was significantly horrified and has teased me about it ever since (hence I now remember the two actors’ names).

The man standing at the door was clearly a frozen foods salesman as he had parked his van right in front of my house. So I greeted him, but I told him not to enter as I had one sick and germy kid lolling around on the couch.

He didn’t try to come in. But he told me several times that he would like to sit down at the table with me to do the order. I had to say “No” very clearly, three or four times, before he would finally back down. I explained to him it was for his own good health but I could tell he wasn’t at all pleased.

I felt that instinctive unsafe feeling that, since I read the article, I’ve started to think that every woman knows.

And then I remembered, that’s how I knew this man. He’d been a substitute salesperson for the frozen food company once before. And I’d had the very same uncomfortable, unsafe feeling then.

He didn’t raise his voice, or push the door. And he didn’t lay a finger on me, but I felt threatened by his tone and his body language. He was very forceful in his sales technique. He didn’t smile. He slammed the doors of his van stormily, one after another.

I felt unsafe. On my own doorstep. So much so that I thought about calling the company and telling them not to send that particular salesman to my door again.

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That article jumped into my mind yet again.

I am a woman and I live regularly on my guard.

I am a woman and time and time again I feel unsafe. Or taken advantage of or disrespected.

And I don’t say anything.

I just ignore it.

I thought it was normal.

And it may be that it happens a lot. But that is wrong.

I owe it to my daughters to talk about it.

We all do.

So, I’ll start the ball rolling. Feel free to join in in the comments section.

It is not acceptable to think that all that should be important for me is pleasing men and having their children.

It is not acceptable to pat my bottom.

It is not acceptable to pay me less.

It is not acceptable to say that all my problems will be solved if I look pretty.

It is not acceptable to have a go at me for feeding my child.

It is not acceptable to use your strength to make me feel afraid.

It is not acceptable to not stop when I say no.

 

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