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…

♦♦♦♦

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.

♦♦♦♦

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.

 

30 thoughts on “How are we to move forward?”

  1. It is not appropiate to tell my daughter that becuase she likes football the boys will love her….

    Nor is it appropiate to tell me that I will look manly if I get muscles.

    Twerps

    great post

    stay safe x

  2. You are so right, none of that is acceptable. Woman is the one who is bestowed with the ability to bear children, to keep human species alive, and this alone should be a reason for the deep respect and protection.

  3. I just read the article you referred to Sarah, and it really hits home, it’s brilliant.
    I never really thought about what it’s like to be a woman in this world; as females, we always seem to be on our guard in a man’s world. It’s something we should be discussing with our daughters so they can pass it on to theirs.
    A thought provoking post, thanks.

  4. I think you’re totally right to contact the company! I HATE that sense of ‘ownership’ that some door-stopper come over with and we feel it everywhere else already so we definitely don’t have to put up with it in our own front yards. Vx

  5. I am so sorry for what you have endured! In your very own home–or at least on the door step– where you should be safe. But good for you for speaking out! No one can support you or validate you if we don’t know what you suffer! Suffering in silence is worse sometimes than the abuse itself because it amplifies the pain, the self doubt and fear. And, as another commenter said, calling the company and refusing to patronize them if they send that particular salesman again is a way to show you are strong,serious about your safety, and will not stand to be made a victim.

    I have been very fortunate as I am only aware of being in this type of situation a very few times. However, I suffered a considerable amount of emotional and verbal abuse from my parents, who I honestly believe have no clue of how poorly they treated me. Because of this, and what I believe to be something innate in me, I learned to see think better of myself than I was treated by my family. And I learned how to avoid and diffuse the situation to protect myself and not feel the least bit bad about using whatever skills I had to avoid harm. Now, when I encounter rude, abusive and socially deviant people in my normal life I diffuse the situation in a number of ways. I have seen the ability to diffuse a tense situation as a gift. It has protected me from a lot of bad situations.

    Should we *have* to do this? No. But bad people exist, and if we need to, we should use what ever tools we have to protect ourselves. It would be silly to push back in many circumstances. So, I say, do what ever you have to in order to prevent a confrontation, especially to avoid anything physical. And, don’t feel bad about it, just do what you have to, then like the article says: TALK about it to EVERYONE. That way you have protected yourself and you can show how you faced a bully and survived.

    I think diffusion is only a bad thing if you think of it as a failure. I say, it is a tool to survive, especially if it helps you avoid a unsolicited touch or physical abuse. So, wear it as a weapon, as a badge of courage. Say, ‘I was smart enough to avoid danger, to avoid being physically violated,’ instead of thinking that using situational diffusion methods is a sign weakness or feminine inferiority. And by talking about it you show everyone that you faced that danger and you survived. Talking about it will also help relieve the pain, the fear and the anxiety because you are no longer bearing the abuse alone.

    We generally cannot match a man physically, but if we can use our words and our heads to avoid a situation, then we have still protected ourselves. There are bad people in this world and there always will be bad people. So, as I see it, the only other way to be safer is if we carry a weapon and fortitude enough to employ it.

    1. Diffusion is a good thing because it can prevent a situation escalating and becoming much worse. I think standing your ground and giving clear and calm signals is another way to protect yourself. That is what I did with the salesman, it was like an automatic reaction and afterwards I stood in my kitchen and thought, ‘what just happened there?’
      I don’t know how it is for you, but one of my gut reactions is always, ‘did I do something wrong?’ Then I find myself analysing the situation and my own behaviour. In most cases the only potential ‘fault’ I can find is that I might have been too friendly… Then I always correct myself and remind myself that being friendly is not a fault, it’s a nice character trait and that someone sometimes sees that as an invitation or a weakness doesn’t mean the ‘fault’ lies with me.
      I want my daughters to live in a world where they can feel safe. I think that’s a dream really. The next level down from which is to know how to look after themselves, and for them to know that if something does happen, they are not to blame.
      Diffusion is one of the tools I know that they have already had to use. Already at such tender ages.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate it. I can relate very well to your description of your parents. I am really, really glad that you know that you are worth more. Do you still have contact with them? I have no contact at all with mine any more.

      1. Being friendly is a wonderful thing. More often than not it’s the best way to be. Good for you for not blaming yourself when people misinterpret your friendliness. And, sounds like you know that you can be firm and still be friendly. But, in case you haven’t given yourself permission, it’s okay to stop being friendly then instant you realize someone is using it against you.

        I think you sound like you are being a great role model for your girls. I tell the Spud all the time that the world is not a perfect place and there are a lot of not nice people out there who will hurt you either by accident or design. It sometimes upsets her, but I’d rather her learn the facts from the safety of my sofa than have reality catch her by surprise.

        I do not speak to my parents anymore. That is a long sordid story for a different venue. But, as hard as it was to make the cut I have never regretted it. My only regret is that I did not have the supportive people I hoped to have as my family. But you can’t make people change and in the end you have a responsibility to look out for yourself and protect yourself, even from your own parents.

        Thanks for blogging. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes dark, I always look forward to your posts and sharing your journey. I think blogging is a great way to connect with people and build a community support network. It broadens our world and helps us find people who “get” us.

        Hugs!

      2. I teach my children about reality from the sofa too, or at the dining table. Some of it goes in one ear and out the other but I just keep on telling them all the same.
        You are very wise Janie Jones. We can’t decide who is in our family, but we can decide if they are good for us or not.
        And thank you😉

  6. Taking “no” for an answer. That hits the nail on the head. As I sat here and read your post, and then the article, I began replaying the incidents in my head where I was put in an uncomfortable position. As a teenager, as a young woman, and there were many.

    The time when my boss cornered me in the supply stacks and tried to kiss me and I could feel how exited he was when he leaned into me. The weird thing was coming back at the end of the week to pick up my final check and his wife was berating me for not giving a two week notice. And in that way I do not fit the profile. I told her what happened and that I no longer felt safe to work alone with her husband. She called me a liar. Poor thing.

    Or when, a few years later, I was in the military and fell asleep on watch. (Shame on me, but it happened.) One of the men found me and told me if I didn’t have sex with him he would tell on me. I didn’t; he told. I was severely disciplined, but kept my dignity. I guess I am atypical.

    I don’t get into those situations now as I am 62, but having gone through them all my younger life I still get the creepy feelings at times when I am home and alone. I answer the door through the window next to it when it is a man at the door. Trying to be safe even at my age… because I have been programmed to be wary from early on.

    You have the right to ask for a new salesperson.

    1. Thank you Lynda for sharing your experiences!!
      I suspect you won’t have been the only victim of your boss. I wonder if his wife finally saw the light? It’s very good that you left asap, it doesn’t sound like you were safe there.

      The shame is on him. You are only human, he should have looked out for you and not try to blackmail you into sex.

      I understand your creepy feelings completely.

      Once, when I was at the local pool, I went into a jacuzzi with my daughter. The man sitting next to me’s hand brushed against my leg. I ignored it at first as I thought it was an accident. But then he placed his hand on the top of my inside leg. I didn’t say a word because my daughter was right next to me and I didn’t want to frighten her, but I took his wrist and squeezed it firmly so he would let go and I roughly pushed his hand back toward himself and I gave him the most evil look I could master.
      Despite ‘dealing’ with the situation I never go in a jacuzzi any more unless my husband is there or it is empty.

  7. Apparently, this particular Chief Petty Officer did this often and got away with it. Back in the early 70s women had to put up with this and worse in the military. The military services have always been aware of the problem and seem to be trying to correct it and, if you believe the news coverage, it has gotten better.

    1. I think a lot of things are coming to light now. I do think that women’s complaints are being taken more seriously in general. I do think that that has got improved. And that women are more likely to say something now than they ever were before. But I do fear some issues are getting worse too. Like the use of so-called date rape drugs.

      1. True, and sad. Your mention of the date rape drugs (DRD) had me looking for more into on the development of the fingernail polish DRD detector… Sadly, I found this is not yet available. Even more sad was the commentary on SNOPES regarding the idea. They did bring up some relevant thoughts. http://www.snopes.com/undercover-colors/

      2. I didn’t know anything about the nail polish detector. Thanks for the link, I read up on it last night and we ended up having a family discussion about it.
        I found the article really informative especially as I had no idea that so many different substances were used. People who use this kind of technique to have sex are bad people. They are not even giving an opportunity to their victims to say no. It disgusts and horrifies me, especially as I have three young daughters. The best advice I’ve been able to give them so far is only go out with friends you really trust and make sure that you look after each other. Watch your drink at all times and drink water between each alcoholic drink that you have. Be vigilant and trust your instincts. And talk to your friends, about your experiences, about their experiences and about tactics to protect each other when you go out.
        But I think more needs to be done to educate young men too.

  8. this was me every time someone came to the door; trying to run interference with kids, cats and dogs all so I can be made to feel uncomfortable if I don’t choose to buy what you’re selling. I’m proud of you for sticking to your guns! I’m currently exploring a more covert military style defense. Now every time the door bell rings, my family knows to quickly take cover. Laundry basket and toys are chucked so we can fling ourselves over the couch or army crawl to the next room so that anyone peering through the window will think there is no one home. Please note: there is NOTHING more awkward than being caught army crawling on the floor by an over eager salesperson that presses their nose up to the glass almost immediately after ringing the bell (who does that?) I can tell you from experience, that if you try to explain that you were searching for your contact lens that just spontaneously jumped from your eye at the moment of the bell ringing and is now being trampled by kids cats and dogs coming out of their hiding places, you do not get any sympathy and it costs you whatever they’re selling just to get them to leave.

    1. I will learn from your experience and remember not to get caught crawling along the floor, as you so brilliantly described!!
      Have a great day avoiding salespeople.

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