Here I was, a young housewife and mother of three sons. A world unto itself. A satisfying world. An important job in its own.
Then, I went to work in the outside world. What is more, I went straight into a job that is generally all men. Very few ladies wanted ( nor do they still; it takes a tough hide) that sort of job.
I found within hours of the first day and to my complete shock that these fellows were not gentlemen by and large.
How did I see that so soon? Just a few examples follow. Doors flung open by the man in front of me and left to slam in my face and body if I didn't watch carefully. Herding in front of me with a rude shove if I didn't move fast enough. Language that singed my ears. Comments on my anatomy that brought internal AND external blushes. No concession whatsoever to the tender wife and mom that I had always been. No conversation of any meaning other than the latest sporting statistic or the latest conquest or tactical scenarios.
Did I realize they were testing me to an extent? No. Did I learn that quickly? No. I soldiered on and suffered. It took me several years to feel comfortable but less time to stop showing my shock. I learned quickly that one is not well served who wears their feelings on their sleeve so to speak.
I had been reared to be a lady. I had only one set of behaviors to display and that was, being a lady. I was like a frog out in the hot sun simmering in the heat of lessons learned.
Several years later, a young woman came into that department and took ME under her wing though there were some years difference in our age. The traditional roles were reversed, the younger one teaching the older; and while I sheparded her through sticky situations and around some of the sinkholes that she fell into, she in turn forced me into becoming a round peg in a round hole instead of the square peg that was me trying to get into a round hole that I was. I am speaking of how I learned from her how to act, behave and generally get along better. I needed that but I tended to try to neglect following her advice as it was so foreign to my nature. She however gave me no rest and insisted on my following her advice. I usually did after some resistance. A little tale to tell at my expense a long time ago follows: She had made me promise that I would go to a running track with the rest of the shift after work that evening. I said I would to get her off my back. Well, I had no intentions of doing that but to keep my word, kinda sorta, I drove into the parking lot of said field and stopped the engine. I sat there perhaps 1 minute and re-started the car. I was in the process of backing up when I heard footsteps pelting down the pavement to my car. It was her! She said, " Get out of that car and get up on this field! You HAVE to mix with these people!" I asked how she knew it was me down there. She said " No way I don't recognize that Camaro Z-28 engine. Now git out!" I still refused. She more or less ( more, mostly) threatened me if I didn't get up onto that track. I knew she was right so I stopped the engine and trudged on up and had, of course, the time of my life! That started me finally being a part of things.
Generally, she had her way with forming my work personality and that eased my way into the years that followed in that man's world career choice I had made so unknowingly long ago. I will always be grateful to her. We are still deepest of friends.
Thing is, and the crux of this is: I maintained being a lady to a large extent. In other words I stayed true to myself and as a result, doors have been held open, crude jokes have ceased, cursing in my presence has stopped, and comments about my anatomy are made out of my hearing. Those made within were and are complimentary and something one can take back to the kids and repeat.
My treatise is simply that one can adapt ( sometimes with help as I had) or one can remain the same in the workplace. and be the one who refuses to learn or who expects the rest of the world to conform to her/his wishes and experience. Ain't gonna happen.
This is an accolade then, to Pat, my best friend in the world.