Once upon a time, I was on my way to a dig in West Texas, and I stopped into a grocery store to grab some snacks, because swinging a pickax makes me hungry. Because I was on my way to a dig, it was a tank-top-and-men’s-cargo-pants day. (There are comfortable cargo pants available for women, but they tend to lack the pockets I want. When you’ve got watch, cell phone, chapstick, zippo, pocket knife, two bandanas, nasal spray, eye drops, tooth brush, notepad, pens, wallet, mints, duct tape, and hand sanitizer and no place to stash a purse, pockets come in handy. Also, for obvious reasons, it is easier to squat in men’s pants.)
Anyway, I had a whole dang lot of snacks and for some reason had decided that I had enough hands to manage all of them, when I really didn’t, and so getting outside was tricky. This being a small town and a small-town grocery store, their doors were somewhat counterintuitive. I had five armloads of granola and only two arms, and I couldn’t get out. A convenient and kindly cowboy helped me out. He got the door for me and even tipped his hat while he was at it.
Then a pack of gum slipped out of a hole in his grocery bag.
I had no way of picking it up with my arms full, and he was already halfway across the parking lot, so I yelled.
I’m sure I said something along the lines of “Hey! Hey! Hey!” because I am brilliant and articulate.
He jumped as though I had shot him. Turning slowly, with his hands up in a gesture of surrender, he began to protest.
“Look, lady, I’m sorry. You had all that stuff, so I thought I’d give you a hand. I swear, I didn’t mean any offense. My sister’s one of the strongest people I know, and my wife makes half the decisions in our house…”
He went on in that vein, and for another few sentences, I had no idea what he was talking about. I probably looked pretty stupid, standing there.
Then I understood. He thought I was going to fuss at him for holding the door. Wow.
Meekly, I pointed out his pack of gum, thanked him profusely for holding the door for me, and scurried off to my Doom Jeep to figure out what had just happened.
Clearly, my poor, convenient cowboy had had some bad experiences with cranky women who did not like men who held doors. Truly, that is a shame. I dislike the idea of breeding manners out of the populace just because those manners were applied unequally in the past.
Now, on to today’s adventure.
Today was an I-am-sick-and-my-sinuses-are-going-to-explode-so-screw-makeup day, but unfortunately, it was also an I-need-onions-and-Dr-Pepper day, so I had to go out. Because it was an I-am-sick-and-my-sinuses-are-going-to-explode-so-screw-makeup day, it became a tank-top-and-flip-flops day as well. Thusly equipped, I went to scrounge up some onions and Dr. Pepper.
I got my onions and my Dr. Pepper, and they were not too much for my two arms, so I tucked the Dr. Pepper into the crook of my elbow and held the bag of onions in that hand. That left me with one free hand with which to fish in my pockets for keys as I shuffled my allergic-nasty way out to the Doom Jeep.
And as I shuffled my allergic-nasty way out to the Doom Jeep, the man in front of me (who was in about the same predicament I had been in on that long-ago dig day), dropped a bag of apples. He awkwardly tried to bend and retrieve them and dropped a bag of squash in the process. As he squatted to try to get both, the keys fell out of his back pocket.
Being brilliant and articulate, I said something along the lines of “Hey! Hey! Hey! Here, let me.”
I picked up his bag of apples and bag of squash and spun them together, effectively reducing the number of bags by one. I handed that to him, then grabbed his keys and handed him those, as well.
I don’t know whether he was having a bad day, or was feeling sicker than I was, or was just a rat bastard, but it had to have been one of those, because he said “What the ****! I’ve got it! I don’t need no help from no little girl.”
I’d like to point out that he had plenty of time between my offer of help and the implementation of that offer to tell me that he would prefer I didn’t. He watched me pick up his stuff, accepted the help, and then cursed at me.
And I am not a little girl. I suspect that I am older than he. (Of course, in his defence, restaurant employees do occasionally offer me children’s menus. Granted, that only tends to happen in poorly-lit establishments, but it has been known to happen. But still.)
So, back to the dig-day story. Clearly, there are women around who feel that the only reason a man would hold a door is because he believes women incapable of doing so themselves. My cowboy must have encountered at least one, if he assumed that I was going to fuss at him for holding a door for me. The fact remains that, in that situation, I really was incapable of opening the door. There was no reason for me to be offended.
Today, however, I did bristle – not because someone offered me help I didn’t need, but because someone refused my help, apparently just because I’m female. Really, that’s what always gets me. I don’t mind men who open doors for me. I do mind men who refuse to go through a door I happen to be holding. I also mind men who call me “little girl” as though it somehow diminishes my worth.
I am not an angry feminist. Unless you make me angry.