Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dude, treat me like a lady

At the end of September, I had the pleasure of visiting the Toledo Museum of Art with my friend, Steve.  We both dressed to the nines – for me that meant I even donned my best black dress and high-heeled boots – as we were also going to the season opener for the Toledo Symphony.  As Steve lives next door, he walked over around six to pick me up and the first words out of his mouth were, “Wow, Snow…you look amazing!”
“Thanks,” I smiled.  “I clean up well…and you look pretty nice yourself!”
We spent an incredible hour or so walking through the galleries at the Art Museum.  Trying my best not to totter on high heels, I knew Steve would catch me if I happened to twist an ankle or slide on the polished floors.  Since he moved in six months ago, my pal always watches out for me…and in more ways than one.
“There’s a painting you need to see,” I told him as we walked through the Great Gallery.  “When I brought my first graders to the museum, it was one the docents liked to share with them.”  I saw one of the guards near an open walkway and asked, “Do you know where they moved Saint George and the Dragon?”
“I think so…,” he replied.  Indicating the next gallery.  “Works by American artists are in there.”
We quickly discovered a stunning painting of Archangel Michael slaying a dragon. 
“He’s my favorite angel,” Steve told me.
“Mine, too,” I nodded.  “He can really kick some serious ass with that sword.”
Steve laughed, knowing that no matter how well-dressed I might be, a little of my Joan of Arc usually shines through.
Moment later, the guard found us.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “The painting you’re looking for is in gallery 16.”
“Thank you!” I smiled. 
Moments later we were standing in front of the small painting that depicted Saint George in the foreground, his sword piercing the dragon’s head.  In the background, Princess Cleodolinda stood as a silent witness.  “There you go,” I said, patting Steve’s shoulder.  “That’s the ultimate White-Knight-Dragon-Slayer.”
As we’ve become good friends over the summer, Steve and I have talked about the numerous dragons we’ve had to slay…and the ones we’re still battling.  I’ve learned that he’s quick to play the white knight, especially where women are concerned, and it didn't take long before another opportunity presented itself.
When it was time to walk to the Peristyle for the concert, I noticed a man with his visibly pregnant wife tottering on stilettos.  “Why don’t you go ahead of us?” I suggested, indicating the stairs.
“I’ll be a lot slower,” the woman laughed.
“Don’t worry,” I smiled.  “I have to be careful in these heels, too.”
Without missing a beat, Steve took my arm (as he did while we walked through the parking lot, through the door, and up the stairs to the museum).  “You’re doing really well in those boots, Snow,” he said. 
“Yeah…who knew?” I laughed. 
Then, much to my surprise, I saw the woman’s husband walk directly in front of her, leaving her to wobble up the stairs while she supported her belly with one arm and clutched the railing with the other.  As we arrived at the entryway, the husband gave the usher the tickets and walked right into the concert hall, his wife still trailing behind. 
When Steve and I found our seats, l leaned over and whispered, “Did you see that man walk right in front of his wife?”
“Yeah,” he nodded.  “In the old days, I would have stepped right up and done his job for him…you know, took her arm and led her up the stairs right in front of him to make him feel like a jerk.  Now I practice acceptance and try to let it go.”
“Me, too,” I replied.  “But thanks for treating me like a lady.”
“Of course, Snow,” he smiled.  “I’ve always liked to be in the company of women and my mother taught me that they like to be treated well.”
As the conductor walked onto the stage, I thought about how for nearly thirty years I’ve lived alone, doing everything for myself, taking care of business, taking care of myself.  I didn’t need anyone to hold the door for me.  Carry in the groceries.  Cut the grass.  Fix things that were broken.  But it sure was nice to have a man looking out for me in small, yet incredibly gracious ways. 
The swell of the music filled the Peristyle and suddenly I thought about how six months earlier, I had been stood up.  At that time, when I finally accepted the fact that Trey had no intention to follow through on our plans, I chose to go to the Art Museum by myself.  Then I came home and wrote True colorsonly to discover I still had to slay the inner-dragons of feeling hurt, disrespected, and unwanted.  Since then, I’ve been focusing not on the bad behavior of men who don’t know how to treat me like a lady, but fully appreciating the ones who have shown me how it feels to be valued for being a strong woman.  
In the process, I've also discovered that even though it may seem mortally wounded, chivalry isn't completely dead.

The next day I was having dinner with a friend and noticed a teenage boy and his mother walk into the restaurant.  He loped ahead of her to the counter, then gave his order.  When it was ready for carry-out, he passed it to his mom, then walked in front of her to the door.  To my surprise, he opened it and passed through, never looking behind him. 
“That reminds me of what I saw at the symphony last night,” I told my friend.
When I had finished relaying the story, she sadly shook her head.  “That’s where it starts,” she sighed, glancing toward the mother and son who were driving out of the parking lot.  “And really, at the end of the day, we teach people how we want to be treated.”
Ain’t in the truth?
It’s taken me a while to stand up for myself in all kinds of difficult relationships.  I know my priorities and when to pick my battles.  I certainly don’t need anyone to slay my own dragons for me, nor do I desire another relationship that leaves me feeling as though I’ve been abandoned in tower of my own making.  It's time to rethink what I'm looking for in a man, and one of the most important things includes knowing how to make me feel wanted and respected.
This month I’ve been reading It’s a Guy Thing:  An Owner’s Manual for Women by David Deida.  Now, I don’t completely jive with the title, as no one should feel they own anyone else.  Still, Deida makes a good point – that in order to attract a healthy masculine man, I need to embody my own healthy femininity.  He explains that if women continually attract men who can’t make decisions, who are wishy-washy and needy, who disappear out of their lives with little to no accountability, it’s because they are leading with their masculine side, not the feminine. 
That certainly sounds like the story of my life, so now why not try to fully embrace and soften into my XX chromosomes to see what they have to offer?  I’ve got nothing to lose…and perhaps everything to gain.  It doesn’t mean I need to use my feminine wiles to manipulate or get what I want.  It doesn’t mean I pretend to be something I’m not.  It simply means I need to look deeply within to that which makes me a strong, sensitive woman, lead with those qualities, and see what I begin to attract in my life.    
        Perhaps someday soon there will be a Sir Lancelot standing right next to me, sharpening his own blade while I sharpen mine. He’ll treat me like a lady but will know when to stand back and cheer me on, while I slay my own dragons.  And I’ll be overjoyed to do the same for him.  Then, once our work is done, I’ll shift from kicking ass with my inner-Joan of Arc into embodying a softer Lady Godiva and slip into my brand-new leather mini-skirt and high-heeled boots so we can go out and celebrate our individual victories together as one.

At the Peristyle with Steve,
who knows how to treat me like a lady.