It happens often. I’m having a great meal at a nice restaurant with some friends. We all order what we like and have some drinks. The check comes, placed politely face down on the table by the waiter who is likely ending his shift and just wants to close his register out. And inevitably, the person who ordered the rare filet and side of fois gras, with the taste for fine wine says, “Should we just split it?” More often than not, I mumble something along the lines of “oh yeah, seems fair, sure no problem, ok” while the mathematician in me (I’ve always liked numbers, fractions, percents #nerdalert) calculates just how much less I owe.
Then, despite how lovely the evening was, I will be sitting in my cab on the way home reviewing the bill, calculating again and again how much each of us should have paid, and ultimately thinking of ways I could have said something without sounding cheap or rude. And then this brings me to think, why can’t I just stand up for myself? It makes me wonder how many other women feel this way on a daily basis, in any aspect of their life. I understand the gravity of paying a bit extra for the bill is a first world problem, if you will. But it does beg the question, “How do we, as a gender, stand up for what we want and what we deserve, without coming across as rude, or aggressive.” It’s a fine line and balance. There have been moments when I have been assertive and said something, and I get labeled for that. Over the years we learn, and are conditioned to bite our tongue and go with the flow. We trivialize the grievances we have to keep the peace amongst family, friends, the work place. I once had a great conversation with a supervising physician at Rush University, where both Dr McDonald and I did our training. She said, “Shelly. You are a strong woman who knows the difference between right and wrong. The direction of your career will depend on how you convey that message. Either you will be a respected physician people look up to, or you will become the bitch no one likes to deal with.” As women, we have to be so conscious of our tone as well as how we are perceived. In the same breath, we cannot be afraid to be our very own and best advocate.
There is a popular deodorant brand that has a line of commercials regarding this topic (I can’t tell you the name though, it’s a Secret…..). It shows girls and women changing the misconception that we have to be weak or quiet, paid less, employees and not employers, the notion that women should be seen and not heard. The message is one that I so strongly echo, especially in cases where there is abuse, neglect, unfair treatment, children being treated poorly. I also believe this can be done with the grace of the woman’s touch. We can be powerful and strong, without resorting to rudeness or aggression. To quote one of my dearest friends, “We’re smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business, see, you better not play me.” –Beyonce