One night toward the end of my senior year of college, over cheap gin and tonics at the crappy bar next door to my apartment, I sat next to the older guy who had my attentions at that particular moment (and for all moments preceding--at least for the previous year) , nodding, laughing, enjoying everything he was saying...until he said this:
"God, Gabi, your life is so easy. I wish I could trade with you. All you have to do is go to class and your part-time job. Nobody takes you seriously but it doesn't matter because you're not doing anything serious."
I wish I could tell you that I threw my drink in his face, made some sort of brilliantly witty remark about his insufficient manhood (not that I had any idea) and stomped out amidst the applause of the other bar patrons, but if memory serves me correctly, I listened to him drone on and on for another half-hour, silently hating him--and myself for staying--before finally making an excuse and going to bed.
But later that night I lay awake in bed and fumed. How dare he? Sure, I didn't have a job I hated and bills that I was fully responsible for and my quarter-life crisis hadn't yet set in (that would follow later), but who the hell was he to call my life easy and worse--suggest that nobody takes me seriously? I had papers to write, good grades to attain and a fast-approaching future to worry about--all of which seemed plenty serious to me. I got over my crush in record time.
Now that I'm older and actually do have a job and bills and all of the worries he was so bent out of shape about that night, I can understand how college was an easier life in some ways. But the feeling of not being taken seriously--and the fury it still inspires in me--has not yet faded.
Because the thing is, when you are a twenty-something woman, the jerks of the world often don't take you seriously. They call you "honey" and "sweetie" and very slowly explain things to you that you already understand and do not need further underscored. Or, perhaps worse, they talk over you. They ask for someone "more senior" when you are the most senior person in the room. They see your breasts and your hair (it doesn't help if it happens to be blond) and your clothes and your shoes. And they may like what they see--or they may not, but it doesn't really matter because it's beside the point. They don't see you.
And so when someone recently dismissed me as a "little twenty-six-year-old girl" I found myself in a similar conundrum. I refrained from reminding him, as a child might, that I am actually twenty-seven years old and a woman, not a girl. Nor was I about to throw my drink in his face or say anything about anyone's manhood (still not that bold, and also I am fully aware that this is not, in fact, a romantic comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker). Instead I smiled a tight-lipped-fuck-you-we're-done-with-this-conversation smile and walked away.
I could tell from his raised eyebrows and remarks to the other men nearby that he thought I was overreacting, but I didn't care--I thought he was a prick.