Lately, this trait mainly manifests in grocery stores. Specifically, elderly men approach me in grocery stores for help in finding items their wives have asked them to get. I would dearly love to know why they think I, in particular, am the best person to ask about whether they should get quick oats or old-fashioned (if she's planning to bake with them, probably old-fashioned) or where to find cranberry sauce in April (canned vegetables aisle). Yes, I know the answers. But how do they know that I'll know?
People even stop me when I'm out exercising. The most recent was a man who stopped me while I was rollerblading by the bay to ask if he was allowed launch a boat from this location. I did not know the answer to that one, but again: why me?
My best theory is that I look unimposing and harmless, and like I'll be nice. To be fair, I always am nice. Even to the guy who interrupted my rollerblade.
I've been thinking about this lately in the context of my career and the election and all the feelings that's stirred up. Back when I was deciding to quit my full time job and go out on my own, I wrote about the cost of my career, and how the traits I had developed to succeed in my male-dominated field often made it harder for me to relate to women. I still can't fully explain why I quit when I did, but I think part of it was I felt I was on the brink of more personality changes. I was getting harder, and less open. I really didn't like that.
Maybe quitting helped me find a way to be more of the type of person I want to be while still working on things I enjoy. Maybe it didn't. Maybe the storm would have passed anyway.
But I'm noticing that same hard-edged feeling in myself now. This time, it isn't due to work. It is the election. It is the way Hillary Clinton was treated, and is still treated. It is the way some men in the media are treating Chelsea Clinton. It is the vileness of Trump's behavior towards women, and how little that matters. This has nothing to do with policy. It is about the contempt shown to women.
I have not figured out how to be OK with this. I don't really want to be OK with this, so maybe what I need to figure out is how to coexist with this without having it give me the hard edge I didn't want. I don't even know how to start working on this. But I think I'll know I've failed if the old guys stop asking me for help in the grocery store.