Long before the term mansplaining was coined, my mother gave me a lesson in getting things done. It was 1994 and I was 13. We were standing in a frozen field, blowing on our hands while a cluster of men — our family, our family friends — talked, a pile of recently harvested Christmas trees piled next to their trucks. Mom pulled me aside.
“Go over there,” she motioned to the trees. “Pick up the smallest tree and put it in a truck. The men will come over and tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Then the trucks will get loaded.”
I did. My schoolmate, only two years older than me but already convinced of the inadequacies of women, came blustering over.
“Oh, no, Linda,” he said, “We want to put the big ones on the bottom.”
My mother nodded knowingly. The rest of the men, ready to add their own opinions on the proper way to secure conifers in the beds of pick up trucks, went to work. Soon the trucks were loaded and we could go back inside.
Is that the best way to get something done? I don’t know. But it’s my memory to cherish and your advice to use, if you wish. It’s 2019 and some days it still feels impossible to be a woman who does things without being told you’re doing it wrong, or to ask for something to be done without being told you’re bossy. And if you’re a guy and you think that I’m overreacting, ask yourself: Would I remind my male friend or relative of the difference between a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver? Would I say that my male boss was controlling or a nag if they double-checked my work? No? OK then. Let’s get some stuff done.
Dear Queen of Bad Ideas,
I had a flight out of San Francisco last month and my dad’s friend who lives down there said I could park in front of his garage if I paid him a little money. It was less money than I would pay at the airport garage so I left my car there. When I got back from vacation I found out my car had been towed! I guess he moved it to a different spot on the street which was restricted. I didn’t even know what had happened because he didn’t pick up the phone. I called the police and they told me to call the impound lot. My question is do I ask my dad to call him and make his friend pay me back for the impound fees? He still hasn’t called me back.
Thanks, Bad Trip
Dear Bad Trip,
There comes a point in every adult relationship where you have to accept the person you’re in a relationship with — whether it’s a romantic or platonic relationship — exactly as they are. If this is a longtime friend of your father’s then I would assume at this point he knows who that friend is — someone stingy, unreliable and prone to making poor choices. Those impound fees are the price you have to pay for learning more about your father’s friend, and for learning that your father is either a poor judge of friends or unlikely to speak ill of them. This doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t pay — he absolutely should pay! You were right! He was wrong! But that’s not what you asked me. If the friend isn’t going to pick up your calls and take responsibility, you should drop it. This doesn’t mean you have to keep it a secret from your father. If it feels right to tell him, tell him. But swallow this lesson as an adult and move on. Sorry about what happened, it sounds really frustrating and awful.
Love, your Queen of Parallel Parking
That’s enough exclamation marks for a Sunday morning, don’t you think? Next time I’ll share a mantra I learned on the Paris Metro. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. A bien tot!