I started catching glimpses of it while waitressing. I tried to ignore it. Then it would happen again. And I would be all: "That was a fluke." But then I was watching for it and intentionally trying NOT to do it. That's when I realized: "Wait, if I'm trying NOT to do something I do without trying, I might have a problem."
So, I stopped trying NOT to do it and instead just watched myself. Like, I stood outside my body and watched how I behaved. I didn't judge myself. I just watched.
And there it was. Again and again.
I went home one day and burst into tears because: OMG, I HAD NO IDEA I SPENT SO MUCH OF MY LIFE TRYING TO PLEASE MEN.
Yeah. There it is.
I am acutely and hyper-aware of men and their reactions toward me. I go out of my way to make sure they are happy, have everything they need and are totally satisfied. I try to meet their needs before they even ask. If I disappoint a man, I feel terrible. Yes, this makes me a good server---IF I did the same thing for women.
The thing is, I have to intentionally remind myself to make women happy. Generally speaking, serving women is more challenging. They have complicated orders (salads with multiple modifications: no dressing, no onions, extra dressing on the side). Women like to split the check five different ways with three different credit cards, cash and a gift card. In some ways, women are harder to please. So maybe that's why it's harder for me to try and make them happy?
I wish it were as simple an explanation as that.
I have a feeling it goes deeper. I have this nagging suspicion that my childhood conditioning hard-wired me to seek the approval of men.
In my world, men were Everything. They made all the big decisions and were never questioned. They could come and go as they pleased, they could sit down and relax without anyone questioning them. They could bluntly order people around and that was absolutely their God-given prerogative.
Women, on the other hand, had to ask permission for everything. We never did anything without first obtaining approval. I was so accustomed to getting approval before making ANY decision on my own that to this day, I still have to remind myself that I'm allowed to use the restroom without asking permission from my boss.
I've been outside fundamentalism for 10 years now and have relearned a whole new way of living. But working as a waitress has brought back all the Deferring-To-Men behavior. I'm honestly disgusted with myself.
It's second nature for me to scan the needs of men and hurry to meet their needs. I fall all over myself trying to make them happy. And then when they reward me with a compliment or a good tip, I feel perfectly satisfied. Which I guess would be fine IF I did the same thing for women.
I had this moment a few weeks ago where I was like: am I an unintentional misogynist? Why else would I rush to fix a man's order when his food isn't prepared correctly but when a woman is unhappy with her food, I assume she's just being picky?
This has been a huge wake-up call for me. Even though I call myself a feminist and a strong supporter of women, I am partially blind to my own misogynistic treatment of women.
Now that I've seen this about myself, I'm making an intentional effort to behave differently.
The truth is that I really want to be a good server--to everyone. I like helping people. I actually enjoy providing excellent service. Realigning my perspective to see the needs--not the gender--of each patron I'm serving has helped me render higher quality service.
Seeing every PERSON as equally worthy of my attention and favor is not only important, it's a vital philosophical virtue: valuing our common humanity is superior to favoring one gender over the other.
Or as any good Greek restaurant will tell you: life, liberty and hummus for all!