Finding My Nurturing Side

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve thought to myself, “I don’t think I’m very good at being a woman.” I’d have a lot of dollars. I don’t really believe that I’m BAD at being a woman. I just seemed to have missed the boat on a few things, and some of them I’m glad to have missed. For example, I never think to buy a cute card, fill it with words of encouragement, and send it to a female friend of mine after talking to her about a difficult time in her life. Women have done that for me and it’s wonderful. Instead I fully engage in a good conversation and then try to infect her with my “do-er” mentality. Forget about it and DO something. I’ll help. If we can do something to fix the problem, great, but if not, let’s find something different to throw our energy into and get our minds off of it. This approach is not exactly nurturing.

I never wake up on a Saturday morning and have the urge to fill my house with the smell of freshly baked pastries for people (I’m not sure whom) to enjoy over the weekend. I have a mother and aunts and cousins who do that and it’s wonderful (but not good for my waistline). Instead, I wake up and decide whether I’m going to work out before or after breakfast, and I hurry to the gym to put my body through as much physical strain as possible while I pump the week’s stress into some iron and then sweat the rest out on the stair climber. When I am sufficiently exhausted, I go home and eat a high-protein meal, clean up, put on more workout clothes, and get on to the next physical activity, preferably outdoors. At no point am I fixing my hair or shopping or doing my nails or tying on an apron. Those things are irritating necessary evils to be avoided whenever possible.

I do not give off an impression of softness and sweetness. I’ve been around women like that, and they’re calming and wonderful. They have sweet voices and a tenderness about them that makes you want to be gentle toward them. When I’m around women like that I become acutely aware of the fact that I sometimes sound like a foul-mouthed sailor. My movements and thoughts and voice are not like that at all. My drinks of choice are beer and whiskey. I love muscle cars and motorcycles and hunting deer in the frigid South Dakota cold. I own power tools and a shop vac. I prefer black coffee over tea and hiking boots over high heels. And I’d rather throw away a pair of pants than get out a sewing kit and mend them.

So you see, I have plenty of reasons to think that I’m not very good at being a woman.

But a funny thing happened when a man came into my life recently.

I wanted to feed him.

I’ve been contemplating this phenomenon… examining this funny urge in myself that seems to have come about since I met this irresistibly handsome and oh-so-manly man who is wonderful to me. From the very first time we had a meal together that wasn’t at a restaurant, I have wanted to prepare and serve food for him. I couldn’t help but chuckle at myself a little bit as I shop-vacced the dust off my spice rack (kidding) and tried to remember how to make food look and taste good rather than simply act as fuel. I found myself spending time thinking about meals ahead of time and taking twice as long in the grocery store as I resurrected mom’s best recipes. Soul food. Hearty food. Fill him up and leave him satisfied. Nurtured.

Make no mistake, I’m just as rough around the edges as I’ve always been. I still haven’t pulled an apron out. But I found a nurturing part of myself that hadn’t shown itself in a while. Maybe I’ll fill my kitchen with pastry smells someday soon…

after my workout.

Those Damn Double Doors

At about 6:00 this morning, I was walking into the gym to do some morning cardio—my typical Monday morning routine. When I was a few feet from the front door a man’s voice yelled from behind me, “I’ll get the door!” I turned around to see a young man, maybe early 20’s, jogging across the parking lot toward me. I stopped and waited, pleasantly surprised, and thanked him when he opened the door for me. In a Southern accent, he said “you’re welcome.” Then I walked through the doors and dammit if I wasn’t stumped once again by the double door. I never know what to do! In this instance, he had put so much effort into getting the first door for me that I stopped and waited, allowing him to get the second door too. If I had gotten the second door for myself, I ran the risk of being unappreciative of his chivalry. But if I don’t, I might look lazy or seem to have a sense of entitlement. I have always just relied on a genuine ‘thank you’ with eye contact and a smile to redeem myself for any mistakes I might be making.

But it gets even more complicated than that. Does the polite thing to do change depending on if it’s a stranger or your date? What if it’s a first date versus a date with your long-time significant other? What if the gentleman holding the door is older, from a previous generation where chivalry was the norm? Do you respond differently then?

I realize that there are a lot more rules for men to know than women… assuming the man wants to be chivalrous. He needs to worry about the rules surrounding opening car doors, which side of her he should be on when walking down the sidewalk, whether to be in front of her or behind her on the stairs, whether to let her go first through a revolving door or to go ahead of her and do the work for her. He needs to walk the delicate balance between offering to pick her up for a date versus respecting the fact that she may not want to divulge her address. He needs to know when to put his jacket around her shoulders and when to refrain because she isn’t cold enough yet to cover up her cute outfit. He has to worry about offending her by treating her as if she’s incapable. (If only we all wore signs, announcing where we fall on the feminist rating scale.) Lastly, but certainly not least, is the issue of picking up the check. This one stumps women, too, btw.

I’ll shed some light, from one woman’s perspective, on what is appreciated. It can be summed up quite simply:

I like it all! There’s no such thing as too chivalrous in my book, as long as you’re not making a show of it. I love having doors held for me. I love it when a guy offers to pick me up for a date, opens the car door (all the time, not just on a date), pulls out my chair at dinner, puts his jacket around me when I’m cold. I like it when he walks me to my door after a date, or at least checks to see that I made it home safely. I love it when I feel a hand on my lower back to guide me, even though I’m perfectly capable of finding my own way through a door. I like it when a man pulls me to the other side of him to make sure he’s closer to the street when we’re walking down a sidewalk. None of it goes unnoticed, and none of it goes unappreciated. It reminds me that I am a woman, and more importantly, that he is a man.

So now that you have the female perspective, I’d love to hear the man’s perspective. At what point do you feel that a woman is being presumptuous? If you hold the first door of a set of two, what do you expect her to do for the second door? When the check comes, do you want her to offer to pay or not? Does it make a difference whether it’s a first date, or who asked who to dinner? If you pay for dinner, do you want her to offer to pay for the dessert/drink/movie that follows, or is she taking something away from you by doing that?

Let’s help each other out here. Chivalry is not dead. It’s just muddled. I, for one, would like to know how to leave a good impression.

Signed,

Modern woman with an old soul