As I was finally working in my field full-time, my mentor and former Temple University instructor asked me to come in to speak to his undergraduate photojournalism class about what a day-in-the-life of a woman earning a living shooting images for a daily newspaper was like. I don't really remember much of what I talked about specifically or what questions I answered, but I do remember one student who would not look me in the eye and actually laid down across the edge of the table - flat on his back - as the class gathered around to see my portfolio. He wasn't disruptive as he stared at the ceiling, but his body language and behavior said he just didn't want to be bothered and had no interest in anything I had to say. I wrote him off as an insecure know-it-all idiot and kept it moving.
A few months later, we ended up freelancing for the same suburban Philadelphia newspaper and I was right: He as an insecure know-it-all idiot.
Whenever out of the ordinary stupidity like that happens, my first response is usually to be a bit taken aback - in a "Wow! Did that just really happen?" sorta way. After a few minutes of processing it and trying to figure out what the heck would possess anyone to act in such a way, I next quite honestly feel a little stunned that anyone would have the audacity to try such foolishness with (or to) me. Then I channel my inner Zora and keep it moving.
But sometimes, I remember the bigger crazy and try to decipher what the deal was - like when:
- I was 18 and working as an automotive sales associate in a department store one summer and a fool grabbed my butt as I lead him to the back to check out two tires he needed (I spun around with my fist up, ready to clock him square in the nose until I remembered I was at work which was the only thing that saved him).
- I was 26 and a man in the pharmacy I saddled up next to (when I was nine months pregnant and my swollen hands hands made wearing my wedding ring an impossibility) who looked over, saw my huge belly, immediately dropped his eyes to my left hand and sucked his teeth in disgust before turning his head away to look in the other direction.
- A few years later when the elderly female owner of a house my (then) hubby and I were going to rent - which was about 400 meters away from her own home - took our security deposit but waited until we got home 30-minutes later to tell us she didn't think our living in such close proximity would "work out."
- Four years ago when a male boss at a newspaper I was working for refused to give me Mother's Day off because, although was the only female out of five editors on the desk, the men had plans to spend the day with their children or mothers. He said the same thing when Father's Day rolled around.
- Two years ago when publisher of an area magazine interviewed me for the editor position I'd applied for, told me I was hired and she would connect after Thanksgiving to give me starting date details. By early January, after she never returned any of my calls or emails, I figured out that I probably wasn't going to ever get that "Here's your start date" correspondence.
Sometimes, people are ugly. Sometimes, they can do things to try to make you feel less than significant or important. Sometimes, they succeed.
But the option to straighten your crown, channel your inner Zora and step over the BS is always, always there.