Is chivalry all about intent?

He is a gentlemen. He is listening, watching, and aware. However, do not be fooled, he can have a bite too. As you watch him in a room, he can often be the quiet one, but when he talks others listen. Most likely it is because he does not fill the airwaves with mindless banter (as I might be more accused of doing). Regardless of his quiet demeanor, he has always put me first (well 99% of the time–no one is that perfect)! Yes, I am speaking of Chris. My man, my partner in crime. He is good to me, takes care of me, and does little things that make me feel safe. An example, walking back to our car in a sketchy part of town, he will open the door for me and make sure I am in the car safely. Does he do it all the time? No, do I want him to? Hell no. Do I love that he does it randomly? Yes (said with a smile).

I just finished reading a great book with each chapter having an excerpt from a different woman called: “Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong” edited by Jessica Bacal. It was an interesting read on a variety of topics. 25 women talk about lessons they learned on the job, at some of their toughest moments. One of the ideas that stood out for me was from author, Courtney E. Martin about chivalry:

“I wrote a post about chivalry, trying to unpack what it means to be feminist in romantic relationships. I liked when guys opened doors for me but wondered if that fed a stereotype that women were weak and needed to be taken care of by men. I thought about it and felt good about the distinction that I came up with—door opening as a loving gesture versus door opening with an ‘I don’t think you can open this heavy door by your little self!’ attitude. What I ended up writing was that it’s romantic if it happens out of care and interdependence but not romantic if the guy thinks you are an ‘invalid’—a word I was trying to use ironically.” Page 229

Martin mentions romantic relationships, but I think as a woman it can also translate to work. You can tell which male co-workers open the door because they are just opening the door for you, (and you would do the same for them) and how many are doing it because of a power play. They feel like they should, as Martin mentions they think you are too weak to do so, or they are better at the task. It is always a little strange as a woman, that men let me go first through a door. I mean–why does it matter who goes first?

Whether the men I work with everyday, or the one I have chosen to spend my life with decide to do it as a “loving gesture” or not, I hope they at least think about their intent. That is all that really matters, right? At the end of the day, power over another does not make us equals. Why not look at the relationship and decide what works? Maybe we all have different ways to show we care, and we also have different ways to show our power.

What do you think?

Strength and Vulnerability

My mom’s last words to me were: “You are strong.” Who knows what she meant as I was sixteen and not savvy enough to ask her what she meant by it. Maybe it was her way of telling me to “Be strong.” Or maybe it was to reinforce that she felt I was strong in my bones. I will never know, and maybe it does not even matter. It was the first line of my college entrance essay. I wish I still had a copy of it. I would be curious to know how I had processed the next two years of my life before writing about her to get into college. I think I wanted them to know that I was not just another number, that I had lived a life that many have not before they enter college. I wanted to somehow stand out. I needed to stand out as I had no Plan B. I applied to one college and luckily I got in.

I am rambling though. I recently came across this quote from Brenda Shaughnessy. She is an American poet and trust me, I do not follow her at all because somehow my brain and poetry just do not mix. I have never melded well with poetry or understood it. Sure there are poems that sink into my core and change the way that I look at the world, but most of the time I feel perplexed and wonder how they did it. In any case, I am definitely not into poetry because it took me this long to introduce this quote to you:

“I came to see that what constitutes strength is not just a muscle or will. It can also include the most desperate vulnerability, the saddest heartache, the lightest, sweetest laughter.”

I do not remember how, but this quote came into my inbox last week, and stuck with me. I had to share it. So often we think others are strong because they have been through so much (I get that from time to time based on my past). Sometimes we might think someone is strong because they consistently stick to a routine or a workout schedule. Maybe they get up at 4 am to ensure that they have the opportunity to push themselves and their bodies before the rest of their family wakes up and starts the day.

I have written quite a few posts on vulnerability. It is a word that energizes me. There is something about being vulnerable that gives an aura of strength. It says that person is not afraid to put oneself out there and be granted with whatever reaction is returned. Whether they share the scary parts of their life, their saddest and lowest parts, or as Shaughnessy says: the parts that bring laughter. I will give you an example.

A few weeks ago I was traveling with a colleague and my boss. We were walking through the airport to our gate and talking. I was following both of them (both are men) and as they each walked into the bathroom I started to follow them in, only to realize I was walking into the men’s restroom. Ooops. Luckily I caught myself in time, reversed course and moved on to the women’s bathroom. They both had a good laugh and via text it got back to my other co-workers. I could have either be completely embarrassed and devastated, or just rolled with it. I rolled with it and had a good laugh with them.

Sometimes being vulnerable brings us to our strength, whether through tears or laughter.

Did you forget?

I subscribe to a multitude of email newsletters. Airline fare sales, inspirational newsletters, blogs I follow, shopping discounts, to name a few. However, recently I have noticed a rather annoying and frequent trend from retailers. I will tell you right now that I am not blind and it is not anything new, it just seems that in the past few months it has been blatantly excessive. Now, I know I can unsubscribe from the emails, the discounts, or sales, and that would be the easiest way to end my frustration.

I do not give up that easy. Let me give you a bit more context. I do not really ultimately care about the emails with deals, or the ones that say “hey did you know our new product line is in stores, and here is a bit of a reveal to what you will see.” That is actually enticing to me. What I have seen in the last few months is a true influx of pervasive emails reminding me what I have left in my cart, or reminding me of items I clicked into for more detail. Now I know that the items left in my cart are sitting in my cart, so it makes a bit of sense to get a reminder that they are still there. I mean gosh I wish that could happen for me in the grocery store when I leave and do not come back for a week. Maybe they too can suggest an item that I may like because of the item in my shopping cart. Joking. That would only deter me even more from going to the grocery store.

What I do not need is to be told multiple times each day that I have items in my cart. Once a day is enough. Last week, I had put a few items in my West Elm shopping cart so I could show Chris later. Each day last week I got a new email listing just one of the items in my shopping cart. I had four items in my cart, and rather than just sending me one reminder email listing all the items, I got four different emails one day after the other. Annoying and I feel like I am getting spammed. West Elm is not the only offender, Gap does the same thing and there are others.

What creeps me out the most (and yes I know about tracking cookies and websites knowing what you are looking at, but it still is creepy) is when I click into the detail of an item and potentially could do that on hundreds of items on a website, and then I get emails that say: “Take Another Look: [insert name of product].” There was a reason I did not put it in my shopping cart and I do not want to be reminded that I did not purchase the item.

If online retailers are not careful they will piss off their customers. No one wants to feel followed or tracked down. It is no different than going into a retail store and the person that greets you says hello, tells you about their sales, and then proceeds to follow and talk to you as you wander throughout the store. Sometimes (most of the time for me) we just want to be left alone to shop. Will this in your face online phase change?

What do you think?

Be FIRST

We grow up as kids not wanting to be last. When we stood in groups or lines in gym class, none of us wanted to be picked last. Everyone wanted to know they were wanted. Being last meant a lot of things, and different things to different people, but 99% of us did not want to be picked last (regardless of why). That does not mean that we all wanted to be first. We just knew we did not want to be last. Yet someone had to be last. Someone always has to be last.

You can decide though if you are first or last. A colleague told me recently to allow your work to direct your opportunity. So when I recently came across this short and sweet Seth Godin blog, I was inspired, and in case you are not Godin followers, I had to share. I’ve included the entire text (yes all of it) here:

Before you’re asked.

Before she asks for the memo, before the customer asks for a refund, before your co-worker asks for help.

Volunteer.

Offer.

Imagine what the other person needs, an exercise in empathy that might become a habit.

I remember so often growing up that my dad ingrained in me to think ahead, to figure out how I was going to approach something before I did it. The funny thing — my dad barely had a strategic bone in his body. Sure, as a contractor he had to strategize house plans and such, but other than that I did not gain my strategic mind from my dad. In any case, he did teach us to think ahead and be prepared BEFORE he got to us. Have our room clean before he lost it. Do our chores before we had to be reminded. Ask how we could further help. Whether I like it or not, he taught me to be proactive. I wonder if he truly knows that or if it was more about what he wanted.

Ah well, I will never know. I do so love and appreciate those that I interact with on a daily basis to volunteer, offer their help and support, and think about what another might need. Anticipate. Be available and helpful. I try to do it, and I love when those around me reflect the same behavior. Do we all have these skills? I am not sure. I think we all have them in some form. Some of us just elect to use them and others let them lie dormant.

Be first.

Motivational Pas$w0rds

Ugh. Passwords. You have to change them every 30, 60, 90 days. They have to be these crazy different number of unique characters. A capital, number, symbol, lowercase letter. Every company has their own strategy for how different and unique your password has to be. It is so hard to keep up, and I have a hunch it is only going to get more complex.

I decided a long time ago to make sure my passwords encompassed some positive, upbeat, or inspiring word, phrase, or group of numbers so that every time I had to type it into my computer, I would think of that idea, phrase, joke, whatever floats your boat — a great way to inspire you all day long, give you a pick-me-up, or a little reminder that may make you smile.

This article from 99u talks about how you can motivate yourself towards your goals through your password. It links to this article, which shares examples such as Forgive@h3r and Quit@smoking4ever. Such great ideas to help uplift your thought, and change the perspective on your day.

As often as we have to change our passwords, we can change out mantra on life. Smilemore4me, Bringiton@work, Caremore4others, or whatever you need to tell yourself, make THAT what you type over and over again during your day. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face, give you a moment to breathe a bit differently, and bring a bit more happiness to your life.