In the Company of Women (LATC September 2013)
Traveling with a woman friend, she will offer the window seat.
She will refuse the airline snack, but offer to give you hers.
If you do not eat your airline snack after all, she will take it in case of future need.
She will offer to watch your carry-on bags while you go to the rest room.
She will offer to refill your water bottle if she is going to refill hers.
If she is driving, and she takes a wrong turn out of the airport, she will blame herself.
If she is the shotgun rider, she will apologize for not paying attention to the signs.
If her memory of the route disagrees with the GPS, she will go along with the GPS – up to a point.
If she is one of three passengers in the back seat, she will offer to sit in the middle.
Though she has never met you before, she may tell you all about the latest activities, vagaries, and eccentricities of her father, her late husband, her late husband’s first wife, her second husband’s ex-wife, her son, his wife, her son’s wife’s first husband, and her stepson’s mother-in-law.
She will show you pictures of her grandchildren.
She will solicit reading suggestions for her book group.
If you are going for a walk she will remind you to put on sunscreen.
She will offer to loan you sunscreen.
If she is a houseguest, she will offer to help peel vegetables, set the table, or entertain any small children underfoot.
If she is the hostess and there are small children underfoot, she will be the one to eat at the children’s table in the kitchen.
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I had written the above about halfway through a week at a women’s camp in the Rockies, mostly with women of about my own age. The women in the group were largely teachers or former teachers. They were mostly white. They had gone to Girl Scout camps. They knew all the camp songs.
Then I had an opportunity to spend some time with a couple of women a generation younger. I realized that the above list of “typical women’s behaviors” is perhaps not typical at all, except when applied to women of a certain age and up-bringing.
The youngest woman in the group had no first or second husband, no children or grandchildren, no smartphone filled with pictures to show, had never been to camp. She didn’t belong to a book group. She didn’t know the words to “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain” or “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” or “Kumbaya”. She was at the camp with her mother. In two months she planned to begin a tour of duty with the Air Force. She will probably go to Afghanistan.
I’ll bet she won’t volunteer for the middle of the back seat in the jet.