Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mentees, Chaufers and Pedestals

I volunteered to be a mentor for a University of Chicago first year law student.

For those who know of my undying bitterness towards that institution, my dislike of law, my unemployment after law school, and me in general – I won’t be offended if you cough, laugh, roll your eyes or shake your head in puzzlement. However, I honestly answered the survey, and a 1L voluntarily picked me to mentor her. Tehehe.

I met her last night and she seemed quite nice. My advice is actually very, very good because I have great hindsight about how I should have handled law school and job searches. All of the youngsters who I advised in law school ended up getting kick-ass summer jobs because they ventured off of the beaten path suggested by Career Services. Even given my ability to provide useful, concrete advice – it is still pretty hilarious that this girl imagines that I am a successful attorney. Jebus – I’m even snorting and laughing as I write this.

Anyway, she and I obviously have very different ideas about transportation policies and independence. She is dating a fellow student – they are an orientation-week couple. She lives in Hyde Park, and he lives in the South Loop. She indicated that she would be taking the CTA, so I specifically picked a restaurant very close to an El stop. Her boyfriend gave her a ride though. She also called him to pick her up. Even worse, apparently he also will drive back to Hyde Park to pick her up at the library at night to drive her the seven blocks to her apartment. My stomach honestly twisted with disgust upon this revelation.

Understand that Hyde Park is ridiculously safe in terms of violent crimes. People don’t get killed and women don’t get raped. Muggings are pretty common, but people really don’t get hurt. The campus employs the 7th largest police force in the state for an area about a square mile that houses about 40,000 people. It is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city.

Still he will make about a fifteen mile round trip to save her a seven block walk. She will wait twenty minutes for a ride. This is crazy to me on several different levels:

Gas, cars. What a fucking waste of driving. I don’t think anyone needs to stretch their imagination to understand my thoughts on this situation.

Him. What the hell? Why in the world would you volunteer to chauffer another adult around all of the time. He should have better things to do. Plus, he shouldn’t assume that she needs to be protected.

Her. Again – what the hell? She lived in Hyde Park while getting her masters degree. She says she is queen of the CTA. I would (and have) scoffed at boys who wanted to chauffer me under much more reasonable circumstances (rain/sleet/snow; 4" heels; 4:00AM; 2 CTA transfers; bad neighborhoods.....). Some of these decisions weren’t particularly smart or pleasant – but I hated the idea that I was considered either a possible victim or too delicate to have to endure the journey back to HP alone. The more a boy pressed, the more I resented the offer.

I mentioned this at the office today and apparently I am alone in my views. Both the secretary and paralegal thought that this boy was very sweet and gentlemanly for ‘taking care of his woman’s needs.’ The secretary especially insisted that this was the type of behavior that she would demand from a man, along with opening doors, pulling out chairs and buying her dinner/flowers/gifts. She said that it would be unacceptable for her to ride the CTA or walk places while dating someone, because if he loved her he would do whatever would make her happy. Apparently happiness is rides in automobiles and she considers it a sign of respect. She is a single mother who hasn’t had a date in the 13 months that I have worked at the firm. I don’t think she should hold her breath waiting for her Prince Charming to come along. Not to be mean, but she can’t cook, isn’t pretty, is about sixty pounds overweight and has a five year-old daughter. Although she seems to desire the traditional male role of provider and protector – it certainly doesn’t look appear that she is living up to the corresponding feminine ideal of that arrangement.

The paralegal said that she very much appreciates it when her husband offers to drop her off or pick her up so she doesn’t have to take public transportation. She doesn’t demand it, but apparently manipulates it so that he is more likely to offer. Both of these women agreed that they would happily wait much longer for a ride, than walk or CTA to the destination. This wasn’t reserved for situations of shitty weather, safety concerns or awkward packages. I am completely perplexed.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a black man on a bike a while back. He remarked that he would love to find a woman to date who rode bikes, too. However, he said that the ‘sisters’ never, ever want to date a man without a car, always expect to be driven around and would never consider riding a bike, besides for exercise. Obviously this isn’t universally true, but my secretary certainly fits his description perfectly. Also, it is pretty rare that I see black women biking around the city. Black men – yes, definitely; white women – absolutely.

Any insights on this? Is there a possible racial component to this mindset, or do most women truly want to be chauffered around? Criminy. Brothers – how commonly do you encounter these expectations in women? Or do women like this avoid you like the plague, because they can tell you won’t put up with this shit? Is there a racial/age/class/geographical component to these 1950s aspirations? What happened to feminism? I’m feeling ill just imagining either of you dating a woman who expects to be adored and pampered atop her pedestal.


At 11:30 PM, Blogger Frick said...

Its all your fault.

I could have had a sister that instilled in me the proper vision of what a women should be. Dainty, fragile, needing my protection. A girl who wore shoes based upon their ability to make her legs look shapely, not on their ability inflict pain upon others.

But no, I had you, and now expect women to ride bikes, fend for them selves, and be competent in general, what ever situation they find themselves in.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger jojo said...

Awww, Frickers. Apparently I was still good enough as a sister for you to learn that women respond well to flattery.

Strangely, this weekend Paul mentioned that dating me was a little unsettling because I am so 'girly-girl' compared to the previous women he dated.

My tomboy pride was shaken, to say the least.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger no name slob said...

Hi -- I haven't commented in a long time, but I know equipoise and stop by here periodically. Anyhow, your post made me think of this article: "What's a Modern Girl to Do?"

While Dowd doesn't specifically cover questions of bikes and gender (or race), she does discuss many aspects of feminism, its issues, and, you know, what the hell happened. There are some pretty distressing observations on the whole issue of who picks up the check, etc. Blah. What the hell DID happen?


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