I was helping some friends move this summer. A couple of guy friends were helping as well. One of the boys was pulling some items out of the truck and handed me a couple small things. I acted very offended, and he then moved out of my way and let me pick out something heavier.
Later in the move, I was carrying a large piece of furniture alone. When I got to the door of the house, he said out loud that he didn't know if he should offer help. I told him that I wanted him to treat me like a capable, independent woman, but I didn't want him to refrain from being a gentleman. He admitted that was a very fine, very difficult line to work with.
Fast forward a couple months. I was at lunch with him today. This very same topic came up, and I reminded him of our previous experience.
When we got to the car, he made it very obvious and very clear that he was getting the car door for me. He offered his hand and insisted I take it to ensure my safety. He was being very silly about it.
When he got in the other car door, he expressed that he would not like to be treated like a fragile object. I pointed out to him that there was a difference between being treated like I couldn't do it and being shown that I deserved more respectful and delicate treatment. That made sense to him.
I went on an overnight canoe trip last week with my friend, Holly. We had car trouble, so her father and brother picked us up at the end of the trip. I loved watching the way that Holly's father and brother treated her and interacted with her. They insisted she help load the canoes and tie them down. It wasn't because they thought she deserved part of the workload. It was because they trusted her ability and knew they could accomplish the task easier with her help.
One of my most treasured work-related memories had to do with my supervisor, Andy. Andy and I worked together in the automotive department at Wal-Mart. There were many a time that men would come in wanting to purchase goods or services from our department. I would offer to help them and they would walk past me and often times not even acknowledge me.
On one particular instance, a gentleman (can I even call him that?) walked right past me and my offer to help because Andy was in sight. This customer asked Andy about one of our tires. Andy knew the answer, but he used this opportunity to demonstrate his confidence in me and attempt to instill this in our customer base. He said to that particular customer that I would know better than he and walked him over to me. I more than adequately answered all this customer's questions.
It wasn't that Andy was too busy to answer the question or that he didn't want to help this customer. Like me, he was tired of the assumptions. He knew my ability.
It was one of the most empowering moments of my life. Andy taught me so much in that small gesture that day.