Me and the Boys

Forget the Linen Closet: Me and the Boys are Playin’ with the Big Trucks

My boss had me meet opposing counsel and our experts today at a truck stop on the edge of town so that our expert engineer could take measurements of a diesel "tractor" truck involved in an accident.  Both attorneys from the other side are older men, and both the experts are older men. I stick out like sore thumb in my deep red oxford shirt, gray plaid slacks and black Tommy Hilfiger shoes.  Everyone else had the sense to wear jeans and workboots or sneakers. I will be 27 tomorrow; easily 10 years younger than each of the gentlemen meeting me.

The truck garage is loud, with pneumatic drills and wrenches, dropping pallets, and diesel engines roaring intermittently. Everything is covered in a layer of grease and dirt.  I'm told this inspection could take several hours and suddenly regret not wearing jeans and sneakers to work today.

I'm overwhelmed by the feeling of not belonging; that this is a scene reserved exclusively for men; men in jeans and sneakers.

The men do treat me with respect, but I can't help catching the upturned corners of their mouths as they greet me and attempt to "shoot the bull" or "talk shop."  I am a joke to them.  It's funny, having a girl doing a man's job, in a man's truck stop, hanging with the men.

Despite the awkwardness, or because of it, one of the experts re-emerges from his truck with a camping chair:  "it's new," he says, "so there shouldn't be any oil on it."  And he carries it to the bay where we were working.  I waited as long as I could before resorting to the chair, but, alas, it's hot in this garage and my shoes were an imprudent choice.  As I opened the chair's bag, one of the men with opposing counsel helped me pull the cover off.

Chivalry is not dead.  I might be something of a joke to them, but they aren't hateful; they are doing everything in their power to make me more comfortable, to take care of me.  And I appreciate it, really.  It's a man's world out here and it's a great relief to have a clean, comfortable chair in the shade while I hang out, just me and the boys. 

3 Comments

sintecho

To me, chivalry is a code of conduct men are supposed to adopt toward women rather than a mutual respect that women and men should adopt toward each other.  I hope that we’re moving toward the second and away from the first since the whole idea of chivalry seems to be that men and women need to be treated differently (which is at odds with women then saying they want to be treated equally in terms of pay, promotion, work opportunities, representation in government, etc.). Among my friends, people have different views on whether chivalry should die (i.e. should men open doors or always take out the trash or be expected to pay on dates), and people are really divided (especially as chivalry applies to the dating context).  Personally, I don’t know if I would want a man to treat me with “chivalry” on the job.  I would view it as a sign that I need special treatment or coddling that the men around me don’t need, which would bother me.  It sounds like you were bothered to some extent as well since you noted that you “held out” for as long as you could.  I imagine you’ll be wearing comfy shoes next time!

jessie

In the abstract it’s really easy to want total gender neutrality. But in practice I can’t deny that it makes me smile when I see my dad go out of his way to always open my mom’s car door. And it sure was nice that my judge only ever called on my male co-clerk when some manual labor was involved.

Peg

I’m definately a “don’t treat me differently because I’m a girl” kinda girl when it comes to work.  I’d rather people not pull out chairs for me to sit if nobody else is sitting or even wait for me to grab food first in a lunch meeting.  In my personal life, I don’t mind as much.  I like my husband to take out the trash and a waiter to pull out my chair at a fancy restaurant.  I guess I’m of two minds on this as well.  However, if I had to be consistent, I’d rather lose the private life chivalry and hold onto gender-neutrality at work. 

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