Sunday, June 12, 2011

Girl, you'll be a woman soon

I'm small. I'm  4'10" and weigh something about 35 kilo. Sometimes, this works to my advantage. In the kitchen it most definitively does not. Beyond the simple fact that certain things- like lifting pots and reaching the baking paper that lives on top of the cabinets- are more difficult for me, it also means that I have to fight for my womanhood. In the kitchen I am called- הילדה- the girl. Never mind that at 30 I am not the youngest woman in the kitchen by far. Exasperating the issue is the fact that though I am not the youngest woman, I am the only woman without children. Israeli society, more-so than American society from what I can tell- highly values motherhood and children. (This is not inherently a bad thing at all. Maternity leave laws here are head and shoulders above American one). When the rest of the women sit around discussing their kids, (and/or grandkids) the only thing I can contribute are niece stories and stories about my cat (which always makes me feel a bit like the crazy cat lady.) It leaves me a bit on the outside and a bit more vulnerable to being condescended to. 

In one of our first business management classes we were instructed to list our first impressions of our classmates and to say whether or not, based on those first impressions, we would buy from them. The point of the exercise, obviously, was to illustrate the way first impressions color our interactions with people. Upon further discussion of what we could do alleviate any negative first impressions that might keep people from buying what we're selling, I was told, point blank, by the teacher, "you need to gain 10 kilo."  I have had my cheek patted. Even the head of the kitchen, who I adore, upon seeing me in a skirt for the first time, exclaimed-"you look just like a doll!".

One would think that by this point in my life I would be used to this. But, up until now, my size has pretty not really been a factor in the work I do. Mostly I have spent my time using my brain, not my body. In the academy nobody is really interested in whether you have children or not. You could have ten, or none, so long as you get your papers in. So it took my a while to figure out how to deal with this new situation. I've come to learn that the way to deal with it is by working hard- by being the onion chopper, the potato peeler, the dole-er of food; by not leaving the kitchen until the last surface has been washed down, even after I've been dismissed. I try to be reliable, to be conscientious, to let the other women know that hey, this is my kitchen too. And paradoxically, by swallowing my pride and asking for help. I'd rather have someone help lift a heavy tray than spill it all over the place. I'd rather say, "I need to sit for five minutes", than do a half-assed job on the floor. I've learned to talk to myself in the kitchen like I talk to myself in the pool. Pace yourself. Pay attention. Breathe. 

It's a process, this.

Cubbie Watch: erm, we beat the White Sox once.

Book Rec: Faithful Place, Tana French