A friend of mine believes that gender does not really have much of an impact on a person's identity and the way s/he lives his/her life. I wonder if he holds this opinion because he's a he? I'm not a feminist and I'm not harping on women's disadvantages in modern society (though doubtless there are some). I'm thinking more about how God expects women to live and behave.
We Christians talk about women a lot, from the pulpit and in studies. I'm sure all of you womenfolk have taken part in one of those Bible studies about women of the Bible. (Okay--you've probably attended more than one of those. Some of you have probably made the remark, "Why can't we study men of the Bible? I'm sure they're lives are applicable to us, too.") We've listened to many, many Mother's Day sermons and learned how women are to submit to and love their husbands and make their homes. We make sure that there are NO women preachers. To make sure no women come close to being preachers, some of us don't let them make announcements or serve at the Lord's table. I'm not necessarily speaking against these opinions--I don't make any announcements or respond to the preacher's "Good morning" or even speak in Bible class.) So, we talk about how women are to behave inside the building and inside their home.
What about the rest of the time?
What about single women? How are they supposed to behave outside of the church building? "Well, like Christians, of course," some of you might say. And I agree. But, I have a hard time believing why gender only matters to God inside the home and inside of the church building. Why would gender only matter to him in those two places, but not in the rest of the world--in the street, workplace, grocery store, or politics?
"I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet" (1 Tim. 2:12). I've been thinking about this verse a lot lately. The more I think about it, the more I realize its potential implications, the more I wonder why God gave me the talents and passions that I have if only to tell me that I can't use them because I'm a woman. (Unless I use them in a room with only women and little children.)
So sometimes I wish I were a man. As a man, I could consider all moral occupations as viable options because I wouldn't have to worry about whether or not I'd end up teaching any man or exercising authority over any man because God doesn't mind if men teach men or have authority over men. That said, the grass is always greener on the other side and the glass is always half-empty. I'm sure if I were a man, I'd probably wish I was a woman. (It does have its pluses--women are allowed to be emotional, which means my readers will probably be more patient with this blog than they would have been if I were a man. Maybe.)
"Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." James 5:16
I'm fond of organization as it is, but when I'm nervous, organization becomes my Valium. Before I drove to North Carolina, 100 miles was the furthest I'd ever driven on my own. Thus, on the eve of that epic venture into the east, I cleaned out my purse, packed napkins, rearranged my CDs according to genre and personal preference, and divided my Wheat Thins toasted crisps into individual snack-size baggies.
The epic trip now ended, I'll begin the last leg of my journey homeward in eight hours and fifteen minutes. My make-up, hair products, soaps, clothes, books, technological devices, and dental floss still lie scattered in at least three different rooms of my grandparents' house. My CDs are under the dash, in the driver's side door, under the passenger seat, and on the dresser. I can't discern anything in the chaotic innards of my purse. And my latest bag of Wheat Thins toasted crisps are still in their original packaging.
"Eh. I'll throw some stuff in the trunk in the morning," I say to myself.
Either I've grown lazier, or I'm becoming a more confident driver.
I just finished a second archival internship (in essence, not in name or scholastic credit) at the county archives. I have been at an institution of higher learning for over six years. I have thirty undergraduate hours in history and a master's degree in history and eighteen graduate hours in archival administration and public history. “I want to be an archivist!” I proclaim to inquirers. (And then I explain what that is.) Banks have spent thousands of dollars on my degrees; I will spend thousands of dollars paying back interest, not to mention principal.
Needless to say, it was a bit depressing when at the archives I found myself staring at the clock every five minutes. “I'm not supposed to feel this way!” I thought. “This is supposed to be my calling! This is supposed to bring me fulfillment!” Instead, I felt every nerve on my scalp and in my feet scream as I spent an entire day arranging records in alphabetical and chronological order. I fought the urge to pull off my uncomfortable shoes and run laps around the complex, barefoot and screaming.
Maybe this wasn't my calling? Maybe I was supposed to do something else? But what else? What other career can pleasantly hold my attention for eight hours a day, five hours a week? I realized, “Nothing! There is nothing that I enjoy doing for eight straight hours. I like to clean, paint, draw, watch movies, write, shop, talk with friends, study, go to school, sing. But I don't like doing any one of those things for eight hours a day, five days a week.” So that's it, then—any career that I loved would eventually become mere drudgery by means of repetition.
So I objected to the system: “Who says full time is forty hours a week? Who says I have to work that often to get benefits?” I cut down an old cardboard box and began to make a protest sign. Then I thought of the meat packers in the early 1900s who worked fourteen hours a day with no benefits, who fell into vats and became sausage for the American public.
So maybe I'm just lazy.
Lazy or not, I still don't want a full-time job. I don't want someone to tell me, “Okay, here is some drudgery for you. You can have two weeks off out of fifty-two. Use them wisely.”
“Two weeks?” I cry. “Two weeks?? How am I supposed to decide which family members and friends are important enough to earn some of my two weeks? How am I supposed to go on a dig to Israel, or to Europe, or to FC Labor Camp, or to South Africa, with only two measly weeks?”
“Shut up, Caroline. Be grateful. Do you know how many people out there would love to be in your position, with a graduate degree and the potential to find a comfortable full-time job?”
I thought of my epitaph: “Here lies Caroline. She never went anywhere she planned to go. She saw her niece once every year. She spent every Christmas with her family. She saw her grandparents once every three years. She always wanted to become more involved with the community, but never had the time. BUT—she had a full time job, so may she rest in peace.”
I think I'll go grab the newspaper off the driveway and see if any of the classifieds say, “HELP WANTED—Vagabond.”
For the third time in two weeks, a complete stranger told me I need to smile:
My eyes had fallen to the stone tile as I walked into the building, but I wasn't really looking at the stone tile. Instead, different scenarios that hadn't occurred, conversations I'd never had, letters I'd never written nor received streamed through my mind as I contemplated this big bulk of something called Future.
A tall dude by the elevator looked at me, smiled, and mouthed some words.
Mouthed some words at me, I realized. The speeding microfilm in my head stopped. “I'm sorry, what?”
“Don't look so happy!” he said, with a big grin on his big face on his big head on his big body.
The elevator door opened. He moved a leg and was inside. I scurried like a hamster into the corner. “Was I frowning?” I asked. Of course, I wasn't frowning now. I was smiling. Months of working
in customer service has conditioned me to smile whenever there's a face making noise in front of me.
Big Dude said I had been frowning. “It's Friday!” he said.
In a voice that was too happy behind a smile that was too big, I mentioned that some other stranger had told me to smile just the other day. (It had freaked me out a little, but I didn't add that part.) Big Dude got off on the fourth floor while I continued to the fifth.
On my way to the fifth floor, down the hall to the archives, and throughout the afternoon, my thoughts and emotions plodded downhill. Why had I thrice been told to smile by complete strangers? Was I really such a depressed individual that I exuded so much melancholy? Or perhaps people in this city were just really, really happy? What's so wrong with frowning anyway? What's wrong with being depressed? Is a fake smile really better than a genuine frown? Now that's something to think about—whether or not smiling when you're not actually happy is somehow dishonest. How selfish of these people to demand that I smile when I don't want to!
As my thoughts continued down this spiral, they took an interesting turn, and I found myself devising comebacks for the next time a person ordered me to smile. “My father just died.” Or, “My husband was killed in a duel.” Or, “I was just diagnosed with a case of terminal measles.” By the time I was on my way home, my frustration had grown to the point that I almost burst into tears when someone behind me unjustly honked at me. “Why does everyone insist that I behave the way they want me to behave! Leave me alone!!” And then after I got home, I devoured brownies.
Some bit of rationale resting in the top of my cranium looked down from its perch on high and contemplated the oddity of the situation. I couldn't recall actually being that upset before Big Dude confronted me at the elevator. I had been contemplative and a bit confused, but Big Dude, in his idealistic quest to make the world a better place by telling me to stop frowning, had actually achieved the opposite result.
Welcome to Commerce, pop. 8500. Commerce is most well-known for being the home of one of the Texas A&M branches, student pop. 10,000. It is summertime now, so there is about 900 people total, give or take a few students. From the sound of it, most of those 500 students are in the pool, two apartments down from mine. There are about five intersections with traffic lights; the rest have stop signs. There is a Walmart, a McDonald's, a Subway, and the Drunken Mule--a bar known to locals simply as "the Mule." (There are a few more things, but according to the book, "Writing Tools," one ought to be wary of mentioning too many things in a list.)
The people I have met are pleasant. The head of Special Collections gallivanted all over the business building with me to act as my liaison and patiently sat and watched me fill out the W-4, Disabled Veterans, etc., forms. The director of the library smiled, shook my hand, and politely signed a form so I could have wireless access in my room. (I don't know why he had to sign it; from the looks of it, I don't think he knew, either.) Mike--the Walmart employee in charge of the banana display--chatted with me about quality vs. quantity. The dude with dreadlocks down to his shoulders and with his shorts' waistband around his thighs offered to help me carry my stuff. Colby, the apartment staff member who took me to my new apartment, offered to move my couch for me, and pointed out that I might want to buy a shower curtain--unless, you know, I was the kinda person who didn't need a shower curtain. (I bought one, but forgot to buy rings to hang it up, so I tried to be that "kinda person." I had to swab the Baltic Sea off my bathroom floor afterward.)
The work is good. Today, instead of really working, my boss told me to poke around the archives and find stuff I wanted to work on. We have the papers of the fellow who wrote "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" I wanted to process them, but they take up 50 boxes. I'm processing the papers of 4 (or is it 5?) brothers who were stunt pilots from 1920s-ca.1960s. I think Dad--a pilot--would think this is way cool. He's probably heard of some of these people.
I must go back to Wal-Mart. I bought coffee, but no coffee filters. Maybe I will see Mike there.