Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gender Wars, Human Kindness, And One Leg....

So I've been on the DL for just over a week now, with what has been describes as a "strained calf muscle", which is actually more of a tear than a strain.  Mine is of the more severe variety, so I've been on crutches the entire time, and looking at about another 7-10 days of the same before I transition off.

But being the dogged conservative that I am, after taking two days off to rest up I returned to work in New York, with my primary challenge being an arduous commute involving buses and subways.  Being a dogged libertarian, I ask for no help, as I can usually maneuver my way just fine.  My key problem is opening doors, whether they need to be pulled or pushed.  Didn't realize how many of them I encountered on a daily basis, and of course I can get through them myself, but only with pain and difficulty.  Still, I'm too much of a proud jerk to ask for help.

But what has been really interesting is the response people in New York have to someone on crutches trying to make their way through some sort of minimalistic daily routine.  A pattern emerged quickly, and has stayed pretty constant for the entire week:

-Men of all ages are extremely helpful.  They will hold doors, will ask me proactively if I need help, and go out of their way to give me space and time.  Even younger men - teenagers - will hold doors unbidden; even in one or two cases racing ahead of me to grab a door.

-Women are the worst.  Unhelpful to the point of sadism.  I can divide this up a little bit:

*black and Hispanic women are slightly better that the rest.  An occasional holding of a door, sometimes a cluck of sympathy.  Not that I'm asking, I'm just noticing.

**White women are the bottom of the barrel.  And again, I can subdivide this as well:

-married white women are slightly less horrible, only in that they will occasional make a sympathetic remark, or will at least have a guilty expression on their face when they let a door slam in my face

***Single white woman are the worst.  I exist simply as a barrier to them.. They will shoulder right through me on the subway, shove me aside as I am trying to get through a tight doorway, or in one memorable case, leaped ahead of me to steal a cab I was flagging one down with a waved crutch. Older single women are worse than the younger ones - the younger ones are indifferent, the older ones are openly hostile to me.

(and incidentally, yes, I can tell the difference without even seeing the ring finger, who is a married women and who is single in NYC.  I've worked as a salesman in New York for two decades, and almost all of my buyers are women 25-50, and I can tell their marital status within ten seconds.  It's not hard, once you notice the cues...)

So why the gender difference?  Are men sympathetic to another guy, who may be "just like them" in many respects - working, athletic, wearing a boot that can be perceived as the result of a sports-related injury?  Are they used to being chivalrous, and are these acts of kindness reflex rather than thought out?  Or are men evolving into "better people" than women?

And what's up with single white females?  City-dwelling women who have passed 30 and have no prospects tend to give up a little bit inside and fill their lives with other pursuits - and the city offers a myriad of them from career to dinners to plays to arts to shopping to the gym.  It is usually the first two and last of the list which single New York women seem to avail themselves to - the gym is a 4-7x/wk routine in their lives, and most of them are thin and fairly physical fit (Thomas Wolfe referred to them as "social X-rays").  And most of their non-gym downtime (after a psychotic day at the office) is spent with similar friends over dinner in one of a thousand New York restaurants, where they all talk about how they can't believe that guys won't marry them, or even ask them out.  "They're intimidated by women of accomplishment", they'll sniff...

Maybe. First, lest I come off as misogynist, let me tell you that I love women, and have more "girl (space) friends" than any guys I know ("why do you need girl - friends?", my buds have asked me, "if you have a girlfriend?"  Because I love girls...).

Maybe.  But maybe you ladies are single because you have become so self-absorbed and self centered, so concerned about yourself and your own needs in the emotional vacuum that NYC can be, that you have forgotten about the needs of everyone around you, including the guy on crutches whom you looked at blankly before letting go of the door that slammed in their face (and about that blank the woman whole stole my cab.  Sneer at me with triumphant victory, fine.  You beat a crippled guy, good for you.  But the blank look, an attempt to wipe my presence out of  their consciousness, or trying to negate their own nastiness out of existence, is almost scary). Maybe men are looking for someone who will care for them as much as they will care for you.  And if that's the case....why in the world would they touch you with a ten-foot pole, skinny body or not?

And the younger single ladies - they haven't a clue.  Maybe a lifetime of having courtesies done for them has made them oblivious to the need to extend courtesies to others as well.  But they are morally helpless and socially hopeless.  They are the next generation of the unmarried 30+ that will knock me down to get on a subway train before the doors close.

Fascinating stuff.  And I hope I don't sound too angry here (I'm not), I'm just...stunned, and a bit appalled.  I thought women were supposed to be the sensitive and nurturing ones...and it turns out that that's a man's job, as well.

God, I can't wait to get better.

 Moralizing on one leg sucks.


DismalDave said...

I am partially disabled and ofter walk with a cane so Ive seen these folks for years.

Most are just oblivious, wandering through life without a clue; most of the time they have no idea what they just did to you - while some may realize after the fact that they've been rude, most are just so self-involved that they have no idea or notice of someone not in their little worlds.

At least that's what I hope, I really hope the vast majority of folks aren't total assholes.

We always have hope.

The JerseyNut said...

I think you've hit it, Dave - it is primarily self-involvement, with a touch (among some, not all) of after-the-fact remorse.

Makes me wonder about myself, as well. While my rule has always been to "hold the doors" for the disabled, pregnant women, and women (or men) with kids, I've wondered if - by being too self-involved myself, rushing to catch a bus or a train - I've missed either opportunities to help or had been inadvertently rude, without even realizing it, perhaps because it was "outside the periphery" of my own self-involvement.

I'm sure I will be a bit more aware of what is going on around me. For the others, one would expect that many of them, at one point, will have an ailment requiring assistance, and let us hope that karma is not too cruel to them on that day...

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