I’ve been working with Dirtman for the past few days, not doing a whole lot, since soil isn’t exactly within my field of expertise. But I can run to Lowe’s to exchange things and run to the vehicle and fetch things and all of this even though I’m a girl and one of those soft, fluffy ones at that.
You would think by now I’d be an old hand at being the only female in the crowd, having been brought up the only sister, the only girl cousin and, ultimately, the mother of two boys. I’ve certainly resigned myself to the practical wardrobe, since I’ve learned that, while men like to look at a woman wearing stilettos and fishnets, they don’t appreciate said wardrobe if it slows him down escorting me to the buffet line. I know not to take trash talk seriously and can pretty well hold my own until the guys start commenting about their nasty bits, at which point I choose to smile cryptically like I know something they don’t. If the subject turns to sports, I keep my mouth shut and focus on staying awake.
I use a similar tactic when working with Dirtman. For the most part we deal with groups of men gathered around a common
monolith backhoe discussing a hole in the ground. There are power tools, there is dirt and there are varied large vehicles of conveyance, one to each man because no guy (except Dirtman) can give up control of the wheel to carpool. There are rarely women and the ones that are there – usually the property owner or his or her representative – are permitted to talk themselves out, then are patted on their heads and summarily dismissed.
I am an anomaly here and no one quite knows what to do with me – exacerbated by the fact that Dirtman never introduces anyone to anyone. At first everyone is cautious about speaking around me, like I just might be in charge; but they quickly catch on that I have no say in anything. At that point I do what middle aged women throughout the centuries have done best: I disappear.
Okay, so I just cease to be a consideration and eventually it becomes as if I’m not there. I didn’t realize until then just how different men are when they’re with each other than when they are in “mixed” company.
You remember the phrase “mixed company,” don’t you? That’s an ancient term that used to come into play in the days before profanity and explicit sexual references became common discourse. It used to be considered disrespectful to do so in front of women. But, then, there was a time that it was disrespectful to talk about your wife or girlfriend in a bar.
Actually, that sort of banter hasn’t really been a big issue and, frankly, women’s in-group discussions have suffered a similar deterioration. Men’s conversation are no better or worse then women’s; just different.
For instance, the subject at hand is never approached directly. There is a sort of spiraling inward, starting with politics or the weather and getting more and more specific until finally – finally - they get to the point.
But, once there, don’t think the conversation will stay there. Oh no. At any given moment it will jettison to something that to everyone but the speaker is totally unrelated, the more inane-sounding, the better; at which point it becomes up to the speaker to walk everyone back to the subject and reveal his clever connective thinking.
It occurred to me that the relevant conversation could have been over and done with in less than five minutes but, since the average soil study takes a minimum of an hour that would leave 55 minutes of silence. And, if there is one thing men are terrified of it’s a lull in the conversation.
And I can understand this terror. During those rare conversational gaps there is such a cacophony of bodily noises and limb and torso contortions, I just wanted to scream, “Are you people ill or something?”
And, while we’re on the subject, why does a gathering of males cause their salivary glands to overreact? I mean, on every other occasion they manage to keep their spit in their heads. Why not when they’re gathered together around dirt?
You may make the point that, since I’m there, I’m not really experiencing what men are like when they’re alone. But I still insist I am of no consequence. In fact, Dirtman and I went out one night after we’d cleaned up from work and ran into that day’s client in the restaurant. He came up to our table and greeted Dirtman heartily.
“You must be Mrs. Jackson,” he then said, extending his hand. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”