Now I Have a Complex…

The way it all started was with a conversation I had with the daughter's boyfriend. He has been around for almost four months now, time enough that he can call my husband and me something. He is a very mannerly young man, and I figured he might be wondering what to call us, so I though I would bring it up.The boyfriend said he didn't know us well enough yet to call us by our first names and would prefer to address us formally. And that's OK. Like I said, he is very mannerly. I was raised that way, and I still have reservations about calling people who are my elders by their first names.

As we continued to talk, I told the boyfriend I was glad that I got a chance to know him better and that he seemed to be more relaxed around my husband and me. He said something like "I felt comfortable with Jill's dad right away. You scared me."

I was a little taken aback. When I blogged about my daughter-in-law a while ago, I shared the reason that she was scared of me before she met me. My son was messing with her. The boyfriend's reason was a little different. He went on, "You have the ability to give that teacher look."

There isn't a person alive who hasn't experienced the teacher look, although there are some people who are immune (my daughter being one of them). "The look" is actually something that got me out of a college class when I went back to get my teaching credentials. Properly administered, it can quell even the most rowdy of high school students. Most of the time, anyway. And the boyfriend's dad is a high school teacher, so I imagine that he has been on the receiving end of the look. A lot.

Like I said, though, I was feeling sort of bad because I tried to make the boyfriend feel comfortable. I think he does now, but he didn't at first. So I told this story to my son, expecting sympathy. Instead, in his irritating male way, he laughed.

"No," I said. "Come on, I'm serious. What would make me intimidating?"

"Your size" was his response.

Now, I am 6'1" tall. I was 5'11" when I was eleven. As I have shared before, I grew up with quite a complex about my height. In my high school, the student body of a little over 2100 kids included exactly ONE other girl that was over six feet tall. We were oddities, and we were treated that way. Had I attended my husband's school, which was a quarter the size of my own, there were several really tall girls and the attitude was different. But for me it wasn't. Besides–the boyfriend is 6'4". Why would my size be intimidating to him?

I think that I am relatively meek for the most part, and I have been told that for someone of my height, I fade into the wallpaper quite well. So my son's comment surprised me. He went on to tell me that he had interviewed a woman just a little taller than I am who was really aggressive. He had to tell her to quit touching him.

Still, I disagreed. My daughter-in-law is 5'11". I told my son to ask her opinion, and she agreed with him. Big (meaning tall) women are more aggressive. Therefore more intimidating.

Whew! I had to think. When I taught at the Catholic school, I had to go down and address the fourth graders. Their teacher, a woman older than I am, was surprised they responded to me so well. "You're so big," was what she said.

GRRRRRR!!!!

IF I am intimidating because of my size, I think it has to do with the attitudes of the person with whom I am interacting, not with mine. Like I said, I sort of have the reputation of being meek and mild, although my husband did tell me that my classroom persona was different. He was shocked the first time he saw me quell some boys that were acting up and admitted that he wondered what someone had done with his wife. 

Personally, the most intimidating women I have met were my husband's grandmas. Both of them were about five feet tall, and BOTH of them (in individual instances shortly after we were married) took hold of my shirt, pulled me down to their level and told me I had better be nice to my husband if I knew what was good for me. Believe me, I listened.

This is how my husband, whose wisdom I value greatly, settled things for me. He said, "Aggression is an attitude, not a size."

That made me feel better.

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