In the last few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about grown-up-hood. Specifically, a lot about house-buying. Like how many steps there are to house-buying, and how you’re not allowed to skip any or do them out of order. I’ve also learned not to drive through that really expensive neighborhood ‘just for fun,’ because then all of the houses you can afford will look like sorry consolation prizes in comparison.
Another fun thing I’ve learned is that sexism is still alive and well.
This likely seems unnecessary to state, since sites like Buzzfeed and Bustle are loaded with trendy, fired-up articles about microaggressions and instances of men saying ‘hello’ to women and overstepping their goddamn boundaries.
“How about you have a nice day, shitlord?”
While I don’t at all think that the fight for gender equality is done, I do tend to live my life in a bit of a bubble where I am lucky enough to escape being an actual recipient of sexist behavior on the regular. I know it’s not the case for everyone, but I’m trying to set the stage here, so be cool.
Anyway, I dragged my family (all four of us) to go talk to a mortgage guy and kindly ask him to please give us hundreds of thousands of dollars. I had all of my questions ready and I had all of the necessary info stored on my phone; I was prepared, and I was gonna wow this banker guy and get my dollars.
This was my plan, anyway, until I sat in one of the chairs across from him and realized very quickly how this meeting was going to go.
It’s important for you to know that while I was introducing myself and being engaging and asking a few opening questions, Orie was sitting in his chair with his eyes glued to his phone. I didn’t mind, since he was grappling with a customer service rep and attempting to finagle a good deal. But it’s important to note that I was the engaged party and my husband was literally not paying attention.
So the meeting starts.
Mortgage Guy asks some basic questions like names, address, social security numbers. I give him all of those answers but I notice that whenever he asks a question, he directs it to Orie – or, rather, the top of Orie’s head, since Orie’s eyes are glued to his phone screen. Half the time I answer, the other half Orie glances up to chime in. At this point, I’m a little annoyed, but willing to believe that it’s all in my head.
Then it’s time for Mortgage Guy to explain FHA and USDA loans. This means a lengthier monologue from Mortgage Guy on how loans work and once again, I’m engaged: eye contact, nodding, interrupting to ask a few questions and take notes on my phone before looking back up and maintaining eye contact. During most of this, Orie is still fixed on his phone, brow slightly furrowed and clearly focused on his screen.
And still. Mortgage Guy speaks to Orie, and directs all questions to Orie.
Now I know it’s not all in my head and I’m getting pretty pissed off. This is also when the baby – remember how there were four of us? – starts to fuss and all of my instincts say ‘alert, alert, pick up baby, it be cry.’ But nope. I double down. I stare directly at Mortgage Guy and ask a few more questions, noting that he is now looking at me – but only to glance between me and the baby with very faint discomfort in his expression.
Here is the point where I concede that I could’ve been reading too much into his expression. Maybe it wasn’t discomfort; maybe it was concern, or confusion, or a building fart that he was holding in. But he was definitely looking at me now, and only in relation to the crying baby. There was no way in hell I was going to pick up that baby. He and I had entered a game of Crying-Baby Chicken, and I was going to win.
And I did, sort of, since Orie was quick to swoop in and grab Atlas, soothing him expertly and being every bit the stellar dad and equal partner that he always has been. At this point I sort of wanted to seize Mortgage Guy by his tie and say ‘DID YOU SEE THAT? A MAN IS CAPABLE OF CARING FOR A CHILD, JUST LIKE A WOMAN IS CAPABLE OF DISCUSSING FINANCES AND HELPING MAKE MAJOR DECISIONS FOR THE HOUSEHOLD.’
Instead I kept my mouth shut and endured another ten minutes of being patronized by Mortgage Guy, though the moment we get to our car I burst into an infuriated ‘oh my god did you see that?!’ to Orie. This is never a good idea since he is notorious for missing conversational nuances like these and tends to explain away my frustrations.
Except not this time. He laughed a little and said, ‘yeah, it was weird, you were looking at him and asking questions and stuff and I was just on my phone, but he kept looking at me.’
I swear, it was so fucking validating to hear Orie say that. I nodded so hard in righteous indignation that my neck nearly snapped. I couldn’t believe it, how blatant the preference to deal with my husband had been, even when Orie was so clearly not paying attention, even when I was the one asking all the questions. It weirdly made me feel seventeen again in the company of adults: belittled, ignored, treated like a minor aggravation to be told ‘that’s nice, honey, but the adults are talking.’ It was really rich, seeing as I was the one responsible for our credit and our down payment, and yet the only time he had seemed truly interested in my presence was when the baby had needed to be calmed.
I wish I could say that I went in and said something, or even that we won’t be working with Mortgage Guy again since we found a better, less sexist banker to work with. But I can’t, since I didn’t say a damn thing, and we’ll be going back to Mortgage Guy once we’re ready to put in an offer on a house.
But next time I sit down across that shiny wooden desk, I’m going to trust my instincts and stick up for myself when he tries to talk through me – and if I feel my own fart building, you better believe I won’t hold it in.
She is smiling because she just let one rip in the name of dismantling the patriarchy.