“Sign here please,” said the man behind the counter.
I took the pen he offered with a nod and scribbled my sorry excuse of a signature on the paper in front of me. Then, sticking my keys in my back pocket, I thanked him and reached for the package I came to pick up.
“Here, let me help you,” he said.
“I’ve got it, thank you though.”
The man persisted, “No please, allow me, this is much too heavy for a girl.”
I flinched. Blinked. Frowned. Then composed myself. This was, after all, a professional interaction, so I didn’t feel I could say much in the way of protest. Plus, as I looked at the man—who was well into his sixties—I knew he honestly didn’t mean to offend me. But as I drove back to work I still had that phrase playing over and over again in my head.
“For a girl”
It was a simple three words, the last of which has been interchanged countless times to make assumptions about an individual. Be it a girl, a boy, a kid, a person of color, or a follower of religion, this phrase is used to impose an identity on a person based solely on their likeness to another. How often do we find ourselves being the subject or speaker of this phrase? And how wildly dangerous it is to be either. For phrases like these do nothing but convince us that we are only as good as we are already believed to be; that our abilities have some sort of cap set by people who don’t even know us.
When I got back to work that afternoon, I walked around the back of the car and looked at the box. The one that was too heavy. Then, bending from my knees, I lifted it from the trunk and carried it inside. Because it was not too heavy for a girl, and it was not too heavy for me. And my ability to lift the box doesn’t make me strong for a girl, it just makes me strong. I’m not looking for anyone to commend this strength, I’m just asking to eliminate its assumed absence based on my anatomy.
I, like everyone else in this world, am my own brand of individual. I am more than my surrounding stereotypes make me out to be. I have my own strengths, my own weaknesses, my own likes and dislikes. There is no one like me, just as there is no one like you. And while there will always be those trying to box us into ignorant ideals, looking at us like identical stacked houses, it is our choice to rent the room. For there are thousands of minorities and majorities that make up the world, but they all have one thing in common: there are made up of unique individuals and we should all be treated as such.