This is the story about a girl, a loud, smart, driven girl. She was not bossy, she was a natural leader. She was not a cry baby, but she owned her emotions. When she walked into a room, she turned heads, mostly because she usually tripped or walked into the door frame and swore loudly, but that is beside the point.
She was not perfect, she had no fashion sense (seriously, as a teenager she wore her fathers 30 year old clothes, which ironically were in better shape than anything she had bought), she had little control over her personality flaws (I consider the compulsive need to correct imprecise statements a personality flaw) and interpersonal communication was a skill learned later than the average girl.
But, she worked hard, and put all her energy, thoughts and time into growing her mind, scholastically, emotionally, and creatively. As soon as she saw her own reflection, she would disappear into a story in her head and act out a scene of grave importance, it didn’t matter that it was dinner time and her family was staring at her blankly. (FYI – kids who do this are super cute…except when it is bed time or when trying to go anywhere on time).
This girl grew into a woman. A loud (yes, still loud), clumsy (it actually got worse) and extremely principled (no…not stubborn, principled) woman.
The woman moved to France and in doing so was forced to learn a new skill; the ability to survive in an environment where she was first and foremost a woman, a characteristic that redefined all of her other qualities in the eyes of those around her.
As luck would have it though, she met a French man, the perfect man for her. He was a man who liked to cook delicious food, a man who did laundry and dishes, a man who loved to spend time with his children. This man is probably the reason the woman did not end up in prison for inflicting violence on the ass-backwards sexist dillholes she encountered on a near daily basis or against the kind-hearted lovely gentlemen who were never properly educated to see a woman as an equal.
This woman tried for years to move the world around her in a direction where she could just be herself, and failed miserably on many occasions. But she never gave up hope and never stopped trying. She changed tactics, perhaps learned to be more discreet and less bulldozer-y, but she never gave up.
Then one day, she tried again, she dove down deep inside her to build up the courage to say something that might cause ripples. She asked quite simply to be treated equally to all the men around her; she asked for a handshake; she asked to avoid the physical invasion of her personal space that is the custom in France, “the bise”.
She asked quite simply for the right to choose those with whom she was intimate rather than have intimacy forced upon her. She asked to not start the day, the meeting, or whatever with being reminded that she was different, not equal, separate, apart.
In the grand scheme of things, she asked for something that has absolutely no cost, but provides infinite value. She asked for something small, inconsequential really, and this tiny infinitesimal request was met with shock. SHOCK?!?! Not shock because the gentleman suddenly came to the life altering realisation that OF COURSE setting women apart and invading their personal space in a professional environment could potentially make a woman feel uncomfortable. It was more closer to shock that a woman could dare to break protocol, shock that in civil society a woman could dare to challenge centuries old etiquette.
After the stunned silence, the moment passed and life went on..possibly more easily because while this woman may be a woman, she was also a Canadian, and they know nothing of etiquette.