You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby?

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby?

Did I miss something? Or rather, did the home improvement sales industry miss something?

The last time I looked, the calendar reads 2019, women in the United States have earned the right to vote, drive a car, own property and work outside the home.

Why, then, does a salesperson in modern-day America believe a woman needs her husband to be present when making major purchases for or decisions about a home? More precisely, why does a salesperson insist that they will set an appointment to come out to discuss the home renovation work being considered only when both the husband and wife are available?

Perhaps now would be a good time for you, gentle reader, to pour a glass of wine, pull up a chair, and get comfortable.

Ready? Okay.

Today, I fielded several calls from salespeople following up on information I had filled out – as the homeowner – at a recent home and garden show. Not once, but twice, the callers asked if I was married. When I told them yes, they said they would like to set an appointment when both of us can be home.

I explained that I am the homeowner, that I travel nationally for my job, and that the appointment needed to be set around my schedule. It was not good enough for the two salespeople. They still wanted me and my husband present.

Patiently, I further explained that my husband has an all-consuming job and he never knows when he will be home in the evenings or available on the weekends. Nope. They still wanted both of us.

At this point, I lost my patience. Completely.

In no uncertain terms, I informed the callers that I found their insistence on my husband’s attendance offensive. I clarified that my home is titled only in my name. I bought it as a single woman, contracted for and oversaw major renovations immediately after the purchase, and that my husband and I keep our financial affairs separate.

Before ending the call – and canceling the appointments – I closed by explaining that I most certainly do not need my husband’s permission to make improvements to my property.

I pity the poor man who tried to follow up my rant by stating that there are often unexpected questions that come up and it’s sometimes helpful to have the man of the house present to raise them.

Thank God he was able to mansplain it to me. Undoubtedly, my breasts and vagina were preventing me from thinking rationally.

Make no mistake, I value my husband’s opinions and appreciate his wisdom more than I can say. I’m reasonably confident he feels the same about my judgment and advice. Irrespective of keeping our finances separate, we talk to each other about financial decisions and work together when it comes to providing for our family and home. But I respect Lorenzo’s right to make his own decisions without consulting me, while always considering me and the impact of his choices. He expects – and receives – the same from me.

When he got home tonight, I told my husband about the calls – that I had scolded the salespeople for their 1950s attitudes, and had canceled the appointments. He laughed and observed that they had poked the wrong bear.

Photo Credit: PhillipMorrisUSA, circa 1970s

There was a cigarette commercial in the 1970s targeted toward women. As a young child, I used to marvel at the glamourous, independent woman with a cigarette laced through her long, delicate fingers. “You’ve come a long way, Baby,” the announcer would assert.

At my young age, I didn’t understand that his statement was both a contradiction and a put down. The woman’s name wasn’t Baby. And his use of the term was a way to keep her in her place. Subservient. Reliant. Voiceless.

Fast forward 40 years, to me on the phone today, trying to assert my independence to a couple of Neanderthal salespeople who did everything but call me Baby. We have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go.

I refused to be made subservient and voiceless. But it required me being more direct and less pleasant than I would have preferred. And it left me feeling angry and small and disaffirmed.

Chatting with my daughter tonight was all the reinforcement I needed to know I had done the right thing. She was appalled. And she thanked me. She said I had done the right thing and that this kind of attitude is something she and other young women do not understand or appreciate.

Then she asked if I can put the word out that I’m looking for a woman contractor.

“Suddenly, I went from feeling disrespected to feeling proud.” Photo Credit: Lorenzo Sierra

Suddenly, I went from feeling disrespected to feeling proud. My daughter knew I had stood up for myself. And, in so doing, I was standing up for her and other young women like her.

Someday, when my daughter owns her own home, she will be able to set an appointment for home improvements and simply be asked if there is anyone else she would like to have present for the appointment. She will get to decide. And she will not have to defend her rights and abilities.

Until then, I will keep scolding ignorant salespeople. And looking for a female contractor.


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