I am not a “Little Lady”

Categories: Hacking Life, The Juggle, Uncategorized, Working? Living?


When I was looking to buy my first car, nearly 15 years ago, I was just a year out of college and thought I knew everything. I especially thought I was on firm footing when it came to cars, since I had just spent two years editing automotive stories in upstate New York. I did my research, took several test drives, knew what I wanted, knew how much the car — a sleek Nissan Altima — had cost the local dealer, knew how much it should cost me.

Even though I’m a feminist by default, on some level I must also have known that it would be a struggle to be taken seriously, because I brought a male friend along with me. He did not know anything about cars, aside from the fact that you put gas in and they go. He had never bought a car before, and wasn’t interested in buying one. He agreed to come with me mostly because he had nothing else to do that day.

I’m sure you can guess what happened.

The dealer zeroed right in on my friend, and ignored me. Even when my friend tried to redirect the attention, the dealer pitched the car to the man who wasn’t buying it, and brushed off the young woman who was. I’d ask about gas mileage, and he pointed out the vanity mirror. I asked about testing, and he walked me over to a wall of paint chips. I asked a question about the engine, and he told me that I shouldn’t “worry your pretty head about things like that, Little Lady.”

Still, I wanted that car. So I sat down at the table with the guy and made my offer.

He countered with a number that even my friend, who hadn’t done any research, could tell was way too high.

I pulled out my printouts. I politely told him that I’d done my research, and knew what the car cost, and my offer had been very fair.

He put one large hand on top of my papers, leaned over the table until he was in my personal space, and said, “Little ladies who study too much miss the party.”

I told him that arrogant salespeople who condescend too much miss the sale, and walked out of the dealership.

Fast-forward 15 years.

While my “Little Lady” experiences are less frequent now — possibly because I a.) have more gray hair and b.) less patience — they still happen. The words themselves don’t actually get spoken, but the attitude is the same. A mortgage rep who insisted that he wouldn’t process my refi application because my husband doesn’t own our home (I bought on my own it before we were married). The husband of an extended family member who told me he had a tip for “the man who pays the bills” (I do, I’m the breadwinner). The cable guy who insisted on hooking up the DVD player for me, because I’m “a girl” (he did it wrong). The bartenders who push my neat scotch over to my brother and hand me his jack-and-ginger instead.

It’s infuriating. If you’re both aggressive and competent then you’re a bitch, but if you’re polite and considerate — and insistent — you’re a Little Lady who gets brushed off or taken for granted.

Working moms, how do you find balance? Do you still get the “Little Lady” attitude in this day and age?

Subscribe to blog via RSS
Share this on:

11 comments so far...

  • I used to do some of my own, easy automotive work. When I was 18, the muffler fell off of my car on my way to work. I popped in to Midas on my way and they actually told me I needed a new johnson rod. I responded thusly, “You couldn’t find one in all of your pants combined. Fuck you.”

    I crossed the street, bought what I needed to mickey mouse the job and had it properly fixed later.

    Since then, I enter like a hurricane, tell them exactly what I want and don’t and refuse to take any other answer. If they try to patronize me, I leave. But usually they’re so taken aback by my approach that I don’t get patronized.

    Phe  |  November 12th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

  • I smile condescendingly at men who don’t get it. Somehow that gives them the idea that I might know their jobs better than they, or I might be their boss’s boss, so they usually straighten right up.

    My kid sister has the most no-nonsense personality for that kind of thing. She is a very organized person like you (I go more on instinct). The instant she senses a little pushback, her “OH NO YOU DIDN’T” comes out (signaled by eyebrows shooting up) and again, immediate respect.

    As one of the older commenters here, I have to say that I’ve seen a lot of improvement in this respect over the years. People seem to be getting the fact that the women hold the purse-strings, and we are statistically more educated than men. About a decade ago, it was pretty much assumed in business meetings that I was the note-taker. It’s honestly been a long time since I’ve gotten that attitude. (But like you said, it could be those gray hairs . . . .)

    SKL  |  November 12th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

  • Oh, and I dragged a man to buy my first car, too - my dad. I already knew exactly what I was going to buy, and what I was going to pay, etc., but somehow I felt weird doing it alone.

    SKL  |  November 12th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

  • I had a similar problem at a gas station. I had paid in cash for my gas and then went to the pump. The pump wasn’t working. I had been pumping gas for a good 12 years at that point and know whether or not the pump is working. The guy at the register said that he was showing that I had already pumped my gas, but I hadn’t. He continued to argue with me and refused to even step out to look at the pump to see if it was indeed working. He insisted that I did not know how to operate the pump and that I didn’t realize that the gas had actually gone into my car?!?!?! So, I finally got the guy to come out to look at the pump, at which point, the homeless guy that I had given money to by my car told the gas station attendant that the pump wasn’t working. Without even checking the pump, he said “okay” and went to go fix it. The fact that he would not listen to me because I was a female yet listened to a homeless man immediately was infuriating.

    Oceans Mom  |  November 13th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  • Whooa I would have been so choked at the car dealer dude. Oddly - I cannot remember a time when I’ve experienced this. But it unfuriates me to hear about stories like yours.

    Kristin Darguzas  |  November 13th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

  • I dragged my uncle to buy my first car with me because 1) I really didn’t know much about cars, just that I needed a sturdy one to commute and 2) he used to be a car dealer so he knew all the tricks.
    My second one I took my boyfriend at the time, but I bought the car from the one place that had a saleswoman.
    1) once it was noted who was buying the car she directed all her attention properly; 2) she actually listened to what was important to me in a car and highlighted those features; 3) when we came in with price research she didn’t try to snow me.
    I would have bought from a man that showed the same attention but sadly, none did.

    Mich  |  November 13th, 2009 at 2:18 pm

  • Haha!!! “Little ladies who study too much miss the party” that is hilarious..
    Hell Yes, i get that from work a lot. In my position at work, i have to generally deal with guys older than me. I am used to sitting in a room of middle aged guys, who brish me off when i meet them and then towards the end of the meeting, they will come in line and shake hands to a worthy colleague.
    I get used to it. But its always intresting to go for these meetings for the first time after you have spoken to them over the phone. Let me put it politely, they were not expecting a youngish mom to tell the grand dad’s how to ensure the risk on the project is minimised!

    GNSD  |  November 13th, 2009 at 5:11 pm

  • When we went into buy our new car, we each had a role in the process and the sales person was pretty good at adressing that. If I had a salesman like you had, I would have walked out too.

    Oceans Mom  |  November 13th, 2009 at 11:13 pm

  • About 20 years ago, I was getting estimates from various contractors for a basement renovation. I had a manager for one national company REFUSE to come out unless my husband was present. I told him that since I was the one making ALL decisions AND writing the checks, his attitude was the deciding factor that HE and his company just lost out on any consideration whatsoever and I ended the conversation. After that, I filed a complaint with the BBB and the Va. Dept. of Professional Occupations Regulations, who handles all the licensing for contractors. I also made it known from that point on to any and all who would listen that they were rude, condoscending and discrimiatory. It’s amazing what word of mouth can do in that kind of venue.

    Funny thing, too…when we went to a home show, there was the company and their reps. They didn’t know me from Adam. So, when the rep tried to chat me up and give me his pitch, I very sweetly told him that since his company had such a lousy attitude and refused to give me an estimate without my hubby present, they weren’t worth my business. AND there were other people in the booth at the time. I turned to a lady and told her that they REFUSED to talk to me without hubby. She walked out too.

    Jane  |  November 14th, 2009 at 7:48 pm

  • I am an engineer, so I’m used to being one of the few (or the only) women in the room. One time, about 10 years ago, a man came in to interview for an open position. My female colleague was supposed to take him to lunch, and the previous interviewer brought the candidate to her office. The first words out of his mouth were ‘oh, are you the secretary?’. Needless to say, my friend did not have anything good to say about this guy, and fortunately, neither did anyone else and he was not hired. I’m floored by how many clueless, misogynist men seem to be out there.

    a mom  |  November 16th, 2009 at 11:57 am

  • And then they’ve got their thumb up their butts, trying to figure out WHY they didn’t get hired.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    Jane  |  November 18th, 2009 at 5:34 pm