Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Problem with Growing Up Tossing Hay Bales

Being a country girl from South Georgia living in the big city in a country with a very macho society is not without it's challenges. And being prego only seems to amplify my problem.

I grew up on a 'hobby' farm with three brothers. And instead of being 'the spoiled princess' many might expect, I really sort of ended up being seen by my family as just another one of the boys. I wasn't spared unloading 100-pound feed sacks from the back of my pick-up truck just because I had boobs. And likewise, my brothers did just as much cooking and cleaning as I did too. My parents did an exceptional job of keeping all four of us well-rounded, regardless of our gender, and not instilling a girls-do-this or that's-a-boy's-job mentality.

(And the "but I'm a girl" argument was never a valid one - especially not with my father. I remember when I was 16 and ready to head out the door to some no-doubt very important social engagement one evening, my Dad stopped me and asked if I could change the tire on my truck. In all my teenage sassiness, I informed him that, um, I had a cell phone - if a tire needed changing there were plenty of guys I could call to do that for me. I also remember that I wasn't allowed to leave the house that night until I had taken down the spare tire, jacked up the truck, taken off a perfectly good tire, put on the spare, and then reversed the whole thing back to it's original state. At the time, in the midst of my 16-year-old angst, I thought it was the stupidest waste of my time ever . . . but goodness help the man today who assumes I can't change my own tire! Oh, and when my daughter starts driving? Yeah, you bet I'm going to make sure she can operate a lug nut wrench!)

And you better believe that God knew what He was doing when He led Eric and I to one another. My dear hubby has three sisters and grew up on a family farm. He is one of the politest, most chivalrous men I know, but he certainly doesn't view women as weaklings. Rather, he considers us great farm hands! And while he really gets aggravated when he comes home and discovers his pregnant wife has moved the couch, carried a night stand from one room to another, and been climbing a ladder by herself instead of waiting for him to get home and help, he takes no issue with me carrying the lighter of the bags/boxes/suitcases when his hands are already full or tackling other routine tasks - even while pregnant. (I've had women here comment that if my husband were Brasilian he would never let me do this or do that . . . I'm pretty quick to inform them that there's a good reason I married who I did!)

I appreciate it when a man opens a door for me, and I think it is quite appropriate to help me carry something heavy. I am not one to get offended at offers of assistance or displays of good manners. But I despise being told I can't do something because I am female (or more recently, because I am pregnant). And admittedly, I ran into it a good bit in the US too. While working at a small landscape plant nursery in Georgia, I can't tell you how many times people would question if there was a man around who could load their plants for them and then respond in disbelief to learn I was the only one working and would be loading the 15 gallon/10' tall tree into the back of their pick-up all by myself.

But Brasil has taken it to a whole new level for me. Especially now that I am quite visibly pregnant. I had to work hard yesterday to keep a sense of humor about it all and not just get really frustrated!

The porteiro (doorman) at our apartment called me to say a box had been delivered for me. Excited at the prospect of "good mail", I hurried down to retrieve it. First off, I was scolded by him for taking the five flights of stairs instead of the elevator. Then, he showed me the box. As I went to take it from him, he pulled it back and informed me that it was to heavy for me to carry. He suggested I wait for Eric to come home and get it. It was early in the afternoon, I was excited to see what kind of goodies the box contained, and there was no way I was waiting several more hours! I tried to convince him that it really wasn't a problem, and I appreciated his concern, but I would be fine taking the box up myself. He adamantly refused to hand it over to me though.

I considered just quickly snatching the box and running to the elevator with it, but something about the vision of a 39 1/2-week pregnant chick trying to do anything resembling running was too much for me to handle. I've seen penguins run - it ain't pretty. Add that to my recently developed lack of balance and increased clumsiness and it's a darn good bet that I wouldn't make it to the elevator with tripping, headbutting the wall, and ending up in an unconscious heap in the middle of the floor. And furthermore, once word got out, it would probably only strengthen the building's case about the crazy Americans living on the 5th floor. I can hear the old women gossiping now . . .

But anyway, eventually, after much back and forth, we agreed on a plan. He took an empty trashcan and placed it upside down in the elevator and balanced the box on top of it. (This way I wouldn't be tempted to bend over and lift the box for further inspection.) Then, once I arrived on the 5th floor, I was instructed to ask my housekeeper, who was working yesterday, to come and carry the box inside for me.

Of course, the second I was out of the porteiro's sight, I giddily picked up the box to see who it was from and the housekeeper was never summoned to carry it in for me. And as with all international packages, the weight was noted right there on the customs slip: 6 lbs 5 oz.

Seriously. I spent 10 minutes arguing with the concerned doorman about my ability to manage a package which weighed less than a gallon of milk. I'm pregnant, not crippled, people!!!

(And for those whose curiosity I've peaked: the box was from my good friend Amanda who sent along all kinds of baby clothes, blankets, the most adorable pair of socks ever, a book (Chicken Soup for the New Mom's Soul), and more for Z Baby. It was a fun package to receive while I wait around for the little one to make her grand entrance!)


lovelydharma said...

I bet your baby girl is going to way more than that box! Women's body's were made strong for exactly that reason - they have to get through the marathon of all strength tests - pregnancy and motherhood!

It is so ingrained here that women can't do do any hard work - let alone change a tire! (That story is hilarious!) My mother-in-law once yelled at me when she saw me pick up a bunch of bags of groceries saying, "No! NO! Think of your uterus!" And I'm not pregnant!

Hope it contained all kinds of goodies from home. I got a care package today with Trader Joes treats! I'm over the moon!

lovelydharma said...

Oh geeze, did I just write she is going to "way" more. Portuguese is ruining my English! She will weigh more! Arugh!

Stephanie said...

Oh gosh, I know EXACTLY what you mean. I grew up with my Dad who only had two little girls. We live in the country and we knew how to chop wood and take care of the woodstove at 8. We always did the yard work and anything else that my Dad thought we should know (changing oil, tires, etc.)

I don't live in Brazil yet, but in Myrtle Beach, we have our own "Little Brazil" and since I work in the construction industry (flooring) I work with many of the Brazilians. Now keep in mind, it is myself and one other girl at the store. So there is no one to lift those huge, heavy boxes of tile, thinset, wood, etc but us. We also chage the forklift and man the warehouse. But if one of the guys comes in there and sees us doing ANY of that, they go beserk! (sp?) I had one guy tell me the other day that if I didn't stop carrying tile he was going to call my husband!! To which I promptly replied, "And he's going to stop me all the way from Brasil?" and I kept going. Though truthfully, if Sidnei knew, he probably would try to come from Brasil to stop me! (He HATES that I do this work...but you do what you do!)

Corinne said...

I always used to joke and say there was a "law" in Latin America that did not allow a woman to carry more than 5 lbs!

AcesHigh said...

I will let women carry all the weight they WANT, as long as they promise they wont curse me as soon as I turn my back. (well, as far as my american friend tell me, american women also wont usually tell you what they REALLY want, after all, we men are "supposed to know", and "if we dont know, its not you who will tell us!" :D

Anonymous said...

Do you have Mother with Baby OR Pregnant Mothers Parking at the stores. I think that is ridiculous. I could walk when I was preg so why can't they?