I can’t claim to speak for all women. Or any men, really. But I do think I stumbled across two really curious emails that might speak to gender, work, and money. In you case wondered, I did run this theory past Mr. P, so basically, it’s peer reviewed and destined for scholarly publication. Oh. That’s not how that works? Let’s roll with it anyway.
Because I am the biggest hypocrite known to man and because I am also more than a little sad about putting our money goals on hold, I’m still applying for tutoring jobs. Yes, you read that right. I’m 32 weeks pregnant, looking for more part-time work. As I work through my hypocrisy and wade through messages, two different emails stood out to me. Both of which, I have a hard time imagining Mr. P–or many other men–writing. Without further ado, Emails A & B:
Exhibit A – “Just a Heads Up, I’m Pregnant”
I’m not actively seeking out clients, but I’m also not ignoring emails or rebuffing offers. In fact, since crossing the threshold from too-much-Chipotle belly to basketball-thief belly, I’ve applied for and landed four different gigs. Not too shabby.
And all four gigs have included a rather awkward email exchange. Usually, the first email is from the family letting me know that they got my name from someone in their neighborhood or saw an old post of mine on NextDoor, the social media platform for people who like to complain about which yard has too many weeds. Pre-pregnancy, my normal response would be to thank them for their interest, highlight my qualifications, offer references, and suggest that we meet in person. Now, though, each of my emails starts as follows:
Thank you so much for your interest. Since I have let all of my other tutoring clients know, I wanted to make you aware of the fact that my husband and I are expecting a child this summer, so I will be taking two weeks off at the end of July.
Then, I launch into my standard spiel.
All four times, I expected a polite congratulations and a hard pass. Much to my surprise, though, I received a hearty congratulations, as well as an inquiry as to when we could begin our sessions. Then, we met for the first time, and it’s back to side hustle bliss.
Now, I interpret my actions as a courtesy. Summer is short, tutoring slots book up fast, and not everyone wants to put their kid’s learning on pause for two weeks. But I’m also not sure that this is how Mr. P would reply to an email about summer school, refereeing, or any other summertime commitment, despite the fact that he would ultimately end up sharing the same news.
Exhibit B – “I’m a Bossypants”
Before I got to questioning if I was sending out what might be perceived as gendered emails, it was actually a response I received that gave me pause. In the midst of setting up a summer tutoring schedule with a new family, a mom sent me a message describing some of the struggles her daughter faced and then let me know her availability. She was concise and clear. And she ended her email with this line:
(If I sound bossy, I apologize, I’m bossy at work and it carries over!)
I was gobsmacked. As someone who is hyperaware of my own distinctively female tendency to overuse the word just or apologize when I’m not actually sorry, I couldn’t believe I encountered this in the wild. Where was Tina Fey? Could I forward this to Gloria Steinem? Surely, this could be addressed in the next edition of Sheryl Sandberg’s book.
Look, I’m not saying that women should rip the exclamation mark off their keyboards. I don’t think we need to go that far, nor do I think all women and men write, read, or think the same way. But encountering the word bossy in the wild? This is the stuff that my gender studies classes were made of.
A dozen questions popped in my mind. I wanted to know everything: what she did for a living, how long it took her to be promoted, and what kickass things she did on a day-to-day basis. But she wasn’t bragging. She was apologizing. And for what? For sending me the detailed notes about her daughter that I requested? For letting me know that she and her family are not available every hour of the day? For advocating for her child?
Nothing in her email warranted an apology. Nothing came across as condescending or rude. She simply didn’t mince words. So I got to thinking, would her husband have corresponded with me the same way? I can’t be certain, but I doubt it.
(Side note: I tried to play a game for the highly scientific study I mentioned earlier, so I asked Mr. P to give me as many adjectives as he could to describe a man who told other people what to do. There were some naughty words. Admittedly, some weren’t adjectives. But many were actually compliments. And bossy was nowhere to be found.
And another: If you want to see a tutoring email that actually does warrant an apology, take a peek at this doozy. While you read, I’ll be thinking of all those naughty words Mr. P said.)
So Tell Me…Do you think gendered emails exist? Are these examples?