Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sweet little old lady stereotype

I've been reading The Winner's Bible by multi-talented neurologist Kerry Spackman. As one of his coaching tools he recommends getting an independent, anonymous audit of your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Like everyone, I have a certain view of myself. But how do others see me? Is my self-image on target or way off the mark?

Last week two friends gave me unsolicited information on how they perceive me, and in each case, I was astonished. These are not friends who know me intimately, mind you, so I take their comments with a grain of salt.

Background: at Crows Feet Dance Collective rehearsals, we're looking at 1960s and 1970s clothes for the Grannies Dance in our August show.

Friend #1 wanted someone to help her man-handle some heavy trunks down from a high cupboard. I volunteered, and she said,

"Oh, not you! I need someone strong!"

I was most indignant: I believe I am very strong indeed, but she chose somebody taller to help her. So is weakness, absolute or relative, one of my weaknesses?

Comment #2 came when I showed a picture of myself in 1969, admittedly looking frightfully demure in a muslin top, gypsy skirt and sandals.

"You're sweet! You have always been sweet and you always will be."

Sweet, huh? This was not offensive but tremendously puzzling. What does sweet mean? Good-natured, happy, unobtrusive, a bit wishy-washy? The opposite of sour?

Add them together and I suspect I have been stereotyped as a sweet little old lady.

Photo either (c) New York Press or a stock photo: please tell me if you know.
Illustration, Joshua M Bernstein's article: Old Lady Syndrome

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