After hours in front of my laptop, my back is usually gnarled into a “C” shape. I’ve learned to remedy the Ladyblogging Hunchback with some yoga. But this afternoon, when I checked the schedule and read the instructor’s name, Matthew, I started making excuses not to go. I don’t know Matthew, but I might have felt differently if his name were Melissa or Miranda. It isn’t just about my fear of a dude adjusting my warrior pose, it’s a pattern. I have always been like this — with male dentists, doctors, therapists, even Santa Claus. Why am I scared of men?
When the adult transition happened for me, and I started making my own appointments for the first time, each dentist, gyno and therapist I sought out was female. If you were to ask me at the time why I only saw women, I might have told you that I was supporting female professionals. Yay gender egalitarianism!
But, but, but. That probably would have been a half-truth.
When I stopped to think about it, I realized that my actions were being dictated by cultural messages that had been imbued in me since childhood. Even as a toddler, I knew that it was never okay to talk to strange, old men. Men, I was to be wary of. Even if he had presents. There is a home video of me screaming and running from Santa Claus. Strange old women, on the other hand, were no big deal. They were allowed to pick up my sister and I in grocery stores. And we loved it. Deeply embedded in my unconscious was the notion that all men are potential predators. That there is something inherently creepy to being born male. Logically, I don’t buy this. Painting all men as potential predators makes guys feel bad about being guys and ladies feel distrustful. It’s an unfair thought that reinforces bad behavior. I know I wouldn’t feel good if half of the population were constantly eyeing me sideways. But as long as I had a female therapist and a lady adjusting my warrior pose, it was easy not think too much about it.
Then, I hit a snag, and didn’t have a choice. I needed to make an appointment to get an IUD ASAP but the receptionist informed me that Dr. Miranda and Melissa were booked for months, but a male gynecologist could squeeze me in next week.
More out of desperation than anything else, I agreed. But I was anxious about seeing him. First, the male gyno did a pap. I sat on the crinkly paper and he made small talk, before ducking his head between my stirruped legs. Awkward, sure, but he actually seemed more sensitive to my comfort level than previous gyns had been. He even told me that my uterus was tipped– something that no lady gyn had ever shared with me. I felt safe with him.
Laying there waiting for the IUD insertion, I realized that I was sexist. I had judged people based on their gender. I made a note to myself to explore this further. But then he started the IUD procedure. And it hurt. Badly. My body cramped and went into shock mode. I hated everyone in the room, my male gyn included. And I was spared from delving into my own sexist beliefs.
In front of the yoga-schedule, I was confronted once again. My cat stretched into a perfect downward dog, and I felt a knot tighten in my back.
Okay, fine. I thought. Time to deal with this.
When I got to yoga class, the instructor, Matthew, was talking to a guy outside. I sat on my mat, pretending to be zen-like and not irrationally uncomfortable about being instructed by a man.
Matthew came into the studio.
“Sorry I’m late,” he blurted out. “My boyfriend forgot his keys, I had to give them to him!”
Oh, he was gay. Did I mention that often negates my male anxiety? I guessed I could continue not to face my own sexist beliefs a little bit longer. At least until yoga was over. I closed my eyes and chanted the sound of “Om.”
Original Rachel White