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The weaker sex

Yesterday I was at Target to buy a hand mixer because even though I moved months ago I frequently go to get something and then realize I don’t have it. When my brother moved, he bought a TV dinner to eat at home because he was too exhausted to cook and then realized he didn’t have a microwave.

At the store, I picked up a basket instead of a cart because if I get the cart that’s just an excuse to pile crap in there and I am on a budget, damn it! I can’t be grabbing things off of the shelves just because they’re shiny or have a cute polka dot print. I suppose it’s similar to how they (you know, them, the anonymous diet experts) recommend you portion out your food on a plate and not just eat out of a bag or container because you’ll eat everything that’s there. If I have a cart, I’ve got a lot more space to fill up before I make it to the cash register, whereas a basket limits what I can grab.

Not that I let this stop me though, because as I was walking through the home décor section I saw a 5-headed medusa-style lamp, the kind that lets you adjust the lamp heads. I needed a floor lamp so I could read on the couch and this was reasonably priced and most importantly – it matched my color scheme! So, basket or not, I had to have it. Only, it was kind of heavy, maybe 20 or 25 pounds. It was lighter than the big tubs of kitty litter I buy, but not by much.

But I am big, strong, exercising woman! So I didn’t let this daunt me. I carried the lamp box under my left arm and held my basket and purse in the right and headed for the check-out line. I suppose in this way it was good I had the basket because there was no way I was going to continue browsing with this box and it’s love affair with gravity under my arm. I also noticed that I can feel even more of my hip bones now than ever and this probably helped wedge the box under my arm.

When I got to the register, the check-out lady seemed absolutely aghast that I had carried this lamp across the store on my own. She made a little production out of it saying she couldn’t believe I’d carried it around without a cart. Now, it was heavy. And I did go get a cart to push the thing to my car. But was it really that big of a deal that I lugged this box halfway across the store?

As a woman, I’ve always taken a bit of pride in being able to carry my own groceries up the stairs, even if those plastic bags with 2 liters of soda cut into my flesh a little. I’ve never wanted to flail around and whine “It’s too heavy!” I kill my own bugs too. Being able to carry around heavy things without assistance is my little statement of independence. So I was a bit put off that this cashier thought it was a big deal that I’d carried a kind of heavy lamp across an air-conditioned retail store. It’s not like I chained a nightstand and matching vanity mirror to my back as I traipsed down the aisles.

She was very friendly though and I think she was just trying to make my shopping experience more pleasant by recommending a cart, so I’m not bitter towards her. However, I do believe some people think if you’re a woman you’re a delicate little thing who shouldn’t lift anything heavier than five pounds. Which irks me. Yes, men have the capacity to develop more upper body strength than woman, but it doesn’t mean I can’t move heavy objects too.

Back in school whenever a teacher needed something heavy moved, they’d always ask for the boys to do it. While I wasn’t eager to move flat file shelves across the room, I always felt it was a bit unfair that they just assumed all the boys would be stronger and more capable of moving things than the girls. And sure, probably the strongest people in the room would be some of the jockish guys, but it didn’t mean the girls were totally incapable either. If more is expected of you, if you are challenged more often, you are more likely to rise to those challenges. I think girls frequently aren’t challenged to do many of the things boys are, one of them being lifting heavy things. So I will carry my lamp across Target! Because I can, damn it!

ETA: Another thought: I think this is an example of how my mindset has changed in the past two years. Activities which most people would categorize as “unnecessary work,” I think of as “good exercise.” While most people might balk at carrying a heavy object across a store because it’s a lot of work, I do it exactly because it’s a lot of work.

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18 Comments

K • August 21, 2006 at 11:33 am

Hey, I clicked refresh and got a new post! I get to be the first to comment!

I find it annoying too when people act all concerned about me lifting things. I had a female colleague who went all twittery if I picked up a box of documents instead of dragging it across the floor, which is what she did. I’ve since learned that it would be easier to hurt your back using her method.

I go to the gym to lift heavy things on purpose so that I won’t injure myself when I have to do so in Real Life. And also so that I’ll have nice dense bones and won’t get osteoporosis, and nice strong back muscles and won’t get back pain.

The first time you take any kind of exercise, you should take it gently or you’ll injure yourself, but you don’t hear people saying “Don’t take exercise, you might hurt yourself”.

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Rachel • August 21, 2006 at 12:56 pm

I’m totally capable of carrying heavy things and heaven knows I’ve done my fair share of heavy lifting (I used to rearrange the furniture in my bedroom for kicks). But I’m kind of glad I’m a girl because if I don’t feel like lifting something I can just claim it’s too heavy and then pawn it off on a dude. It’s all about timing. :)

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christie • August 21, 2006 at 3:03 pm

I used to be like that too and I am royally pissed off that I no longer can be most of the time, because of my back. It’s like I’m playing right into the stereotype and man, I hate it!!!!! So I’m glad you’re out there showing ’em whose boss.

On a side note, I have that same lamp, except the lampshades are white. I’m guessing since you said it fits your color scheme you either have the black/grey/red one of the blue/green one… both of which I LOVE and must have. LOL

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kathryn • August 21, 2006 at 7:46 pm

I always get a basket instead of a trolley at the supermarket, thinking I’ll buy less but I just end up having stuff heaped up and falling out of my basket!

And like you are going to stand around waiting for a dude to carry your lamp! At most stores, you’d still be waiting now.

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Amy • August 21, 2006 at 9:47 pm

I’m guilty at the whole pile crap in a cart too…Target is my weakness. I usually can’t walk out of there just getting one thing and it’s usually 50 bucks or more. Sigh.

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Katrina • August 21, 2006 at 11:00 pm

Good point on the cart!

I also like to carry heavy things– I’m somewhat strong, for a fatty – and I enjoy impressing people with my lifting.

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Erin • August 21, 2006 at 11:08 pm

I have read your entire blog (yes, I know you commented on people doing that; no, you didn’t write anything too particularly embarassing) and I think you’re my favorite blogger ever. :) I just wanted you to know that I’m out here and I’m supporting you, and I think you’ve done a FANTASTIC job so far!

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M. • August 22, 2006 at 12:15 am

Damn, I could’ve written his exact same entry. Including the “unnecessary activity = exercise”. Today I found my favourite cereal on special during my lunch walk and I walked back to where I work with 6 boxes of them (about 3 miles). I was all happy: cheap cereal AND arm exrcises! … not so happy about the cutting of the circulation in my hand from the plastic bags and box corners poking my legs though.

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M. • August 22, 2006 at 12:20 am

ummm…. “his exact same entry” = “this exact…” D’oh!

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Greta • August 22, 2006 at 2:10 am

I thought that women were already accepted as equals these days, so I am surprised to see you in the younger generation still trying to prove yourselves. If I could take back one thing it would be always thinking I could carry any load regardless of the weight. I found out that my muscles were stronger than the discs in my back and one day I permanently injured my back while photographing a wedding. I sure wish I could relive that day and not be so macho. It’s just foolish to carry excessively heavy loads whether you are a woman or a man. Following my recovery I was able to resume relatively normal activity but my weight carrying capacity has radically decreased. Now I think twice before buying the biggest bag of dog food at the pet food store because if I re-“tweak” my back I can end up in pain for months so it’s not worth it. My advice would be to use a cart or take two trips if you find that you are straining with the load. There are less injurious ways to prove you are man’s equal. I probably would not have listened at your age either.

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Heather • August 22, 2006 at 8:21 am

At least you’re not pregnant! A friend of mine is pregnant and is possibly aghast that people won’t let her do ANYTHING. She says she’s going stir crazy.

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xenawannabe • August 22, 2006 at 8:51 am

Mmmmm….Target! Love that place. I also enjoy carrying heavy stuff around, if only for the feeling of accomplishment that it gives me, and the reminder that I can do it myself, thank you!! I also scale the filing shelves in our work closet to reach the stuff on the top and scare my female colleagues half to death. *evil grin*

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Debbi • August 22, 2006 at 9:10 am

I was moving a heavy television up two flights of stairs for my mother-in-law last weekend. She insisted that my husband carry it up the second flight, saying, “I’ve waited 100 years for a daughter-in-law, and I don’t want her to kill herself after I’ve only had her for two weeks!” It was funny, and I could have continued to the next floor, but I let the husband take the second flight.

No sense in showing off. hehehe

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Marla • August 22, 2006 at 3:47 pm

Oh, I have such mixed feelings about this. I am definitely proud of how strong I am, and I certainly get what you’re saying about how if girls aren’t challenged they don’t rise to challenges.

On the other hand, I believe men were put on this planet to be the physical slaves of women. This “equality” thing? Piffle. Why should women settle for mere equality? ;-) Lifting things and killing bugs are among men’s primary responsibilities; it’s not that we CAN’T do them, but why should we?

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Haystacks • August 22, 2006 at 6:01 pm

An interesting thing is that you are most likley stronger than most women your size. You have been carrying over a hundred pounds on your body for alot of years, and despite everything, it does require alot of muscle and stregnth to carry around. 1/4 of your body mass is muscle (even if you are fat), and the bigger you are, the more muscle there is. I can outcarry all my thin “in shape” friends any day of the week.

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Kimberly • August 23, 2006 at 3:05 am

Unfortunately, I’m one of those girls who needs help carrying in the heavier grocery bags and killing bugs (or, preferrably, transporting them outdoors), but I agree that it’s irritating that people expect it. I remember the same scenario in school where the boys would be asked to help do the “strong” work. This is the reason people expect it, because girls are taught so young that boys should be doing the hard work. Gr.

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ChiKat • August 23, 2006 at 3:18 pm

I live on the third floor, so I always carry a basket instead of a cart so I can haul everything up the stairs in one trip. It drives me nuts when people suggest I get a cart. I always want to ask them if the cart will walk the items home for me and haul them up the stairs.

The other crazy thing I do? I don’t circle the parking lot looking for the closest space to the door. I park far away and walk. Because walking is good for me. My friends always moan about this when I drive, but I swear the little bits of extra walking help keep me thin. It all adds up in the end.

Love your blog, by the way!

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Kari • March 14, 2007 at 7:55 pm

I have to use a cart at the grocery store, mostly because I don’t want to carry a 10lb bag of cat littler all over the store. But if I could, I would just use a basket, as that would definitely help to curb some impulse purchases that are probably unhealthy for me! I try to stick to my grocery list, but sometimes it’s hard. At the gym, I find it interesting that most women do not work out with weights. They’re gung-ho on cardio, but it’s no-woman’s land at the other end of the room where the weights are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say “I don’t want to bulk up!” if the trainer takes them anywhere near the weights. Which? Is just silly. I try to incorporate weights every other day, and I love it! I always manage to work up a sweat, even with weights. And I love feeling strong! So yay! for heavy lifting!

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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