“I need to speak with the man of the house. Refrigerator repair is quite technical and you wouldn’t understand.”
I was sitting in my formal dining room polishing the silver when the doorbell rang. I jumped up from the table and danced over to the door trying not to let pain from the tightly cinched waist of my dress distort the permanent smile on my face. I opened the door and in my sweetest voice said, “Hello, sir, you must be here to give us a quote for repairing our refrigerator.” He looked at me and then over my shoulder, saying “Yes ma’am, but I need to speak with the man of the house. Refrigerator repair is quite technical and you wouldn’t understand.” Without breaking my smile, I explained that my husband would be home in a few moments and he could come in and take a look at the refrigerator. In a slow and condescending voice, he gave me a lesson on refrigerator repair while we waited. A few moments later my husband walked in and greeted the man, who immediately changed his demeanor to one of respect and camaraderie. I excused myself and went back to polishing the silver.
You may be surprised to learn that this did not happen in the 1950s; rather, it was just last week. I wasn’t polishing silver or wearing a dress, and the refrigerator was actually an AC unit, but otherwise, the story is the same. Although it shouldn’t make a difference, I work with engineers on a daily basis and have a career in a highly technical field. The mechanical components of an AC unit are well within my knowledge base. Of course, I didn’t let on to this fact when the man was speaking to me as if I were five-years-old. When he finished providing my husband with a quote, he patted him on the back like an old high school buddy. I walked him to the door and said, “We will not be going with your company on this project.” He avoided me and asked my husband, “May I ask why not?” I took a step closer to him, and with a permanent smile on my face I sweetly said, “You wouldn’t understand…and please don’t call me ma’am.”