No, Really, I Can Do This

Has anyone else experienced the phenomenon where people think you are completely incompetent at something, with no real evidence to support this belief, and they feel obliged to share their lack of faith in your ability to complete a pretty basic task? Please tell me this is not just me. And please tell me I’m not the only one who is getting really, really tired of it. More tired than I can even begin to convey. It comes with a load of patronising bullshit that makes me wonder how these people think I survive, since according to them I can’t even tie my own shoes.

Take thank you notes. For some reason, many people seem convinced that I am not capable of writing thank you notes, and they remind me that I need to write them. I have no idea why people do this, because if there’s one thing I am actually pretty fucking good at, it is thank you notes. I send thank you notes for thank you notes, people! Thank you notes are one of those social rituals that are really easy to understand because there’s a clear script and a formula. This is not rocket science. Someone sends me something/does something for me/gives me something, I send a thank you note! Easy as pie! You take me out to dinner? Thank you note. Send me money for my birthday? Thank you note.

Yet my father, in particular, seems convinced that I will not send a thank you note unless I am specifically reminded to do so. This despite the fact that I am no longer six. And I even take the time to, yes, write it by hand on a blank card, no pre-printed greetings for me, and mail it. No email thank yous for me, I am old school! I keep a hefty stack of blank cards on hand, with pens ready for deployment, to make sure I can drop a note in the mail within a day. Thank you notes are one of the simplest, most basic tasks I complete on a regular basis. Really. You don’t have to tell me to do them, I promise.

Basic car maintenance. People read me as a woman so they assume I need to be reminded to do things like checking my tire pressure, oil level, coolant, and so forth. Believe it or not, I have owned cars successfully for 10 years now, and in all that time, I have managed basic and routine maintenance! I even schedule the oil changes on time! Yes, I cannot perform advanced auto repair, but I bet you can’t either! And, again, this is not terribly difficult stuff to do; if I was in doubt I could consult the owner’s manual, or even ask my mechanic. I don’t know why people assume I am completely incompetent with cars, if it’s something I project or all my cars have looked woeful or what, but it irks me to a high degree to be told, before going on a road trip ‘you know, you should really check your tire pressure before long trips,’ by someone behaving as though this piece of information has never been imparted before.

This, again, is pretty easy to do because it has a schedule and a script. Unlike most social situations, cars are easy to deal with because their needs are clearly and simply defined. All I need to do is look at the odometer or the calendar and I go ‘aha, it’s time to do something to the car!’ I’m sure there are people out there who aren’t very familiar with car maintenance because they either haven’t had cars or they’ve always used services where everything’s taken care of, but, believe me, there is nary a car service in sight here, nor am I spoiled by flocks of mechanics descending upon me whenever my engine rattles. You fend for yourself long enough, you do tend to figure this shit out.

Cooking. I don’t know if it’s because I’m fat or because I live alone, but many people seem highly dubious about my cooking abilities. Oh, they won’t come out and say it, but I see it when I get the eyebrow if I invite someone over for dinner, or when I mention a cooking project. There’s a look and a long pause, an ‘oh, you…cook.’ Like, what? How else would I have gotten fat, people[1. Because all fat people get fat by eating too much, right?]?! I don’t know what is more alien to people, the thought that I cook all my own meals or the fact that I learned to cook from a man. Land sakes, the next thing you know I’ll be telling you I bake bread (I do!).

It’s kind of weird because I feel like, being someone who is often gendered as a woman, that people would expect me to be able to cook since this is such a gendered ability. Ah, you have breasts, so you must be able to cook! I don’t know if there’s a shift in expectations going on or if people suspect that my single/living alone status is somehow related to not performing femininity enough to land a mate? Perhaps people think that I live alone because I can’t cook, and thus have trouble landing a nice, heteronormative partner? I’m not sure what the story here is, but I find it endlessly frustrating and fascinating. There seems to be an attitude that single people are shiftless and pathetic, incapable of doing anything ‘domestic’ and doomed to live in sadness. When, in fact, I am quite capable of cooking for myself, thanks.

It’s that note of patronising snobbery that comes with these attitudes that sends me through the roof. As though people think I need to be advised or taken care of to function in the world. Trust me, if I was dependent on these little nuggets of knowledge from people to survive, I would have fallen over in a ditch long ago.