On the differences between boys and girls

by Sarah Luna

One of the beautiful things about ballroom dance this year is that I’ve had to interact with boys in general (the one thing my nutrition department lacks) and my partner in particular. SP is 20, and sometimes he does ridiculous things that make me go “wow…that is something my brother would do.”

Now in ballroom, the man is the leader and the woman is the follower. My partner decides what steps we do and when we do them. And if he’s wrong, I still have to follow him. I have to trust him to lead the correct movements and to take responsibility for where we go.

I’m not very good at surrendering responsibility. Again, going back to the me-trying-to-be-an-independent-woman theme. There are a few things that have stood out to me, not just with SP, but with my papa and brother at home, my Tae Kwon Do male friends, and my Texas boys on the differing views and responsibilities of men and women.

When we go to competitions, SP usually drives his car, and I switch with him when he gets tired. The other people in the car either don’t drive (from NYC) or don’t feel comfortable driving. So SP takes responsibility for getting the relevant maps together and knowing where we’re going, and it’s my job to co-pilot. He hands me this map.

It’s on the back of an engineering assignment, by the way. We’re supposed to make “some turns” around Harrisburg. No big deal. I think everyone who reads this blog is familiar with my look of incredulity. My “you’ve got to be kidding me” look. Yeah, SP got very familiar with it that weekend.

Now for Maryland, we decided to take my car instead because he felt better about its snow capabilities. I thought that would mean that I would drive most of the way. No. He’s the boy; he drives. His decisiveness threw me off a little and reminded me of my first few months in Texas when I was told by a male friend to get back in the car and wait for him to open the door for me (it wasn’t even a date).

When we had to stop for gas, I got out and pumped because I was the one paying (everyone paid me back at the end). I felt weird about that because my papa always told me that pumping gas was the boy’s job…kind of like taking out the garbage and killing spiders. When I got back in the car, SP looked disturbed and said: “That was really weird sitting in the car while you pumped gas.” The next time we had to stop, he took charge and wouldn’t let me do it.

When we got to his house, however, my womanly skills took over. He and his brother wanted to cook their mom dinner for her birthday. “Um, Sarah, how do you cut lettuce?” He later tried to make cake in a blender. Again, I was forcibly reminded of my Texas boys and the perils of cooking. I also had to be the authority on buying and arranging flowers. The next morning, I got up early and helped his mama cook breakfast while the three men of the house got ready and prayed together.

Part of me thinks it’s really funny that I would randomly be partners with the most traditional boy in Ithaca–one of the only boys who recognizes and respects the different roles of men and women. Being friends with him has been a real exercise in trust. I’ve learned to defer to him when it comes to planning, and he’s learned to rely on me to make the execution of his plan go smoothly.

I guess where I was going with this is that even though I try to be completely independent, I still think there are some duties that fall to men and some that fall to women. Maybe it’s simply a ballroom frame of mind that the woman has equal power, but it’s power that reacts within in the man’s lead. By being a strong, independent young woman, I inspire true manliness in the boys around me.

Is it weird to think of some jobs as either “girl” or “boy” jobs?
Do you agree with my last statement that strong women inspire strength in men?

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