Friday, October 2, 2009

just one of the boys

I found it mildly amusing when I first became a firefighter that the moment I walked in, an uncomfortable silence would descend. The guys all of a sudden would start minding their p's and q's and conversations would shift. Some of the guys would actually leave the room. Not exactly great for my ego. Was it my ponytail? My lipstick? The fact that I would be sharing a dorm and a locker room with them? That they would feel like they had to wear clean socks and underwear? That management installed a sanitary napkin dispenser in the station? What was the big deal? All these men had wives, sisters, daughters, girlfriends.... I thought they'd be used to some estrogen in the firehouse. So there were days that I'd be sitting by myself reading while they would be standing outside the bay in a huddle smoking their Colts. I should not have been so naive to think that I would immediately become accepted to this boys club. After all, there never were any women in the fire service up until quite recently. It was their 'place' to just hang, and work and be men and itch and scratch and do whatever the heck men do when women aren't around. And in some small way, I felt guilty that I was 'upsetting the apple cart'. And after awhile during all that 'alone' time during which I did some heavy thinking, it finally dawned on me that I had earned my badge just like the rest of them. With that realization, I started to feel comfortable in my skin and knew that I deserved to be there as much as the firefighter next to me. And it's true, once I was confident in my work, they became confident with me. Once they saw how I performed at calls, they forgot about the 'girl' and instead I was just another firefighter and became part of the 'brotherhood'. I think they all breathed a collective sigh of relief the first time I dropped the F-bomb.... it meant they didn't have to worry about minding their language anymore.

Oh... and it wasn't until years later that I found out why some of the guys would leave the room when I walked in.... it was because they had to fart and were too embarrassed to do it in front of me. lol....

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