Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Male's Perspective: Clarice-Part I

Today we're featuring our second guest blogger....Inkognegro! I asked him to post about the biggest, baddest bitch who has ever influenced his life and I hope you enjoy part one of his story: 

I am often asked how it is my understanding of women is so progressive.   My usual wink-and-a-nod response is “Good Home Training” but the reality is much more complex.  While my mother did represent a valuable role model for me to see the power of a strong woman, she isn’t the one that opened my eyes.   That “lead by example” mode was easily counteracted by a patriarchal day-to-day life that dominated my formative years.   My moment of clarity wasn’t courtesy of a teacher, family member, or church member.  Ironically enough, my moment of clarity was courtesy of a woman who was supposed to be my subordinate. 

The year was 1989, and I had just arrived in Hartford, CT for the first year of my college internship at a major insurance company.  As a person who was completely new to any sense of Corporate America, who had never known a male family member to put on a suit and tie to go to work five days a week, I was a virgin in more ways than one.  I had at least gone to a few workshops on how to dress for success and had been to church so much that wearing a suit and tie didn’t make me uncomfortable.  But I was a boy who knew school and church.  Occupying a lead cubicle (what the hell is a cubicle?)  in a pod (What am I a pea now?) and having an administrative assistant (that I shared with my mentor, but still….WOW) was a culture shock that totally neutered any of the usual ego driven bravado I usually carried around with me.  On that fateful May afternoon, I was a sheep being led to some kind of exotic slaughter.  And there I sat in the conference room with all the other sheep waiting for our respective shepherds.

Clarice was a woman of uncommon grace.  Some women are well schooled and trained in all the scholastic, cultural, and physical rigors of learning the savoir-faire that goes into being a woman of the ages.  It was plain to see from the second Clarice called my name out of orientation that she was a natural in every sense.  I looked up from my orientation handbook and locked eyes with a set of dark brown eyes that defied the glasses that aided them to diminish the degree to which they sparkled.  I knew enough about Black women to know that if they looked 25 they could be almost forty so I didn’t even bother to guesstimate her age.  I settled on the fact that she might be old enough to be my mother and was probably my boss and defaulted to the manner in which I treat elders.

I stood and humbly acknowledged her smooth southern twanged alto with a snap to attention and a strong but deferential “Yes ma’am”.   The fact that I had no idea where I was going allowed me to walk a half step behind her and behold her walk, a walk that was equal parts Military General, Runway Model, and Gangster; a walk that evoked leadership in every possible facet.  I had known Clarice for 3 minutes and I had already decided I would do whatever she said.  And for the next 12 weeks, I did.

Stay tuned for Inkognegro's sequel. You can find him on twitter here, or read his blog here

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