Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Here I Go Again part ii

I guess I thought I had it covered, yesterday, and then I read this on my Twitter feed.

So understood this. I sometimes feel that I am an "honorary male" because of my spouse. The gods forbid I ever come into my own or stand on my two feet.

I didn’t have to think about it for long.

I think this is true, possibly too true, and certainly true of me. The husband casts a very big shadow when it comes to the work. There are reasons for this, of course, and they are many and complex. The biggest single reason is probably that he has a lot more confidence than I do, so he’s able to work more and question less what he is doing.

If you could bottle his confidence and share it around, we’d all do better, I think. Of course, he has talent, and, of course, he works hard… No one I know in this industry works harder than the husband does. But he trusts his work, that he can do anything, and that it will be good.

I don’t know where this kind of confidence comes from. No doubt, it helps that he’s a white male living in a patriarchal society. I suspect it might also help that he’s an only child with loving, creative parents.

watching his back
It’s hard to quantify talent, so I have no idea which of the two of us has more of it. The difference is that it takes infinitely longer for me to sit down and do the work. I second guess myself, wonder if things are good enough, and, like many of us, I wonder when I’m going to be found out.

Of course, the husband couldn’t do what he does without me… Well, he could, but would it be the same? I enable the husband, in so far as if he wants or needs to work, I’m fine with that. One year, that meant he worked a total of 359 days. Not many spouses would be OK with that.

I also enable him by being his first reader and editor. He always has a sounding board for ideas, and he’s free to use mine when they suit his needs. I also take care of accounts and admin, and, of course there’s the domestic stuff to think about. He’s good at that stuff, too, so he cooks regularly, and he’s naturally tidy, but he never has to do laundry or make a bed… That isn’t because I’m somehow a little wife, it’s because it’s a sensible division of labour.

If I walked into a gaming situation alone, without the husband, would I be accepted in the same way?

I doubt it.

As a woman, are there jobs that I have done that I would not have had the opportunity to do if the husband hadn’t been part of the plan?

Of course there are.

None of this is directly the husband’s responsibility. He is, however, aware of the gulf between us, and he responds positively to it. He gives me credit where it is due, and he he-peats on my behalf.

For those of you who have met me, or who know me, you know there’s another element to this.

Apparently, and I’ve been told this since I was a kid… Apparently, I can be very intimidating.

I may not have the advantages the husband has of being male and having professional confidence, but the one thing I did somehow learn as a child was to speak out.

If it’s necessary, I will talk over other people (and yes, they are often men). I will hammer home a point. I do use higher heels or darker lipstick as a kind of  armour to make myself bigger or more prominent in all those situations I find myself in with men. I do not back down.

All of this can be exhausting, and there are times when I go home and wonder whether I ought to have acted the way I did in some professional situations. The bottom line is, though, if I don’t stand up for myself, I will never be seen. If I don’t stand up for myself, why should the husband bother to back me up?

Of course, if I was a man, nothing I say or do would be considered intimidating; it’s because I’m a woman who is prepared to go toe to toe with any man that I am seen in this light. The fact is, I’m a pussy-cat.

We are all individuals, some more talented than others, some more conscientious, some more confident. Men have the advantage of their gender; it imbues them with traits they may not naturally possess. I know men who, despite lacking confidence are listened to and taken seriously. I know men who, despite lacking talent are given work for other reasons: because they can talk the talk, because they appear confident, because they are reliable, or simply because they are liked.

Women are given work only when they excel at what they do, when they are confident enough to take the hard road, working with men; only when they are thick-skinned, capable and prepared to be intimidating if that’s what it takes. And, for the most part, only when they fit a mould that men understand, which usually includes being physically well-proportioned, and attractive. All of these women are labeled with negatives. They are all considered intimidating in some way.

How much genuine talent is lost because women don’t have all of these qualities, all of the time, no matter how talented they are?

The truth is that I am also less ambitious than the husband. I am happy to be his backroom boy, to fit around him, and to do my own work as and when I really feel the need. Much of this is to do with the personal relationship we have, and the fact that we work together as equals in our domestic life and in our professional life. I do not feel less-than in my partnership or my marriage.

Are there benefits to being married to the husband? Do I become an honorary man in certain  situations? The answer to both of those questions is: Probably.

What many don’t understand is what I bring to my relationship, both personally and professionally. But will I ever tell?

Of course not. I’m a woman.

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