“Maybe you should go to a meeting for women.”
My helpful bearded neighbor, who shared my table, said as he was the token geek and the only one who spoke to me, after introducing himself. He pointed around the room with his pen in a circular motion.
“As you can see, there are all men here.”
I nodded, in agreement, ignoring the other men and looking at him straight faced, meeting his eyes.
“I know, like in a GAY BAR, at least I know I won’t be harassed.”
His smile disappeared as the comparison sunk in.
“A women’s meeting reminds me of Ellen’s joke about how the BIC company came up with pens for women so they can put down their little thoughts.”
He smiled and put his head down returning to his computer.
I stayed because I won’t let something like a misunderstanding (I thought “Go” was a verb and it turned out to be a noun, of the new programming language type) see me running out the back door because someone thought I didn’t belong.
So I stayed. Having anticipated every possible put down, I had a come back for it. I knew I would be the only woman as meetups have biographies attached to the attendees. I had my cup of courage consumed earlier “Bailey’s Coffee” at the tavern next door. I was ready for anything.
I was not ready for a 3 story walk-up as I pulled my rolling bag filled with cameras, a laptop, 2 purses, books and enough supplies to survive an apocalypse, up the 3 flights of stairs cursing at each landing.
I was not ready for the stench of shit, feces, somebody who thought he had gas and shit his pants kinda smell. THAT was when I thought of turning back, except, I had just climbed 3 flights of stairs and I have 10 screws in my leg. I stubbornly walked into the vast loft of Edmonton’s Start up floor, hoping the smell would improve. Oh, how metaphors meeting irony know no bounds.
As I finally found the group at the other end of the stairs, already sitting and watching a foreign film, in English with a cartoon and the word “Go” in it as the title.
“Is this the meetup?” I asked
“Yes, come on in and have a seat” said the host.
I took a seat at the front as everyone had their laptops out, I pulled mine out too.
After a few minutes, pizza and pop were mentioned and I followed and the clicks were in groups. I looked around and I realized I was back in high school. The outsider, not fitting in. I took my slice of pizza and red plastic cup of pop and went back into the room, sat down and logged on the WiFi after a few tries in order to check my email and Facebook page until they all returned for the meeting.
So how did I describe myself when asked by my “helpful” neighbor who had come in late and sat across from me with his back to the board?
I learned way more about the “Go” language than I had anticipated. Not sure I would ever use it, I preferred the web based practice application than installing another program on my computer.
And then he made the “faux pas” written at the start of this article, recommending I attend a women’s meeting because, as I could see, they were all men and I did not fit in.
Ahhhh, the mean girls of high school beat him to this technique of syrupy niceness to disguise the put down. I had 30 years of practice dealing with their variety.
So I stayed.
I stayed because today, I am the token woman.
I was holding a protest. This was a sit-in and I was not going to be defined by a few secret handshakes over a few combinations of letters, numbers and punctuation. And as the token woman, my voice stood out…
“Let’s watch the movie!” I said, as the host debated the merits of a 45 minute video seminar.
In a room full of men, the lone woman was heard and all of the men, head down in resignation, closed their laptops and took their seats in the middle of the room except my bearded neighbor who had earlier recommended I attend an all girls meeting. He packed his things and left as I continued to stay. Stubbornly, in my protest. At my sit-in, boring as it was, I figured, I might as well learn this shit, you never know if it ever comes in handy.
Use your powers for good, not evil.
P.S. I have signed up for every single Edmonton technology meetup in August where a woman was not present whether I was totally engrossed with the subject or not. This is going to be an educational summer ; )