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In the company of women: A Piece of My Mind

Traveling with a woman friend, she will offer the window seat.

She will refuse the airline snack but offer to give you hers.

If you do not eat your airline snack after all, she will take it in case of future need.

She will offer to watch your carry-on bags while you go to the restroom.

She will offer to refill your water bottle if she is going to refill hers.

If she is driving and she takes a wrong turn out of the airport, she will blame herself.

If she is riding shotgun, she will apologize for not having paid attention to the signs.

If her memory of the route conflicts with the GPS, she will go along with the GPS – up to a point.

If she is one of three passengers in the backseat, she will offer to sit in the middle.

Although you have never met her family, she may tell you about the latest activities and eccentricities of her father, her late husband, her late husband’s first wife, her second husband’s ex-wife, her son’s wife’s first husband and her stepson’s mother-in-law.

She will show you pictures of her grandchildren.

She will solicit reading suggestions for her book group.

If you are going for a walk, she will remind you to put on sunscreen.

She will offer to loan you sunscreen.

If she is a houseguest, she will offer to help peel vegetables, set the table or entertain any small children underfoot.

If she is the hostess and there are small children underfoot, she will be the one to eat at the children’s table in the kitchen.

I wrote the above halfway through a week at a women’s camp in the Rockies, with women mostly about my own age. The women in the group were largely teachers or former teachers. They were mostly white. They had gone to Girl Scout camps. They knew all the camp songs.

Then I had an opportunity to spend some time with a couple of women a generation younger. I realized that the above list of “typical women’s behaviors” is perhaps not typical at all, except when applied to women of a certain age and upbringing.

The youngest woman in the group had no first or second husband, no children or grandchildren, no smartphone filled with pictures to show and had never been to camp. She didn’t belong to a book group. She didn’t know the words to “She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain,” “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” or “Kumbaya.” She was at the camp with her mother. In two months, she planned to begin a tour of duty with the Air Force. She will probably go to Afghanistan.

I’ll bet she won’t volunteer for the middle seat in the back of the jet.

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