Monday, September 13, 2010
How 'Bout Them Texan Men
I'd been at dinner at a lovely trattoria in midtown Manhattan with a small group of lawyers from around the world. There had been talk of films and books and politics, as it was late October and the American presidential election loomed large everywhere. We'd eaten well and had some good wine on the firm dime, and heard stories about Cuba and Spain and which transcontinental flights were best to avoid jetlag. It was late, even for a New York dinner, and as we ambled out to the foyer we noticed that, in addition to the cold, it had started drizzling.
My boss at the time, a nice man, said I could catch a cab a block or so down the street. I was wearing a red silk dress and it was eleven o'clock at night. I took two steps over to the bar and sweetly asked the bartender if he would call me a cab, which he did, perhaps in reaction to the red dress or more likely my deeply annoyed demeanor. In that instant I thought of my boss, you live in Texas, but you are not of it. In the next moment, I realized that I'd quite seriously expected him to go out in the street and fetch me a cab and see me off safely. I'd once prided myself on taking care of myself in this sort of situation, and I still certainly could. But in the past decade or so, I'd grown rather accustomed to being treated in a particularly deferential manner.
There are many things I love about Texas, too many to name here. The thing I love absolutely most about it, though, is the men. Broadly speaking, they are not known for being progressive, which in my twenties, would have, in local parlance, flown all over me. But now I am old enough to know a good thing when I see it, and I positively adore them.
The first time I was on an elevator in an office building here, I wondered why when the doors opened no one was getting off. Then I realized I was the only woman in the cab, and they had to wait for me to disembark before they could. A couple of years later, I was in another elevator with two young men, and on the ground floor one of them charged off ahead of me. "I'm so sorry," the other drawled, shaking his head. "He's from New York." Even in Dallas--to be clear, I work there, but I live in far more civilized Fort Worth--I am here to tell you, men hold doors open for me and other women. I take care of just about everything in my life, so this is nothing short of wonderful for me.
Then there's the talk. Once I worked for another lawyer, a native Houstonian who had an East Coast education and a sailing pedigree. In spite of them, he retained his Texan charm. When I called him and he saw my name on his caller ID, he'd inevitably pick up, wait a beat and say, "yes, m'am." I worked for him, but his deference to me as a woman was ingrained through his upbringing. And it drove me positively wild. I never did a thing about it, but it was a nice perquisite of my job.
I know that others will say that Southern manners trump those of Texans, and they may be right. But throw in diesel F-350s and some scuffed-up Justins, and really, no contest. Although come to think of it, one of the most engaging Texan men I've ever met was wearing a seersucker suit the first time we talked. He looked a bit of a throwback, but it charmed me. Maybe it's just atttitude.
So for my children what do I wish? I hope my daughter, should it be her wont, finds a man with good Texas manners and whose respect for his momma translates to her. As Texan women traditionally go out and kick ass, he won't, if he is genuinely of this place, mind if she does. Similarly, I hope my son keeps his admiration of strong women and also his genuine love of them generally. He does say "yes, m'am," to his teachers, and he will likely, should life go as he wishes, have a fine looking truck one day. And this summer, I taught him, along with his sister, how to hail a cab. He'll not be leaving anyone out in the rain.