Brick by Brick

Excuse me: What!!!? Now, really, I didn't plan this juxtaposition of events in the news and at a less public forum I attended, but I sure do intend to expand on it.

We are, by now, all familiar with the Akin comment and ‘legitimate rape’.  Infuriating that people are still that stupid, but there it is.

Last week I attended a speaker’s forum, looking to get my toe in the water of professional speaking, something I have done quite a bit in the past, but have neglected lately.

As a general rule, I would like to think, I don’t keep my mouth shut when I hear something offensive or questionable. But there are exceptions.I have been trying to figure out why I didn't object when I first heard the comment or even afterwards at the Q and A. Here’s what I've come up with: it was my first time with this particular group, the atmosphere was all supportive and positive and a bit ‘rah-rah’ lets listen to the experts who’ve made a ton of money speaking, therefore they know what they’re talking about, and the atmosphere of pleasantries and success. That, and I had to be somewhere else.

The keynote was a charismatic fellow, a former Olympian, smooth, commanding, all the qualities one would want to cultivate in the speaker biz.But, but, there was one comment, almost a throw away line, that in order to be successful as a speaker one must be vulnerable, let the audience know you are one of them, invite them in. And, surprise, those who are better at being vulnerable at the podium are men. Why? Because they are not pre-occupied with whether their shoes and purse match.

I know I furrowed my brow and the side of my mouth pulled up at this, wondering if there would be some brilliant insight to follow. Alas, there was not. There was only some supportive laughter.

Vulnerable? Men are ‘better’ at being vulnerable? Excuse me, what!!!? 

What a crock of shit!! Now, I don’t curse. I am, on principle, against vulgar language. Not only because it is ‘unladylike’ but, because it is, generally, ignorant and brutish and overused.

But, once in a while, it’s the only fit.

I have a daughter, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. All girls, all women, must learn, at a very young age, how to protect themselves.We learn how to build walls, and we better learn early.We learn how to read a room, learn how to pick up on facial and body language. You remain innocent of these lessons at your own peril.

This is not optional. It is mandatory. We must develop this sense, this intuition, if you will, of how to read people, how to sense threat, how to step away from danger. But often, too often, that is not enough.

Why? Because we are vulnerable.

It has nothing to do with matching shoes and purses. It’s a fact of life.

Women are vulnerable all over the place: in dark parking lots, in pregnancy, in size and strength (generally), in our willingness to take the little ones of the world into our hearts and bodies. And, listen carefully, we are vulnerable because we so often want to assume the best in people, we want to trust and be empathetic and let people in.

Women have cornered the market on vulnerability, fellas. If that is the key to success in the speaking business, then sign me up.  If I trust you, I’ll let the shields down. If I don’t, then watch out for flying bricks.

PS:  I am available for speaking and readings to your groups on a range of topics.