The First Time I Felt Like a Woman

At an Ellevate Network event a couple of years ago, I asked Jean Chatsky, the TODAY Show correspondent and well-known personal finance guru, how to find a good financial advisor. She said, “Get a recommendation from a friend. Never get one from a cold-call.” This was distressing to the young woman standing next to me, as she was a new financial advisor with a big firm and all she did was cold-call.

So, I vowed to stick with Jean’s advice. I asked friends for recommendations, and unfortunately, they didn’t have any. Through Ellevate, I met a great retirement planner who’s been super helpful. But with the move back to DC, we weren’t sure if we should get someone to do in-person meetings with and who would lay out a full shebang financial plan.

A planner had been reaching out to my spouse for years, and because my spouse is extraordinarily nice, he always answered. So, I went against my vow and agreed to meet with the planner.

He was fine. Young, but smart and driven. He spoke to my spouse and me equally, but afterward, I felt awful.

I had this adverse reaction in the pit of my stomach that was purely visceral. I couldn’t articulate what or why I was feeling what I was feeling, just that I didn’t feel right.

We’ve been in our condo for almost 6 months, and we still have several DIY projects outstanding, a fact that has begun to grate on me.

One of them was to install a marble ledge in the shower (I hate plastic shower caddies). We’d bought the pizza-shaped wedge of marble months ago and just hadn’t gotten around to researching how to put it in, so I opened YouTube and determined to take matters into my own hands.

I ordered everything I needed off Amazon—by far, the strangest combination of goods I’ve ever ordered: construction adhesive, caulk, duck tape, a utility knife. I was kinda concerned they would think I was a terrorist, but I figured I could just show them the “How to Install a Shower Shelf” YouTube video and be fine.

We couldn’t use the shower for two days, and it looked insane.

But I did it.

I installed a marble shower shelf, and it is still up, and it looks amazing.

I talked to my therapist about what I felt in my gut after meeting with the planner, hoping he could help me articulate what the devil it was. And, like my therapist almost always does, he did.

“I felt like I didn’t matter,” bubbled up out of me. “I felt like a woman.”

It was like I’d slapped myself across the face.

For years, I’d read that married women felt minimized during certain financial processes, but I’d never felt that way until about a year ago.

When we started house hunting, we had to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Since I wasn’t working full-time, I suggested that we just include my husband’s income and credit, because including mine would make things complicated. But, as a result, only his name was put on the deed. I had to wait months and send a lot of emails to have my name added to the home that I very much owned.

The meeting with the planner reinforced that feeling. There didn’t seem to be any regard for my potential, the fact that I have an MBA and plan to return to MBA-level work. And that hurt. I’m not saying that he should have built a plan around my hypothetical, but I wanted some respect for where I’ve been and where I’m going. I’ve spent 7 years trying to gain acceptance into this industry, and I felt that I couldn’t get it from someone I was looking to hire, much less trying to get a job.

I’m not saying that the planner or the mortgage guy or the title people are bad people at all. They were just doing what was easiest for them, so I can’t really blame them for doing what I myself would do, too.

But I, for the first time in my life, felt like a woman. And I hated every part of it.

Although our outstanding projects were bugging me, it was more important to my subconscious that I feel capable again.

Putting up the shower ledge made me feel like I mattered. There was a problem, I acquired the necessary tools, and I solved it. It was as if to say, “See, world? See what I can do when you get out of my way and let me be me? Awesomeness happens.”

I hope the world soon learns to listen to me, remove it’s expectations of me, and watch me make awesomeness happen.

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