This Woman's Experience is a series of blog posts about what growing up, and life in general, was like for women who were born before 1965. It's intended to show the young women of today how it used to be. They need to know this.
When my first ex and I were newly married (1978), we attended a work party with some of his new (male) work acquaintances. Everyone was in their early twenties. Some of the guys were married also, and their wives, like me, dutifully stood in a conversation group with them, nodding along like vapid bobble heads. It was what you did back then. Many of us had jobs, too, but no one ever asked about those, or our lives, or anything else concerning us. It was all about the men.
My ex went to get another drink, and one of the other men started staring at me. It became uncomfortable enough that I'm sure I was turning red. Finally, I asked him why (in a mousy little voice) he was doing it.
He smiled a weird, sideways smirky smile and said, "I'm just waiting for the pencils to drop." The other men laughed uproariously with him. The women didn't say a word. I was pretty naive and did not understand the reference. I gave him a questioning look that, I think - in retrospect - he interpreted as an admonishment. At least I hope so. But I just felt stupid and embarrassed.
I didn't know what he'd said to me. I sensed it was inappropriate and knew I couldn't tell my then husband, or it might cause a problem at the work party. And of course, my duty was to not disrupt or cause issues. My duty was to be a stepford-type wife. So I said nothing. There was no internet then. No where to look up such a thing. I mean, I wasn't about to ask the local librarian about that one. We'd moved far away from our families and friends. So I let it go.
Years later, I heard a reference to the same type joke and finally understood it. The guy was commenting on my breasts. They were perky. Of course they were. I was twenty. I suppose it doesn't seem like a life-changing event - and it wasn't. It was just one more little thing that we used to put up with. Today's 20-year old woman would likely have told the jerk to go eff himself, but back then it was drilled into many of us that a wife offending or disrespecting (by not tolerating) his co-worker could have dire consequences for a young man's advancement prospects. So we smiled pleasantly.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.