Last fall the family was watching a re-run of The West Wing. In it, the character Leo, in his sixties, realizes that his slightly daffy secretary, Margaret, in her 30s, is delaying her departure from work out of concern for him, because his divorce papers were delivered that day. Leo sends her home, but adds softly, “You’re a good girl, Margaret.”
Awww. “I love that,” I exclaimed.
Jon was outraged. “Don’t you think that’s incredibly patronizing and offensive, Mom? Calling his secretary a good girl?”
Nope. I have always loved to be called a good girl. Maybe I never got to the patronizing/offensive part because when I was small I didn’t hear it often enough! Or maybe it just reminds me of my much-missed parents. Or perhaps as I get further and further from girlhood, I simply enjoy the echo. However I became aware how much I loved this phrase last summer, while working as the only woman among men.
Allen often told me I was a “good girl”: when I brought him his coffee flask or his lunch so he didn’t have to walk to his truck, or if I successfully backed my tractor into a tight spot. Of course, Allen is old enough to be my dad, so to have him be fatherly is not too surprising. But even Dean sometimes called me a “good girl” — when he knew I was doing something that frightened me, like using the nail gun or even being firm on the telephone — and Dean is two years younger than I am. Far from being offended, I beamed.
In fact, I now realize that when Luke (age 16) and I were climbing all over the scaffolding, and I was scared to death, Luke could have told me I was a good girl, and I’d have been extremely pleased.
This is all by way of telling myself that I have been a good girl these last couple of days. God cooperated nicely and kept the weather dark and blustery for most of the weekend, and I have forced myself to do hours and hours of intimidating paperwork. I hate paperwork. Bills, insurance forms, taxes. The stacks of official paper fill me with anxiety. Sometimes I can hardly bear to open the envelopes. But one more day, at most two, and I should have the majority of it cleaned up, dealt with, and filed.
What a good girl.