This summer I'll be spending a week teaching at Miss Porter's School, a boarding and day school for girls located in Farmington, CT.
This only makes sense.
From 1996-1999, I attended an all-women's college, and ever since graduating, I have continued to live in a female world. As an elementary school teacher for almost 20 years, I am almost exclusively in the company of women. It's not uncommon for me to be the only man in a room of 20 or more people.
It just happened a couple days ago.
In fact, NEVER in my professional life have I attended a meeting, training session, workshop, or staff breakfast where there were more men in the room than women.
As I write these words, I am sitting in a cafeteria at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. There are about 25 people in the room with me, and once again, I am the only man.
The ratio of women to men in all of my storytelling workshops is about 10:1.
Even publishing is dominated by women. I've worked with six different editors on my various books and five different magazine editors over the course of my publishing career.
All women. My literary agent, my film agent, and my publicist are also all women.
I truly live in a women'a world.
Last week I attended an orientation session at Miss Porter's. As I was shuffling through my paperwork, one of the women at the table leaned over and said, "There are 23 women in this room, and you are the only man. What is that like?"
I told her that I hadn't even noticed, which was true. She didn't believe me, not understanding that this male-female ratio was nothing new for me.
She pressed. "Even if you didn't noticed, what is it like? You're the only guy here. You stick out like a sore thumb. What's that like? I mean, everyone knows you're the only guy here. It's one of the first things you notice. One guy. Isn't that strange? "
I wanted to tell her that I had felt perfectly comfortable with the situation until she implied that perhaps I shouldn't be, but even that wasn't true. I told her, with all honesty, that I feel at home in situations like this, and that over the years, I have learned to function quite well in large groups of women, despite my occasionally aggressive and possibly impolite nature in other contexts.
I live by my personal mantra: Speak less and speak least.
I'm not sure she believed me. Who could blame her? Had the tables been turned and she was the only woman in a room of 23 men, she would likely feel very different.
Later, we were asked to engage in the team building activity that required us to build the tallest tower with uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows. I had our team simply lift the table when the time came to measure the height of each structure.
When a young woman complained that she would need to mail a form home for her mother's signature, I suggested she simply sign her mother's name, explaining that no one cares what the paperwork looks like as long as it's complete.
For years, I have been filling in the "Position" line on paperwork as "Upright" and no one has said a word.
When another woman complained that she didn't have a professional reference to include on a form, I offer her my name.
"But you don't know me," she said.
"I do now," I replied. "Problem solved."
I continued to suggest similar nefarious and corner-cutting strategies to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. At last one of the women leaned across the table and asked, "So how long have you been a grifter?"
I thought it was an amusing comment. Not entirely true, but perhaps a hint of truth.
The first woman then leaned over to me and whispered, "So that's how you do it. You teach women to break rules."
Also not true, though in my experience, I have found that women are far more likely to follow rules and procedures than men, even when those rules and procedures make little sense.
I'm sure there was a time when I felt odd or out of place in a room of women, but somewhere along the way, probably in college or perhaps in those first couple years of teaching, it stopped being a thing for me.
I barely notice anymore.
But I'm left wondering: Though I may not notice that I am the only man in a room filled with women, how often do the women in the room notice that I am the only man, and what are they thinking?