Hey what about me?! – Exploring the mind of a man who didn’t give me his card

That-Awkward-Moment-Movie-PosterI recently went to a conference with my fiancé – one of those social affairs where everyone is given a name tag and you’re expected to mix and mingle with the crowd. An awkward moment with a stranger got me thinking…

For a brief couple of minutes during the conference coffee break I was left alone. Next to me, I observed a quiet, bashful middle-aged man fumbling through his conference materials and we caught each other’s eye for a moment. I smiled, being polite. He returned the smile and extended his hand to introduce himself.

We went through the usual ice-breaking questions of what we do, why we were there. The banter was friendly and a connection was made. Moments later my fiancé rejoined me. Seeing that I had made a new acquaintance, I introduced him to Mr Bashful and they went on to talk about themselves, dutifully going through similar introductory questions. Mr Bashful at one point reached out for his business cards and gave one to my fiancé, then proceeded to store his business cards back into this pocket.

I was taken aback and thought to myself, “Wait, what about me?!

So I said to Mr Bashful, teasingly, to remind him of the etiquette faux pas he just committed, “Oh, how come I don’t get a card?

Alarmed at his own mistake, he immediately made a comeback. “Oh I am so very sorry!“, quickly fumbled through his pockets to get his stack of business cards, and embarrassingly passed one to me with the usual two hands as a gesture of respect.

It was a small incident, but one which demonstrated how we each may have prejudices against certain people. These prejudices are mostly hidden, but occasionally let themselves out the bag through accidental gestures.

I don’t know why Mr Bashful didn’t give me a card and practically ignored me the moment my fiancé stepped in. It could have been a myriad of reasons: his nervousness in front of women, his thoughts that guy to guy conversations are more appropriate, seeing more value in building a relationship with my fiancé instead of me. I don’t know, I can only guess. My guess is that he has certain views about women which inadvertently influenced his behaviour – a small gesture of neglecting to give me his name card, despite me having been the one who first struck up a conversation with him.

I felt a bit brushed off, but forgave the small mistake. It’s not the first time this happened. Not long ago at a wedding an older surgeon similarly extended his business card to my fiancé but not me, despite having spoken to both of us.

Why…..?

I’m not timid and shy – no – that wouldn’t have been the reason why Mr Bashful passed me by. Our conversation before my fiancé arrived was cordial, witty, and appropriate. We had made contact but the conversation quickly shifted to “men only” the moment my fiancé arrived, and I was ceremonially excluded at the business card round. The next time, I should conduct a social experiment: if I presented myself as an independent woman, and was by myself during a similar occasion, speaking to a similar man, would he treat me differently? My hypothesis is I would be given a business card if I were alone!*

Hypotheses

In summary, my hunch is that the forgetting to hand me a business card (I was standing right there!) had to do with the following reasons:

  1. Mr Bashful perceived me to be taken, someone else’s – he saw my fiancé and I as a single unit, and to give my fiancé a business card would suffice. I was covered;
  2. Mr Bashful subconsciously believes that business cards are a male matter. Although he ordinarily tries to be “equal” in giving both men and women his cards, this time he had a slip of the mind and forgot his manners. The fact that he was genuinely embarrassed when he was called out revealed that he too thought the omission was inappropriate.

It could have been both reasons above. Or Mr Bashful could have simply forgotten – an honest mistake. I can only hypothesize at this point.

Or, I could just email Mr Bashful and ask, since I now have his name card…!

What about you? Have there been instances where you were brushed off, forgotten or neglected because of your sex, gender, race, age, or any other reason? 

Have you forgotten to give your business cards to certain persons in a social setting? Or worse, was the omission purposeful?


*it would be hard to come up with scientific conclusions, since it’s hard to control the main variable (i.e. the male subject. Mr Bashful could have been a unique case; another man in the same social situation may have given me a card)

**not endorsing That Awkward Moment, the movie. It’s pretty awful. Its title was merely to describe this particular social situation.

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13 comments on “Hey what about me?! – Exploring the mind of a man who didn’t give me his card

  1. I experience it every time my husband and I arrive early to church for greeter duty. Someone always comes by and asks my husband to “come pray with the men in the pastor’s office.” They leave me standing in the foyer alone.

    “Wait, what about me?,” I always want to say. “I know how to pray, I know God, he drinks beer you know, and I don’t 😊…”

    Liked by 2 people

    • hahaha I wonder what would happen if you did say, one day, “wait, what about me?”….. 😉
      I get you though. The separation of the sexes in certain activities (whether it be in prayer, at the games, the cigar room or in the boardroom) does cause a bit of frustration. In the past perhaps it would have made sense to stay silent. It was after all, our ‘place’. But not anymore – if we hustle we will get more attention. Like the civil rights movement, the women’s right movement still has a long way to go…

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  2. There’s definitely a number of explanations for your encounter at the conference. I really don’t believe Mr Bashful could have simply “forgotten” to give you a namecard. Maybe he works in a male-dominated industry and is more inclined to network with blokes…which is disappointing really. Just because we’re female doesn’t mean we can’t be a valuable associate.

    I’ve attended a few community radio conferences over the years. At one of them I was a speaker and after my speech, a manager from an interstate station had a chat with me and gave me his name card. No gender discrimination there.

    I pride myself as a strong, independent woman. I used to be shy but these days I am definitely more bold about chatting to strangers at social functions. However, I am a tiny person – you can say I have the body of a twelve year old. Numerous times I’ve walked into shops in the city wearing a hoodie jacket and sneakers to browse clothes and I never get greeted by the sales assistant. And the white, makeup-laden-prim-and-proper girl who walks in behind me always gets greeted and served.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “…the white, makeup-laden-prim-and-proper girl who walks in behind me always gets greeted and served” – gosh that’s so annoying when it happens! I’m sorry that happens at all, but it’s great Mabel that you don’t care and stick to your style when shopping. Here in HK it’s very bad – actually there are certain shops I don’t bother going into, because 1) they are too expensive and I wouldn’t want to spend a silly amount of money on a pair of shoes/a bag anyway and 2) the attitude of the sales-people can often be rude and demoralising, like it would be a crime not to purchase things and just look. Bottom line – we don’t need to and shouldn’t derive our self-worth from brand names. Instead, we should focus on character, charity, resilience, and knowledge – things that don’t fade as easily with the tide of fashion and trends. Some countries the sales culture seems to be better – Spain’s El Corte Ingles will happily let you try on stuff without expecting you to buy anything. As for your explanation for Mr Bashful, I agree, there was definitely some subconscious decisions going on there which he himself may not have been aware of….but the inherent male-to-male only networking scenarios is unfortunately more common than we think. It’s great to hear about that manager who gave you his card voluntarily. If you do good work, those who are able to see this will always be able to spot you, regardless of your sex, age or background! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and adding to the discussion!

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      • Don’t blame you for not going into shops where you have to pay an exorbitant amount. I rarely go into these shops too, but the few times I’ve been in them I’ve been virtually ignored by the sales staff, except the security guard that opens the door. We can only speculate why.

        I hate to admit it with you but yes, networking is often seen as a male thing. There’s is this stigma that males and those with a bigger physically body and voice are more convincing, stronger mentally and correct all the time. Which is nonsense. As you said with Mr Bashful, I’m not sure if the men realise this. It’s become so ingrained in many cultures.

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        • Same Mabel, same. I don’t really go because I always feel a tad self conscious – especially when the sales staff follow you everywhere you go within the shop. Sometimes I just want to be left alone and browse things. And yes, likewise sometimes there are those who seemingly purposely ignore me because I’m dressed too casually.

          Re the networking issue – yes unfortunately that is intricately tied with deeper issues such as power, wealth, and confidence. It’s hard to summarise perfectly in one response, but generally networking as a “climbing up the ladder/making the right connections” aspect to it, which is tied which wealth and power, which inherently men generally have more of for the time being. As to confidence, many studies have shown that men tend to attribute success to either own credit, whereas women tend to humble themselves more easily – which ties in with confidence and how one carries himself/herself during a social event. All very broad generalisations, but not inaccurate observations at least within my own community.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. The same thing also happens to some guys you know, like me for instance. I tend to look somewhat on the “street” side of things, not so strange when you consider my life, but even though I’ve long since left that life behind, in the same situation you found yourself in, there is a very good possibility, if I had been your escort that evening, and you had given the man your business-card, after giving you his, there would have been no attempt to follow up by giving me one also. I have actually had that happen on more than one occasion when I was accompanying a friend who is an artist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So it seems the name-card etiquette faux pas can happen to anyone! Even men 🙂 Perhaps on a more macro level, it shows that when someone is perceived to not fit into a social setting, or somehow deemed not worthy of another person’s time, they may be (purposely) neglected or passed by.

      I recall you discussing PTSD previously – I’m not sure if that is related to your mention of the “street” side of things. If that’s what you’re referring to when talking about leaving that life behind, and now moving forth and attending social gatherings, it’s an amazing thing – one worth being happy about and I congratulate the step forward.

      It’s unpleasant being on the receiving end. If there’s a desire to change the interaction or lack of, we can try to change ourselves. In my situation, by protesting: “Hey, what about me?!”, and in your situation, perhaps tweaking first impressions/presentation to invite that business-card … (only if that’s what you want)? I don’t know – ultimately I go by the principle that we can’t really change other people – so we can only change ourselves and our behaviour if we want a situation to change!

      As to your artist friend, how good of friends are you guys? If he/she were a good friend of mine and I felt comfortable asking for help, I’d probably have a frank chat about how I feel at these social gatherings, and ask for guidance in case we run into the same business card or similar social situation. If he/she is willing, I’d ask if they could introduce me in case I get passed by in a similar setting. But I don’t have all the facts and these suggestions are based on a lot of assumptions – just my humble remarks.

      Thank you for sharing your experience Brian.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh, Sister…you are singing the song to me. I remember when I was married 5-10 years ago and my husband and I co-owned a construction company. Co-owned, not he owned and I stood by dutifully. I worked full-time as a nurse, took care of twins and worked as hard as he did in that company but when I went out to meet clients or contractors, almost every time I was told that they would double check with my husband to be sure. I am 5’2″ and about 100 pounds, blonde. I could work right alongside those concrete guys and framers. But always, check with your husband “Honey”. Yeah. And I ran the finances. It drove me insane.

    Now as a single woman, I still see the tendency of society leaning towards male leadership. I find that generally people are surprised when I assert myself on legal matters and financial issues. These issues would be the same things that a man would say and practically no one would raise an eyebrow to. It’s an interesting world that we live in. Women have fought for equality for over 100 years and yet we still continue that fight. The unfortunate part of it is that your Mr Bashful could have also been a Ms Bashful as well. I have been ignored by women in that manner as well. Many still have a “Leave It To Beaver” Man-As-Head-Of-The-Household mentality and act accordingly. I’m not sure when that will change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cindy
      Wow – working alongside your husband…that sounds very challenging. I think sometimes it could work but from your story it seemed like it was quite a bit of stress! Equality is so important in these partnerships. It must have been frustrating to know the company inside out yet still be told that your husband had the final say?
      I agree that most societies today are still male dominated in the leadership realm. You see that in corporations, church leadership, high politics and I’m guessing in the health industry you work in as well? I believe this is changing, and women are ever more educated, career drive and vocal, but there’s still a long way to go. I totally agree – Mr or Mrs Bashful can equally be neglectful. Sometimes, sadly, women themselves are the worst critics of each other and perpetrators of sexual inequality. I guess you can call it internalised discrimination. I’m hopeful though – the tide is already turning. And in my generation, it seems that girls born are given just as many opportunities as the boys. Change always happens gradually 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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