"Men do not take me seriously, so I have to act like a bitch."
This is what I texted my mother after leaving the bank today.
I am a 30-year-old editor at The Huffington Post and I am in escrow on a condo in Los Angeles. I have gone into the bank numerous times recently needing the simplest of things -- some copies of statements and general proof of funds. I have been banking here for half of my life.
But when I left today, I walked out feeling shocked. My cheeks were flushed with anger. My jaw was set tightly in disbelief.
"Oh, you're a journalist? You're so pretty," the male banker said, within minutes of my sitting down. (Two weeks ago, a different banker told me that I didn't look like a writer.)
Instead of addressing why I am not able to access a statement I need or explain why something was mishandled last week, today, he told me, "Oh you just weren't working with me!" and, "You were just with the wrong guy!"
The arrogance of the male bankers I've sat across from at this branch is alarming. Last week, a young banker in a gray suit and slicked-back hair spent over 30 minutes trying to figure out how to close down an account. I spent the time checking my work emails.
After I asked him what was going on, he begrudgingly called customer service on the phone and had them walk him through it. At one point, he asked me if my husband had my loan information. I am not married, nor do I wear a ring.
When I asked him why I couldn't access my statement online, instead of getting someone to help, he said, "That's just how your account is set up." He offered no solution.
But he did assure me that he had it under control and that everything would be fixed. He said not to worry in a clipped tone -- like I was inconveniencing him by asking more questions he didn't know the answers to.
Today when I went back and dealt with someone new -- another male banker in his 30s -- he put me through the same runaround as last week. Maybe they are given a script. "Don't worry, I will fix it. I am fixing it right now," the new guy told me. When I pointed out that this is exactly what was said last week, he again told me not to worry.
I'm starting to notice that male bankers love to tell women not to worry. Don't worry that your statement isn't showing up. Don't worry that this isn't working online. I will be the one to fix it.
When I gave him a short list of things I needed today, he actually told me that he didn't think I needed those things.
After complaining to my older brother about how I am been treated at the bank -- like a teenage girl, I told him -- he asked, "Do you want me to go with you?"
It's a genuine question. He would go with me and he would use a stern voice and ensure, like an older brother should, that his little sister is being treated right.
But of course I don't want to bring him to the bank with me. Unmarried women have been able to own and control their own property since the 1850s.
I want to be able to go to the bank without him -- or without the husband I don't yet have -- and get the documents I need to buy a house. On my own.
So, in order to be taken seriously, I have to act like a bitch. I have to make my voice sharper and I have to speak in shorter sentences. I smile less.
"Oh come on, why aren't you getting your loan through us?" the flirtatious banker asked me today.
I have to tell him that I don't want to come in tomorrow and ask for the same things to be fixed. I have to remind him that these simple issues were supposed to have been handled last week. I tell him that's why I'm not getting my loan with him.
I don't bring up the fact that he looked me up and down when I shook his hand or that he assumed I was freelance and didn't have a salaried job.
And the worst part is this: The shift in my demeanor happens naturally, like blinking or breathing. It's second nature for women to switch into bitchy, bossy, don't-fuck-with-me-mode, because how often are we spoken to differently than the man standing next to us?
How often do I have to raise my voice to be taken seriously?
How acutely attuned are we to the way a man looks at the hem of our dress or the cut of our neckline?
And I don't feel good about myself when I leave a place of business acting like a bitch. I wonder: When men ask for what they want, do they constantly think about if they sound rude or aggressive or demanding? Women do.
Would it have made a difference if I didn't wear makeup today?
Would it have been any different if I wore sweats instead of a dress and heels?
I have been a customer at this bank since I was 16 years old. I remember walking into the branch up the hill from my high school in 2001 and opening my first checking and savings account. I remember I wore my volleyball team sweats and came straight after practice.
I also remember how proud I felt when I left the bank, holding a shiny new card with my name on it.
Back then, I probably didn't notice if they treated me like I didn't know what I was doing -- because I actually didn't know what I was doing.
But what's their excuse now?