We have recently bought our first house. Initially, I didn’t really think about it a whole lot; renting has become less economical, and even if you end up with a lot of maintenance costs on a purchase, at least you’re gradually building an investment. It certainly makes me feel like even more of a responsible adult than impending motherhood (which, let’s face it, is so far off the scale of scary responsibility that I can only shrug and hum “que sera sera”). Of course part of me wants to live the life of the eternal student, just muddling along in various flatshares, getting drunk, doing whatever job comes my way, and enjoying that feeling of always teetering on the edge of either a spectacular downfall, or a great opportunity. Sadly, that gets rather less fun as you get older, and instead of seeming spontaneous, it seems lost.
When I say that we’ve bought a house, the specifics of the transaction involve me contributing a sum that isn’t far off six figures to pay the deposit, legal fees and stamp duty. My lovely fiancé will then pay the mortgage while I feed babies. This arrangement means that I don’t have to do the slightly pointless thing of going back to work and only actually earning about one third of my salary after I’ve paid someone else to raise my kids.
It took me almost two years to accumulate those savings, which I worked very hard for and was very proud of having achieved. The project management contract I took purely for the money was not always fun. There was the obligatory crying in the toilets, the development of the kind of confrontational attitude that I think project managers need, and the awfully short temper when I got home. The moment I’m least proud of was probably when I couldn’t find my hairbrush, and flew into such an uncontrollable rage that I broke a drawer. Still, the project completed successfully, and I left Liverpool Street behind me for some time to come.
So a week after we completed the purchase, I’m busy unpacking in our 5 bedroom thatched house, which comes with a garden you can actually sit in. The post drops through the letterbox. It’s from the solicitors who handled the purchase. I look at the name and address on the envelope. It is addressed to my fiancé. Not to both of us; not to me; just to the guy. I open it anyway. It’s a letter wishing Richard many congratulations on the successful completion of his purchase, and thanking him for the business.
I personally met the solicitors, spoke to them on the phone, and did most of the email correspondence pertaining to the transaction. They advised me to transfer my equity to joint ownership for legal reasons, and ensuring the mortgage would also be joint. In the course of this correspondence, they quite frequently wrote back to “Dear Richard”, or wrote to him exclusively. Maybe my name is too unusual, I thought, and politely corrected them on several occasions. It was some meaningless mistake, and not something to get too worked up about. After all, I didn’t think it was that big a deal that some commentator talked about the Wimbledon winner not being a looker – when you listen to the detail, he seems to be trying to say (rather clumsily) that maybe she worked harder because she wasn’t distracted by the attention other players draw purely by their looks.
Having received that final letter, I’m not cool about any of it any more. They obviously assume that the man is the one that makes the decisions, so there’s no point talking to the woman. Yeah, she might have stumped up the cash, but she’s probably inherited it or got it in a divorce. She’ll only be consulting him on the detail anyway, so we might as well go direct to him and cut her out.
Obviously they’re just incompetent, but it’s funny how no one ever makes the mistake the other way around. If my boss or my employee picks up my phone at work, no one assumes he’s my assistant.
- Sexism? (fyriaro.wordpress.com)
- Maria Miller calls on BBC to stamp out sexism in sports coverage (thetimes.co.uk)
- Sexism at Wimbledon (ruthpenfoldmounce.wordpress.com)
- Wimbledon exposed the sexism women face – as players and girlfriends | Hadley Freeman (guardian.co.uk)