Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gentle .. or Timid?

I went to get my teeth cleaned today (no cavities!) and a sweet new hygienist admirably polished me up. The final product looked pretty good, but this girl, who looked barely 23, was definitely less violent than her predecessors, who invariably stabbed me many times with that pokey thing, as though gold lay just below the surface of my gums. 

The girl explained what she would do at every juncture ("I'm going to blow some air on you now") and politely asked how I was doing multiple times during the treatment. While I felt she was gentle, and that I was treated well, I also couldn't help but feel this girl was acting very... timid.

Every move required some careful consideration. She seemed hesitant to pull my lip up or down with any force, and squeamish about re-arranging mirrors and lights to best suit her. Most hygienists seem almost militant in their re-shaping of your mouth, to the point of pain, if only to either get their job done faster or, alternatively, do a better job (hard to evaluate on my part). Either way, this girl definitely had no dental moxie as she tentatively fidgeted with my molars.

But then, I questioned my frame. Was her delicacy of spirit and her good bedside manner simply unaccustomed gentleness, or was it truly timidness? It's hard to say. And, indeed, I wondered whether this was a broader question. When we act gentle, do we come off as timid? I'd hate to think that was the case.

I once had a bulldog of a boss. She was a woman from the era when women were meant to be men in the workplace, and she cursed like a sailor and made lots of football references. She was certainly not delicate, but never was she considered timid, though I felt she was probably scared a lot. I would hate to think that gentle tones become a sign of weakness in our society, forcing people to act aggressively simply to show mastery or strength. 

But, I can't tell whether this is just an outlier.. or part of a trend. 

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