I am surprised to see several women in the room when I walk into the truck school orientation. (Classes don't officially start until Monday, but tonight they hand out paperwork and tell us what to expect from the next seven weeks.) But it only takes a second to realize that these women are wives the actual students have brought along for the open orientation session. One of them hangs on to her husband's arm the entire time; she is small like a bird, dressed in spike heels and a frilly skirt, long earrings dangling past her shoulders and partially covered by long, meticulously styled hair. Later on, the instructor uses her as an example of what not to wear to class; everyone laughs and she says, "Good thing I'm not a student here."
I sit next to a couple around my age. The husband has all the papers spread out in front of him; the wife is playing with his school-issued pens. When the sign-up sheet is passed around, he signs it and turns to hand it to the guy behind him; when I reach for it he gives me a surprised look and says he didn't think I was a student. I can feel my lip curling and my shoulders squaring, my body trying to instinctively distance itself from every other woman in the room. When the instructor says long hair must be tied back while working on the trucks and the class laughs at the bird-like wife, I pull mine back in an angry ponytail.
This is what it will be like, I tell myself. Many of these guys will not take me seriously, I will need to prove myself on a daily basis. It's a damn good thing I enjoy having something to prove.