"Because you're a woman," were the words I heard as I asked why I should be the one to vacuum the dining room floor at work the other night.
And I know he meant it as a joke, but the words stung like lemon in a wound, and I knew there was at least an ounce of seriousness in his tone.
That wasn't the first time I've received that response, and as I walked down the hall to retrieve the vacuum cleaner I considered the weight of that phrase.
Because I'm a woman.
Because I'm a woman, I probably drive worse than, make better sandwiches than, and have a better aptitude for cleaning than my male counterparts.
Oh, that's not the case? Then why the jokes and careless remarks?
Because I'm a woman, it's easy for you to see me as inferior. It's an unspoken that I might be the weaker one.
But as I swept up the crumbs and dust from the carpeted room that evening, something under my feminine exterior screamed, "No!"
An hour of pushing the vacuum cleaner across the faded pattern in the dingy carpet was plenty of time to think of what those words should actually infer.
I thought about what it means to be a woman, and the conclusion to which I came has nothing to do with domestication or driving abilities.
And I don't think being a woman has anything to do with sugar and spice and everything nice either.
I do think it has a lot to do with being a refuge for the people around us and empowering others with our strength and displaying beauty in the ways we carry ourselves and treat others.
Those words were played through my head as I vacuumed, and I'd encourage you to take a listen here for more thoughts on the topic by my friend Jon.
And maybe you're a woman who has heard those words before too. If so, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that our culture puts a stigma on our roles as women -- that it's a disgrace to do anything "like a girl."
In the first place, it's our responsibility to shoot down lies like that, and I'm finding that with as much weight as a woman's words hold, her actions will often speak volumes louder.
Because I'm a woman, I want to nurture and love those around me well. I don't think that requires me to soften my strong personality or to abate my outspoken tendencies, but I think it looks like caring for others when they're sick or hurting or need someone fighting for them in their corner.
I think there's something written into the DNA of femininity that is more sensitive to the feelings and needs of others than our male counterparts, and I think it's something that makes women strong and needed by society.
I've seen the men in my life be caring and sympathetic, but I think there's a distinct difference between the way a woman cares for another and the way a man does. It's like the way the walls of a house protect the interior while the fireplace gives warmth and light to the insides.
Men are like those walls in the way they care and protect, and I think a woman's care is a lot like the fireplace in the way she makes others feel at ease and comforted.
Because I'm a woman, I want to make others feel at home when they're around me. I want my feminine character to make people feel more like themselves when I'm around in the way my words and actions inspire them to create and grow.
I want to empower the lives that traverse mine. I think women have been given the role as a helper in the way they build up the human souls around them.
And it's in no way inferior to act as helpers; in fact, I think it's heroic. Airplanes and rockets would never reach the skies and beyond if they didn't have stable and strong launchpads from which to fly.
I don't think we're meant to be others' saviors in our roles as women, but I do think we're supposed to launch our friends and families and coworkers in the ways we serve and encourage them.
Because you're a woman, you have a certain strength about you that men will never grasp. And it's desperately needed both for theirs and your own sake.
There's nothing inferior about raising a family on your own, or in donating time and effort to equipping the homeless and impoverished.
Because you're a woman, the world needs and anxiously awaits your talents and passions to make it a better one. And the words you choose are equally as crucial.
I've been asking guy friends of mine about the words of a woman, and the consensus has been that they're majorily either the most affirming or destructive.
And I've seen the way my words have landed on the heart of a man before. I've seen the way my words reflect in a man's demeanor because of their hurtful selfishness or carefully poised support. The difference in the two is worlds apart.
As a woman, I want my words to matter and to launch truth at the lies that others believe about themselves. And regardless of the guys who have carelessly slung "because you're a woman" into conversation as a seemingly innocuous joke, I want my words to remind them of who they truly are.
Another thing I thought about as I moved the vacuum cleaner along the ground that evening was how women are gifted with this aura about them.
I wondered at how captivated people can be with nature and creativity, but when it comes to the beauty of a woman there isn't much that compares.
I started thinking about the different ways that women have chosen to flaunt that beauty and how society's standard of beauty is incredibly impossible.
My friend Jon describes it as "a unicorn." And as a woman you're not one.
I don't think I'm alone when I say that some of the most beautiful women I've encountered are the ones who, with a makeup-less face and unkempt hair, are willing to bear their souls and speak their minds because their confidence rests on something much bigger than our world's standards and other people's words.
Did you know the Greek word "kosmos" translates in English to "adornment?" I don't think that's a coincidence.
When the world and its cosmos was created, I'd say it was God's way of showing off- of flaunting his creativity. And as a woman, I want what I show off and adorn myself with to be a spirit of joy and confidence.
I'd rather people be drawn to a cheerful attitude than a practiced smile or a "unicorn's" body.
Because you're a woman, your worth is found in the same source that created this world and its cosmos, and it matters what you flaunt and how you flaunt it.
Are you using your beauty, your kosmos, to distract and manipulate those around you, or do you use it to draw people in so you can empower and launch them with your strength and care?
That evening at work wasn't the last time I've heard that phrase absentmindedly tossed around by the guys I work with and live around, and I'm sure I'll hear it plenty more.
But that doesn't give me an excuse to accept the mindset of inferiority, nor does it give me space to retaliate or reciprocate.
And I hope that as I learn to empower and care for the men (and other women) in my life, the way I conduct myself will shatter and disprove the idea that womanhood and femininity are anything but respectable and necessary.
I think I'll let those words, "because you're a woman" spark the reminder that my role as a launchpad and my ability to carefully empower others incredibly outweigh my domestic aptitudes.