I’m not sure exactly how, when or why Jimmy developed his own unique and personal system for evaluating women, but I’m pretty sure it started shortly after we were married, with some compelling need to appraise me and my efforts. I recall once, in the early years, after we had endured a few minor setbacks and hardships, he looked at me, somewhat surprised, and proclaimed, “You’re the kind of girl who would make it a long way on The Oregon Trail!” Back then, he wasn’t easily impressed, nor generously ladling out the praise, so I accepted that as the next best thing to an actual compliment.
What I eventually came to refer to as, “The Oregon Trail Scale,” is basically a metaphorical litmus test that gauges a woman’s intestinal fortitude and overall “heartiness,” as she encounters the various trials along the trail…
As time went by, I grew accustomed to the Trail Scale and even learned the accompanying lingo:
“You would be dead on the trail before we got to Nebraska…”
(Translation: Put on your Big Girl Bloomers)
JOB TRANSFER: When you really think about it, The Oregon Trail really was just a super-stressful cross-country job transfer! These Men heard there were that better economic opportunities via Westward Expansion, and their wives were brave enough to pull up stakes, abandon the support of extended family, say good-bye to familiarity and forge into the vast unknown. While today’s supportive spouse-on-the-move, doesn’t have to contend with tribes of hostile Indians, rattlesnakes and dysentery, there are certainly a myriad of modern day challenges that could rock one’s world (such as the toddlers that simultaneously came down with the chicken pox while you were in temporary housing, or the house that sat on the market for a year.)
“She would’ve made it all the way!”
(Translation: This girl’s so tough, she might actually be a dude)
PREGNANCY/CHILDBIRTH: It’s admittedly a lot less risky to produce children these days, than it used to be. Many women died giving birth, especially on those arduous journeys west. But, we all know there’s not a man out there who could halt the wagon train, bellow some orders to “boil water” and “fetch some sheets,” bite down on a bullet, belt a shot of whiskey, produce another human being, and have everyone back on the trail before sunset.
“She would get ambushed or eaten by wolves on the first day!”
(Translation: Your friend is a Diva)
CHILD REARING: You can watch your trail rating plummet, if you manage to be whinier than your children. We went to a local theme park once with a friend of mine and her family. My friend complained about the heat, the facilities, the lines and her own offspring. I could tell before Jimmy ever said a word, that he was Trail-Appraising her. (I continually strive to plan family outings with women like this, as they make me look more strapping than I actually am, thereby boosting my own trail rating)
In spite of the blatant sexism, I must obviously think this method of assessment is amusing, as I shared it with a large group of friends at a work-function recently. This prompted one of Jimmy’s colleagues to request an assessment from him of her Trail-Worthiness. Less formal than an official performance appraisal, but judging from her response, just as meaningful…
(Happy Trials To You…)