30-03-01/21Last week, I was flying home from my conference and had boarded the plane.  I  settled in my seat and commenced people-watching.  I love people-watching.

There was a woman younger than me and very pretty who started to lift her suitcase to put it into the overhead bin when two men jumped up simultaneously to help her.

I had a deja-vu moment. It wasn’t that someone had jumped up and helped me put my luggage up. No, that had never happened. It was how often I watch people jump up to help others, that was the deja-vu.

When I was pregnant with my 4th child, I worked as a consultant.  The role involved a lot of travel.  I think that child was in 27 cities before she was even born.  I lugged around my suitcase, my laptop bag, and my portable data projector.

Even at my most pregnant, no one ever jumped out of his (or her) seat to help me put my suitcase in the overhead.  I found this rather curious. Maybe it was because I wasn’t a sweet young thing.  (Although, relatively speaking, I was young 11 years ago and I’m always sweet.)

Since then, I’ve become acutely aware of this and I make it a point to observe it.  It’s not about sweet young things – helpers pop up for all sorts of people in need, all ages, genders, and degrees of attractiveness.

What is it then, I wonder?

The best hypothesis I can draw, for which I have a dearth of scientific backing, is it has something to do with a vibe of strength, of capability, of independence. If you seem in need of help, people help. If you give off a different vibe, they don’t make the offer.

I may give off that vibe, independence, capability.  In fact, I think I do.  Probably, pure stubbornness is at the root of it.

Nonetheless, I think people might see me and think I’m one of those people who may be insulted by an offer of help.  I know I have seen people and drawn a similar conclusion.  They seem to communicate with their eyes “I got this.  Don’t you dare insult me by asking if I need help.”

Here’s the thing: when I was pregnant and huge and tired with swollen ankles and three bags to lug around, I did need the help.  I did.  And even though I’m not pregnant now, nor am I on an airplane today, I recognize that I need help.  I cannot do this – any of it – alone.

No one, regardless of how strong, can bear the weight of the world without help.

I guess what I’m saying is this:  don’t be fooled by a disguise of strength.

If you see me on an airplane, I would welcome help with my bag.

I’m going to start practicing my needy look now.