Monday, December 11, 2017

Exquisite torture city

There's something enticing about going somewhere you aren't familiar with.  Somewhere that you're a little overwhelmed.  A place that's somewhat familiar and yet different enough to tip you off your center.  New York City is like that for me.  Although I now have friends who live there and who could usher me around and keep me within  a certain comfort zone.

I've lived in Mexico, visited India, Scotland and Australia.  I felt that same bit of discomfort there.  But that was to be expected.  I was in a foreign country.  To feel that way in my own home country.... that is a special sort of exquisite torture.

And yet I continue to look for it from time to time.

I've moved around a lot, never spent too much time in one place.  I have friends who have lived in the same place for 20, 30, maybe even 40 years.  I envy them sometimes.  To have that consistency, to know the same people for so long, to have their environment embossed on their minds, their souls, so well that they know it down to their bones.

And now I've lived in this place for 15 years.  I'm on the cusp of knowing the place well.  And I start to think about finding a new place to explore.  I know I'll never know a place as well as if I had never left.  And I find my life richer for that.

Friday, November 03, 2017


There's nothing quite like being taken down by some mystery illness for a few days.  Staying at home, watching tv (or "watching" tv by laying on the couch in front of the tv, not really caring what is playing), waiting to stop feeling like shit, wondering what the hell it is you've gotten because it doesn't feel quite like any other illness you've had before.  You think, oh I'm at home all day so maybe I can take care of some things.  Then you realize that you don't even have the energy or brain power to stand up and walk into the kitchen to refill your tea.  So back to "watching" tv.

I'm still tired today.  I've not eaten much, which could be part of the issue, but I'm not so interested in eating.  My intestines have been gurgling for the past 24 hours, so I'm thinking it's not best to feed them right now.

My coworkers wonder if I got sick from working on old Douglas Fir benches.  Apparently the fir was found in some bog or lake or pond or something.  And it's old - as in it was old when it was cut down, before it spent a lifetime soaking in water.  One coworker posited that perhaps it had some odd spores or bio-things in it that were released when I cut into and then sanded it.  Greaaaaat.  Now I have to consider that my body might be fighting some ancient biohazard.  Maybe I'll become an alien spawn.  Or my insides will disintegrate slowly (oh shit! is that why my intestines are gurgling??).  Or maybe I'll become a super human with crazy useful (or useless?) powers.

In the mean time I'm feeling better, gurgling notwithstanding.  Now I guess I have to care about what's playing on the tv again.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Me too.

I've avoided posting the #metoo hashtag on Facebook.  Because I don't like to follow trends.  If something is popular, I'm cynical and stand-offish.

But the reality is that yes, I can claim that uneasy label too.  Me too.

The most recent time was two weeks ago.  My company hires a moving company to deliver our furniture to it's ultimate destination.  They were at my company, wrapping items before putting them in their delivery truck.  I was standing near them when one of my co-workers gestured at me.  The owner of the delivery company saw him gesturing.  "What do you need, Mark?" he asked.  "I just want to grab Laura for a minute," said Mark.

"Don't we all?" said the owner of the delivery company.  In front of me.  In front of all his employees.  In front of my co-workers.

No one laughed.  At least not in my memory.  I flipped him off, said "fuck off Jason", and walked over to talk to Mark.

The time before that?  A few days prior.  I was at a job site where there were lots of other trades.  I got the standard "elevator" look (when a man's eyes scan down your body and then back up) from one of the tradesmen.

The time before that?  Who knows.  It's so fucking normal that women don't even note the incidents anymore.  I've heard of men who think this behavior is rare - because they don't see it, because they don't hear about it.  They don't see it because we (women) have learned to ignore it.  We don't talk about all the incidents because if we did, we wouldn't have anything else to talk about.

The earliest memory of harassment I have is vague.  I'm not even sure it's a memory.  But why would I make something like this up?  I was in 5th grade, in a health class.  For some reason it was just myself and the teacher in the room.  I remember coming to on the floor, lying on my back.  The teacher was there, kneeling next to me.  He said "it's ok, I've passed out before too."  But did I pass out?  If so, why weren't there other teachers, or anyone from the administration there taking care of me?  Why was I there with him alone?

So vague.  Yet I've remembered it for 40 years.  And I've always felt uncomfortable with it.

The Harvey Weinstein crap going on in the news, plus an eerily similar situation that happened in my high school 30+ years ago, has brought all this back to the surface.  Powerful men abusing the people around them.  The "weaker" people.  And the cast of characters around that situation that support it - knowingly or not.

So.  What are you going to do in your own life to help stop this?

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Prey or predator

I was just reading about the historical control of female nudity in art.  Created for a male gaze, women presented as an object, oftentimes portrayed as a willing object, sometimes less so, soft, available, pleasing.  Not threatening, challenging, or singular.  Valued for their perceived beauty, and that beauty's ability to elevate the male, or to titillate the male viewer, give him pleasure.

I had an image of myself as the subject of one of those paintings.  But I stared out of the canvas with a hunter's eyes.  Challenging the viewer to engage with me.  My nakedness was an afterthought, of little consequence.  As you are viewing me, I am examining you.  My face and eyes bore into you, emerging from the canvas, my body following behind.  Are you willing, able, to engage on that level?  Will you skulk away, too intimidated by my gaze?  Or will you be intrigued, interested to see what universe exists behind my eyes?

This is how I feel working in a male-dominated industry.  I am an anomaly.  I am a rarity.  The women I interact with are designers, office clerks, housewives.

At my current shop I am the second youngest at 50 years old.  My manager is 60, the boss 65-ish.  I don't think they know how to interact with me.

The manager is clearly from a different mindset, if not a different generation exactly.  He is a Man's Man.  He is the Provider, the Rescuer, the Man Who Gets Things Done.  (At least in his own perception of himself.  I, and my coworkers, don't see it that way so much.)  He is the guy who is accustomed to having people (men) working under him.  In his current position, however, he doesn't know as much as those working under him, and I think that heightens his expression of his power/knowledge/control of the situation.  Add me into the mix - a woman who has 15 years experience in the field, knows how to work at the level of the guys in the shop, and could probably take over the manager's job and do it better.  (Realistically, you could have stopped that description at "a woman" and gotten the same result.)  The result is that the manager has to adjust his habits.  I've had interactions with him where I am telling him some information or giving him direction on some task, and he just clams up.  Doesn't respond or react to what I am saying, just continues on doing what he had planned to do anyway.  I pointed this out to one of my coworkers and asked if he had experienced anything like it.  Nope.  I think he is intimidated by you, said the coworker.

Me, staring out of the canvas, asking the questions, forcing the conversation, instead of relaxing back on the chaise for your viewing pleasure.

My boss is similar.  I see him interacting with the other shop workers more often than he interacts with me.  Part of it may be a difference in personality, but the Boss is pretty singular in the shop.  No one else really thinks like him.  I feel like he talks to the newest employee more than he talks to me even.  Our front desk woman said that she thought he wasn't accustomed to having women in the shop, and that he wasn't sure how to deal with it.  He is definitely of a different, older generation.

I see myself as being easy going, non-threatening once you get to know me.  I know I have an initial impression of intimidation.  Perhaps from self-preservation on my part.  Perhaps from the idea that self-possessed women are scary on the world's part.

But I'm not changing.  I hope the world is.

Monday, July 31, 2017

If you want something done....

I've never really think much about this, until it's brought to my attention in some way.

This past weekend I replaced an external wall of my house.  My friend Marlin, who used to be a framer, was my expert on hand.  He helped me buy the supplies, demo the old wall, and made the plan for all the prep work we needed to do in order to re-frame what we had just destroyed.  But I was the driving force behind doing this work.  And doing it "myself" rather than paying some contractor to come take care of it for me.

This is not an unfamiliar position for me.  I gutted and remodeled my kitchen 12 years ago.  Again, I had a boyfriend who was a framer and drywaller taking care of that work.  But I designed and built the cabinets.  Then installed them.  I found old-growth fir flooring, and some flooring guys to install it.  I made the built-in kitchen table and the cantilevered shelves.

And I've crawled under my house and re-insulated the floor.  Granted, I did it wrong and probably need to hire someone to do it properly now, but still....  I climb onto my roof to clean it off, and clean the gutters out.

I don't think much about the fact that I do these things myself.  It needs to be done, I can do it, and it will cost too much to hire someone else to do it for me.  So, let me put my boot and gloves on and get to it.

I don't realize that this isn't necessarily the norm.  Especially for women.  I'm not doing it out of any sort of need to prove anything to myself or anyone else.  It just needs to be done.  And no one else is jumping out of their recliner to offer up their services.

Along with so many other things about myself, I need to recognize this trait to jump in and do things that need to be done.  I need to appreciate and compliment myself for my fearlessness in stepping out of my comfort zone and just getting on with it.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dragon do-do

What the fuck happened to my Dragon Boat season this year?

First I'm put in a position where I feel my choices are:
 1 - stay with the team I've been on for 13 years and feel resentful & not be sure that I could hide it from the team, or
 2 - leave.

In everyone's best interest, I decided to leave.  It hurt me greatly, but it was the best option in the long run.  But I still feel stung by it.

Instead, I joined a splinter team that had left my original team a few years back.  I didn't feel like a part of them at first, but I warmed up to a couple of them.  But.... it was different.  They're nice folks, but they're not my kind of folks.  Too many "that's what she said" jokes.  But I was their's for the season, and that was fine... for now.

Now it's Race Weekend, and we do fairly well on our first race.  We're miserably out of time, and somehow end up with a 3:00 race, and best of all - we did better than my old team.  So I'm feeling pretty good.  I had stopped by my old team's tent to say hello & wish them luck.  And I felt more comfortable with them than I did with my current team.  It made me sad again at the way things had gone.

At our second race, things went sideways - literally.  The first two boats were pushed up against the race officials' boat, and we had to back up and reposition ourselves.  Which is where things really went bad.  Idiot Matt, who was calling this race, just stands there with his head up his ass, not commanding the boat at all.  John, our tiller is doing his best to maneuver, but he needs a partner in his caller, and Matt can't be bothered.  We are stalled out, not where we need to be, and not making a move to get there.  I yell out "someone take control of the boat"!  Meanwhile we have different people in the boat yelling out suggestions: "paddles up", "draw left", "hold the boat".  It was a fucking mess.

We eventually get to where we need to be, are in the midst of drawing left, and the official starts the race.  Our finish time is 3:15.  A full 15 seconds behind our first race.  It.  Sucked.

As we are walking back up the dock, Rachel says she wants to talk to me.  "What do I do in this situation?"  I tell her that Matt sucks, and that he isn't going to change at this point.  She needs to have a private conversation with him to tell him to get on board with the team.  To the team, she needs to tell everyone to shut the fuck up, that there are only two people on board who can give directions - the caller and the tiller.  She took that advice but was very gentle about it.  Which is her mode.  I probably wouldn't have been so kind.

But we are in Division 4.  Embarrassing.  I think the last time I was in Division 4 was when there were 5 divisions.  My former team is in Division 3.  This would have made me happy (and frustrated) since we made Division 1 last year.  It was a long fall for them.  But since we are in Division 4, I can't even really appreciate their fall.

I'm mad.  I gave up a good team because someone (or two people - it's difficult to tell) didn't like me encroaching on their ultimate control of the team.  They set me up to submit or leave - a no-win situation for me.  And I joined a team that was not a great match for me.  And they disappointed me today.

I don't know why I thought maybe this would be a fine enough season.  It started off fucked up, and it never quite promised anything else.  So why am I so angry?  And how can I rescue tomorrow for myself so that I at least enjoy the remainder of my weekend?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

She's the breadwinner

I had an interesting revelation at work this week.  A couple of us were talking about retirement (one guy is within two years of doing so, the other two of us in the conversation are still 10+ years away), and how much social security one receives at what age.  My coworker (who is one year older than me) said his wife is 5 years younger than him.  I said, so you'll be retired first, eh?  He said "well, she's the breadwinner.  If we had to live on my income alone....."

What?  I thought.  He doesn't make enough to survive on?  But he makes more than me!

Oh.  Oooooohhhhhh.  Right.  He has a partner.  And she is the breadwinner.  Which allows him to have a job in the industry he loves.  He has his job (at least partly) because he has a passion for what he does.  He doesn't have to rely on his income alone to survive.  Like I do.

It made me wonder about the other people I work with.  Everyone there has a partner.  (Well, there is one guy who is curmudgeonly and no one is sure what his private life is like.)  They are all free to work for wages that aren't necessarily that high.  Or high enough to allow them to do more than just survive.  That is why they can take unpaid vacations.  That is why they can afford to have Taco Thursday *every* Thursday.  That is why they can afford to fix up their houses.  Because there is someone else in their lives who is also bringing in money, and is perhaps bringing in more than they are.

Well, shit.

I am in a point in my life where I'm wondering - again - what I want to do for a living.  And I'm wondering if I should get a job that pays me well.  Well enough so that I can afford to take unpaid vacations (although if I play it right, I'll get paid vacations).  Well enough so that I can afford to have Taco Thursday *every* Thursday.  Well enough so that I can fix up my house.

I may have to take "just a job", or take a job that I'm not in love with.  But if it pays my way to do other things.....