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.....

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Territory and Ego

She doesn't want me to barge in on "her" territory, I think.  She made (what I thought was) an obvious gesture to put up a fence around her territory.  She had heard me talking to the paddler behind her, giving that paddler some suggestions to improve her form.  The paddler thanked me, said that with those changes to her form she felt like she wasn't working as hard (a good thing).  Awesome, I said.

But with S on the bench in front of me (Why she chose that spot specifically, I don't know.  Maybe it wasn't a choice at all.), and another newbie on the bench with her, I'm guessing she felt... threatened? annoyed? And she asked M at the front of the boat if his wife was still going to be on the dock when we were done because "she's such an awesome teacher, and I'd like her to talk with newbie M here to give him some tips."

Interesting, I thought.  She obviously hears me giving my bench mate tips, she knows that I've coached a whole team for two years (and got them into Division One, thankyouveymuch), she knows that I'm on her team for the season and therefore available.  But she is choosing to make a public statement about preferring her friend (who has never been on this team, has never paddled with the newbie, and probably never will) as a coach.  Interesting.

I've never quite warmed to S.  She's loud and brash, qualities I can appreciate in others.  But there is something about her that, to me, points to the source of her brashness being Insecurity.  Insecurity that she either denies to herself or believes to not be there since it is well hidden behind that brashness.  "See, I'm completely confident in myself!  How else would I feel comfortable being so loud and bawdy in public!  I must be confident in myself!"  In my world, confidence is more often seen than noted as being there.  If you are confident, you don't need to point it out.

So what is going on with her blunt request to have M's wife give tips to newbies?  (Also, I'm not sure she realizes what that says about her faith in her own personal coaching abilities.)

Of course I took it personally.  Having just left a team for personal politics I was hoping to avoid more bullshit.  I'm not dedicated to this team - I suspect it will be a one-year run for me with them - and I have felt quite alone on the boat so far.  But it's apparently natural for me to want to help people improve when I can.  It's difficult for me to sit by and watch people paddle poorly, and to see that the coaches of this team aren't quite bringing those folks along.

"As well as I could" is the end to that sentence above, really, that I couldn't quite bring myself to include.  I know I can do a better job training new paddlers.  I've done it for years.  And I've seen the results.  So is it my ego that is needing some stroking?  I'm still hurting from the way I chose to leave my previous team.  I still feel under appreciated by the captains from that team.  So does my ego need to be fed?  Or am I better at training than S?

I know the answer to that: I'm better.  (Although I also know that my ego is feeling a bit under appreciated lately too.)

Driving home I thought about all this.  It occurred to me that I'm in a similar position at my job.  I know I'd be better than D at his position.  But that doesn't mean shit at the moment.  Better or not, I'm stymied, kept in the position where my skills aren't being used to their fullest extent.  Feels the same on the boat.  And I have S who is apparently actively working to make sure I don't make any contributions to the team.  But why?  Why would she block me and my actions if the end result would be an improved Dragon Boat team?  I don't want to take over her team (fuck no).  I'll be gone next year.  So why not use me while you've got me?

Because she's loud and brash.


This should have been published on the original date: 2/17/2016

Looking back at my posts since December, I have a few comments to make:

I'm pretty angry at the Ex.  He has continued to date (even traveling to a different state for a booty call), so he is avoiding his issues.  Idiot.

I've heard that he has continued to lie about things, even to close friends.  This seems to have done some damage to those relationships, but it hasn't destroyed them.  Yet.

He apparently told mutual friends that I had been getting "too serious" for him, and that was why he wanted to break up with me.  Ummm..... that's not quite accurate.  He was the one who was implying that he wanted to marry me - even before he was officially divorced.  I never pushed that issue, and even felt a bit surprised that he was thinking along those lines.  Another lie to make him look... what?  Like he was just protecting himself?

A friend called him a pathological liar.  I would not disagree at this point.

Which makes me question Every Fucking Word that came out of his mouth while we were dating.

Which just makes me feel the fool.  Which makes me angry at him.  And makes me realize that I need to watch my shit more closely.

At this point I do not miss the Ex.