Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Obliger life, part 1

The next couple of posts are pure navel-gazing. Avoid if you're not in the mood.

Reader Laurel first told me about Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies (and here is Gretchen Rubin's website). I was intrigued. I've told you before that I'm fascinated by personality types, frameworks like the Meyers-Briggs or DiSC that help me understand why I think and act the way I do. I went right over to read about them.

The Four Tendencies are fairly new--Rubin has been writing about them for a couple of years, but her book was just published last fall. The tendencies explain the way we respond to expectations, both our expectations of ourselves (inner expectations) and other people's expectations for us (outer expectations). Rubin has four categories: Upholder (meets both inner and outer expectations with relative ease), Questioner (meets inner expectations but questions expectations placed on them by others), Obliger (meets expectations placed on them by others, but has difficulty prioritizing their own internal expectations), and Rebel (refuses to be bound by either inner or outer expectations).

As a general framework, it's pretty damn helpful. I was surprised to find, after I took the test, that I am an Obliger. I've always thought of myself as a rebel--more on that next time--but once I got over the surprise, and the aversion to being an Obliger (because how boring is that), it helped me understand some things about myself that have never made sense to me.

Obligers shine when people are depending on them, expecting them to get things done. Obligers will knock themselves out to do what a boss/volunteer coordinator/teacher/trainer wants us to do, but left to our own devices, we wander aimlessly, unable to accomplish much of anything. So suddenly it made sense--for example--why I was so good at school and so bad at getting myself to write, back in the day when I was trying to write fiction. Because school is all about external expectations and writing a novel is all about motivating yourself to write.

And oh my lord do I wish Dean and I had known about this when our kids were younger. We could have saved ourselves years of wear and tear. I think Dean is mostly an Upholder. He is a stellar professional and member of our community, and he is stellar at taking care of himself. If he feels like he needs some exercise, he is going to get some exercise. He will not feel guilty about this and he will not be talked out of it— in fact, he will be entirely cheerful and positive in his insistence that he will be a better husband and father if he gets some exercise. (and it's true, he is.)

But when our kids were small, I did not understand this. To me, it seemed selfish in the extreme to come home from work after I'd had a long day with the kids and immediately insist that he needed more time away because he had to get some exercise. But since I am an Obliger, and Obligers are all about doing what other people expect us to do, for the most part, I went along with it and internally seethed. (which, of course, leaked out, as he would tell you if he were here.)

But the flip side is understanding his reaction to me, because it seemed to me that he was never supportive of my need for time away from the kids. I kept waiting for him to say, OK, now it's your turn. Have fun, we'll see you in a couple of hours. And he rarely did. But I kept waiting. As an Obliger, I wanted him to tell me: you need some time to yourself. Go take a break. It is surprisingly difficult for me to make my own needs a priority, but if he told me to do it, it would be easy.

But in his mind--because he didn't know any of this either-- if it was important for me to have some time away from the kids, I would just do it, because that's what he does. Since I didn't do it, it must have seemed to him that it wasn't important to me. I get this now. I'm still not sure I like it. But knowing about the tendencies gives me a way to understand him that I didn't have at the time, which would have really helped me make sense of the dynamic between us, and given me a better framework for reacting with less blaming/judging.

Another thing Rubin explains about Obligers is the idea of obliger rebellion. Because after an Obliger has met expectations and met expectations and met expectations, suddenly they are DONE. They will quit practically in mid-sentence because NO MORE. It has occurred to me that I am in Lifetime Obliger Rebellion. More about that later, too.

So all in all, I am a big fan of the tendencies, because they've been helpful in ways that feel pretty huge. I find myself thinking about myself and the people around me and the tendencies more often than I would have expected.  I highly recommend reading about them, either at her website or in the book.

But part of the reason I think about them so often is because they don't always fit, and it seems to me if I could just figure out the bits that don't fit, that would be even more helpful to me. So additional thoughts about this are coming in Part Two. If you can stand another post full of navel-gazing, come back later this week.

(Sorry this didn't make it up yesterday, there was a small unavoidable delay.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

7ToT: just because I can.

No sign of spring around here :-(
1. Thankful doesn't even begin to describe my feeling about heading south next week for some time away from winter. I am ready for a break--and bonus! both kids are joining us. The entire time that PellMel was in undergrad/grad school and MadMax was in junior high/high school, they did not have the same spring break. But this year Mel has a job, and could request a specific week off, and she got it. Every time the four of us get to do something together I wonder if it is the last time we'll do it. Will we ever have another week-long vacation with just the four of us? Maybe or maybe not, but I'm thankful for this one.

2. Since I wasn't blogging last year, you didn't have to live through my decision to get a job, and then the process of trying to find a job that met my fairly strict requirements, and then wait to get an interview, and then wait to hear back, etc etc etc. (We watched The King and I this week so you have to imagine me saying et cetera, et cetera, et cetera with Yul Brynner inflection.) When I heard about my current job, I couldn't believe my luck-- a relatively interesting job that was a one-year position. Perfect!

3. I knew I didn't want to work long term, I just needed something to be my bridge over an unsettled period in our lives (new empty nesters, Dean had a new job, etc etc etc)(sorry). I hate having to quit a job-- it feels like you're letting people down, even when you're leaving for the best of reasons-- so having one that had its endpoint defined before it even began seemed like a gift from heaven.

4. Then about three months after I started, my manager came in one day and said she'd gone to work on the HR folks and convinced them that our positions should be made permanent. My co-workers were thrilled! But I was not. That was the whole point of taking this job. So I had to go through the whole thing of deciding whether or not I really wanted to quit (yes, I did), and getting up the nerve to actually do it. (I made myself not type etc etc etc right there.) And I did. So my last day is April 19th. Not so far off, especially since I'm going to be out next week.

5. Remember when I was doing Weight Watchers? It was a period of my life when I could not bring myself to exercise, but once I got the hang of counting points, WW worked pretty well for me. I lost 15+ pounds, and with minor fluctuations, kept it off for a couple of years. But this winter, it started to creep back on. I've made three valiant efforts to get back into counting points, but even with their new system (which I really like), I just can't seem to get myself to do it.

6. When I had success with it before, I did it almost entirely without exercising, other than going for walks once or twice a week. So this time I decided to reverse my method. Instead of counting points, I'm trying to be sensible about what I eat but step up the physical activity (and when you're at pretty much zero, that's not hard to do). We'll see if this works. I'd like to lose another ten pounds, but even if I don't, at least I want to keep my hard-fought WW loss off.

7. I want to talk some more in future posts about Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies, so if you haven't done it yet, take her quiz sometime so you'll know what I'm talking about. The quiz is here, and a brief explanation/example of the four tendencies is here. There's also a book and videos and probably coffee mugs and tote bags. I'm not entirely won over, but it's given me lots to think about. It's a great way to get a new take on how you look at yourself and the people around you.

So, that's it for me for now. This week is getting pretty crazy so I may not post again until after we get back from vacation. I hope spring is springing wherever you are.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Apparently this blog break is going to last longer than I thought. I had two different sets of posts in my head, but at the moment, they both feel like they need more work, and you'd probably rather not read drivel in the meantime.

Once small story before I go, which was going into a 7Things post at some point. I ran into a woman I've known socially since our children were small, but we don't know each other well--just the kind of thing where we'd see each other at PTA meetings or whatever. Now we run into each other every once in awhile and wave or say a quick hi. This particular time we were in a waiting room together, so we ended up chatting for five or ten minutes, longer than I've talked to her in more than a decade (and actually, maybe ever).

Random picture included because always have a picture! 
We updated each other on our kids and talked about what we'd been up to, and I could see in her face and in her body language that she was building up what I was saying into something much different than what I meant. I could see her thinking she's got it all together. She's successful at life. She knows what she's doing. I'm a failure, I'm a mess, I can't measure up.  I could watch it happening, but I don't know her nearly well enough to say anything.

No big news or wisdom to impart, because it mainly served to make me think about how often I do that, too. I see someone, and without knowing what's going on in her life or the real details, use her life to prove to myself that I'm a mess, I haven't accomplished anything, I should be doing more/better. 

Probably all of us have been down that rabbit hole every once in awhile.

Let's not do that. Just saying.


(p.s. I took that picture of the owl, can you believe it? Our neighborhood adolescent owls were acting strangely one day last summer when a thunderstorm was approaching.)

Friday, February 16, 2018

7ToF: Sugar, Marriage, and the Mystery of Washi Tape

1. I've tried several food crazes over the years, and none of them has made much of a difference in my health. But here is the one thing that does make me feel better: avoiding sugar. Not carbs in general, because in spite of the fact that all the nutrition gurus say that fruit, white flour, etc. are metabolized by your body in exactly the same way as refined sugar, fruit and white flour don't make me feel sick. But if I eat a big piece of cake or a bunch of cookies, I feel awful.

2. Why is it so hard to avoid sugar? People make their special sugar-y treats and their feelings are hurt if you don't have one. Or the entire office breaks out in an orgy of chocolate for Valentine's, and you're not any fun if you refuse. I would be more than happy to just go to the office party and not have any, but people seriously want you to have some treats. They do not feel neutral about this in the same way that you might feel neutral when you know someone avoids gluten or cheese or animal products.

3. Which is not to say that I'm not tempted. I have a terrible sweet tooth. I could eat a whole plate of cookies, and I've done it before. But I pay for it later, and the older I get and the more my metabolism slows down, the worse it gets. I'm working on this--both my own food choices, and dealing with the choices people want to make for me. I need to come up with some snappy, self-deprecating one-liners to sub in for no, I do not want to eat 2,500 calories of candy before lunch today. It's a strange thing about sugar-y treats that sometimes you have to choose between being kind and your own health.

4. Recommended: If you've been married for a long time, track down the Big Boo Cast podcast and listen to episodes 93 and 94. The Big Boo Cast is run by two women writers that I've been listening to off and on for years. It's always fun-- they just sit and gab, and it's like eavesdropping on the next table at a coffee shop. But their discussion about what it's like to be married for a long time is even better than usual-- it's down-to-earth, hilarious, and wise. I've been married way longer than either of them but I couldn't give you any better advice.

5. I've been looking around for awhile now for a craft project of some sort that I could do in the evenings while we watch TV or listen to an audiobook. I am hopelessly Not Crafty, so there is no simple answer to this--anything that requires a glue gun or a complicated three-page pattern is not going to work. A couple of months ago I read about washi tape somewhere. Washi tape is small rolls of beautifully printed tape that you can use to do various crafty things with. Stock up and check Pinterest for dozens of ideas of what to do! they said.

This isn't even all of it.
6. So I'm thinking: tape. I can do tape. Scissors and tape, that's kindergarten stuff. So I bought a bunch of washi tape--it's everywhere, Target, Michael's, various websites--and it is pretty. Tiny, but there are some really interesting color and design combinations. And then I went and checked out Pinterest for what to do with it.

7. Here's what you can do: Wrap your pencils. Fold it over the edge of a notebook page to color code your pages. Wrap the stems of silk flowers. Whaaaaat? That's it? Do you guys know what to do with it? I have a bunch, all dressed up and nowhere to go. Next time remind me to check Pinterest first.

Friday, February 9, 2018


Here’s the thing about blogging. When I started (back in 2003, which when you think about it is a really long time ago, both in terms of years and cultural shifts), blogs were an obscure new idea. Hardly anyone had one, and there were no rules about what you could do. You just wrote posts and put them out there, and maybe people found your blog and maybe they didn’t. Thousands of people started blogs and then quit after half a dozen posts. A few hit the big time, and a few, like me, kept going just because they liked it.

Then six or seven years ago, there was a major shift in the “blogosphere.” Suddenly blogs became a thing, part of your Branding Strategy, and journalists and writers and Internet personalities all started blogging. There started to be rules—spoken and unspoken—about what you should blog about, how often you should post, how long the posts should be. Always include a picture! Keep your paragraphs short! Have a theme!

A lot of very good blogs started during this time period, blogs I still follow. But there didn’t seem to be a place anymore for bloggers like me, who don’t have a brand or an online presence or a following. I just like to write about what I’m thinking about, and I like to put it out there instead of shoving it in a drawer.

The blog branding wave seems to be subsiding, at least in part because doing a major branded blog like that is nearly impossible to do by yourself. (Especially if you don't like to write. Why would someone start a blog if they don't like to write?) Even the ones that started small have folded or become group blogs with multiple writers, “sponsored” posts, advertisements, and associate links to make them financially viable.

I have no complaints about this. I read some of those blogs regularly (and some of them, like Melanie Shankle’s and Anne Bogel’s, are still run by individuals). I’m happy for them that they’re able to make a living doing it. But I’m also happy that the Eye of the Internet seems to have moved on to other things so that there is less pressure to blog in a certain way, and the peons like me can keep doing what we like to do, which is writing what we’re thinking about and posting it.

It is a little difficult sometimes to keep going when you’re writing a blog that hasn’t “caught on,” because there is so much value in our society placed on success as measured by numbers. But I’m used to that, and that isn’t why I ended up not posting this past week.

Nope, I took a blog break this week because I read some opinion pieces about the Emmys, and watched some videos of new artists whose work they felt was unfairly ignored by the Emmy voters. And I realized with very great clarity how hopelessly irrelevant I have become, sitting in my 3-bed, 2-bath house, married to a man who makes enough money that I can choose whether or not to work, unworried about drive-by shootings or whether or not our heat will be turned off because I couldn't pay the bill.

I am that supremely inconsequential thing, an over-educated, financially stable, middle-aged, straight married white woman. Women in my demographic are pretty much the opposite of Influencers (a term I only read about this week). It’s both humbling to realize that my people no longer matter and also enormously freeing because I don’t have to worry about trying to be relevant or influential—it’s not going to happen, and the harder I try, the more I prove that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I don’t know how other people are living out there, and the contentious issues that are facing our society are not ones that directly impact me. I can discuss them as an interested observer, even as a passionately opinionated observer, but it's not about me. I mean, seriously— I can write about my experiences with sexual harassment when I was younger, but frumpy 56-year-olds don't worry about it. (apologies for the way that was worded previously. I was trying to be funny but it missed.)

Sadly, the main way that women in my demographic make their presence known is as consumers. Unsettling, that is. We wield a lot of cash. (Insert here Kathy Bates' parking lot rage scene from Fried Green Tomatoes. I'd link to it but I'm pretty sure you've all seen it. It pops right up on Google if you haven't.)

All of this leaves open the possibility that I could quit blogging. But as you know, I’ve quit plenty of times before and I always start again. Maybe I limit my topics to things that directly affect me and those of you who read here. Maybe I just keep going with better awareness and a more humble attitude, feeling grateful that I live in a place and a time when I can do this just because I find it satisfying, and I like to write. And extra grateful that a few of you take the time to read it.

Friday, February 2, 2018

7ToF: Punxsutawney Phil, weather prophet extraordinaire, will have done his thing by the time you read this

1. I swear January lasted three months. I am so happy it's February. For one thing, February is the month that Dean has his birthday, and since he is five months older than I am, it marks the start of the annual give-Dean-sh!t-about-being-older-than-me-a-thon.

2. So now that it's February, the first month of my experiment with limiting social media and internet time is over.  I like this-- not reading the news until late in the day, limiting social media to weekends and occasional evenings, and not having games on my phone. Getting rid of my games has actually been the hardest part. They say it takes three weeks to form a new habit (or, presumably, break an old one), but after a month, I still really miss my games. For some perverse reason that is making me think I should keep going until I get over it. We'll see how long it takes.

3. Celeste Ng's new book, Little Fires Everywhere, has been in my queue at the library ebook website for months. It was Amazon's #1 fiction book of the year last year. It has blazingly high reviews. I really liked her last book, Everything I Never Told You. I've been looking forward to reading it for months, and when it finally became available, I was ready to clear out my schedule.

4. It starts out well-- a woman is standing in front of her McMansion in a wealthy suburb of Cleveland watching it burn down. Forty pages into it, I was completely hooked. But then it started to feel... predictable. And then the characters started to seem like types instead of individuals. And then it started to seem less like a novel and more like a lecture. About the time I hit 65%, I realized, I hate this book. I skimmed through to the end and gave it two stars on Goodreads. Extremely disappointing.

5. One of several strands of the story is the difficult relationship between a mom and her teenage daughter. We saw Lady Bird last weekend, and it made me realize how good that movie really was. We were impressed with it when we saw it in the theater, but reading Little Fires, which has a sort-of similar situation between two characters who are practically clich├ęs, made me realize how fully realized the complex characters were in Lady Bird. (apologies for the convoluted sentence but hopefully you figured it out.) Good movie. Not always easy to watch.

6. Did you know that it is now acceptable to use "hopefully" in the sense of "it is to be hoped"? For a long time that was one of those English teacher pet peeves--you were only supposed to use "hopefully" when you meant something was filled with hope, like the expression on your dog's face when he looks at you hopefully, expecting a treat. You were not supposed to use it the way I did in the previous paragraph. But the times, they change. I went looking for a source to back that up and discovered that the AP Style Guide changed its opinion on "hopefully" back in 2012, so I'm late. No surprise.

7. Super Bowl Schmuper Bowl. I was hoping that the Vikings would make it-- I don't care about the Vikings, but we have friends who do, and I could root vicariously for them. But two teams from the northeast-- just can't bring myself to care. However, we're having friends over to watch the commercials and the half-time show, plus eat lots of food, so maybe we will have fun anyway.

And that's more than enough from me. I may not be posting next week, so have a good one.

Monday, January 29, 2018

observation one of two

I've been doing at least a little bit of cross-reading of the news in the last year or so (meaning, I've been trying to read some conservative sources along with my usual liberal-slanted favorites). And something occurred to me recently. You can predictably guess how a story will play on either side, so there's not much of a surprise there. I think a more interesting difference is in how either side reports on the other side's extremes. You know-- how the conservatives report on liberal extremists, how the liberals report on conservative extremists. Because in each case, the media tries to make it sound like the other side's extremes are normal, at the same time that they have a huge blind spot when it comes to their own extremists.

For example, the liberal media reports on white supremacists, and their conclusion is: see? this is what conservatives are like. Even if they say they disagree, they are still allowing white supremacists to find a home in their party. But I suspect that most conservatives have no idea what the white supremacists are up to, because Fox News never talks about them. I bet my two readers who are conservatives would be unable to tell you who Richard Spencer is, but Richard Spencer shows up in my newsfeed regularly.

And conversely, a conservative relative of mine posted a story about liberal protesters at a university trying to break up a peaceful meeting of a conservative student group. My relative was incensed that liberals were getting away with this clear violation of freedom of speech, but among liberals, it seems like an insignificant one-off, because the liberal news media never reports on that stuff. That hardly ever happens, liberals think. It's not nearly as big a deal as racism or homophobia. And yet there's plenty of evidence that particularly on college campuses, conservative voices are being ridiculed, harassed, and even suppressed. Conservative news sources make it sound like this happens all the time; liberal news sources rarely talk about it.

I don't think there's any way to change this, it's just the way social media news feeds function these days. But I think it can help to be aware of it. Your news feed may not be feeding you straight-up lies, but it might be leaving stuff out, the disturbing things about your own side that you don't want to hear.

I was going to put both of my observations in one post but this one turned out to be longer than I expected (OF COURSE), so I will save "observation two of two" for another time.

Friday, January 26, 2018

7ToF: what a weird world we live in

1. Hello, people. I could list all the things that happened that resulted in the title of this week's 7ToF post, but I don't need to. We're all living through this. The good thing is that I think everybody is noticing this comrade-in-arms friendship that has sprung up, even between strangers with opposing views. Maybe eventually we will come out of this OK. I don't think it's going to be any time soon.

2. Remeber back in December when I said that my reading challenge for myself for this year would be to knock one book off my longstanding TBR list each month? The idea was to concentrate on actual physical books that I've had for years. Yeah, well, it hasn't happened yet this month. There are several reasons for that, but I haven't given up on the challenge yet. Stay tuned.

3. Part of the problem is that there are (were) several ebooks in my queue at our library's website that I'd been waiting for that became available this month. So I had to get my queue cleared out. There are still a few there, but not nearly as many as there were. I've got a couple to finish in the next two weeks, but I should be able to move on by mid-Feb.

4. One of the books that I cleared out of my queue was Columbine by David Cullen. It's fascinating and absorbing and disturbing. It's about the school shooting, of course, but it's also about the media and teenagers and mob thinking. Sadly, it turned out to be timely with two more school shootings this week. I don't know what the answer is, but I do feel a little better educated. If it's a topic you can stand (Dean declined to read it), highly recommended.

5. I'm not teaching my short story class this spring. Teaching while working was just too much. My job is a one-year position, so it will be over in April. I will probably start teaching again next fall. But in honor of the class I'm not teaching this spring, here are my favorite short stories from the past four years of teaching this class: "Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son," by Kurt Vonnegut; "Today Will be a Quiet Day" by Amy Hempel; D'Arcy McNickle "Hard Riding"; Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"; Tobias Wolff, "Bible"; Elizabeth Gilbert, "Elk Talk"; anything by Edith Pearlman or John Updike (not a huge fan of his novels but his short stories are amazing). I'm looking over the lists of stories we've done and there are so many good ones. "Walking Out" by David Quammen, "Roman Fever" by Edith Wharton. I could just keep going and going.

6. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I gave my family a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10 for being environmentally aware? Yeah, well, as soon as I posted that, I started noticing a bunch of ways that we could pretty easily do better. The first and simplest was to dig out the cloth napkins I bought years ago and ditch the paper ones.

7. If you never see your landfill this may seem a little silly to you, but I drive past our landfill at least a couple of times a month and (for once I'm not being snide when I say this) I'm not making this up-- it's frightening how much that landfill has grown in the 15 years we've lived on the north side of our town. Back then, you couldn't see it when you drove by. Now it's like a butte or a plateau or something looming up in the background. Paper napkins may not make much difference, but little changes can add up to bigger ones. I hope. I don't know what else we can do but do what we can.

And on that note, let me just wish you a nice weekend. Sorry to be a downer. This was a rough week.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

let's talk about tea

The problem for me with posting on controversial topics is that I always regret it. But once I've started, I feel like I have to see it through, and then I just want the whole thing to go away.

So now I'm posting about tea.

About ten years ago, I realized I was going through the day with an upset stomach. And then I noticed that if I didn't have my coffee until late, the upset stomach didn't start until late. Finally--you'd be surprised how long this took--I figured out that I needed to quit drinking coffee. 

Switching to tea was the obvious solution, but you know, tea doesn't have that same bite that coffee does. It took a looooooong time for me to make the switch to being a happy tea drinker.

Then, being an obsessive sort, I started the search for my favorite tea. I've tried more kinds of tea than I can count--green, white, black, red, herbal, fruit. All of them are OK, and I still drink all of them occasionally, but for morning, for me, only black breakfast tea will do.

I've tried Stash, Taylors, Twinings, Bigelow, Republic of Tea, Celestial Seasoning, local brands, and probably others I can't remember. I'll decide I've found the best one, but then I'll hear about something else and off I go again.

So in case you ever have to go through this yourself, I'll save you a few steps by telling you what I've learned.

Tea is so individual, there's really no point to making a recommendation. Even more than coffee, I think, people like what they like. I would drink a mediocre cup of coffee back in the day, but I'll go without rather than drink a tea I don't like (for example, Earl Grey--can't stand it).

For the record, I switch between Taylors Scottish Breakfast and Yorkshire Gold. Amazingly, they are both available in grocery stores here in Montana. I don't add sweetener, but I do add milk (plain soymilk for me, which I know some object to strenuously, but it works for me). 

It definitely makes a difference to pre-warm your cup, even if you all you use is hot tap water.

If you want it stronger, use more tea-- steeping it longer makes it bitter. But ymmv-- I said that to a friend, and she said she never takes the tea bag out.

I've read that using re-boiled water decreases the flavor of your tea, but I've never been able to tell the difference on that one.

I still get annoyed at how long it takes to make a cup of tea. I've got an electric kettle, so I start the water heating, use hot tap water to warm the cup, then once the water boils, dump out the tap water, pour boiling water over the tea bag, let it steep for four minutes. I use a timer, because otherwise I either get impatient and don't let it steep long enough, or I forget about it and come back to a stone cold cup.

The whole thing takes about 7 or 8 minutes, which is considerably longer than the olden days when Dean would run a pot of coffee when he got up and then I could just pour my cup when I got up.

I guess that tells you exactly how much patience I have. I do try sometimes to relax and enjoy the ritual, but usually I just want a damn cup of tea.

Finally, finally, in the last six months or so, I've started craving tea. I guess now, instead of being a coffee drinker who is settling for second best, I'm offically a tea drinker. At least I'm in good company (i.e., practically the entire United Kingdom).

You can’t get a cup of tea big enough
     or a book long enough to suit me. – C. S. Lewis

Saturday, January 20, 2018

rage, not so much, part 2

My first job after I left grad school in 1985 was at an office of 50ish people. I was 24, and I'd been married about a year. There were about a dozen of us who were young and, for lack of a better term, fun. I had been miserable in grad school, so I was like a kid let out for recess. We teased and flirted and went out for drinks. (The story about the softball team came from this era.) Most of us were married, and we included our spouses on various outings, but we also did things without them. 

Even with the flirting and the teasing, I never felt uncomfortable or coerced, and I hope no one ever felt that from me. There were guys I was attracted to, but part of being married is knowing you're attracted and not acting on it. It was a lot of fun, but it was, at least in my mind, just that: fun.

Except for the time one guy (married) made a comment that made it clear to me that he would like to have more than just a friendly relationship. It felt different. I was definitely uncomfortable.

It's a small example, and he backed off so I didn't even have to do anything about it. I'm lucky. The point I'm trying to make is that there are attractions and flirtations and teasing that no one is worried about. But there is a different feel to it in certain circumstances, and like I said last time, I'm not sure I can define exactly what makes the difference. 

But I can tell you how frustrating, maddening, and enraging it is when you try to talk to one of the good guys about it, and he immediately becomes defensive and angry, and misses the point. The reason why I can tell you this is BECAUSE I KNOW YOU AREN'T LIKE THAT. I know YOU aren't sexually harassing me. That's why I'm talking to you. You're not, but THIS OTHER GUY IS.

It's not easy to talk about this stuff. Our culture values stoicism: kids that don't whine, employees who get their work done without complaining, friends who see the positive. You may have kept a stiff upper lip, worked without complaining, and maintained a positive attitude for years, but the minute you make a complaint, there are those who will dismiss you as a whiner.

For these people, as soon as you say "look, there's a problem," no matter how carefully you word it, you no longer deserve to be heard. You can be ignored, because you just have a bad attitude. So you know what? If you're in charge, consider the source. If this is someone who is usually a team player, rarely complains, and one day something is bothering them: maybe you should LISTEN. In fact, maybe you should try listening, period. With everybody.

OK, I think I've re-written this one enough times that I'm comfortable with posting it. For the record, I know my small, minor experiences with sexual harassment are hardly enough to worry about (although I didn't mention the worst ones, but even saying that, I don't need or expect sympathy). 

Also, for those of you who know us in real life, the healthcare professional I mentioned in the previous post was not associated with Dean's organization.

Edited (AGAIN) to add a link to an article on Bust that says (in part) what I'm trying to say but she says it better and also takes it much further. I don't have the experience she has-- I was that rarity, a virgin until my wedding night (not hard to do when you're raised conservatively and get married at 22). But that's another topic entirely. Forewarning/trigger warning: it has even more bad language than I used in the previous post, and it is at times difficult to read.