Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Love(d) my job.

*Written 01/26/2012, publication delayed for professional reasons*

Everyone has been through a break-up or five. Or six. Some are awful and leave you bleeding for months, others are a simple snip-and-gone, but more and more of us are dealing with an entirely new kind of break-up, one we didn’t see coming, one that cuts to the quick. None of us has any experience, so how do we get over our careers?

While I’m still mourning my loss, still being accidentally dialed by my old co-workers, I’m ‘dating’ again. I’ve been on all the job dating sites, sent out zillions of resumes, and gone on a few ‘first date interviews’, and I have the highly anticipated mightily dreaded second interview coming up in a few days. Now, I’m not what people would consider a stick-in-the-mud. Change and adaptation are long time companions for someone who has moved, changed jobs, and replanted gardens in so many different soils, but this is hard. Of all the jobs I have applied for, this one is the best fit, the best combination of pay, hours, and benefits. Yet at half what I was making before, I am having trouble finding my gratitude for a job I don’t even have, and desperately need, which brought me to the realization that I’m not over my old job.

You see, I’d found The Job a few years back. The one from which you expect to retire. It was no great shakes, I wasn’t running the space program, but it suited me. I enjoyed my work and made enough money to see a modest but stable future, and I was content. Then, as for so many others, the bottom fell out. I’ve spent the last year looking for a ‘get by’ job, and am now facing a second interview for a job I only kinda want, because what I really want is my old life back.

All of this has brought to the fore the fact that we have to take job loss seriously not just for financial reasons, but for emotional reasons. They can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten. Most of us spend more of our waking hours at work than anyplace else, and the loss of that job, that life, has to be mourned, processed, and worked through if we are to have a successful relationship with our new workplace. So before I go into my second interview, I need to drop some baggage, commiserate with friends, erase my preconceptions, delete some phone numbers, and move on, broken heart and all.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chivalry? Thanks, But No Thanks.

This issue has been cropping up for a long time, but it was brought freshly to mind today when an overeager teenage bagger swept up my two small bags of groceries and tried to make off with them. He certainly hadn’t done that for the four bags of the customer before me, in fact, he hadn’t even offered to take those bags out. I can only assume this is because the last customer was a man.
First let me say that I get that most of you are being gentlemen. I applaud the good manners and respect that we can show each other with a few standard phrases and actions, but it’s long past time for an update, and perhaps a few thoughts on why women say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
I have often gotten disgruntled looks for refusing ‘help’ from men when lugging stuff up & down stairs, doing yard work, carrying groceries, etc.  I am surprised by how frequently am pressured by both men and women to get or submit to ‘help’ from men, and I am left feeling I’ve been rude not to take assistance I don’t want or need. Why turn away a friendly gesture?
  1. because I don’t actually need the assistance. I am healthy and in fairly good shape and doing things for myself helps me stay that way.
  2. the world being what it is today, any offer of help to a woman from an unknown male is going to be greeted with suspicion by any safety-conscious female. 
  3. many of the offers feel vaguely disparaging.
How can an offer of help be disparaging? Sometimes it is the context, after all, would you ask a man checking his oil or re-threading a weed-whacker if he needed help? It can be the tone, the manner, the words, but so many offers of or agreement to help sound an awful lot like ‘let someone more qualified handle that’, and then I am left ticked off by what should have been a friendly gesture, not a patronizing act of belittlement. If it seems like I’m being oversensitive, you might want to keep in mind that every single feminine word is used as an insult when men are speaking to each other. I gotta say, that doesn’t feel good.
On the occasions when I could use a hand with a two person job, I feel an awkward hesitation in asking men for help, especially in the workplace. Not only have my requests often met with boastful proclamations of superiority thinly frosted with humor, the ‘help’ too frequently turns into the man trying to take leadership of the task. Needing help to accomplish something doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have the abilities or knowledge to carry it out, only that it requires more than one person to do so. Why is it that men can ‘pitch in’, ‘be a team player’, or ‘lend a hand’ for other men, but women are being ‘rescued’? I would dearly love to know, because though I have a thousand ways of politely saying ‘no thank you’,  ‘yes please’ can feel like a gender failure.
All that being said, please and thank you never go out of style, and I’ll keep letting you open doors for me, but don’t be surprised when I open them for you too.