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Sewing is political. It’s something I enjoy, and a skill I use to make the things I don’t get an opportunity to purchase in stores. It’s not especially cheap, especially when it comes down to time, but it can save cash money. I would never sew as a job because the honest truth is that most people can not or will not pay the true cost of a hand made garment, but then again… we’ve all got to wear clothes as per our unspoken agreement with society, so what are we to wear if we can’t pay domestic designers and machinists? Criticising and shaming poor fat people for wearing cheap clothing produced in questionable (and often outright awful) working conditions is futile because there are few other options, and telling poor fat people the last resort is to sew their own clothes is flat out bullshit.
It’s the same argument as ‘see, this bean casserole is cheaper than McDonalds! Well, sure, if you have time and energy to soak the beans, and grow your own spinach or whatever else is in the recipe as ‘easy’. Yes, it’s easy, as a task by itself. But if you have absolutely anything else going on in your life, it gets added to the pile of Things. I mean, if you have an illness, physical or mental, if you have children or a full time job with a long commute, or you’ve been eating goddamn beans for a goddamn week, if you see another goddamn one of the rotters you’re going to snap, that’s it, I don’t care, we’re taking the kids to McDonalds for dinner. (This was the issue, incidentally, that I had with ‘Frugavore’)
Sure, we all know that Maccas, and clothes from Kmart, are no good for us or for the environment or society or all the other things. But they are valid choices a lot of the time. Personally, I’m reaching the end of my ‘tshirt and jeans are your only options’ tether. I know the issues of fit, cost, quality and ethical production are there for every size person. They just get emphasised as you go up in size. I want to acknowledge that, while there is a special kind of frustration to being the size I am, I still have my fair share of thin privilege. It’s frustrating to not be able to fit into anything in straight sized stores, AND to be too small for plus sized ones. It’s frustrating to look at the racks in an op shop and know that there might be ONE thing there that will fit me, if I care to sift through a hundred garments, and then I probably won’t like it. But one is more than none, and there is a lot of stuff that people larger than me have to negotiate that I don’t have to spare any thought for.
I’m just hoping that my sewing skills can improve fast enough to make sewing my own clothes more of a viable option before my current wardrobe starts to fall to bits. Because the pickings are slim out there, to the point of not being worth the time to pick them over, but I gotta clothe my nakedness somehow! And I’d prefer it to be with clothes I like and feel good in.
People seriously think it’s ok to compare food, which WE NEED TO LIVE, to drugs?
Ok, McDonalds isn’t exactly the fountain of youth. We all know this. And don’t even get me started on the many conflated ideas in the slogan ‘Childhood Obesity: Break the Habit’. (Being fat is just a habit, you guys, if I were just more organised, I’d remember where I put that Thin I know I had just a minute ago… wait, let me check behind the couch.) And don’t get me started EVEN MORE on the classist assumptions buried in this. If you are cash or time poor, fast food is actually a pretty good option, sometimes.
Look, I’m not saying we should be encouraging junk food. But basically this ad is saying that junk food is bad because it makes you fat. So it’s ok for thin people to eat junk food, is that right? Just so we’re clear? It’s only REALLY bad for you and dangerous, and might kill your children in a creepy, forcing it on them way, if they are hideous and FAT. No?
I don’t think I can emphasise this enough. WE NEED FOOD TO LIVE.
First, let me tell you a story. I promise it will be relevant later. Twice! (Photos unrelated, except that this is a post all about ME. And so are the photos.)
When I was a kid I did ballet in a little hall in a nothing much town in the hills. I wasn’t very good at it, but I would only have been about 5, so that wasn’t really the point. I didn’t love it, but it was fun. I wasn’t super enamoured of the dances we did and clearly these were all Neat Girls and I was the scruffy one, but I got to be a woodland animal, so I could deal (they already had too many fairies – fine by me). I didn’t like the attention being on me and being watched physically doing things that I wasn’t very good at (still an issue - I HATE going dancing or participating in other activities where I might be physically embarrassed) but it was ok. I did it for almost a year and I quit just before the major performance.
I quit because of the stockings.
I had what I now realise were minor sensory issues, mostly around my feet, which is really common for kids, although I also couldn’t handle anything around my neck (as in, I would have a minor breakdown, couldn’t handle.). I could not (still can’t) handle having the seam of a sock pulling on my toes or sitting under my toes. Can. Not. Handle it. I will take my shoes off on the bus to fix this. I really should just start wearing my socks inside out.
I can’t handle it when socks get long and baggy and pooch out at the heel and there’s all this extra fabric. I cannot handle shoes with tongues, especially on my right foot. I have to tie them SUPER tight so they are snug around my feet, and then I have to stop every five minutes or so and adjust the tongue of the shoe so it sits just right. Even if it was already sitting just right. And I HAD to do it, even though I was aware that it made me look ridiculous.
I would have screaming arguments with my mother over socks. I fold them down. She wanted me to pull them all the way up. I was not ok with this for two reasons: they then got all saggy and poochy and they also constricted my ankle. And I hated it as much as you would hate it if someone got a piece of hot metal and wrapped it around your leg. That is the level of discomfort I am talking. So I would fold them down. And then we would argue about it. SCREAMING ARGUMENTS. And we had the same ones about stockings. It would take me forever to put them on. And then they would always be twisted. And then they had to have the same tension all the way up my legs. And then of course we would be late and my mother would be cross because she didn’t even WANT to take me to ballet, she was DOING THIS FOR ME and WHY COULDN’T I PUT ON MY DAMN STOCKINGS and ARE YOU DOING THIS ON PURPOSE?
I am wearing stockings today, and it took me about 10 extra minutes to get dressed, while I took them off and put them back on again, trying to get the legs on straight. I am 26. It takes me 10 minutes to work out stockings.
This is not a diatribe to tell you how broken I am and how you should pity me (SRS I promise, it becomes relevant. Twice!) It’s just that as an anxious 5 year old, that was not a fun thing. Add to that the thought of being put on a stage to do something I didn’t think I was very good at and have lots of strange people looking at me? Halfway through one argument, I sobbed that I didn’t want to do ballet anymore. And so I didn’t.
And so, on to the cookies!
Cookie the first:
Is me. I am one. A smart one.
I have about three half-written blog posts about how bad I am at accepting compliments. Accepting compliments is something I have actually been working quite hard to get better at. First up, you should go to this post on the Pursuit of Harpyness and read the links there that give some excellent background on how I have been trying to think about this stuff lately. And I don’t do too bad. When someone says ‘did you make that? It looks great!’ I say ‘thankyou, I worked really hard and I like how it turned out’ and I try really hard not to say ‘well, the sleeves are a bit short and it fits a bit funny in the waist, and there a gajillion other ways in which I am IMPERFECT’ or ‘are you mocking me ARE YOU MOCKING ME???’. If someone says ‘I like your hair!’ I say ‘thanks, me too!’ and if my boss says ‘you’re doing really well learning your new job’ I say… ok I admit it, I said ‘well, I haven’t fucked anything up too badly yet’. But I’m trying.
So, ok, lapses aside I don’t deflect or argue too often about things. I am sometimes really uncomfortable NOT qualifying a compliment, but with a few notable exceptions in particular areas I usually resist. Those areas appear to be: being a Good Person, and being smart.
I constantly tell people that I am a bitch. I do this for lots of really complicated reasons that I haven’t untangled yet and probably will never get to the bottom of, which is why it is still a behaviour I engage in. The most obvious is that it lets me off the hook from a lot of social niceties that I think are dumb. And in fact, it allows me to own OTHER good things about myself without apologising – because I have already said I am a bitch, so people can’t be surprised that I am not being ‘polite’ by insisting that actually, everything I ever do is shit.
I do it because I don’t like to lie. As a kid I lied a lot. This is related to being smart (smart kids lie better and earlier) and also related to the fact that my mother was emotionally abusive, as you might have gotten a hint of from my lead-in story. This fact (the emotional abuse) is something I have only gotten ok with putting a name to recently. There is another heartfelt post about that for you to look forward to, as well. Anyway, kids of emotionally abusive parents lie. They lie a lot. They lie by default, even when there’s not an obvious reason to lie, right now. They lie to make the world a better, safer place for themselves and also to make their unpredictable parent more predictable, to play damage controller. But I don’t like lying, it takes too much energy and also it sucks, so I don’t. So if someone says to me ‘do you like me’ and I don’t, I will probably say ‘no’. I wouldn’t walk UP to someone and say ‘I don’t like you’. I would consider myself a passive bitch rather than an active one. But still… apparently it is not nice to admit that sometimes you don’t like certain people.
I also tell people that I am a bitch because I was taught that I am. I was taught that I deliberately disregard what other people need and want, because I am selfish and ignorant and arrogant. This is plainly not true. But as the sock story illustrates (see! Relevant!), my mother considered her subjective experience to be far more important than mine. And folks, let me tell you, her subjective experience? Was fucked. When her five year old daughter couldn’t manage stockings, it wasn’t because said five year old daughter hadn’t quite managed the concept of long weird stretchy tubes and inserting them over her legs. It was because her five year old daughter was DELIBERATLY BEING STUPID in order to spite her. When said daughter reacted strongly to having socks pulled up, it wasn’t because she had a legitimately negative experience, it was because she could NEVER DO ANYTHING PROPERLY.
This is only a minor example of all the ways in which I was taught that I was not good enough, and that I was a sneaky horrible child and that I should apologise to everyone around me for what essentially amounts to being a human being with flaws and subjective experiences.
So, the POINT of that is, I am trying to stop doing it. Pointing out that I’m a bitch, I mean. Because, whatever. It’s boring. People can figure out what I am or am not by themselves, without me putting a label on it. I don’t need to fear that they will reject me once they really figure out who I truly am, so I don’t need to cover that fear by telling them that they should reject me first, to take the sting away when it inevitably happens (as my subconscious tells me it will).
Remember how this all started with me saying I am bad at accepting compliments? (You remember Alice? It’s a song about Alice?) I am really uncomfortable being told I am a nice person and people like me for me. We have traced that back to my mother (I mean, mostly. It’s not like everything I don’t like about me is her fault. Just MOST things. ). I am also really uncomfortable being told I’m smart.
So, I mentioned before that I’m seeing someone. This has meant a lot more compliments than I am used to. And folks, it’s weird. It’s weirding me out. He thinks I am the shit. And while I don’t disagree, and tend to think that, actually, that is a good prerequisite for someone I am in a relationship with, it is CONFRONTING. The other confronting thing ties in to the smart. S is trained as a teacher. He’s currently working as a teacher’s aide. He focused, in his degree, on learning difficulties, and on gifted children.
So, every now and then he’ll say something. For instance, I mentioned something about the tights and socks saga (relevant! Twice!) and he said ‘yes, that’s very common among gifted children’ and then when I opened my mouth he gave me The Look. You know the look. The ‘I know what you are about to say, and you’re wrong, and you know you are wrong. Why don’t you rethink it before you embarrass yourself’ look.
He has a point. I am smart. I have always been smart. I went to a small primary school, with combined year level classes (ie, R/1, 2/3) and I was always doing the work of the year above me. I was in extension programmes. I got good grades. I did all of this without really trying – year 11 was a bit of a shock because suddenly I had to WORK at things. I enjoy thinking and making patterns and working things out. I am and always have been curious about and engaged with the universe, while at the same time having a rich internal life. There is a lot of evidence that I am, in fact, one smart cookie. And yet I am SUPER uncomfortable even typing this.
I mean, I’m certainly not saying I am the smartest ever. I am very smart in some ways, and not in others, just like most of the population. I’m not saying that being smart makes me better than anyone, or that smarts are enough in isolation. But given that I value all the smart people around me, what is it that stops me from valuing it in myself? I guess girls aren’t supposed to be too smart, and even the smart ones shouldn’t talk about it too much.
Well, fuck that. I am smart. No qualifiers. So there.
(WHY was that so hard?)
Cookie the second:
Cookie the third:
I think I might have posted this before. But I LOVE EET
I have about a half a post written about language and how fuzzy it is, and in particular as regards women’s bodies. I think it’s akin to the way the word ‘socialist’ and ‘liberal’ has been hijacked by the right in America. They now mean things completely divorced from the original, specific meanings of the word. I’m sure there are plenty of more Australian or general examples, but those are the two that jump out at me all the time, since I find them so jarring. Especially since we have the big-L Liberals over here.
I think mostly it’s all tied up in the weird morality games we play with bodies. Salad is ‘good’, pizza is ‘bad’. (As one Shapely Prose commenter put it ‘it’s pizza for lunch, not genocide’*) Fat doesn’t really mean fat – it means ugly, disgusting, unhealthy, unlovable, unworthy. It doesn’t refer to how much we weigh, or our mass or our hip measurements, it’s about how we look – which is why a skinny girl can say ‘omg I am so fat!’ (code: I look ugly) and in the next breath assure someone like me ‘but you’re not fat at all!’ (code: but you are perfectly attractive!).
Pretty does not mean good to look at, it means fits a certain group of characteristics such as looking innocent and pure and also probably white. Beautiful is reserved for people who are not virginal and aren’t trampy-sexy but who you’d still bang. Sexy does not refer to people that you personally would like to have sex with, it means someone who has the required body shape and has spent the enourmous amounts of time neccessary to fit patriarchal standards of feminine beauty and is wearing appropriate clothes and shoes. (Many times I catch myself thinking ‘yeah, she’s hot. I don’t find her attractive, but she’s hot. What does that even mean omg.)
And most present in the last few days, ‘flattering’ does not mean ‘makes you feel good’ or even ‘makes the most of what you’ve got’. I means ‘fools people into thinking you are closer to the ‘ideal’ figure, ie tall, thin, hourglass, than you actually are.’ Already Pretty just posted today about different body shapes and how they look great and how, sure. Minimize your hips if you want, but you don’t have to. I can wear a flowey tunic dress that doesn’t accentuate my waist, if I like. So there. I don’t care about your abitrary rules, patriarchy/whoever else would like to become involved. But likewise, there are things that other people can rock that I can’t – and that is awesome. Why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t we have options.
I mean, in reality we do. But how many times have you heard someone say about someone else ‘that dress is so unflattering on her?’. By which they mean, doesn’t hide her stomach, or you can’t tell that she has as much waist as she does, or it makes her boobs look MASSIVE. Well, why shouldn’t it? ‘Flattering’ should not mean ‘slimming’. We already have a word for that!
Anyway. In a completely random aside, I was reminded yesterday of the ‘Yes, we can’ mashup video. And I watched it today, and it still made me emotional and hopeful. Sure, things never turn out that neat or easy. Sure, America is fucked and K Rudd isn’t the messiah. But I dare you to listen to that speech, to watch those artists, and not feel a bit of a tear in your eye and joy in your heart. I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU:
*I really really love Shapely Prose and the comment ecology over there. It shifted my whole view of the world I live in, and I sort of feel like it’s the centre of my part of the internet, now. If you have never read it, I genuinelly encourage you to at least go have a look – it’s not just for fatties!
I’m what is known in FA (fat acceptance) and fatshion circles as an in-betweenie. This means that I am somewhere in the range of an aussie size 14-18. It means I have big-girl issues with clothing (weird fit, darts hitting me in the wrong places, inappropriate styles available) but I can still shop in straight sized stores, although what I can find there may or may not be extremely limited, depending on the store, the season, current trends, how stretchy the clothes are or how willing I am to wear skin tight things.
I was listening to fatcast last night and they were discussing what a plus size actually is. They said it might start at maybe 14, but really their cutoff is about size 18 (depending on locale and other factors such as height and general body shape – it’s harder to find nice flattering things if you are large and live in China, or are a body shape that the fashion world dislikes). I thought ‘but wait! I’m a fat girl! Why don’t you count meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’. I’m used to being told ‘don’t be silly, you’re not FAT!’ but usually by people thinner than me, and as code for ‘but I don’t find you repulsive! And fat people are repulsive!’ I had a really strong reaction to being told by fat people that I couldn’t join that fat people club (which was not what they were saying, btw). And then I had to look at my Thin Privilege. Yes, yes I just said the P word, and also refered to myself as thin, IN THE SAME SENTENCE.
Right now, fads are doing me kind. There is a lot of jersey and a lot of loose fitting, which means I can get into medium sizes a lot of the time, if there isn’t a large. And tghe larges fit comfortably. They don’t fit me the way the designer intended them to, but since the designer generally does not want to acknowledge that people my size or bigger exist, I am not particularly fussed about this. Case in point, last week I went into Cotton On (being the only clothes store in town that is open after 5:15pm) and spent what I consider to be quite a lot of money there. And then I reflected that actually, I spent less than the price of a dress I was looking at on the City Chic website, which I really liked but was clearly made out of some horrible acrylic fabric. So then I felt better about that.
Let me put this another way. I went into a trendy store, which caters for young people who want the latest trendy thing. And I tried some stuff on and I bought a lot of it, because it looked good on me. This is something that many fat people just cannot do. Ever.
I bought three jersey pencil skirts – one in black, one in navy and one in black with little rosebuds on. Tres trendy, and also reminds me of a dress I owned when I was five. (Apparently the eighties are back. Again. Why won’t they die?) I bought two tank dresses, one black and one navy and white striped. (BIG HORIZONTAL STRIPES oh noes don’t I know that’s against the rules??) I bought two light jersey cardigan thingies and four 3/4 sleeved tops in varying degrees of stripes and spots, with ruching on the sleeves so they have sort of eighties shoulders. The things I bought were a mix of XL, L and medium. This upped my wearable, work appropriate wardrobe by about half. The only problem being that I need to get some fat girl stockings, because I generally only wear stay ups and knee highs, having been traumatised by going to a catholic girls school and the horrible brown tights (but was fortunate enough to learn the undies-on-the-outside trick for keeping them up). But the skirts are really to short to wear to work without stockings, and the ones I have technically fit, but are mighty uncomfortable, and gusset hoiking is generally frowned on in public.
And here we are back to being in between. A lot of stuff technically fits, for which – do not get me wrong! – I am eternally grateful. If I went on holiday and my luggage got lost, I would not, as the lovely ladies on fatcast point out, be fucked. I could walk into a store and buy something that fit me. Even a gift store. It might not be sartorially elegant, but I wouldn’t have to fashion a toga out of a beach towel or two. There are clothes that fit me. They are readily available. They are affordable. Sometimes they are even trendy or beautiful at the same time as being affordable and readily available. I can shop in op shops and it isn’t that much more frustrating than for the average punter. I can avoid ‘big girl’ clothes which are often badly made with a poor cut, from terrible acrylic material.
I’ve been looking at ASOS, which has a very lovely plus size section, much of which I covet. I also covet most of their straight size section. According to their size charts, I am smack bang between an 18, their last straight size, and a 20, their first plus size. This is making trawling the site very annoying, because most of the time the top and bottom sizes are sold out. And sometimes the straight sizes go up to 20, sometimes they only go up to 16. If it’s something stretchy, I probably want an 18, and it isn’t I’d want a 20, but I have to look in two seperate sections so I can’t just pick one dress and choose the size.
Ok, so it’s annoying. That’s a pretty low bar, I’m not saying that ASOS is oppressing me or anything. And I really, truly do not want to underemphasise that I can go on a last minute shopping trip and find clothes that fit. This is super important. Plus, my proportional ‘hourglass’ body shape (apart from my annoyingly long waist) is the shape that about half of commercially available clothes are designed for (the other half being for people built like a pole) so that helps.
However. If we’re taking the fatcast cut off of a size 18 as canon (which they wouldn’t endorse, they fully admit it’s subjective etc) my recent weight gain has put me over the top, US sizes being a bit bigger than Aus sizes. I believe I would now be a US size 20. And I would absolutely say that there is a line, somewhere in the middle of a size 16. When you are a 14 or a smaller 16, you can buy things on sale. You can buy BRAS on sale. You can buy bras with lace and colours, you can buy bathers, and more styles are open to you because things that are designed to be baggy are. If you want to be ‘on trend’, you can, although depending on the trend it may be inadvisable as you will possibly look like an egg with two rubber bands around it. But if the thing of the moment is tshirts with sparkles on, you can probably find one that you fit into.
From Married to the Sea
Once you hit a high 16, bras come in beige, beige, ‘bone’ beige and off white. There are never any in your size left by the time the sales roll around. The clothes that make the sale racks are all cut in a way that does not do your body any favours. Things designed to be baggy are tight, even in your size, and things designed to be tight are TIGHT. Things cling in the wrong places, darts are in weird spots. Things get sized up without the proportions being revised, so they get weirdly massive in strange places.
Buying clothes can be a challenge for everyone. Besides the venturing out into public and the spending of hard earned dollars, there is the social aspect of it. What you wear says something about who you are. They do – even if that thing is ‘it’s Sunday, and I’ll wear my uggboots to the shops if I damn well want too’. Sometimes it’s hard to find the things that accurately represent you to the world. That gets harder as your size gets larger. Not least because when some people look at you the first thing they will see is a fat person. It’s tempting to dress to be invisible. To be non threatening and part of the background. Which is fine – frankly it’s relaxing. But I find myself shying away form certain things, not because I think they will make me look bad, but because they will make me look FAT. Not ‘unattractive’, which is what ‘fat’ is code for, more often than not. but that if I show a bit of leg, people will see that it is a fat leg. Because, you know, they couldn’t have guessed that it was going to be a fat leg just from looking at the rest of me, no matter how covered that leg might be.
I don’t really think I should end this with another ‘FUCK YOU IM FAT AND IM NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE’ because I did that last time, and that’s not what this is about. What this is about is ‘whatever. This is my leg. It’s fat. It’s sexy. I will show exactly as much or as little of it as I choose. Goodbye.’
I’m still not really ok with the nuggets I get in front of my armpits, though. I’m working on that one.
Dunno why I’m still awake. I have to catch a 7am flight tomorrow. Oh, waiting for washing to finish, I knew I wasn’t just procrastinating! Only mostly…
I have my metcard from last trip, along with my smiggle store card. My suitcase is just ridiculously full – well, Emma’s suitcase actually. I decided I couldn’t possibly only take the things that fit into my teeny suitcase. For a WHOLE WEEK! I mean, I think two half finished jumpers, a baby blanket, a pair of socks, enough yarn for ten hats, a skein of laceweight a spare skein of sock yarn and days worth of embroidery is barely enough to keep me going as it is. Not to mention that I only have 11 days of podcasts on my ipod – well, actually it’s more like 20 if you count the ones that are chronological like audiobooks, so only have the most recent episode in my playlist. Nevermind the fact that I could not physically listen to 11 days worth of audio, given that I am only away for 7, besides wishing to leave my hostel room and also, you know, sleep.
Clearly I have issues.
I also just realised that I will be spending a lot of time with lots of people I have not actually met. This had not previously occured to me since I didn’t really think about the fact that just cos I know about someone’s childhood issues, what their favourite food is, what their kids look like (if not their actual names in some cases) and their kids favourite foods, doesn’t mean the same things as having met someone.
However, I am absolutely positive that it will be excellent, momentary qualms aside. I am looking forward to all sorts of bits of it. First thing to look forward to is this:
Have I mentioned that I love planes?
Oh, and that exit survey questionnare? Turns out it was meant to form a basis for my in-person interview. Which of course I didn’t get, since they sent it to me about 4 days before I finished, without telling me that was what it was for. Not that I particularly wanted to experience the exit interview, but still. I sent a cross email and got a garbled, apologetic phone call from the person in HR who barely speaks English because it’s her second language, as opposed to her manager who has no excuse for saying ‘youse guys’.
Also, I did get Stephanie Alexander. I am most pleased.
Tomorrow is my last day at work. And I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not. Not even close. This week has just been completely illustrative of all the reasons I am leaving, including: ridiculous amount of last minute jobs (four major print runs given to me on Monday, due Friday, only two of which I knew would be coming); the photocopier completely borking; the photocopier service people mucking us around, not answering calls and losing jobs; junior members of staff being rude to managers and then insisting that said manager was yelling at them when in fact manager was only being a bit terse, since junior staff was walking away from them while manager was requesting assistance; said junior member of staff collapsing in tears; two newsletters requiring start to finish proofreading (written by and for ESL speakers, too), laying out and editing, plus shipping off to the printers, all in one week; another magazine requiring much politicing, and having to get off to the printers; hub meeting from hell; and more politicing.
To top it all, HR sent me a form, which they call my ‘exit interview’. Not really the same thing, but since I do not with to submit to an exit interview, both because it would be painful and it would be hard to be polite while still making my point, I didn’t argue. Except that said form includes a large portion about my manager and what I think of how she is doing her job – not great, actually. I mean, she’s fine. But she sort of tries to keep out of things. Which I can’t blame her for, but frankly, I don’t get paid enough to deal with crying junior staff. That would be the manager’s job. Actually, I feel that it would be the manager’s job to do something about the levels of tension there have been in the admin team lately, before anyone ends up in tears.
Anyway, I was polite but honest on the form, and then at the end of the form was a consent bit. The consent bit at the start of the form said ‘Your answers will be kept confidential and used only for informational purposes unless you specifically consent to allowing your information to be shared with others (see ‘consent statement’ at end of form). This form will not be kept in your personnel file.’
I’m not really sure what ‘informational purposes’ are. Anyone? I also snorted at the checkboxes for ‘type of separation: resignation; retirement; expiration of contract; involuntary’. (Involuntary separation, aka, we fired your butt.) But that is not the point of this.
The point is, the ‘consent statement’ at the end of the form says ‘I agree for [organisation] to use the information that I have shared in this Exit Interview. (NOTE: It is the practice of the Human Resource Manager to share exit interview information with my manager upon receiving this consent.)’
Hmm, I thought. I’m not sure about that. I like G. She’s a good person, and a good line manager – but she’s been ‘promoted’ to a job that she doesn’t really want and doesn’t really have the skills for, and has been given zero support, and expected to be a perfect replacement for C, who essentially fixed everything that ever went wrong in our building. I don’t really think I want HR to ring her up and say ‘so, Kate marked you ‘strongly disagree’ for ‘provides adequate supervision’. Which I only did because she has no idea at all what I do all day, and therefore would have trouble supervising me.
So I thought about it, and I called my friend who used to work there and asked her if I should not provide consent, or if I should lie about how I felt my manager was doing at her job. And midway through the conversation I just had a rush of pure rage. THIS IS WHY I AM LEAVING.
I want to be a good employee. I WANT to participate, and to be engaged and helpful. Even as I am leaving. And you are essentially giving me three choices: be hurtful and rude to your manager, with whom you are also encouraged, btw, to have a personal relationship; give useful information but not allow it to be used; allow the information to be used but give false, incomplete, useless information.
OK, I realise it’s not a big deal. But it’s just… I’m tired of people asking me to be involved, and then making it impossible for me to engage. I am tired of being told where I work is special, and loving, and engaging, and then being reminded that actually, I’m ‘just’ support staff, and have no say in any important decisions. I am TIRED of being asked my opinion and then ignored. If it’s just a job, that’s fine. But if you’re going to insist that it’s ok that they pay like crap, then you need to provide interactions that make that worthwhile rather than making my life harder and more stressful.
Phew. I didn’t mean to pour all that out. And I try not to bitch about work as a general policy. But I was just so… disappointed. I don’t know why I should be. I mean, I should know better by now – I do know better, that’s why I quit. But… fuck.
I suppose I should be grateful that I’m not leaving sad. Tomorrow I have to scramble to get a couple of the print jobs off to the printer, finish laying another out, sort all my files, electronic and physical, and write some decent procedures, since no one seems to know what my job actually is. Oh, and attend my own tearoom farewell afternoon tea and admin dinner. There are a few people I will miss a lot. Everyone else… well, I am looking forward to forgetting them. Which would make me sad, if I weren’t already so tired and angry.
No, I am sad. I remember loving working there. And I still believe in the things to organisation is doing. But I just feel like it thinks it’s still a small org, and it’s not anymore. It can’t work that way anymore. It’s just so frustrating. I kept trying and trying… and in the end I just gave up and barely put any effort into my job at all. Which makes me so, so sad. That’s not the employee I want to be. It’s not the person I want to be. I didn’t realise how bad it had gotton until I quit.
On the plus side, I quit! And I asked for a Stephanie Alexander book for my farewell gift.
And then on the weekend, I am going to sleep a lot, and get out in the garden, and maybe paint the kitchen cupboards if I’m feeling adventurous, and pack craft projects and maybe even some clothes. And then on Tuesday I fly out to Melbourne. I am looking forward to wandering around the city by myself the most right now, because I need the destress time. I did one of those highly scientific ‘how autistic are you’ tests on facebook. I scored really high on imagination, really low on obsession with dates and numbers, middling on social ability, and WAY LOW in comfort in social situations. Which is pretty much an indication of how little just decompressing time I’ve managed to squeeze out, and how much I need it. and the lack of good sleep, from all the teeth clenching.
I am also pretty pumped about meeting up with crafty friends, and looking at crafty materials, and doing crafty things! It is going to be so ace.
And in other random news, facebook just recommended that I friend my counsellor. Damned social networks…
I started posting this in reply to Janet’s post. And then it got mouthy and righteous, so I figured that was why I had my own blog…
I’ve been thinking about privilege from different points of view since posting about Kim’s post.
We talk about privilege a lot at my current place of work. It’s often not comfortable, but I think it’s worthwhile. I get frustrated, though, because we get stuck in this little circle of Aboriginal Australians. And yes, that is an important thing to dwell on as white people. But there are so many other ways we manifest our privilege. One of the things I have had hammered home – and it’s an uncomfortable truth – is that I do not have all the lovely things and lovely life opportunities I’ve got because I am lucky. I mean, sure, I am personally lucky. I am lucky that my ancestors came out from Ireland, otherwise I’d still be poor. And I am lucky that other people’s ancestors, in legue with mine, STOLE RESOURCES FROM OTHER PEOPLE. I don’t want to hear any ‘but I never did anything!’ neither did I. Neither did my parents or grandparents. They came here at most 4 generations ago. But they came to a place that had resources they could access. And the reason those resources were tehre for them, was because they weren’t there for other people.
Because they were taken. And given to me. That is why I have them. End of story. And really, the same goes with things like disability and housing. I live in my new house that used to be housing trust, because somoene was kicked out of it. Or maybe they died or moved on, and instead of offering that house to another needy person, the government chose to sell it off. On a personal level I am very glad that decision was made. On a social level, it makes me mad. I could afford my house because taxes went into incentive schemes. I can bus to a good job because people choose to spend money on roads and buses, and not on other types of infrastructure, and because I had a good education and I interview well thanks to years of people telling me I am worth something and deserve things – not that I am a bludger and a burden, that I am stupid and worthless and better off dead or at least forgotten about.
And I don’t think it’s ungrateful to consider the flip side of my luck. I am white, able bodied, clever, educated, valued. I have wealth of all types. And the things I am and the things I have are valued by society at large. Many people do not have that experience. Many white, able bodied people do not, because they grew up in Elizabeth and are missing teeth, or because they look like a drug addict, or have ten children, or whatever. I now have blue hair. And do you know what? I have not had one nasty look. I have had many smiles and nods. What sort of reaction do you think I would have if I were black with blue hair? Or if I had my normal coloured hair, but was in a wheelchair or was otherwise obviously disabled? Not as positive a one, I am sure of it. It’s not ok.
Are we so unsure of our luck, of our worth, that we have to keep pushing people down? It’s like watching siblings play ‘keep away’. It’s not about pulling people down (although some sacrifices may have to be made) it’s about helping people up. About valuing them and giving them their fair share of the bounty that life has provided. There is plenty of luck and wealth and value in Australia for every single person living here. And more to spare, I would wager, but that’s a seperate fight. Let’s start small. Let’s start with our own island nation, and spreading the luck.
It was a friend’s birthday party yesterday, and we all got on a mini bus and went up into the hills to Grumpy’s Brewhouse for pizza and beer. I was a bit jumpy about it, frankly. There’ve been a few hiccups in the group in question, none of which directly involve me, but in which I am firmly on a ‘side’ – in terms of who I am closer friends with, not necessarily who I think has acted in the most appropriate manner. That’s a tougher one. I was a bit worried that one of the people involved in that mini schism would say something to which I might have to respond defensively for one of the absent parties.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. It was a lovely day of sun and beer and company and food. Until we got back to Adelaide, and there were only a handful of us left. Some comments were made that had exactly the effect I was concerned about of putting me in a horrible, defensive position - from completely unexpected people, and not about any of the topics I was feeling defensive about.
It was nothing major, but it really upset me – to the point where I cried on the way home because, really, is it supposed to be this hard? It seems like everywhere there are friendships fading away, falling apart, imploding. People reacting badly to all of those phenomenons. People backstabbing, bitching, alliances forming against others, falling apart, reforming. You have to remember who likes who, who dislikes who, who’s slept with or has a crush on who… it’s exhausting. I can’t handle the swirling tides of personal politics for more than a few hours without feeling like I’m drowning in them. I did think of Sara and her lovely post about handmade love – the panda hat I sent her on impulse because it had to be hers, among other things (isn’t it lovely to have something you spent time and love on appreciated? I don’t know that many other things are as validating) which made me feel better. But that feels like a cop out – Sara and I, like most of my bloggy friends, don’t have to see each other fail at life’s little tests of character day in and day out. What would it be like if we knew each other in person? Would the Use By Date on our friendships move closer, then? Because, you know, tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse, there’s no avoiding that. But still, does entropy have to win so obviously?
The comments made last night were fair, if (in my opinion) too vehemently put. But the fact that I am good friends with the person in question left me in a horrible position – do I defend them against reasonable criticism, or sit in silence, feeling complicit and two faced? I don’t mind what was said – I think it’s important to be able to see and understand your friend’s failings or character ‘flaws’, although that is different from bitching, which was what happened then – just that it was said in front of me, involved me in the atmosphere of picking apart people’s personalities. Not that I don’t do that myself, I’m only human, after all (besides being as bitchy as the best of them, when I get a good run up to it) but I do try not to do it in front of people who will be offended by it. Is that better, or worse? Anyhow, I felt that it was rude to ME to say those (admittedly minor) things in front of me.
In retrospect I got quite sunburnt and that, in combination with a day soaked in beer, left me dehydrated and probably with minor heatstroke – which goes to explain my extreme tiredness and emotional vulnerability. Also, the whole day I sort of felt like I was fending off people’s personalities, being buffeted by them – do you like what I like, dislike what I like, have the same opinions, tastes, preferences. Someone did this thing, isn’t that horrible? What, you don’t agree? You must be horrible too!
I know I am exaggerating most of this in my head. Making it more complicated, harder. I’m not very good at large groups of people, I find it easier to get along when it’s small groups or one on one. I’ve not ever had a very large group of friends before, which means when there are schisms, I don’t really know what to do. In the past, if it’s turned out that I dislike someone, I just stop seeing them. Now, I see people all the time who I have decided are not my cup of tea – and I feel like a hypocrite for pretending to be great friends with them. But isn’t that how society works? Grin and get along?
I don’t know. All I know is that yesterday left me with a sense of sadness that was hard to shake. Why, why, why are people so pettily horrible to each other, such minor nastinesses? It’s like being pecked to death by ducks.
Phew. That was cathartic. I’ve been chewing that over, but I think I just need to let it go and move on. It’s nice to get it out of my head.
Although, while I’m venting, can I just say: people who complain about the weather. It’s boring. There’s a difference between saying ‘jeez, it’s hot, eh?’ on the fifth day over thirty, and being miserable whatever the weather is. After a certain point, it just makes everyone else glum, too. I’m not saying I ENJOY 40 degree heatwaves, or weeks of rainy grey days… only, sometimes, I do! There’s something about every season I enjoy, whether it’s sitting cosily inside watching rain chase itself down the windows, or bright blue skies that go on forever. And when people only ever talk about the bad bits (hot, humid, sweaty, grey, cloudy, depressing) then it makes it harder to see the good things.
As Tom Robbins said in Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, ‘Weather should either be celebrated or ignored’.
Thus endeth today’s rant.