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What I Want to Teach My Son (If I Have One)

2 Nov

I just witnessed a most disgusting display of juvenile chauvinism at lunchtime in the quad.  Discussions like the one I overheard should never be part of a mutually respectful environment such as a college campus, but so often are.  These discussions lead to a male sense of entitlement that, in turn, leads grown men to believe that their paternalistic view of the world is what’s best for women in general.

Allow me to elaborate.

A young college student, I hesitate to call him a “young man” because it implies manners and respect that he has not yet achieved, was discussing his girlfriend with a friend of his.  Talking about how she was always down, depressed.  How her job prospects were slim.  How she didn’t care to ask his dad for help.  “It’s just calling on a contact!” he argued.  “You know, they say that guys are the more immature of the species, and I guess in some ways we are, since we make more immature jokes at older ages.  But women?  They’re such children when it comes to stuff like this…”

He went on. “You know, there’s a reason why things have turned out the way they did.  I mean, can you imagine if we had a woman president and she was on her period?  And other countries just wouldn’t talk to us if they were on their periods too?  I mean, obviously, there’s a reason why men are in power, right?  There’s a natural order to things.  If it was supposed to be the other way, we’d be the ones without the power.”

To his friend’s credit, he answered, “Well, does that mean that black people were obviously supposed to be slaves, since that’s how THAT turned out for such a long time?”

The misogynist laughed.  “I don’t know man, I guess that’s true, but women…  They’re just a species of their own.  They make no sense.  They’re just totally irrational.”

Their conversation continued.  I seethed.  How, in this day and age, could a young person say such a completely irrational, insensitive, illogical, and chauvinistic statement?  Aren’t today’s students meant to be enlightened?  Public education is supposed to widen your worldview.  Is it possible that this student had missed the very point?  At the college where I work, by the way, women are the majority; not in every major, and we’re still making progress in the STEM majors.  But I would have thought that outside of the 1950s or 60s, such ideas would have been limited to backwoods country types with very little education (my apologies to anyone who lives in the country).

I was silent until I got up, finished with my lunch.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I turned around and faced the child.  A jock with a muscle shirt on, he looked like the very definition of everything I don’t want my future son to be.  “If your mother heard what you said about women and presidents,” I said, quietly, but startling him just the same, “she would be most disappointed.”  I walked away.  I wanted to tell him about all the women we have serving in high office around the world, and all the women who managed to get over their “periods” and get some excellent work done.  Eleanor Roosevelt.  Margaret Thatcher.  Sally Ride.  Madame Curie.  Mother Teresa.  Benazir Bhutto.  For God’s sakes, the last two Secretaries of State – the very people who talk to other countries on a daily basis as the representatives of our country – had two X chromosomes.

I’m certain that he’s now rationalized to his friend that I proved his point; women are crazy.  Or something.  But maybe, just maybe, I got through to him.  Perhaps.  If only it were that easy in every instance.

At any rate, this got me thinking.  As you may know, I’m expecting.  I find out in under three weeks whether we’re having a boy or a girl.  At this point, everyone’s been saying girl, but I know my husband has a (small) preference for a boy.  Either way, I’m thrilled.  But I started thinking hard about what I want to teach my son, if I were to have one (now or in the future), about the differences between men and women.  Such as:

  • Women are just as smart and capable as men.  There is no physiological reason that women’s brains would not function as well as men’s.  In fact, studies have shown that women generally have better capacity for memory and multitasking.  Want to see this in action?  Go ask any mother.
  • Women are very much capable of higher-level thought and study.  Often, lack of opportunity is confused with lack of achievement.  But women can and have broken the glass ceiling for hundreds of years in the fields of science and math; whether or not we know their names is another matter.  Anyone know about Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin?  She discovered that the sun is made up of hydrogen, and that hydrogen and helium are the most abundant elements in the universe.   Before women had the right to vote in this country.  And before she, an English woman, could officially be awarded a degree at Cambridge (they didn’t give degrees to women until 1948).
  • Women might not be as physically strong as men, overall (that is, they can’t bench press as much).  However, their bodies are made with reproduction in mind.  Physically, someone with both X and Y chromosomes (biologically male) cannot get pregnant.  No, the movie Junior couldn’t possibly happen in real life.  Anyone who has studied any part of the science of reproduction can tell you that this is a pretty incredible feat, and that women’s bodies are well-equipped for the task.  Anyone who has gone through natural childbirth can tell you that there is very likely no greater pain that can be survived; and it takes an awful lot of strength to do that.
  • EVERYONE has specific reasons why they might do things (apply for/not apply for a job, be friends with someone in particular, act a certain way in a relationship).  These reasons are built on both nature and nurture – personality and environment – and our ideas about what is right and wrong are formed through our experiences.  Therefore, just because something makes perfect sense to you doesn’t mean it makes perfect sense to someone else.  Therefore, we have to do our very best to treat everyone’s decisions with respect.
  • On that note, women’s hormones do sometimes affect how they feel.  Contrary to popular belief, SO DO MEN’S.  There is a vast psychological arena studying things like responses to hormonal and pheremonal stimuli and decision making.  Generally speaking, large decisions are not affected.  So whether a country would “not talk to us” or, as has been argued, bomb another country, based on a single woman’s hormones, is not something that could ever be tested.  But if it were, we would inevitably find that a woman has no more chance of making an irrational decision on that sort of scale based on hormonal changes than a man does.
  • Mutual respect should be the number one priority of anyone, man or woman.  I believe that this extends to respecting one’s wishes, beliefs, religious or political affiliations, and right to control one’s own destiny.  In case anyone’s wondering, joking about a woman’s lack of judgement when she’s hormonal, or her inability to make a decision, or her education, or her sexuality, or her weight are disrespectful.  Likewise joking about how men “always think with their reproductive organs,” or how they can’t have a fulfilling emotional relationship, or how they are too sensitive, are disrespectful too.

I hope that my calling upon his mother helped me to get through to that particular young person.  Perhaps he can, in time, call himself a man.  Maybe when he learns respect for everyone – and doesn’t make such illogical statements.  But even if I didn’t, I hope that I can teach my future son that viewpoints such as these are not only uncalled-for, they’re flat wrong.


My Mothering Instinct

22 Nov

Apparently my instinct to mother anyone and everyone is so strong, and has been for such a long time, that I surround myself with very needy people.  People who have emotional trauma and turmoil.  People who disappear.  Who attract drama.  Who are completely unable to cope with lots of things coming at them at once.

I’m not sure why this is.  I’ve always been this way.  I’ve always been the one who would pull out the band aid from her pocket and fix the boo boo.  Who would pick up the pieces after someone else smashed the toy.  Who would check for a concussion when a friend was knocked to the ground. Who would worry about things.  Things happening to people I love.  Things that they don’t worry about because they’re too involved with their own drama.

I’m feeling a bit put out right now.  I will live to mother another day.  Eventually I’ll even have my own kids to mother.  Right at this moment I’m feeling pretty pissed off at the fact that I’m feeling so worried.  But I’ll probably still never stop worrying about the people I care about, even when they don’t reciprocate.


Very, very weird…

26 Mar

Last night I was actually asleep for only the second time in over a week.  I was ripped out of my dream by my cell phone’s ring.  Blearily, I stumbled out of bed, following the sound of the stupid little song (I’ve never gotten around to changing the ringtone on this phone).  I didn’t bother to turn on any lights – it was pitch black and I fumbled around my purse, unable to locate the source of the ring.  I finally remembered that it was in the back pocket of my purse and pulled it out.

Now, by this time, my phone had rung – and rung – probably 15 or 20 times.  While I was standing there (not even while I was walking) it had already rung more than it ever does.  It’ll usually go through the song three or four times, max five, before switching automatically to voice mail.  It was already on ring SEVEN since I’d located my purse (since I was scrabbling around inside for such a long time) by the time I pulled it out.

Strangely, the display was not lit, even though the thing was still ringing in my hand.  I was slightly creeped out by this point, but more annoyed than anything.  I opened it up and said “Hello?”

Nothing.  Not heavy breathing, not sounds of being pushed around in someone’s purse, not “oops, this dropped into the baby’s crib.”  Just nothing.  I hung up, turned on the light, and looked at the display again.  I checked the missed calls.  Nope, not there.  There was an unfamiliar number on the “Calls Received” screen, though, an 858- number I’d never seen.  By this time, I was awake, having been startled out of sleep, and kind of pissed.

I dialed the number.

It rang four times and went to voicemail (Verizon, I think).  What sounded like “Accia Moreno” (I kind of missed the first name) simpered her name.  I left a message – squinting at the time display on the cable box – telling them that it was midnight and I’d just gotten a call from this number, and I’d appreciate it if they wouldn’t do it again.  After I hung up, I checked the time – twice.  11:58.

I just checked my phone again, to see if I could place the number.  Maybe a coworker or a Board member whose name isn’t programmed into my phone?  I couldn’t come up with a thing.  But I did notice something that gave me a case of the goosebumps.

The call log says that I “received” the phone call last night at 11:36.

My cable box and my bedroom clock both said 11:58 when I shut off the light.  I didn’t take more than a few minutes to leave the message for the person who called.  The time on my phone is correct right now, by the way, and I have no reason to believe that it was off by 20 minutes last night for some strange reason.

So why did my phone ring so many times?  Enough times to wake me up, allow me to walk blearily to the phone and search aimlessly through my purse, hold the phone in my hand and look for a display but not find one, and then to pick it up?  Why does it have registered no missed calls – but that I “received” a call 20 minutes before I woke up?  Why didn’t the display light up?  It’s never done that before…  And who called me?  I’m assuming it was a prank call/drunk dial/kid grabbed the phone/wrong digit dialed situation.  But why wouldn’t they pick up if I dialed them immediately after I hung up, even just to say “oops, sorry”?  For that matter, why was there complete silence on the other end of the phone?  I’ve heard plenty of heavy breathing, kids in the background, and bouncing around purse noises, even when I was getting all those phone calls a couple of years ago, all throughout the day (no one ever was on the other end, but there was always the sound of something happening).  Last night?  Complete silence.

I am seriously completely creeped out right now.  I know there’s probably a perfectly logical explanation for it all…  But what?



Edited the next day to add: I checked again the time logs on my phone.  And I did indeed “receive” the call at 11:36.  The outgoing call, however?  11:58.  Just as my cable and my bedroom alarm clock said.  So what happened?  Did my phone ring for 20 minutes?  How?  I can’t help but go down the “supernatural force” path of creepiness…  I’m quite disturbed by the whole ordeal.

Edited just a few seconds later: I’m not going to think about it anymore.  I googled “phone ringing for 20 minutes” and got all sorts of “paranormal” cell phone call hits.  So-and-so talking to their dead relative and such…  *Shivers*  I’m going to just try to ignore the whole thing!!!

A Theory…

15 Jan

After all the stuff that’s been going on at my house lately – the plumbing finally getting so bad the entire backyard’s being ripped out today, the washing machine dying and the new one either being a lemon or getting installed wrong, the heater being “fixed” but burning dangerously high, etc. – I’m finding myself dealing an awful lot with service representatives, technicians, salespeople, and schedulers.

And I have a theory.

“Service” people aren’t there to serve the customer.  They’re there to get the customer so exhausted and frustrated that he or she stops fighting.

Take for example the conversation I had two days ago with Sears.  Mind you, our brand new fancy-schmancy $750 washing machine (that we ended up buying because Sears’ and the water authority’s rebates made it just slightly more expensive than the one we’d actually planned on getting, in the end) was delivered at 8:15 the night before, when we’d been told to wait around because it was scheduled to be delivered at 2:30.  And the very first load of laundry we tried out in the darn thing flooded our laundry room.  So after staying up until all hours mopping up the floor, getting up early and sitting through two hours of meetings at work, I finally gathered up my courage to call.  I mean, the machine was installed by Sears – we didn’t even touch it – so it was obviously their boo-boo.  How hard could it be to get it reinstalled or replaced?

An hour and a half and five reps later, I had my answer.  Very hard.

The first number I called – the “repair” line – said I needed the warantee center.  The warantee center said I needed to schedule a repair technician.  The first repair technician scheduler (in India, I’m certain – not to knock people in India and I sure as heck can’t speak any language from the area at all, but when you can’t make yourself understood to the person trying to “help” you, it’s a lost cause… plus, with my bad experience with Microsoft’s overseas support, I’m in no mood to go through the scripted support channels anymore) I spoke with said they couldn’t have anyone to my house for a week – and that I’d have a nine hour window in which the repair person might (or might not, given my experience the night before) show up.  From eight am to five pm, I was supposed to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, waiting for Sears to get their act together.

When I said it was completely unacceptable and I needed to talk to a manager, the woman on the other end of the phone argued with me for about five minutes.  “The manager is on the same system as I am, ma’am.  He won’t be able to do anything different…”

I lost it for a minute, and then just started repeating in a “calm” voice, “I need to talk to your manager.  I need to talk to your manager.”  She finally transferred me – back to the end of the main queue for the repair tech schedulers.  ARGH!!!

When I finally got ahold of the manager, he was, if anything, worse.  “Well, what do you want me to do, ma’am?” he asked.  “We don’t have anyone till next week.”

“I want you to FIX MY WASHER,” I said.  “Do you understand that Sears installed the washer LAST NIGHT and I can’t use it?  If I wanted to wait until next week to use my new washing machine, I’d have gotten the one that wasn’t going to be in stock until then!!!”

He said he couldn’t help.  So I said fine – send me to someone who can.

I was immediately put on hold again.  The person who picked up mercifully didn’t have an accent.  And she said she could help.  She said her department was the only one that could “force” a repair call.  Not for today, but for tomorrow.  And she’d make sure it would be for when one of us was home – after 2:30 – not for an all-day window (which, by the way, she said is actually illegal in California…  Just in case you’re ever in a situation like that, they can’t make you wait more than 5 hours in this state).  She got me calmed down and thinking it would be okay.

Fast forward one day, to yesterday.  Now, mind you, I’d already been woken up at 5 am by a smoke alarm that has decided that steam is it’s number-one enemy (yesterday was the first day that this happened, but it went off again this morning after I took a shower).  I’d already received a frantic phone call from my husband that he’d gotten an automated phone call that said the gas company tech was “on his way”, two hours early, and sped home at 85 miles per hour only to find that despite my nearly-impossible arrival at home in 12 minutes, I’d missed the gas company tech by 15 minutes.  I’d already spent ten minutes on hold with the gas company and another ten minutes getting increasingly annoyed by the rep on the phone there who kept telling me things like “well, this is the way we do things and if you don’t like it you can hire a heating and air conditioning company” (their policy is to schedule you for a half-day slot, “call” you to tell you they’re on their way but not give an ETA, and, if the key isn’t under the mat, leave within a minute with no “hey, call us back if you want us to swing by today”…  we now have no heater for another week).

I was stressed out and burned out.  But at least our new washing machine was supposed to be checked out.

Or not.

I called my husband at 5 after 5 to ask whether the repair person (who was apparently scheduled from 2:30-5) had called yet.  No, he said, but he’d call Sears to check.  Five minutes later he called me back.  We weren’t on the books until the 15th.  No, I said, the rep I talked to yesterday swore to me that it was for today.

I called back Sears when I got home.  “No, ma’am,” the rep told me (after telling me there was no way she could transfer me to the original rep I had), “you’re not scheduled until tomorrow.”  No explanation, no apology.  Just a bump.

Makes a girl feel awfully special.

So why is it that companies get away with telling us they can’t send anyone out for another week – or two – and that we’ll obviously have to take the day off to wait for their technician?  I’ve asked every company I’ve talked to this week HOW they think a person who actually works all day can possibly make this four- or five- or nine-hour window work.  “I’m sorry, ma’am, that’s the way we do it,” is all the answer I can get.

If a company truly wanted to give me excellent customer service, they would do the following:

  1. Schedule me ASAP.  I know it’s hard sometimes.  But give me credit; I’m either calling you with an emergency or, in the case of Sears, because you screwed up big time.  If it’s an emergency, HELP!  If you screwed up, FIX IT.  I don’t want any whining.  Pay someone overtime if you have to.  Just get it done.  And if you can’t?  Don’t lie to me and say I’ve been scheduled when I’ll find out eventually that I’m not.
  2. Give me a better window.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited for four or five hours for a tech, only to have them show up one or two hours outside the window of time they were scheduled for.  Rarely do you get anyone who arrives at the beginning of the window (except for my rotten luck yesterday).  Tell me someone will be at my house between 12  and 1.  Or even 12 and 2.  But don’t make me sit there for hours, on a day I could be earning money.
  3. Communicate with me.  Give your driver my cell phone number.  I gave it to you for a reason.  If they’re going to be late – or early – have them call me.  Have them call me anyway when they’re 20 minutes from my house.  So I can meet them.  You know, like a normal person.  The gas company told us yesterday that their techs have no company cell phones, so they can’t call.  To me, that sounds like a case where a little investment would go a long way; if the tech had had a cell, my husband could have told him I’d be there shortly.  If the gas company could have called him for us, even, he could have saved us all the hassle of waiting until next week.  What an assinine policy, not to equip someone out in the field with the ability to communicate.  Personally, I think they have cell phones, but their policy is to not use them.  Regardless, it’s laziness and carelessness.  And it’s rude.
  4. Don’t transfer me to another department just to get rid of me.  Seriously?  It makes me crazy to get transferred around willy-nilly.  I understand if I somehow didn’t manage to get the right department, since navigating your maze of poorly-described departments in the impossibly slow automated phone system is a crap shoot at best.  But if you can’t help me, find out who can.  Put me on hold for a second and figure it out.  Don’t just transfer me without insuring that you’re transferring me to the right place.
  5. On that note, when you transfer me, kindly give my information to the next person.  Don’t make me repeat myself twenty times.  I’ve already given you my name, my phone number, the description of my problem, and everything else relevant to my case (sometimes it feels like I’ve given you everything short of a Social Security Number and my mother’s maiden name).  Please don’t make me tell it to the next person, and the next person, and the next person.  And a note to the Sears rep: don’t ask me for my zip code three separate times.  It doesn’t make me a happy camper.
  6. Don’t tell me I should leave a key under the mat.  Or leave the door open.  Or whine at me that you can’t reach my fuse box or some such if I don’t.  The plumber who will be at my house for the next two days was none too pleased when I said I’d put a heavy-duty extension cord through my mail slot for him (personally, I feel that if he’s going to need electricity outside my home, he can bring a generator, but that’s neither here nor there).  We don’t have any outlets outside.  He wanted access to my house when I was not there to use the bathroom and to trip the breaker if it ended up blowing.  I told him (truthfully) that with all that’s been going on in the house, he couldn’t get to the breaker if he tried (I’d have to climb over and on top of things) and that I knew the neighbor would be home all day (sorry Brooke!) in case there was a major problem.  The gas company said we should have left a key under the mat – but isn’t that where every thief would look first?  And what about me being uncomfortable with a strange person having my key, even for a short amount of time?  The gas company wouldn’t be liable if he didn’t return it, made a copy of it, made off with some of my posessions, destroyed some of my posessions, violated my privacy in some other disgusting way, or simply forgot to lock the door on his way out.  So why should I put myself in that kind of position?
  7. Be nice.  The appliance repair company we called for the old washing machine did a good job a couple of years ago.  But this time they sent out a very green, very brash tech.  He argued with us – and then when we wouldn’t just GIVE him the old machine so he could use it for parts (he could have easily had it for $20 – and made $100 on the parts alone), he got angry.  Not to mention the woman who answered the phone there – talk about rude and abrasive.  All the people I seem to talk to at these places can’t be bothered to be nice.  Now, I acknowledge that I would do poorly at a customer service rep job, with people angry at me.  BUT that doesn’t excuse the fact that the people who are paid to help customers should be as pleasant as possible.
  8. Clean up after yourself.  The washing machine repair man removed a hose during the middle of a drain cycle and flooded the laundry room.  My husband used every towel we own to sop up the mess, which would have been easily avoided if the repairman had paid attention to the cycle or at least brought a bucket or some shams with him.  Last year, a plumber hired by the landlord was let in by the landlord during the middle of the day to take care of an inexplicably, disgustingly, stopped up kitchen sink drain.  I came home to a rerouted drain and a kitchen covered in dirty water.  Every single repair man I’ve ever had in my house tracks in dirt (and in the case of several plumbers, I’m not sure what else).  The handyman my landlord uses has often left a pile of sawdust next to a baseboard he’s replaced.  Simply cleaning up after yourself shouldn’t be something I even need to ask for – but it never happens.
  9. If you screw up, compensate me.  The washing machine repairman misdiagnosed the problem, replaced the wrong part, and made a mess.  Yet, in the end, we paid him $50 for coming out.  I don’t care that it’s your standard fee for coming out to someone’s house and not fixing anything.  Waive it.  You seriously inconvenienced me.  The same thing goes for Sears.  I don’t see why I should have to be put out for days when I’ve paid for an expensive machine.  At least if you offer me some money back or a free repair later or something, I’d be more inclined to forgive the massive inconvenience.  And my landlord?  He’s known for seven years that the plumbing in the backyard needed to be pulled up and replaced.  But he’s been trying to cheap out (it’s a $1500 job), and made ME feel badly the first time it backed up (it’s old, full of roots, and has a couple of issues with leveling and fall), and never once offered to pay for a hotel room when I’ve waited overnight with no usable toilet; or to compensate me for the disgusting end my towels have come to, time and time again, sopping up sewer water from the bathroom floor or the floor of the shower, or for the ruined shower curtains.
  10. For God’s sakes, don’t ever try to sell me something extra.  Once you’ve eaten up my time, my money, and my sanity, if I hear you say the words “extended warranty” or “preventative maintenace package” I swear I’ll bite your head off.  The same goes for any additional repairs, services, or other JUNK you want me to buy so you can make a little extra dough.  I know the tricks – make the idiot who needs the repair feel scared that this will happen again so she’ll pay you more money to “fix” it in the future.  Trust me, I’d rather eat the appliance before I let your technician near it again.

In summation of this incredibly long post, I’ll say this: If customer service were really customer service, we’d get treated a lot better and have a lot less headaches.  Instead, I’m convinced customer service is really customer diversion.  It’s a frustrating world in which we live, but at least with this kind of customer service around we know one thing for certain: the customer is always screwed.

What Would Jesus Do?

28 Dec

As a preface, this post is in no way meant to lay blame on Christianity or Christians in general.  I am Catholic (and despite what I’ve heard many times, Catholics were the first Christians, okay?) and do not believe that the majority of Christians are this way.  But I had to write about an observation I made yesterday.

I was at the swap meet yesterday, searching for those interesting unique beautiful old things as I love to do.  I walked up to a booth.  The woman was standing under a tent, behind a table covered with baubles.  I’m drawn to sparkly bits and pieces, so I walked up to see things a little bit closer.  And overheard a conversation between the vendor and another shopper.

It went something like this:

     Vendor: “All the crap they’re telling us now; why should they tell us what to believe?” 

     Shopper: “Yeah!  Too many damn liberals in the churches now…” 

     Vendor: “I mean, why should they tell me what to think?” 

     Shopper: “I know!  What gives them the right to tell me I need to be diverse?  I can hate people if I want to.  I mean, why do I have to love colored people?”

Mind you, this is California in 2008, not Alabama in 1965.  I almost gasped audibly and started to tiptoe away.  But was struck by the vendor’s response:  “I know!  I mean, Jesus wasn’t diverse!  He said, ‘you’re either with me or against me.’  He didn’t bother with people who didn’t listen to him…”

Wait…  What?

Wasn’t Jesus the one who said “Love your neighbor”?  How about all his hobnobbing with lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors?  What ever gave you the idea that he was hating on the people who didn’t follow him?  And even if he hadn’t been all about the outcasts of society, what would make you think he’d promote hatred?

I couldn’t stand to listen any longer and disgustedly walked away.  But as I was waiting for my hubby to finish shoving the new (old) bike he bought into the back seat of my subcompact, I wandered back into the area.  I happened across the same vendor’s booth just as she was talking to another shopper about her hours: “I’m here every Saturday, and I’ve been here a few Fridays too, but they’re very small.  But,” she continued, motioning to herself with a little shrug,” I’m Christian.  So I’m never here on Sundays.  I believe in going to church on Sundays.”

She sounded so self-riteous, so superior.  So extremely pious.  But I had heard her hatred and bigotry in her earlier discussion.  No amount of going to church is going to convince me that she is a good person if she feels that it’s acceptable to hate other people.  No number of zealous proclamations of Christianity are going to demonstrate that she’s actually taken Jesus’ teachings to heart.

What would Jesus do?  I’d like to think he’d knock some sense into this woman.

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