Civic Duty

I had Jury Duty this week.

I wasn’t really too upset about it because my work pays for a few days of it and I’ve never seen the inside of a courtroom outside of binge watching SVU. I got there and was selected for the jury pool for a case. We went in and the judge made a speech about how this is important and why jury duty is what it is and how if you think that the courts let cases off easy then you should WANT to be there making sure things are done justly. The buzzwords were citizenship, duty, fellow man, justice, community, service etc.

It was a remarkable and moving speech.

Then we went on lunch break and I went downstairs to the cafeteria and ordered a salad and some honeydew melon which came in crisp plastic packaging. I ate across from a handsome lawyer who asked if I minded before joining me. We sat and read together, me a novel, him some sort of ledger or file, in comfortable air-conditioned peace.

Then I went back upstairs and seated myself on a bench by the window outside the courtroom’s double doors to wait for role call, and court’s resumption.

I opened my book again (Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend, highly recommend btw) but I’d read well over 100 pages that day already, so I looked out the window instead of reading. Behind the courthouse, there was something going on on the ground. I couldn’t tell at first what I was looking at. It seemed like some sort of farmers market or something, which for my location wasn’t unheard of. The city the courthouse is located in is full of art walks, markets, craft fairs, etc. From 9 stories up, it just looked like a group of tarps.

The more I looked, though, the more clear the picture became and eventually I realized I was looking at a makeshift shanty town of tents and tarps. Homeless people trying to get out of the California heat any way they could. It was like a small city of downtrodden individuals right behind the courthouse in plain view.

The judge’s words about how being here was important came back to me. How giving up a workday, or our normal routine was so important. We had covered the case by that point and it was basically two men arguing over the terms of a contract and whether a fineable breach was made by one party.

Looking at that shanty town, and then turning to watch one of the two hard-faced businessmen stride back into the courtroom with his lawyer, in suits so clearly expensive that the cuff links could have fed all the people below me for a WEEK, I felt a roll of guilt and indignation in my stomach.

How can someone say that deciding if there was a breach in a business contract that didn’t result in losses significant enough to alter the course of a business, or anyone’s day to day wages or way of life be CIVIC DUTY and a SERVICE TO YOUR COMMUNITY while addressing starving citizens WITHIN EYESIGHT isn’t even on the table.

Don’t talk to me about civic duty when in plain view of city officials, lawyers, politicians, judges, POWERFUL men and women, every day people struggle just to avoid exposure to the elements and nothing has been done. In view of people who could ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING about it, people IN OUR COMMUNITY have suffered. They’ve suffered long enough that there’s a veritable VILLAGE of them grown up behind the building.

Like with a lot of my posts lately, there is no good answer. I have no silver lining. This is just an angry cry that something needs to be done, and a comment and observation of just how skewed our priorities are in this country.

Advertisements

Stanford (graphic content, sexual abuse trigger warning)

I’ve done a lot of crying the past day or so.

Its been on and off since I read the closing statements from the Stanford case. I can’t stand that that asshole is getting off with 6 months in county. He ruined someones life but because his  body holds value, “justice” has favored him instead of his victim.

That’s not purely why I’m crying.

I don’t think I’m quite that selfless. I read each new development in this case, and so many other women’s stories, and the nasty comments perpetuating rape culture and I cry for women as a whole who are in this place where they are violated and then revictimized every time something like this happens. I also cry for myself.

I was attacked at the end of my high school year. By my boyfriend. He was in the 6’2-6’4 range, taller than me even in my highest heels, and on the track and field team. Star athlete. Maybe thats another reason Stanford is so triggering for me. He was massive, six pack abs, in the gym 6 hours a day minimum, biceps like pythons. He could wrap both of my wrists completely in one of his hands and have a secure hold.

Our relationship had very clear lines. I was a virgin and didn’t want to have sex before marriage. He knew this. We’d been over it in no uncertain terms but after prom he pulled over his truck at the end of my street to kiss me good night and kissing turned to groping and when it went too far and I told him to stop, that night, he didn’t. My wrists went in one hand and the other hand found its way down, hiking the skirt of my gown. I remember my elbows and shoulders protesting the awkward angles they were put in.

At what point he opened his pants, I still don’t know, though I’ve replayed the night thousands of times. I could feel him shoving himself at me. That sensation of only having a thin, thin, seamless layer of pale blue microfiber between him and my virginity.

I can hear my voice, like it belonged to someone else. “Stop it, what are you doing. Stop, stop, STOP STOPITPLEASESTOPYOURHURTINGME” getting more breathless and shrill and scared with each syllable. I had got my hands free, but then he had me by the upper arm, the hip, I would slip free, he would grab me again, and one hand was clumsily trying to drag my panties to the side.

Ignoring me.

He was just so big. All those muscles I’d thought were so pretty were just, muscles. Weapons of my destruction. I am not a small girl, though I was a swimmer. I was lean but athletic and I’m tall myself. I wasn’t used to feeling so delicate. At one point it occurred to me that he could actually hurt me, break bones, bloody me. That had never been a part of my reality before: physical powerlessness.

At some point he released my hands and started grabbing my legs and buttocks. Trying to pull me onto him.

I remember his one solid thrust and my panties were still half covering me, so they mostly stopped him, but it still hurt. A sharp warning burn between my legs and I let out a squeal like some sort of pathetic piglet. I just kind of flailed at him. One hand, the other, both, my knee grazed ribs or a hip. He stopped briefly.

I sucked him off.

I figured it would give him what he wanted sex-free. And I could go home and lock the door behind me. And everything would go back to normal.

But it didn’t. When my dad asked how things went when I came in from prom, I lied and pasted a smile I hoped just looked sleepy and not scared on my face and said things went great. When I woke up in the morning I couldn’t believe what happened had happened.

The more I thought about it the more upset I got. I felt betrayed by my boyfriend. I felt scared. I’d never been physically overpowered before and until it happens you always think “I’d just kick ’em in the nuts.” “I’d just thumb-drag their eyes.” I watch movies, I’ve read articles on self defense. I should be fine.

It’s not the same.

I knew what he did was wrong. Without consulting anyone, I knew it was wrong. But I was a big reader. I love Alice Sebold. I owned a dog-eared copy of Lucky and I know what victims of sex crimes go through even when they’re clearly the victim. Even when the rapist is a violent stranger.

As a teenager I knew about victim-blaming. How women are accused of asking for it. Liking it. Bringing it on themselves. I knew because he was my boyfriend, and because it was prom night, because I agreed to pull over for a kiss goodnight, and because I agreed to oral sex in lieu of penetration that he would never be found guilty. That it would be my fault and all I’d do by coming forward would be to make it public knowledge. Everyone would know I was a whore.

So I watched the bruises on my arms and buttocks and hips and thighs fade with the burns on my knees from his car seat. I didn’t report him.

I was in dance, though, and my friends saw the bruises when I was changing and asked.

I told a few of them.

That was one of the worst parts to this whole story.

A friend, MY friend, told me I might be mistaken. She asked me if I was sure. My boyfriend was best friends with her boyfriend, she’d set us up in the beginning and she encouraged me to give him a second chance. She said she was sure he didn’t mean it “like that.” He’d never hurt me. He’s a nice guy. Maybe he was just drinking. She knew what kind of crowd he hung out with. Maybe that was the case.

So I stopped talking to people about it early on. I hid it. And continued letting it hurt me.

Fortunately he didn’t go to our school so I didn’t have to see him every day. Avoiding him was easy.

I told him I didn’t want to see him. That I needed to think. He tried to tell me it wasn’t like what I said, that he’d never hurt me, he loves me.

He showed up at my last dance show with a dozen red roses. Like ugly red flowers could fix what he’d broken. My friend and her boyfriend were smiling next to him. She wanted me to come get dinner with them. A double date. And he’d come by himself, so the drive over would give us time alone to talk.

I said I’d check with my parents.

I called my mom and quickly and quietly said: M_____ is here, he wants me to go somewhere with him but I don’t want to. I will explain later but can you come get me and pretend you’re making me come home? Please, please come get me.

She sent my dad. I remember I was wearing intentionally mismatched Chuck Taylors, one purple, one black, because I stared at my shoes as I tried to find words to explain things to my father. “At prom he tried to get me to do things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to be alone with him. I don’t want to see him. I have to break up with him.”

I told my mom about the same thing. I downplayed. They still don’t know what happened.

He harassed me for a while after that. Would show up at the house. Text and call. Get friends to text and call. He got a new girlfriend and for whatever reason she started calling and texting. Telling me I was trash.

Because HE attacked me.

I felt like trash for a long time. Because of how the events played out I wasn’t sure if I still counted as a virgin. Something I’d planned on giving as some sort of preserved gift to my soulmate someday was tarnished, if not stolen. I struggled with this for years.

Between the lack of clarity and the PTSD-like symptoms that would happen any time I was remotely intimate with anyone I spiralled as I began college. I hung out with people who were anti-relationship. One night, drinking at a friends dorm with a couple friends, a guy got me alone in a room. He kissed me and I fell backwards onto the bed. He climbed on top of me and started groping me. He was heavy and my leg was bent under me. I couldn’t get the leverage to sit up. My friend was off with some other guy. I panicked.

He unhooked my bra, tonguing my cheek instead of my mouth, since I’d turned my head away. He was drunk and fumbling and didn’t noticed I’d frozen in fear when I realized I couldn’t get up. He didn’t notice the silent tears streaming down my cheeks á la PTSD. He hadn’t even noticed when I’d stopped kissing him. I choked a bit on a sob and begged “let me up.”

He said “oh, you wanna be on top, huh?” Even when I sat up and started backing towards the door he didn’t realize there was anything wrong. I heard “where you going?” before I shut the door behind me.

I ran, literally. Grabbed my purse, jacket, and shoes from the common room and didn’t stop to put them on. I dashed into the hallway and when the ding of the elevator startled me I bolted to the stairwell before the doors could open. I ran down the stairs and sprinted across campus before stopping to put shoes on my bleeding feet at an intersection, waiting anxiously for a car to pass so I could run on.

I lived off campus in my sorority house and I sprinted all the way home. Not far, but far enough that I pulled muscles in my legs and could scarcely breathe by the time I was locked behind the door. I was crying in the shower by the time my friends realized I’d gone missing.

I avoided men for a while after that. Too scared.

I also developed a bit of a phobia about being without my undergarments or wearing anything that wasn’t 100% full coverage.

The couple times I tried to date I either had a panic attack in front of them and they never called again. Or when I tried to tell them I didn’t want to have sex before marriage, the ensuing questions led to uncomfortable questions I didn’t have the right answers for.

 

Finally I couldn’t stand it any more. I was no longer clearly pure but I’d never had sex on my terms. I wasn’t dirty but I had a fine layer of dust. Damaged goods. I thought I may as well do it once for me and be able to give a straight answer when asked. Not being a virgin was better than explaining I’d been assaulted and because of the gory details wasn’t sure myself.

I just wanted to forget the whole thing. I would have sex with my next boyfriend.

My next boyfriend was abusive.

My next boyfriend left me with actual scars on my body and a fractured rib that never healed properly.

My next boyfriend thought dragging me downstairs by the hair, beating me with objects from his bedroom,  and then raping me was fun. My next boyfriend forced me to have sex with his friend.

My next boyfriend knew I had an eating disorder and would use his genitals to make me puke and then say he was helping me keep my figure.

Because I consented to being his girlfriend, to normal consensual sex, to giving him what was left of my virginity, to a little slap and tickle experimentation early on in the relationship before it got abusive. Because I stayed with him. Because we broke up and I went BACK to him more than once.

There’s not a jury in the world that would convict him for anything he did to me.

Because I grew up in a society that believes women are asking for it, I had no hope of help when I needed it and over the years I grew so damaged that I am still recovering. If I had any hope of quick and just action when I was attacked the first time, I would not have put myself in situations that damaged me further.

Because I live in a society that thinks consenting to a relationship is consenting to anything a partner cares to do to your body, I lost hope that I could successfully escape my abuser.

Because I live in a time where there are rallies held to legalize rape, a time where judges that will suggest that because a rapist is young, and an athlete and a scholar and has not raped before, he is somehow exempt from just punishment for his crimes, a time where men will pull my hair, put their arms around me, and make lewd comments about me either to my face or behind my back in public places, I find myself unable to sleep soundly or feel safe going through my day to day life.

This and more is EXACTLY why I feel like it’s a mans world and women like me are just living in it. We’re trapped. 
There is NO WAY to be the change I want to see here because I am not a man. I am not the active party in these scenarios. All I can do is wait for someone else to act or cross a line and defend myself. 
I don’t want to mark escape routes in every situation. I don’t want to carry mace or other weapons. I hate that I’m in the market for a handgun. I don’t want to carry my keys in the shiv position when walking alone at night.
I will give all the support and solidarity I can to survivors who are victimized over and over again by our messed up society, but I am so tired of being forced to.
I will celebrate every win, but it shouldn’t BE such a big deal when a rapist is found guilty. Justice being served should not be the minority situation.
I want change. I want justice. I want to feel safe in familiar places. I want the law to be an actual deterrent. I want real equality for women.
But it is so very very hard to cling to hope for the future with things the way they are.
I wanted there to be a happy ending to this post, but for the time being there is not.
We NEED a change.
But I see no clear solution.
So to close, my beauty in negative spaces is this: I am not in the situations I was in before. I am lucky to have survived. I am lucky to be looking BACK at what has happened. I have also grown a lot. I have grown physically stronger to better defend myself. I can knock a heavybag over with two punches or a single kick. Elbows and knees are better for defense though. I have gained coping skills to manage panic, and push it down long enough to either defend myself physically or verbally depending on the situation. I’m learning to value myself like I hadn’t before. I am damaged, but I am not completely broken. I still have use. I can still be functional.
It is taking a really long time but I’m coming out of this.
Most importantly I am talking about my past. Its therapeutic for me, and it educates and empowers others depending on the situation. I’m taking away the power that those events had over me, I’m taking away the power that rape culture had over me. I am using my voice. I was silent when I should have leveled charges at the men who violated me. I can’t go back and change that.
But I will not maintain the silence. I will share the distasteful things that happened to me and say it is not my fault. I did not ask for those things. I know the truth. I am blameless. I said no. I asked for them to stop. Their actions were their own. They have nothing to do with me. I will not forgive myself because there is nothing to forgive. I will accept that I have been wounded, and focus on the things that let me heal.
I will build up those around me that they may avoid similar hurt. I will support and nurse those who have been wounded. And I will hope and strive for a better tomorrow.

STOP IT! What not to do in an interview- Part 2

As I’ve said before: I work for a tutoring company. My main job is to interview and hire tutors from all over the country. I’ve conducted THOUSANDS of interviews at this point (not an exaggeration, I average about 220 a week) and there are some fairly common things I see/hear/experience on a daily basis that make me want to pull my hair out.

I put together a list like this a while back, and after a considerably LONG day at work, we’re back for round 2.  Seriously. Do NOT do these things in an interview.

Incessant talking: Interviews are made for talking. They’re just about the only place you can get away with shameless, all out bragging but even in this there is such a thing as moderation! If I ask you how you heard about us and the answer is “craigslist” you do not need to tell me you were looking for work, did a google search for the area, then went to craigslist, then found our ad, then did some research, by the way our yelp reviews are awesome, and then filled out the application and here you are. I know 90 percent of that. Be concise. I have 30 other questions for you. If I ask “are you working currently” the answer is yes or no, not a life story. If I ask for a travel radius in miles I do not need a 2 minute lecture on traffic in your area and a detailed description of your school’s parking lot layout. I need “15 miles” or whatever number applies to you.

We will get to teaching strategies and experience. I promise. But if you can’t be concise or answer the question I am asking you because you are trying to regurgitate the interview speech you practiced in the mirror this morning back at me as fast as you can intentionally leaving no pauses for me to cut in, we’re going to run out of time and I won’t have the answers to the questions I NEEDED to be ABLE to put you through to the next step. Think of interviews like a written exam: ADDRESS THE  PROMPT.

Sassing me: On a similar note. If you answer every basic question I ask you with “AS IT STATES ON MY RESUMÉ…” I will murder you or at least your chances at tutoring with us. Being condescending, snide, or downright rude, or insinuating that I have not done my due diligence is asking for a rejection. I have read your resumé I can see where it says “2008-Present” for your current position. I have seen that on thousands of CVs and on a good majority of them, the information was not accurate because the applicant had recently left their position and failed to update their dates of employment before sending us their documents. I have your info. I read your info. I now have to CONFIRM pertinent details.

And if you sass me over something YOU failed to read in a confirmation email for your interview, you will be put RIGHT back in your place before I move on. It’s appalling the number of times I call my second appointment in an hour at 15-after (or a later appointment, later) and as a courtesy ask if its still a good time for their scheduled interview and they passive aggressively allude that I’m LATE to their appointment but that they graciously can make things work for me. My voice turns the kind of sweet that bores holes in teeth when I inform them they were my 2nd/3rd/4th scheduled appointment that hour and that their confirmation email states they should expect a call between the hours of ___ and ___. A lot of people get mad when I say I have content questions for them and when we get going they can’t recall the slope intercept form, or whether pH2 is an acid or base because apparently it’s my fault they didn’t know they’d be tested and so they hadn’t reviewed ahead of time.

If you berate me because you weren’t prepared, I will direct your attention to the confirmation email we sent in regards to the scheduling of the call, pull up the stock email, and read verbatim the line about being prepared to answer content questions on the subjects you selected and the suggestion that you have a pen and scratch paper ready at the time of the call to work out math or science problems.

And I will not put you through.

 

Clothing, part 2: This SHOULD go without saying and yet it crops up WAY more than anyone likes. If you are not clothed, don’t touch your webcam. If you are naked, you should not be setting up your computer for an interview. If your tits or peen are out: DO NOT see what that “record” button does!

If you have an interview scheduled for 12 and it’s 12:01 you shouldn’t still be setting up your webcam anyway, but if it’s 12:01 and your webcam is not only not set up, but you don’t have your clothes on? You are not prepared for your interview AND you’ve now indecently exposed someone who may potentially be your supervisor in the future. There is no way I can POSSIBLY justify putting you through. ESPECIALLY if you were planning on teaching Elementary/Middle School subjects over our online platform.

And for the love of all that is holy, do not record your interview from a seat on the toilet, particularly if I can hear that you’re using it, while we talk. That is just NOT what I signed up for.

I have witnessed way too many bodily functions and accidental flashing in my time as a remote interviewer.

All these items seem like common sense. But apparently a large portion of grown men and women don’t see it that way. If you want to work, heed my advice. PLEASE.

And my company is shifting towards a more automated system with more recorded and less live interviews through a new program. Which probably means material for another one of these posts.

Good lord.

 

Body Positivity Week

I guess this week is body positivity week. My Facebook has been absolutely bombarded with plus size models and inspirational quotes. The “Try Guys” from Buzz Feed put out a video on photoshopped images. My friends are all reposting BPW media and I see so much positivity being put out there but (because with me there is always a but):

I have an eating disorder.

And because it’s body positivity week, it’s somehow appropriate for all these people to come out of the woodwork and haphazardly post about how they “had” an eating disorder because society, the media, photoshop, etc. but how through some radical self love and a little gumption they managed to “cure” themselves.

It’s killing me.

You don’t cure an eating disorder.

You go into remission.

And you don’t get an eating disorder from watching too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

You develop an eating disorder through a myriad of deep seated personal problems.

Because of this, it’s not as easy as just up and deciding to love yourself.

It’s not ABOUT loving yourself or being “positive.”

Personally, I’ve got so many issues I couldn’t tell you which one it was that started me off. None of my shrinks have pinpointed it either, and that’s not how therapy works anyway.

Big picture? My eating disorder, like my agoraphobia, and a couple other things we’ve never talked about here on the blog, stems from feeling a lack of control over myself, my situation, my life.

If we’re being honest, here, I have a very selfish reason behind this rant, but I think my reasons are making even more clear the problems with this week.

It just so happens that the Monday of Body Positivity week dawned on the Monday I woke up and realized I’m no longer in remission.

I had a stomach ache. The deep, painful kind you get when you’ve actually overdone it and hurt yourself. I vomited three separate times on Sunday. On purpose.

And  I recognized as I walked to the bathroom, knowing what I was about to do to myself, why I was doing it. I felt out of control. Making myself sick has a method to it. There are steps. Steps I won’t list here because reading other people recount their dealings with eating disorders is how I kept mine under wraps the seven years I went without professional treatment. But there ARE steps and going through them makes me feel like things are okay.

I’ve had a rough couple months.

I’ve had very little control at work, in my personal life, at home.

I thought I was managing, but clearly I have not been. I have just been making myself feel better by rigidly controlling what I eat and when that gets messed up, just “adjusting.”

My nails are brittle, the inside of my mouth is full of raw patches and peeling skin from acid exposure, and I woke up so dehydrated Monday morning that I felt hungover.

It’s a problem. I’ve been able to look at myself rationally, now, so I’ve be able to stop, I’m two days clean, and I’ll eventually get back to a good place.

However, this body positivity week, a movement that is supposed to be helpful to people like me is hurting me. I can look at inspirational quotes and put the most negative spin on them or wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t seem to think as positively as “You’re not fat, you HAVE fat”.

I can look at a plus sized model and either feel bad because she’s actually skinnier than me, or panic because she is my size and I DON’T WANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT, or worst of all, even if she’s bigger, I’ll feel like I don’t measure up, or I’ll reverse it and feel like I’ve gotten too bony. My collar bones are too prominent, my leg muscles are too hard and close to the surface.

I can’t win.

Besides that, this week is so superficial. Love your body! Love yourself!

This week somehow equates the self with the body, overturning this Cartesian duality that I count on to feel human.

I do love my body when I’m able to be rational. When I am centered, and not struggling to feel in control, I love my body. I am strong. I am proud of what my body can do and how far it has come. I adore being able to dance and exercise and stretch.

My body suffers at the hands of my mind, though.

I cannot love my mind because it so often betrays me.

It makes me hate my body.

It makes me want to get so small I disappear.

It tells me I have to lure a man in with my body first and that if I am attractive enough he will accept the flaws of my mind. An ass that defies gravity makes my social anxiety more acceptable. A small waist makes it easier to deal with someone who still has tics from being abused. Toned arms and legs makes bursting into tears for no apparent reason endearing instead of disconcerting.

Yeah, I know it’s all crap. Rationally.

It’s not the media making me do this. It’s me. Just me. So to equate my self with my body brings on a whole other level of confusion that serves to push me farther out of the controlled center I NEED to function.

That being said, nothing the media puts out is going to help me. I just have to pick up and sort myself out again.

It’s very isolating, to tell you the truth.

The conclusion I’ve come to, is that Body Positivity week is for people who are already positive about their body or who want everyone else to think they are.

Because those of us who aren’t body positive know better.

I hope to god no one else is having a BPW like mine.

And if you are, I’ve gone nearly 3 days without starving or purging. I will celebrate that. I know you can do the same. We’ll take it one day at a time.

We know we’ll fall into old habits.

But we also know we can pull out again in an endless tiring circle.

 

Just stay strong.

TO NOT do in an Interview – Part 1

I almost murdered someone today.

I mean, I didn’t really, since he lives in Louisiana and I’m on the West Coast, but in my head, his skin was lampshade material and his teeth were halfway to a charmingly macabre necklace.

I work for a tutoring company.

I hire tutors.

I talk to a lot of people each day. Phone interviews are scheduled 4 to an hour and the idea is that 1 in 4 will miss their appointment, giving me time to complete three 15 minute screens with time left over to complete my notes and either schedule their second interview or justify and classify their rejection. I do about 3 face-to-face interviews a day (online of course, I work from home) and these should be about 40 minutes of screening, 15 minutes of walking them through next steps, and 5 minutes wrapping up notes, or preparing for my next appointment.

Now, I’m a pretty nice person. If I have time I will answer as many questions as possible. I will level with you on realistic expectations. I will allow moments for you to be human. I’ll encourage you and remind you that you can always add subjects you need to review back into your list at a later date. I genuinely enjoy most of the people that I interview on some level.

I used to be a tutor. They want to help kids learn which takes WAY more effort than flipping chemically separated patties. It awesome.

BUT some people just bend my last nerve, and once they hit that point, they are not going to be put through.

I may not turn them into lampshades, but I will denote every tiny grammar error in their application. I will give them no leeway on silly mistakes in their math problems. If they forget that a ball falling back to earth with have an acceleration of NEGATIVE 9.81m/s squared, I will list it as incorrect without hesitation or benefit of the doubt.

Now having conducted THOUSANDS (literally) of interviews and compared notes with my fellow recruiters, I consider myself something of an expert on the subject of interviews. To help anyone out there looking for work, I present the following list of things to never EVER, goddamn EVER (see where it says ever? EVER!) do in an interview:

Not showing up/showing up late with no excuse: This should go without saying and yet my company’s schedules are set up based on the fact that a solid 30% of people miss their interviews. We have 4 calls to make in an hour based on the idea that usually one of them doesn’t show. For phone interviews we call twice and leave a voicemail both times. For in person interviews we call twice, leave a voicemail, and resend your confirmation email.

My first reaction when someone misses an interview is always “In THIS economy??” My second is that it’s rude. We give people every opportunity to cancel or reschedule their appointments before the fact. They don’t even have to talk to us to do it. There are links built into your scheduling confirmations to do it over the internet. Its rude to us, and it takes up scheduling slots that could have gone to people who were serious about working with us. No shows get rejected, but we do consider rescheduling them if they call in. The bigger pet peeve here is people who show up late, or miss their first or even second call and call back in late and then DON’T EXPLAIN OR APOLOGIZE.

If you call in late and tell me you overslept, or your phone was on silent, or you forgot, okay, fine I will make a note and move on. It happens, you’re human, you may not be as reliable as I’d like, but we can move on. No explanation, to me, says you are unpunctual AND unrepentant about it. It says my time is not important. It says you’re unreliable and you’re not trying to do anything different. If you are not ON POINT in every other area of your interview, you’re not getting put through.

Clothing: I know, I know. I’m the last person who should be bashing people on what they wear given the towel with a cardigan episode. BUT. If I can manage to be professional from the waist up for ten hours a day, you can manage for 45 minutes for our interview. Speaking from experience, it does not take very much time or effort.

Being casual is one thing. If you’re overly casual it’s fine. Most people will be working with kids. You don’t need business casual to teach fractions at the local library. But if I see 50% or more of your boobs and you’re in spaghetti straps you had better be Florence freaking Nightingalesque with your science know-how. That goes for men, too. If you’re missing your sleeves or the ‘V’ in your tee shirt is so low I’m seeing nipple you are not getting put through. Gender equality, bitch!

If you are wear a hoodie and that hoodie is up, you are not getting through. This is not Freedom Writers, you are not Hilary Swank. I am not some hoodrat youth you are trying to convince of your street cred so they’ll learn from you. Get your act together.

And if you have something printed on your tee shirt that is not absolutely 100% G-rated I will not put you through. You would think this goes without saying but I have seen so many curse words and scantily clad (/not clad) women in interviews it is not even a joke anymore.

Involving your pets or children: It’s shocking how many times I have been made to greet small animals and children during my interview. Cats, chihuahuas, bunnies. One guy ran across his room to scoop up his cat before holding her up to the screen and demanding that I say hello and tell her she’s a pretty girl.

Similarly, I have had multiple applicants bring their children onscreen and have little Timmy or Susan beg me to give mommy or daddy the job. At which point I usually get to lie to small children and feel like an a$$hole for the rest of the day.

DONT DO IT. If you wouldn’t bring your pet into an office for an interview, don’t bring them onscreen. Same with children.

Cursing: I have a potty mouth. If you’ve read anything here, you know I curse like a landbound sailor and don’t feel too bad about it. But I worked with children for years as a nanny and as a tutor and I always managed to keep my swearing under wraps. I CERTAINLY never cursed in an interview. Yet, for some reason, people seem to think it’s acceptable to say everything from “oh sh-t” over not knowing an answer to “I’m pretty damn good at-” whatever subject we’re talking about.

In my line of work, the more casually the swear words slide off your tongue in front of me, the more horrified I become at the prospect of setting you up with a client. I used to do tutor matching. I have talked to irate customers whose tutor did or said something inappropriate. If you curse in front of me, I am going to assume you’ll slip up in front of them and that won’t be the MAIN reason I don’t put you through but the professionalism concern is going to lose you enough points that nothing else is going to save you.

Eating: Have you ever listened to someone eating something moist and chewy through iPhone earbuds while taking smacking pauses and then attempting to talk through and around whatever’s in their mouth? No? Lucky you. It’s part of my job on a daily basis.

And no matter how many times I find myself in a phone interview with an eater, I’ve never found myself not contemplating a murder.

It’s not even just the phone interviews, either. I’ve had people wrestle open a bag of Cheetos on screen and dig in. I see people drinking everything from water, to soda, to coffee, to beer and wine in the face to face interview. On what planet is that okay??

As a child I was taught not to eat in front of people. I was also taught to chew with my mouth closed and not talk with my mouth full. Most of the people who eat on their interviews with me do ALL THREE AT ONCE. Part of it peeves me because it’s annoying, another because it’s rude, and third because I cannot eat during interviews.

I will get in trouble if I’m caught eating or if my coffee cup is in frame on an interview. If a phone interview is recorded and I’m eating I would get written up so fast my head would spin. I’m literally trapped at my desk for most of the day unable to eat or drink outside of assigned break periods and these people can’t even suck it up for 15 minutes per phone screen or 50 minutes for an online interview. It bothers me to my core.

If you’re eating when you speak to me, unless you are God’s gift to tutoring from an Ivy League university with test prep experience and a teaching certificate your application is getting flagged as unprofessional and I will not put you through.

DON’T DO IT.

And we’re going to nip this one here and call it Part 1 because there are more things to not do in and interview, but we’re not even halfway through and I’m all agitated! So enjoy, don’t do this to your interviewers, and I’ll see you next time.

Oh, look, I’ve been Impaled

Is it too much to ask, that I be warned when someone’s planning on sticking something in my vagina??

Sorry, too much, too fast (that’s what he said…. I’ll let myself out… Sorry again) but REALLY. I feel like every time I go to the doctor for something innocuous I somehow wind up in one of those awkward gowns that don’t cover anything, with my feet in the stirrups, and someone prodding my organs around from the inside!

I had an ultrasound scheduled this morning and before you ask, no, not pregnant, but my lady garden may be killing me slowly, or trying to fuse itself to other organs. Given the choice, I’d almost rather be pregnant.

Now they gave me all my appointment info, the nurse explained I’d need to come with an empty bladder, it wasn’t like we didn’t have some conversation beforehand and this appointment was scheduled 2 weeks in advance. There was time!

I get there for my ultrasound, still nothing is said until I get into the room and then this very nice lady I’ve never met before hands me a robe and tells me my ultrasound will be of the internal variety, so to get naked and hop into the stirrups.

WHAT?

I don’t think this is okay. When I was told ultrasound, I figured goo on the belly, sticky for the next few hours, wear a cotton tea shirt, good to go. I was already anxious about having the test done anyway, since, y’know, I MIGHT HAVE AN ACTUAL MEDICAL PROBLEM. Then they wait until I’m in the room and have no mental prep time before they tell me I’m going to have a piece of machinery shoved up inside me.

I feel that as women, having been told since we were little that no one should see you naked and no one should touch your ‘private parts’ that laying back with your legs wide open and someone probing around inside you with a lubed-up speaker on a stick is uncomfortable at the very least.

Then add in all the sh!t we develop growing up into women, in my case general anxiety over anything outside my door and medical settings in particular as well as a history of moderate sexual trauma, surprise penetration is not welcome!

But where is the line? Who do I complain to? It’s not the doctor’s fault, it’s not really anyone’s fault. Anyone in that office is going to tell me that the ultrasound was standard for the sort of problems I’m having. If my lady garden is the problem, I should expect to have it prodded at from all angles. My anxiety and my mental health are a good half of the reason that such an apparently routine medical procedure has me fighting off tears and a full blown anxiety attack.  Any doctor is going to tell me that my physical health needs supersede mental health.

I don’t know what the big picture is here, but small picture, as far as I’m concerned, I need advanced notice if you expect me to take off my panties.

Come to think of it, that’s probably a good policy for most real-life settings.

Damselling

This weekend is a great one for dancing but something happened that was worrying and needs to be discussed.

Now I’ve mentioned that there are a lot of things about dancing that are triggering for me. Going outside for one. Letting people touch me. Talking to people. Dancing with people. Now those are normal things that stress me an okay amount.

If its a good night and I’m in high spirits, a couple laps to my car and I’m good to go. I can shake off or at least postpone an anxiety attack. Ever so often, though, someone will do something that triggers something OTHER than my agoraphobia, and that’s when we have a problem.

Once upon a time I was a battered woman. I don’t mean to belittle anyone else who might have a similar experience by being so flip about it here, but that’s how I manage to get by it every day. Brush it off. Move forward. Live in the now.

Sometimes in the now, though, people grab you unnecessarily hard by the upper arm. Sometimes in dancing they might jerk you into weird positions to get leverage. Some Leads (not all, and certainly in my opinion not GOOD Leads) who are at a certain skill level will swing less experienced dancers around like a rag doll, mistaking puppetry for a firm lead.

This happened this weekend.

Now I’m still new at Blues and social dancing in general, so I’ve had my share of men (and I don’t say this to be gender biased, women do lead as well, it’s just that I’ve never been rag-dolled by a woman, so I say men)  toss me around like this instead of just leading me. If you’ve never danced before, the best analogy I can make is to compare it to leading a child (or anyone really) by the hand. You can hold their hand and walk in whatever direction you want and they will be able to toddle along after you; if they want to go slow or fast or walk alongside you or behind you they can do it. You’re both connected and going the same way, they just have some amount of independence.

Someone rag-dolling you is like jerking a child by the hand; it’s putting force behind the guidance. Like jerking a kid out of the street or frog marching them out of a store post or mid-tantrum. They don’t have an option. Their pace and direction are set through force and momentum. There’s less ‘give’ in the guiding hand and with the wrong attitude it can turn into something quite different. Something threatening.

In dance when you are being rag-dolled by someone threatening, it’s bad.

For me, it’s often traumatic.

Now, this weekend a man asked me to dance. I don’t recall his name. We’re going to call him Meathead. He walks up and asks me to dance, stretches out his hand and I smile, hop up, acquiesce, the whole nine. He’s not much taller than me, would be slight of build, but the way his tee shirt falls you can tell he’s actually pretty muscular. He’s handsome, I suppose, objectively speaking, though his nose is a bit crooked (found out later it’d been broken fighting).

His smile may have been crooked as well. But who knows. That’s probably some sort of bias I’ve tacked on subconsciously in hindsight.

One bar in to the dance it was clear he has an elevated level of skill. Two bars and I accepted I was going to get jerked around if I didn’t take some initiative.

So I took some initiative. He jerked my hand into an awkward position to try to muscle me through a step and I snaked under and stepped behind him. I dropped his hand and circled him with a cheeky smile.

He snatched me back to him and fairly crushed me to his chest. He then used his knees to knock my legs wider apart and then forced a sort of jerky side to side action that I suppose would have looked seductive and serpentine if I hadn’t just been deliberately thrown off balance and allowed no space to follow willingly or add my own style.

The next time he turned me, I slipped him again and that was the last time I had my freedom. He snagged me by the wrist instead of the hand and yanked, saying “C’mere” with this sick smile. He crushed my chest back into his and I could feel his fingertips hook up UNDER the cup of my shoulder blade, digging into my back. The fingers of his other hand dug between the delicate bones in the back of my hand. His thumb pinched mine, deliberately gripping too tightly for me to slip away again. “You have to do what I want: I’m Lead.”

When he turned me after that he would grab my elbow or force my arm around to his other hand behind me.

Being pinned is triggering for me. Fingers digging into my torso is triggering. The lazy, arrogant, self-satisfied way he was looking at me was triggering. It was proprietary. Smug and later this unhurried sort of lust.

I mentioned after he dipped me, too fast because everything he did was force and momentum, that dips worry me. He laughed and started doing them on purpose. Faster and harder and lower to the ground.

The worst was when he deliberately swept my legs and tripped me into a dip.He mouthed “sorry” after he did it but it was a leg sweep; clean and intentional. I flew towards the floor and he caught me just in time, but the momentum meant the arm/shoulder he grabbed, and then my spine at the point he snagged around my waist protested (and had my chiropractor asking questions). My hair brushed the floor. My hair is bobbed.

At the end of the song, he ordered me to dance with him again. There was no way to say no without causing a scene. And at that point I had shrunk into the far corner of my mind where I peer out and look for a coward’s exit, or some way to de-escalate or make him lose interest.

I spent another song trying not to twist an ankle and keep from giving him another opportunity to deliberately trip me. I tried again and again to make eye contact with Kay and a male friend of ours in the corner. Help me, help me, help me. A mantra in my mind in time to whatever song played.

He was talking, too. I was having that tunnel moment in panic where everything’s weird and you can hear your pulse and all the words sound like they’re in slow motion or under water.

Things I remember:

He said that I’m strong, and that most guys don’t like that, but he does. “You’re strong here… and here and in your legs…” Digging his fingers into my upper back, then stroking the back of a finger down the line between my ribs and over my stomach, drawing up just before my navel. It’s not an overtly inappropriate touch, but still intimate and it makes me feel dirty. He repeated that I’m strong a lot of times.

He said he used to do martial arts. “Now instead of beating people up, I dance with them.” It was a joke but it had an edge to it. When he said this, I had a flash of heat followed by a chill that hurt my skin followed by a rush of fear sweat that soaked my dress. He then said he traded getting sweated on by men for getting sweated on by women, which he doesn’t mind. He actually kind of likes it.

“I really, kind of like it.” His face went into my hair and his breath touched my ear. “Really…. kind of…. like it.” It dwindled into more of a growl than words.

At this point I was nauseous from anxiety, dizzy and sore from being jerked around to hard and fast. I wanted to go home, or lock myself in the bathroom for a while and cry on the floor. I wanted someone to rescue me but also didn’t want anyone to see me unable to take care of myself.

All things end, though. If you wait long enough. When the song ended. I let the fear slide off my face. I made myself take my teeth out of my cheek and lower lip. I gave him a tight, fake smile, and an empty gaze. I thanked him quickly, spun a quick about-face, and beelined to the corner with my friends.

Now, I didn’t let it ruin my evening, but it needed to be addressed.

 

It doesn’t happen often, and for the most part the Blues scene is a safe, nonthreatening, environment but things like this do happen and not just to me. It happens outside of the Blues scene as well. There are men out there that use public situations and social norms to prey on women while everyone watches.

I read an article on how we’re conditioned to “de-escalate” situations instead of calling people on their BS. I’m certainly guilty of it, but it’s a complex thing.

I thought of 3 different ways I could have hurt the Meathead to get him off me. I almost hit him when he was in my ear about liking sweat but I didn’t. I dug my nails into the palm of the hand resting on his shoulder, I bit my lip. I didn’t hurt him.

I AM strong in ways he wouldn’t understand. I have a lot of self control. But I also am weak, I’d rather de-escalate than drag other people into my drama.  Or make him angry and have him follow me to my car when there are less witnesses around.

It was less risky to just swallow the fear and be afraid for a few minutes.

I wanted help, but I didn’t want help. I looked for anyone to come save me, but when someone said I should bring it up publicly, I said I didn’t want to be a damsel.

And I don’t. I want to save my own goddamn self.

But sometimes I don’t know if I can.

Its a very confusing thing.

And scary.

Fortunately, Meathead didn’t ruin my night. Like every other injury dealt me by idiot men my hyperextended elbow will heal and my chiropractor knocked everything else back into place today.

And if nothing else, it made me appreciate every other dance all the more.

Two of which were with the Viking.

But that’s another story, one that has no business sharing space with a post on anxiety and panic.