Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lady Work Crush, 2010: A Story of Cultural (In)competence (Part Two)



            At the time, Sweetie was working an hour and a half from home, on a good traffic day. It was a sacrifice she’d made so we could move to our new city, a sacrifice which my mother reminded me semi-daily was my fault and mine to correct.  Sweetie and I usually talked on the phone during her long commute, but the guilt and all of the dinners alone, combined with my insufficiently examined white lady issues, added up to a toxic soup of guilt and loneliness.

            While I was feeling this emptiness and longing to connect, Lady Work Crush developed a deep connection with the Mean Boss Girl, and they started to call each other sisters. Of course I would never want to begrudge anyone friend- or sister-love, but their bond made me feel even more alone, especially since their friendship included the detailed reiterating of SVU plots and I had to ask them to tone it down, to their great annoyance.

            We had a long series of snow days that February, during which my AmeriCorps hours got hopelessly behind and during which I wrote a love poem about Lady Work Crush. I mentioned it in passing and she said that she would love to read it. I hemmed and hawed and then sent it via facebook. I cringe every time I think about that decision, how it made things uncomfortable for her and unsafe for me.

            The next day at work, I saw contempt flash across Mean Boss Girl’s face as she took a call from LWC. There was another meeting. LWC said I’d been “taking it out on” the kids because I was upset that she didn’t like me back. I didn’t think that was accurate but it still gives me so much shame just to type it. She stated and reiterated that she prefers men in a way that still looks a little bit like protesting too much.

            I said that I understood and accepted her rejection, but that I also felt like I wasn’t being treated fairly, that this wouldn’t have had to be a meeting if I were a man. I said I thought they were making me into the bad guy in a way that made me feel unsafe and unwelcome at work. I’m not sure if that was true or if I was just embarrassed and hurt and trying to diffuse the shame and rejection like I always do. Probably it was both.

            LWC was LIVID at the end of this conversation, and that work night ended with her getting in her car, turning up the radio all the way, and speeding in the direction of my closeted male coworker and myself. I don’t want to be too dramatic, she only KIND OF aimed the car at us.

            There was a meeting with the boss’s boss the next day, wherein I was asked to sign a paper saying that I wouldn’t make any more advances on LWC. Now that I’m thinking about it, I only made one advance and accepted her “no,” so it seems crazy that there was a paper. I said again that this wouldn’t be happening if I were a man, but I signed it. I also told the bosses that this was a homophobic workplace and I didn’t quite understand how to fit in there anymore.

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