Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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

            I took a few days off and lay in bed with a cat sitting on me, deciding what to do. I went into the afterschool classroom in the in the middle of the day when no one was there, gathered up my stuff and left a note. I ran into one of the kids on the way in and the guilt just killed me. I felt like I was abandoning the children I’d been there to serve, because I was. Despite LWC’s perception that I was mean, the kids really did love me a lot, they always do, and I loved them so much too.

            I’d already written to the C.E.O. and other higher-ups during one of the witch-hunty meetings over the summer, and I wrote to them again at the end. This is one of those shitty experiences you hope has a good effect in the long run.

            A nice friend who worked at another school made me a card and had everyone sign it at the all-site meeting. It was sad but I hoped that future LGBTQ AmeriCorps members would be treated more hospitably.

            When I look back on the whole situation, I feel pretty humbled and mortified. Though homophobia was certainly a thread that ran through the whole experience, unwanted workplace advances DO need to be taken seriously, and she certainly deserved to be free of them. But at the same time, I never deserved to be treated with that much suspicion, that much distrust. Though the distrust was understandable in some ways, and I should have been much more willing to take time earning people’s trust, it still hurt, it still did damage, as did kind of having a car aimed at me.

            As I went deeper into the education field, the distrust factor got deeper and drownier. I found it very hard to stay in touch with my best qualities when people kept assuming the worst, and by the end, I was a threat to kids, I was part of a racist system and solidly part of the problem. I have to take responsibility for that and keep trying to bridge the gaps that separate me from African American people, from men, from straight people. The things that separate us hurt so much, and I know I can only do little things to fix the broken connections.

            If I were to run into LWC now, I would apologize for sending her the poem, for making her uncomfortable, for letting my frustration and loneliness impact her job. She probably wouldn’t apologize for aiming a car at me. Straight privilege seems insurmountable sometimes, and I am really, really sick of it.

            All of this informed my not-quite-love story with Mr. Makeout Music—the fear of meetings, the self-consciousness, the worrying about coercion, the general feeling like I might be the bad guy. But I’m gratified to say, this is a wholly different workplace (Well, it’s also a hetero attraction, but still.) Everyone on his team has been cordial and sweet and my own department head has been a patient, encouraging listener. Yesterday as the kids and I made a kindness chain for Christmastime, I felt things shift back into their normal, loving work ways.

I’m sorry it took me this long to realize I’m not back in the scary LWC situation. For all of my getting upset about Mr. Makeout Music greeting me with fear, I brought my own mess to the table too—fear of meetings, fear of oppressing him, fear of being too much and too many. As I revel in the space we’re giving each other and the freedom to grieve the lost connection, I feel aglow in the kind and accepting workplace I helped create.

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