Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Let's Talk about Gender Issues in America

Yesterday I finished reading a book called The History of the Wife. I picked it up at the public library on a whim a few weeks ago when I saw it sitting next to another book I was checking out for comp exam reading. Overall the book wasn't that fantastic. It was interesting enough that I finished it, and it was good to have a history from the ancient Greeks to the twentieth century in one book, but the book didn't have enough depth or complex analysis for me. It also didn't tell me much that I hadn't already picked up from eight years of college coursework (I'm in the humanities, so a large number of my courses have had a gender studies element). In general, it was a decent popular history, but I found myself wishing I could read the author's academic studies instead of this, which felt like a watered-down, simplified version.

The book did get me thinking a lot about what it means to be married in the 21st century, however. One of the things the author alluded to is the fact that while men and women are now often sharing the role of breadwinner, the bulk of the housekeeping still falls on the mother. As a result, even in a family where the mother and father are both working 40 hours a week, more often than not it still falls to the woman to cook dinner, clean the house, help with homework, etc., etc., etc.
The situation keeps improving and becoming more equitable, I think, but it's still not perfect. Why? I have my theories.
The History of the Wife does a good job of demonstrating that the point we're at now has been a long time coming. The idea of an egalitarian marriage didn't just spring into being in the 1960s with the women's lib movement, although things obviously accelerated then and I'd say that it has really only been in the past fifty years that women have truly begun to be taught that we can do anything. I personally very much internalized the message I felt I received from my parents and teachers: A woman of my generation can do anything she wants to do. From the time I was a young child I was told that I could be a doctor, a physicist, a judge, the president, a CEO, a soldier. Pretty much the only career choice that was out of the realm of possibility was playing for one of the professional men's sports leagues, although plenty of women today do have careers as professional athletes (and I personally have no problem with the segregation of sports because of the simple fact that as an average woman my body will never be as big or strong as the average man's. That IS an undeniable fact). My point is that I clearly remember many of my adult mentors telling me that I could do anything I wanted to do with my life, and I took that message and ran with it. I realize not all the women of my generation had the same upbringing. There are still some cultures that insist on women's subservient role, but I think we can all agree that those small pockets of society are no longer the norm in the United States. The norm now is encouraging women to get an education, to support themselves, to break through the few glass ceilings that still exist.
What I'm saying is, we've come a very long way with women's equality in the past half-century. We still have a little ways to go, of course, but I think the time has come to begin to shift our focus from the women to the men. The last couple of generations spent all of this time teaching women about the new role we're entitled to have in society, but they forgot an important step in the process of equality: teaching men their new role in society.
It used to be easy. Men and women knew their traditional roles. True, men and women always had the ability to balk against the norms, but at least it was pretty clear what those roles were in the early centuries of this country: in upper- and middle-class society, women were expected to stay home and raise the children and keep control of the housekeeping, whether it meant doing it themselves or heading a team of servants. Men were expected to go out and work to support their wife and children. [The working class has always had its own rules, and they complicate the situation. For instance, most working class couples throughout history have had more egalitarian marriages just out of necessity: women had to work because the family could not afford to live otherwise. However, nowadays the less educated (so, often therefore the less wealthy) a couple is, the more likely they are to take on traditional gender roles. I can clearly see this playing out in my own extended family.]
The way I see it, men used to know when they were doing a good job: if you were bringing home a good income, an income that allowed your wife to stay home and take care of popping out babies and washing dishes, then you were doing your duty as a husband. You were a good man. Now, we hear a lot about women's struggle with balancing working out of the home with working in the home, but we hear a lot less about how hard it must be for the men. How does a man know when he's doing a good job these days? At this moment, I don't think men have a clear role to play.
And let me be clear as I talk about roles that I realize this varies from one culture to another and that it's increasingly difficult these days to talk about what's "normal" in America. I realize that I can only speak from the perspective of the middle- to upper-middle class, relatively liberal social world in which I was raised and in which I still circulate (and if you're a friend of mine and you're reading this, you're likely a part of that world as well). I am also only speaking of heterosexual relationships at this point.
Keeping this caveat in mind, I think I'm receiving a pretty clear message as to what it means to be a "good" wife and mother these days: a good wife and mother is one that can more or less balance a job that allows her to contribute income to the family with raising her children and attending to her husband's needs while keeping an orderly, organized home. I'm not saying this is possible (see, oh, THE WHOLE INTERNET for stories of women trying to strike this balance), but it's today's ideal. It gives women something to aim for, as impossible as it may be. Pick up any mainstream women's magazine and tell me you don't agree.
But what sort of message is my boyfriend receiving from society about what it takes to be a good husband and father? I'm glad to see that there are a number of books and campaigns now aimed at getting fathers to take an active role in their children's lives. But for every one of those books and campaigns, there is an equally vocal force that says that staying home with your children is emasculating, makes men "depressed" because they don't have enough adult interaction or a sense of purpose (as if it's EASY for a woman to get full emotional satisfaction from being a stay-at-home mom, but don't even get me started on that). And let's talk about housework. I searched the inernet today for books on men and homemaking, and do you know how many I found? Zero. There are some cookbooks for men, but any book on cleaning and general housekeeping seems to be completely geared toward women.
So there are all of these sources that imply that it's pussifying (and, dare I say, even emotionally dangerous) for men to fully engage in taking care of their children from infanthood. And there are even more societal messages telling men that they are "whipped" if they pick up a broom or a roll of paper towels and some Windex. Even worse, our American society persists in telling men that they are too stupid to do work that traditionally belonged to women. There are plenty of articles about the copious amount of TV shows featuring competent wives and humorous, idiotic husbands. But it's not just TV and movies, it's women ourselves. I'm guilty of this. Case in point: last night Anna and I were out to dinner and we were talking about how we should have a girls' night out and leave her 3-year-old son with Penn and Nicole's boyfriend for the night. We were laughing about how funny that would be but, really, it shouldn't be funny at all. The men are perfectly, 100% capable of taking care of a little boy for the night, and there's no reason the idea of leaving a child with a couple of men as babysitters should be humorous. It should be NORMAL.
Women, it's time to shift our focus. Let's continue to encourage women to support themselves, to find fulfilling careers, to be senators and CEOs and department heads. At the same time, let's encourage men to be active fathers and housekeepers. Let's tell them that they CAN cook, that they CAN sort laundry, that they CAN wake up at three in the morning and soothe a crying baby just as well as a mother can. This isn't going to happen overnight. It has taken a few generations of feisty, fighting women and an entire lifetime of people telling me, "You can have any job you want!" for me to believe it. It's going to take the same generational shift and a lifelong "You can do it! You can nurture your children!" mantra for men to really believe it. But they could come to believe it.
I know what you're going to say, those of you that want to argue about this. You're going to say "But men and women can never really be equal in the way you want them to be, because women are the ones who carry the babies and nourish them." You're right about the pregnancy thing. There is no way around the fact that women are the ones that get pregnant. And, unfortunately, pregnancy does slow women down, particularly the ones that have complications and have to go on bed rest. But the vast majority of women can and do work right through their pregnancies. As for nursing, if a woman opts not to nurse her baby there is nothing, literally nothing other than carrying the baby in her uterus that a mother can do that her husband can't. And in a lot of situations even a mother that opts to nurse can pump bottles so that a husband or other caregiver can feed the baby while she works.
Right now, the main thing keeping women from earning the same amount as men is that women are the ones that take maternity leave and lose income in the process. This situation can quickly become more equitable if paternity leave becomes as common as maternity leave. More and more companies (and the government) have adopted paternity leave policies, and I think that's wonderful. Still, currently it's hard to take paternity leave. Men worry about getting behind at work, losing money, losing promotions, etc. Women worry about the same thing, of course, but society is telling us we don't have a choice. Despite our worries, we HAVE to take maternity leave. We're stigmatized if we don't ("What sort of mother goes back to work when her baby is ten days old?!") Men haven't traditionally taken paternity leave, so for them it's the opposite. Men are often stigmatized if they do use their full paternity leave. We need to start working to change that situation. Currently, most maternity and paternity plans provide 3-6 months of leave time. I hope that it eventually becomes the norm that when a woman has a baby she takes her 3-6 months off right away when the baby is nursing most. Then, after her leave time runs out, her husband could take his 3-6 months of leave. At that point the baby would have had at least six months and up to a full year being solely raised by one of his or her parents. That's more than many, many babies get right now. It would be amazing if men taking paternity leave was just the norm. That's how it should be, and I don't think it's an irrational pipe dream to think it can and will happen. We're very slowly heading that direction already.
I know what else you're going to tell me, arguers: "But women and men have certain instincts! Men don't have the instincts to nurture a baby the way that women do! Men don't care whether the house is clean, that's a woman thing!" Bull. Yes, instincts exist. I think it's fair to say, in general, that men are more aggressive and competitive and messy that women are more gentle and nurturing and neater. But instincts aren't everything. Instincts can and often are controlled. As a woman, I can learn to be more aggressive and competitive. I HAVE learned to be more aggressive and competitive, because this is another one of those messages I've been taught since childhood. I have to fight my instincts to avoid conflict and I have to get into the mix and be a competitor because it's the only way I'm going to get ahead in my job. If women can go against their so-called nurturing, peace-making natures to be successful in the workplace, then why can't men go against their supposedly messy, aggressive natures to learn to appreciate a tidy home and cuddle a baby? They can learn to mold their instincts. Of course they can! If women can do it, men can do it, and women HAVE done it. So men need to get with the program and stop using "It's against my instincts!" as a crutch. And the more men make a place for themselves as active homemakers, the less these things will be seen as "instincts" and the more they will be recognized as the historical cultural constructs that they at least partially are.
Women had to work throughout the 20th century to get rid of the stigma against them working in the white collar world. In the 21st century, I think we'll have to work equally hard to get rid of the stigma against men who take a truly active role in rearing their children and doing chores around the house. But I think we'll get there.
In my mind, in my ideal world, it all boils down to this: Husbands and wives should be pulling equal weight in all areas of the marriage. It will be much, much easier for women to achieve the above-mentioned "good" wife and mother ideal when men begin to pull equal weight not only as breadwinners but also as housekeepers and parents. Plus the goal of pulling equal weight gives men a goal to strive for, a measurement of what makes a "good" husband and father, and this goal is something I don't think men have right now but something they need to make their lives easier, too.
I do realize that in some cases one party has a much busier career. Take my current situation, for example: Penn is out of the apartment for 40 hours a week. I am only physically at a job for 20 hours a week. I also make much less money. Therefore, things break down accordingly: because I'm home more often, it makes sense for me to do more of the housework simply because I am the one that is physically here to do it. Also, at this point it makes sense for us as a couple to prioritize his job because it's more stable than mine and he makes twice as much. This is why, for example, when I graduate we are planning to stay here to allow him to keep his job as opposed to potentially moving somewhere for me to take a full-time job. It just makes sense. In our future, I imagine that if I continue to work part-time as he works full-time, I will spend more time at home with our children and more time doing housekeeping. But he will also have to do his share of the housekeeping and child rearing. I'm not going to be the only one awake in the middle of the night. I'm not going to be the only one cleaning the bathrooms. I also expect that if I eventually choose take a full time job as well, we will split the housekeeping and childcare time right down the middle. And I expect that whether or not to take a full time job will be my choice: a choice I will make with the well-being of the family in mind and with my husband's input, but still ultimately my choice. Who knows how I'm actually going to feel once I have children, but I do know that I'm not going to have a husband who demands that I be a stay-at-home mom if I don't feel like that's in my best interest as a mother. (On that note, there are a lot of studies now that show that children with working mothers are not at a disadvantage, and in some ways they even fare better than children with stay-at-home mothers. Also, a father who insists that a child needs a stay-at-home parent can and should be that stay-at-home parent if he feels more strongly about it than the mother who wants to work. If a woman wants to stay home she should be able to, but it's her choice.)
I know that I'm going to have to struggle throughout my life to get the egalitarian marriage that I want. Even with an intelligent, thoughtful, liberal husband, it's sometimes going to be a fight. And that's not my hypothetical future husband's fault. He's certainly not a deadbeat, he's definitely already doing everything society tells him he needs to do. It's just that, so far, society isn't convincing men to do enough in the home. This going to be a fight for almost every single woman in my generation who gets married, no matter how forward-thinking our husbands are (and some of us will end up with terrific, forward-thinking, respectful husbands). There are very, very, very few people who are strong enough to go against what society tells them day in and day out. And right now what society tells men is that, sure, they need to help out, but it's still primarily the wife's job to take care of the kids and the house, even if she's working just as much as he is. And why is it the wife's job, according to society? Because she just does it "better".
It's going to be a long, uphill battle to change that message. But can we women agree to try? It's time to stop disparaging our men. It's time to start building their self esteem for a while. It's time to tell them that they can do it. I for one plan to raise my future children with the message that women AND men can do anything. A woman's place is in the home and office. A man's place is also in the home and office. I'm predicting that many of the other women of my generation will do the same thing. I know it's too late for my generation to have truly egalitarian marriages. We have too many entrenched systems and too many presumptions fighting against us. But we can make it a priority to try to raise nurturing men, just as our mothers made it a priority to try to raise strong women. My hope is that by the time my grandchildren get married, it will no longer be unusual for men and women to equally share childcare and housekeeping duties as well as the duty of bringing home a paycheck.
I can hope.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another one for the Idiot Files

I should stop writing about people doing idiotic things. I really should, especially since I know that I probably do plenty of things that other people find annoying and stupid. And yet sometimes I can't resist telling you about my latest moron encounter (I also have plenty of encounters with nice, normal people, but that's just not as interesting).
Last night Penn and I were on the train coming home from a night out with a couple of his friends. We'd taken the train into the city to go to our new favorite beer bar and at 1:30 we caught the train home. Now, whenever you get on the train between 1 and 3 AM on the weekends you know there are going to be obnoxious drunk people on the train. That's just a given. I don't generally mind because a) it makes for interesting people-watching and b) I've been drunk and obnoxious on more than one occasion in my life so I can't really judge. But last night we encountered a girl who was so drunk that almost every other person on the train could do nothing but talk about what a drunk idiot she was. In fact, I think the only person who wasn't ready to strangle her was the guy who was so drunk that at one point when the train stopped he fell to the floor and rolled ten feet up the aisle. Had he been able to stay on his feet I'm sure he would have wanted her to shut up, too.
She was just SO. ANNOYING. When I got on the train she was making loud, bitchy comments to other passengers. For instance, a girl and her boyfriend got on the train and the drunk girl said at the top of her lungs, "I like your dress! You're cute! But, ugh, your boyfriend is NOT!" and she told another girl, "Ooh, where did you get your shirt, it's so ugly!" I'm amazed she didn't get slapped in the face. She was sitting with her friend (who was also so drunk she was almost cross-eyed, but at least she wasn't as loud) and they were trying pathetically to flirt with every guy that crossed their path. At one point she asked a guy where he was getting off the train and he said, "The next stop," and she said, "Well, you'll be missing fun times in Ocean City!" and the guy looked at them dubiously and said, "You're going to Ocean City right now?" and the other girl said, "No, but we're going soon and we were going to invite you, but now I don't think we have time to get to know you well enough before you get off the train. So we're not going to invite you after all!" The guy just nodded slowly and said, "Yeah...that's a good decision." A few minutes later another guy got on and because the drunk girl had to make a loud, rude comment about every single person that boarded the train she shouted, "What's on your hands? WHAT'S ON YOUR HANDS? Don't touch anything. Is that ink? Oh my god, were you in jail? YOU WERE IN JAIL TONIGHT, WEREN'T YOU?!?!" The guy didn't really answer, he just muttered some comment about how he has been to jail a few times in his life and the drunk girl shouted, "Oh, that's attractive, a guy that has been in jail many times!" I couldn't tell if she was joking or being serious. It was a bitchy or stupid comment either way.
This went on for the entire twenty minutes I was on the train. If she wasn't yelling rude comments at people she was blabbing loudly to anyone who accidentally caught her eye. The only thing that made it even remotely bearable was the camaraderie formed between the rest of us poor passengers who had to put up with her.
The absolute highlight, though, was this conversation:
Drunk Girl: He won't come pick us up. He hates people. He hates drunk people. He hates us.
Her Friend: He hates us?....But we LOVE him.
Drunk Girl: I hate people that hate people who like people who aren't trying to hate people because they're just trying to like people who like people and don't like hating people who, like, hate people.
Her Friend: Yeah, I know. Me too.

What?! What does that even mean?! That's a paraphrase of what she said, of course, but I promise her actual rambling didn't make any more sense than the way I wrote it there. I wished I'd had a recorder at that moment, though, because it was quite possibly the most stupid statement I've ever heard in my entire life. And it was made even funnier by the fact that her friend nodded and agreed as if the drunk girl's comment had made even a bit of sense.
Anyway, that was the last straw for Penn. He couldn't sit across from her for a second longer without killing her, so he got up and moved to another part of the train muttering, "I'm getting dumber by the second," at which point the girl said, "He said he's getting dumber by the second. Maybe it's because his shirt is out of style." (For the record, said shirt is a striped polo bought at Target two months ago. Whatever.) Then she yelled at me, "You look good in pink!" And then, thankfully, we were finally at our stop.
She was on her way out to the very last stop on the line. I wonder if she made it or if the rest of the car banded together and threw her off? I really hope it was the latter.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy, Busy, etc.

It has been a busy week. No complaints, though. I have mostly been busy with good things.

Camp is over (although I'm still waiting for my paycheck, grrr...). The final day was Friday, and although I enjoyed the experience I'm glad to be back to my normal (non)schedule. It was really stressing me out that I didn't have time to study at all for my exams. I estimate that they're approximately seven weeks away (I haven't been given an official time frame yet) and it's getting harder and harder not to freak out about them. I also really need to get formal IRB approval for my dissertation research, and I need to find out if a potential research trip is actually going to happen this semester (it's very exciting but I have avoided talking about it here so far because nothing is set in stone yet and the wait to find out if I'm actually going to get to go on said trip is driving me CRAZY because I can't plan anything), and, oh, it might be wise to actually register at some point since even though I'm done with coursework I still have to register for independent study so the university recognizes me as a full-time student so I can continue getting my stipend and health insurance. It will all get done, it always does, but there are a lot of little tasks on my plate right now and I'm annoyed with myself because most of it is stuff I could have (and should have) done a month ago. I have done a lot of work this summer, just not enough. Still, I'm feeling back on track now and I plan to work really hard for the next two weeks until travels throw my schedule off again.

Speaking of health insurance, I went to the doctor for a physical last week. Anyone else feeling a bit uneasy about all this healthcare reform talk? Who knows what will actually happen (maybe nothing), and if it does happen it probably won't happen for a long time, and if it does change it might not affect me or change in my favor...Still, all the talk about it has inspired me to go to the doctor and dentist now while I know exactly where I stand in terms of my health insurance. My plan is good, my co-pay is cheap, might as well go now. Plus I hadn't had a physical since I was a kid and needed shots for school and I've never had a full physical with bloodwork, etc. so it seemed like a good idea. It was more intense than I thought it would be. I was expecting the bloodwork and weighing and blood pressure. I was even anticipating the urine sample. But when the nurse hooked me up to an EKG machine I thought, really?! I'm young and I have no history of shortage of breath or chest pain, but whatever. Way to be thorough, doc. Anyway, I seem to be healthy (although my temperature was really low so I suppose it's possible I'm turning into a reptile, but the nurse didn't seem concerned). I showed the doctor the mole that has been worrying me and he said, "The good news is, it's small. The bad news is it is two different colors, it is asymmetrical, and you said it is raised and it didn't used to be, which means it's growing." That's more bad news than good, so I now have an appointment with the dermatologist on Monday morning. I'm guessing he'll probably want to remove it, although I'm still hoping I have genetics working on my side since my grandparents, mother, and aunts all have a lot of moles but so far no problems. We'll see.

My friend Jen and her boyfriend were visiting us for five days last week. She's one of my good friends from college, the one we went to New York with back in February. Anyway, it was her boyfriend's 30th birthday and she surprised him with this trip because he had never been here. It was so much fun. We did a ton of tourist things in City A, some of which I'd done before but most of which I hadn't (Jen was adamant that we mostly do things I hadn't already done). We went to the botanical gardens and the history museum, both of which were good (although the museum was packed so I'll have to go back when tourist season is over to see the stuff I skipped because of lines). We went here and I was finally able to cross it off my list of 27 Things to Do Before I'm 27. I didn't even know the place existed until I moved here two years ago, but it's one of the most spectacular places I've been in the city so I think I'll be taking visitors there from now on. We went to a major league soccer game, and that was fun. We also tried out a really, really delicious Cuban restaurant and did "Cheap Date Night" in my suburb's town square. On Monday nights all the restaurants in the square have specials. The special we got was great: each couple got a three course dinner plus a bottle of wine for $35! I love cheap, good food.
The most exciting part of Jen's visit happened on our hike in a nearby state park. Jen's boyfriend completely trumped her surprise 30th birthday present by surprising her with an engagement ring! It was just me, Jen, and her boyfriend (and the Meatball) that day because Penn had to work, so we drove to the park and set out on a couple mile hike along the falls and river. It was a beautiful hike, and I was really impressed with my dog's stamina. I had no idea he was such a little mountain goat! At the end of the trail we reached a pretty river overlook so we decided to stop and have lunch. Jen asked her boyfriend for hand sanitizer, and he said, "I don't have it." And I said, "It's in my backpack," and then Jen, who had her hand on her boyfriend's pocket to reach for the sanitizer, said, "Then what is this in your pocket?" Her boyfriend said, "Why don't you pull it out and see?" And Jen said, "No way..." and that's when I got my camera ready. Sure enough, she pulled out a ring-shaped box. At that point I think I was freaking out as much as she was, mostly because I couldn't believe he was about to propose to her when I was sitting right there. She looked at him and said, "If this is some stupid pendant you wrapped up like this I'm going to kill you!",which made us all laugh. But she opened the box and it was a diamond ring. Actually, it was two diamond rings. One was the engagement ring and one was the wedding band, which the jeweler had wrapped in the same box. Of course, since the wedding band was not actually stuck into the box, just resting inside it, it flew out of the box when she opened it and was scarily close to falling off the cliff and into the river forty feet below. We all screamed, she caught the escaping ring and then immediately put on the other one before her boyfriend could actually say anything. Then she was like, "Oh, wait, I wasn't supposed to put it on yet!" and he said, "So, will you?" and she said yes and they kissed and I took pictures and oohed and awwed over the ring and then it really hit her and she got all choked up and started crying happy tears. It was a perfect proposal for them. They're both outdoorsy, they're both spontaneous people who like surprises, they're both no-nonsense people. A big, sappy, pre-planned champagne and roses thing would just not have been authentic for them (or for me, for that matter, not that this is about me. I just think it's always best when people propose somewhere special but without a whole bunch of nonsense). Afterward Jen looked at me and said, "Did you know!?" and the truth is I really didn't. In fact, I'm amazed at how calm and composed her boyfriend had been the whole trip. I would think I'd be freaking out if I was about to ask someone to marry me, but I guess it's just a testament to the strength of their relationship that he showed no qualms or worries at all. He bought the ring two weeks ago as soon as she told him about his upcoming birthday trip and he brought it here knowing that he was going to propose to her at some point on the trip but not knowing exactly when. I think he picked the perfect spot for them.
Anyway, I'm really happy that they're engaged and I'm glad I was there to witness the whole thing (and to take pictures of the moment!) It's the first time I've ever seen a proposal in real life. Also, they're planning a Montana wedding for next summer, which means if I can afford it I get to go to Montana next year! I've always really wanted to visit Montana (of course, I'd go to their wedding no matter where it was, Montana is just a fun added perk).

P.S.-Penn and I realized that this is the second time a couple has spontaneously had a life-changing moment in our presence. First Cas and her husband conceived a baby while we were staying with them last year (not that we knew that until several months later, of course...that would be creepy if we'd known at the time), and now Jen and her boyfriend got engaged while staying with us. Maybe we're lucky! If you need a baby and/or a spouse, feel free to come visit with your significant other. We have a spare room with a futon!


Remember my entry from last month about the ditzy cashier that accidentally undercharged us by $50? In the past month I have received further proof that she is an idiot:
A) A couple of weeks ago I was in the store one night picking up just a few items and she was in the express lane in front of me buying every single magazine on the rack featuring Michael Jackson. The cashier that was working the express lane looked at her and said, "You realize you just got two of some of those magazines, right?" and the girl said, "I know, that's the point!" Why does anyone need sixteen Michael Jackson tribute magazines? Maybe she thinks they are going to be collectable someday? Ugh. At any rate, it wasn't the buying of Michael Jackson magazines that was the problem so much as the fact that she was in her uniform and clearly supposed to be working at that moment, not buying magazines (maybe she was on a break, but, knowing her, probably not).
B) Last week, Penn and I were at the grocery store and there she was in the pasta aisle stocking shelves from a ride-on wheelchair! You know, one of those Rascal-type things with the cart in front for disabled shoppers. How lazy can you be?! The girl is perfectly capable of standing and walking, and all the other store workers stock shelves using regular grocery carts so it's not like she was doing some sort of standard procedure. As soon as we saw her Penn and I both rolled our eyes and started laughing, and I'm relatively sure she saw us and probably knew we were making fun of her, but I don't really care. She's just so ridiculous. The best part was when we went to check out. As our cashier was ringing us up we saw Ditzy approaching on her motorized cart. I guess one of us must have made a face because our cashier (a quiet, older man who doesn't usually say much of anything) turned around to see what we were looking at and then he said, "Oh, her. Yes, she's not right in the head."* And then he told her to stop wasting the power on the motorized cart.
At least now we have the validation of knowing that her co-workers think she's a moron, too. I have to admit that as much as she annoys me I'm always a little bummed when I go into the store and she's not working. It's like a game now: What Idiotic Thing is Ditzy Cashier Going to Do Today?

*For the record, when he said this I felt bad for a split second because I thought to myself, "Oh no, I can't believe I've been making fun of this mentally disabled woman!" But then I realized that he wasn't saying that she's literally mentally disabled, he was just saying "She's a freakin' idiot," in slightly nicer terms.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

9 to 5

For the past week and a half I've been working as the assistant director at a day camp. We do craft projects and dance and swim and occasionally we even do things that are related to what I actually (normally) do for a living. I enjoy this job. It's my second summer doing it. It only lasts two weeks and in those two weeks I can make as much money as I do in a month at my normal job. Besides the perk of a good salary, the kids are (generally) well-behaved and fun to work with.
Here's the problem: I am NOT cut out for a 9-5 job. That's what this is. True, we get an hour break for lunch in the middle of the day but other than that I have to be chipper and enthusiastic and responsible all day long. My academic life has spoiled me. For eight years now I've had a flexible student schedule. While I sometimes have to be places at certain times for classes or meetings, and while I've had a variety of part-time jobs that have required me to work certain hours, I've never consistently done a 9 to 5 job. Generally, I pretty much set my own schedule (other than the 10 or so hours where I have to be in a specific class or meeting). No two days in the week are exactly the same and it turns out I really, really like it like that. This 9 to 5 all-day-in-the-same-space-with-the-same-people stuff is not my favorite way to operate, and it amazes me to think how many people do this day in and day out.
Given, not all of those people are working with children. Teachers have the most difficult job in the world. Seriously. At least in an office job you have some time to sit at your computer and browse the internet for a few minutes here and there throughout your day. Teachers (good teachers, anyway) don't get a break all day long. God bless the people who can do this for nine months at a time. I'm sure I would get used to it and I could do it, but man. It's tiring.

Speaking of being exhausted, I haven't done any comp exam prep for five or six days now. Which is great, considering I'll be taking my exams two months from now. Ugh.

Over the weekend I ate a pound of hamburger. It was ridiculous. It was my contribution to the giant hamburger challenge: Nine of us were trying to eat 15 pounds of hamburger (two six pound burgers and a three pound burger). There are pictures of the monster burgers on Facebook. The burger was actually good, but I'm laying off the red meat for a while, I think.

Friends are coming to visit this weekend and then I start training for my tutoring job next week. At this point every summer I always start to realize that the school year actually tends to be more relaxing than summer break. Funny how that happens, huh?

Saturday, July 4, 2009


A Recent Conversation:
Penn: I need to get a new skin cleaner when we go to the store later.
Me: A new what?
Penn: A new skin cleanerr.
Me: What are you talking about?
Penn: You cleaner.
Me: Like shower gel?
Penn: No...a... [big sigh] loofah.
Me: Oh. Why didn't you just call it a loofah?
Penn: Because it sounds so gay!
[I have since explained to him that uttering the word "loofah" is not going to negatively influence his level of perceived masculinity, but if he's really that concerned then "shower sponge" is a phrase actually used by other human beings.]

A Recent Recipe, of sorts:
Get a bunch of jalapenos and slice them in half.
Remove the membranes and seeds (unless you like your food reeeaaaally spicy, in which case leave some seeds in at your own risk).
DON'T TOUCH YOUR EYES. IT BURNS! Don't even seed the jalapenos, wash your hands, play X-Box for an hour, lie by the pool for twenty minutes, and then touch your eye because your eye will still burn. Trust me.
Fill the jalapeno halves with cream cheese.
Wrap 1/3 of a slice of bacon around each half and secure it with a toothpick.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about twenty minutes.
Eat half a dozen of the crazy fattening things along with your Independence Day hot dog. Keep a glass of milk nearby in case your mouth starts burning. So delicious.
P.S.-The Pioneer Woman explains the recipe much better, with pictures, on her blog.

A Recent Excursion:
To celebrate our fine nation's birthday, Penn and I went here yesterday. (Wow, that website is playing some rockin' colonial American forewarned if your volume is turned up!) It was a really fun experience. The house itself was really interesting and I liked the recreation of the farm (especially the piglets! aw!), but my favorite part was the view from the back porch. It was spectacular. I'd almost be willing to put up with a complete lack of civil rights, stifling hot dresses, medication-free childbirth, small pox, outhouses, no A/C, and no Google if it meant I could sit on that porch with a book and look at the amazing river view every afternoon. Almost.

The Most Recent Reason I Need to Exercise:
I bought another pound of taffy yesterday! That wasn't to celebrate the 4th of July, it was just because I'm now a taffy addict and when we were wandering around old town yesterday (which "old town" exactly doesn't really matter because there are dozens of them around here) Penn found a candy store with an entire room full of bins of taffy. I was feeling pretty despondent after I finished my Ocean City taffy, but now everything is right in my world again. I also made a chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert tonight, even though Penn and I are celebrating the holiday alone. Who has a sweet tooth? Definitely not me.