QTIP

Recently I got to watch a video of a conference that took place in honor of International Women’s Day. It counted as credit for a work requirement. I have to have a certain number of hours of Race and Social Justice training every year. But I was actually looking forward to seeing this video regardless of its mandatory nature. It’s refreshing to see feminist issues being addressed when you spend the bulk of your time in a male-dominated workplace.

The majority of this particular conference addressed that very concern: how does one cope in a job where women are often discounted or shunned? So, I settled back with a notepad and a pen and prepared to be enlightened.

A lot of the pearls of wisdom were things that I had already learned just out of pure survival. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Don’t try to change yourself into something you are not. It’s not only okay to be who you are, but it also brings value to your workplace. While this information was not new to me, it was comforting to have it validated.

I was also listening closely to what was being said because there was a short questionnaire that I had to fill out in order to get the training credit. They were questions you couldn’t answer unless you watched the entire conference. That makes sense. No cheating.

But of all the takeaways from this forum, I was a little befuddled by the one the training department really seemed to zero in on. The question was, “What is QTIP?”

It turned out that the subject was brought up by one of the last women to speak at the panel discussion toward the end of the video. Her main coping skill, she said, was QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally.

Sigh.

That’s their primary takeaway? The words of a woman who is propping up that male bias? Seriously?

How many times have we heard some version of QTIP?  “All you gals (and I hate the word gal, for what it’s worth) need to stop being so emotional.” “Don’t worry your pretty little heads.” “Stop being hysterical.”

Until people stop equating having emotions with weakness or a mental health issue, most women are going to be sidelined. Because most of us do have emotions. And when it comes to sexism in the workplace, we have a great deal to be pissed off and upset about.

How can you not take it personally when you’re being singled out because you’re the only woman in the room? That is personal. That’s highly freakin’ personal.

Now, I agree that how you express those feelings makes a difference. It’s never good to have your head explode during a staff meeting. But you have a right to be heard, and to speak your truth calmly and clearly.

No human should fly off the handle. It gets you nowhere. But take it personally? Heck yes. It’s personal. And anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying to you, gal. Make no mistake about that.

Ladder-of-Success

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Wildly Inappropriate

Once, I met an employee who worked in another department, and learned she had just had a baby. I congratulated her, as one does. I barely knew her, and doubted I’d have the opportunity to know her better. We traveled in very different circles. This was a random encounter, and I sort of figured that was that.

Later that day, I received an e-mail from her entitled “baby pictures”. I thought that was sweet, that she wanted to show me her baby. So I clicked on the e-mail.

And I let out this shriek that I’m sure made all my coworkers jump out of their skins.

Because what she sent me was pictures of her in the process of giving birth. And by that I mean close ups of all her most hairy private places, with a gooey, bloody baby’s head trying to burst therefrom. It was like a scene from Alien. That image is imprinted on my brain, despite all efforts on my part to exorcise it. Why? Just… why?

Believe me when I tell you that this is a vision that I would never voluntarily see. At the very least it should have come with a warning label. I am not interested in gazing at the nexus of any mammal, clothed or unclothed if I’m honest, and certainly not when it’s in the midst of doing… that. And most especially when it’s someone I’ve only just met.

I mean, seriously, who sends pictures like that? Who takes pictures like that? “Yes, dear, that’s your mother, in the most pain she’s ever been in in her entire life, and look! There’s your mushy little head!”

Every once in a while, someone will do something that’s so wildly inappropriate that I’m rendered speechless. Do they just not care at all about societal norms, or do they enjoy the shock value? Are they completely detached from reality, or are they testing the waters to see what they can get away with? Who knows.

And no, I can’t remember what I said to that woman. I can’t even remember what most of her looks like. Sorry. I just had to vent.

Shocked.

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Rebooting Oneself

Decades ago, I was walking my dog after a hard rain and I slipped on a wet, grassy slope. My feet flew above my head. I went down hard. I mean, really, really hard. It knocked the wind out of me. As I helplessly slid down the hill, everything went bright white. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move, and for a second there I had the strangest feeling that my brain was completely shut off. At that moment, I didn’t know how to see, breathe, or move.

That experience only lasted a second or two, but I’ll never forget it. And I definitely won’t forget the 9 months of pure agony I went through in its aftermath, while getting the resulting herniated disc diagnosed and treated. Good times.

As a friend of mine says, rebooting your computer can fix a multitude of sins. But a personal reboot such as the one I just described is no fun at all. I do not recommend it.

Unexpected catastrophic events can definitely make you do a reboot in terms of reevaluating your life, and they can cause you to change its trajectory. Death. Divorce. Job loss. Natural disasters. Totaling your car.

But these aren’t the only kinds of reboots I’ve had in my life. The intentional ones are fantastic. Driving across country for a new job in a new state, and therefore completely remodeling my life, was a reboot par excellence. So was buying my house and moving in. Vacations are mini-reboots, and I would argue that they’re really critical for mental and physical health.

I also consider purging toxic people from your life to be a reboot of a kind. You really don’t realize what a negative influence someone has been on you until they are gone. It’s like taking off a shoe that’s two sizes too small. Feels. So. Good.

If you have a chance to voluntarily reboot, even if it’s something as minor as a haircut or a manicure, I encourage you to do so. I also fervently hope that there are no involuntary reboots in your future. But the rain falls on us all sooner or later. May you weather the storms and revel in the sunshine, dear reader.

Reboot

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Can You Keep a Secret?

What? You didn’t seriously think I was going to tell you one, did you?  Well, actually, in this day and age when people have 600 friends on Facebook, 570 of whom they’ve never met, and in spite of that fact they post the most intimate, personal things about themselves, I don’t suppose it’s that big a stretch to suppose that I would.

I knew a young man whose wide open Facebook page gave you the following information: His high school and the year he would graduate, which tells you his approximate age. About a million pictures of himself. His sexual orientation. A very personal and public letter to someone that indicated that he was EXTREMELY sexually active. The town in which he lived, which has a population of about 200 people. And then one day he posts that his parents were taking a trip out of town. I’m amazed every pedophile in the tri-state area didn’t converge on his house. Among his 600 friends, how many of them could be trusted? He couldn’t possibly know for sure.

When I pointed all this out to him, he said, “I have nothing to hide.” And yet, his planned career path is one that requires confidentiality. Employers check Facebook. Based on that, no one is going to hire him. It breaks my heart.

The more life experience you have, the more you realize that secrets don’t get kept. That’s why conspiracy theorists amuse me so much. Do you honestly think that entire government agencies are capable of keeping extremely volatile and scandalous secrets for all eternity without a single person leaking information? People are not automatons. You can’t punch a set of commands into them and expect no one to deviate. We’re more like ducklings who will scurry off in every direction without any obvious reason. Anyone who believes humans are capable of the level of efficiency and unity of thought and opinion that would be required to maintain a conspiracy is, frankly, kooky.

And have you ever noticed that these conspiracy theorists never seem to participate in any wide open movements for the common good or take the lead in movements for positive change? They are entirely too busy assuming that everyone is diabolically evil and that their personal duty is to convince everyone who will listen that they are the only ones who know the truth. This level of paranoia is a sickness. It’s like voluntarily marinating in a vat of toxic waste.

My response to these people is, “So you’re aware of a problem? Well, unless you’re going to come at me with a solution and actually take an active part in it, don’t waste my time. I have no need for your stress and anxiety. This constant state of hypervigilance without positive resolution does no one any good.”

paranoia

Chain Mail: It’s Not Just Body Armor Anymore

Several years ago, my best friend at the time sent me an e-mail. Your basic chain mail. You know the type. “Pass this on within 10 minutes to 10 friends and you’ll receive untold riches.” Except this one had a sickening twist. “If you do NOT pass this on, great harm could befall you. A lady in Florida did not pass this on, and the next day she was in a fatal car accident. A man in Texas did not pass this on and his house burned to the ground…”

So I replied to my friend, “First of all, I didn’t pass this on to anyone, because I don’t believe in this crap. But I was curious to know this: If you truly, honestly believe that this is true, why on EARTH would you send this to me, who is supposed to be your best friend? Why would you put me at risk like that? What does this say about you?” She didn’t respond. What could she have said? (Of course later on I found out she was a sociopath, so suddenly it all made sense.)

The fact is, chain mail is insidious. It wastes people’s time, it makes people nervous, and/or it gives false hope. It gives people who are living lives of quiet desperation just one more way to be disappointed. It also feels, to the receiver, like you’re sweeping your garbage into their in box.

Here’s a chain mail I WOULD pass on: “Pass this on to 10 people in the next 10 minutes and the person who passed it on to you will never be able to send you any stupid impersonal chain mail ever again.”

If you really do want to communicate with me, send me a personal e-mail. Tell me how you’re doing, what you’re up to, what you’re thinking. Reach out in your own words. I’ll be happy to respond.