Are You Sure?

From a recent conversation:

Me: “I need someone from maintenance to come out and remove some car parts from the middle of my drawbridge, as they are backing up traffic.”

“Um… That drawbridge is no longer in our system.”

“Er, yes it is. I think you’re thinking of the Montlake Bridge.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m a City of Seattle Employee.”

“But do we maintain that bridge?”

“Yes we do. Yes, you do. I’m standing on it right now. I’ve worked here for 3 ½ years.”

“Was a tow truck called?”

“I have no idea. The cars in question are long gone. They just left parts behind.”

“Yeah, but was a tow truck called?”

“Not by me!!!! Please, are you sending someone out to remove the bumpers? I have traffic backed up for miles.”

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Welcome to my pet peeve. Not being taken seriously drives me absolutely insane. Why would I lie? I mean, honestly, just get the damned bumpers off the road, already!

My whole life, this has been a problem. As the youngest in the family, I was not taken seriously at home. Even though I graduated at the top of my class, I was quiet and shy and not in with the in crowd, so I wasn’t taken seriously at school. As a female in a male dominated workplace, to this day I am not taken seriously at work. Now that I’m fat and old, I’m generally not even seen when in public. I’m completely invisible. It’s maddening.

The reason that I try so hard not to be dismissive of people, the reason I’m extra polite to cashiers and wait staff and the elderly, is that I know what it’s like to be discounted. It’s an awful feeling. And it’s completely unnecessary.

Common courtesy and mutual respect ought to be everyone’s default position. Listening to people and trying to understand what they’re saying is a necessary survival skill, so it shouldn’t be so hard to come by. As the planet becomes increasingly crowded, we need to behave all the more decently, or life will get pretty unbearable up in here, people.

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Standing in My Integrity

I once stayed in a 16-year relationship because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. Like most women, I’ve been trained since childhood to put everyone ahead of myself. And I’m good at it. Too good.

Some things never change. I came across this article about a school in Utah where the little girls have been instructed that when boys ask them to dance at a school function, they cannot say no. (We wouldn’t want to hurt little boys’ feelings, now would we? Even if it makes the girls uncomfortable in the process.)

I had a visceral reaction to this story. Girls need to learn to say no. They need to know it’s okay to say no. They need to trust their gut instincts. And boys need to learn that no means no.

Without these lessons, you wind up with 53-year-old women like me, who prize integrity above all else, but still tend to sacrifice it to smooth things over. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruffle feathers. Keep your opinions to yourself.

It’s really kind of funny. I’m always told I have a strong personality. (Like that’s an insult—and one that’s never directed at men.) People have absolutely no idea what an inner struggle accompanies my ability to speak up.

Speaking up does not come naturally to me. Not at all. When something is bothering me, I generally have to agonize over it for days on end before I can take action. And during that whole process, my stomach is in knots. I lose sleep. I grind my teeth. I rehearse what I want to say over and over again in my head. It’s not a pleasant experience. But I’ve found over the years that not speaking up is even worse.

I’ve been working really hard on standing in my integrity lately. Speaking up more promptly. Agonizing less. Saying, “No, that’s not okay.” Figuring out why doing what feels right to me is such a torturous undertaking.

Integrity should be the place where I reside all the time. It shouldn’t be some thought balloon that I pull along behind me. It should be my natural habitat. And the fact that I was ever trained otherwise is outrageous. That there are still girls in this day and age that are being spoon-fed this crap is disgusting.

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A New Take on the Seattle Freeze

Moving to Seattle is the best thing I’ve ever done. I love it here. I’m fairly sure I’ll never completely fit in, though. But then, I don’t suppose I did in Florida, either.

After being confused by mixed signals for a couple months, I finally learned about the Seattle Freeze. In one blog entry, before I knew what it was called, I referred to it as “nice, but not.” In another, I called it a “smiling, polite, unmovable wall of rejection.”

Basically, people are very helpful here. They’re very kind. But don’t get too close. Don’t be nosy or get personal. Nice to meet you, now go away. It’s a thing. It really is. I’ll never get used to it.

Many people theorize that it has to do with the fact that we have large Asian and Scandinavian populations here. Those are two cultural groups that tend to like to keep people at arm’s length. I can see that. Sort of. But then, I’m half Danish, and only second generation American, and I’m not like that at all. I’ve always felt that there had to be something more to it.

Recently I was discussing this with my friend Lynn over dinner. She posited a theory that makes much more sense to me. (Apologies to Lynn for not taking notes and using direct quotes. I was too focused on my Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and wasn’t expecting a conversation of such fascinating depth. But I think I got the gist of it.)

Lynn theorizes that the Seattle Freeze has more to do with the fact that many here are descendants of pioneers. When Seattle was founded in 1851, it wasn’t easy to get here. (I should put “founded” in quotes because of course the Native Americans were already here.) It was a rough, deprived, hardscrabble existence. To come here you really had to be motivated, and to stay, especially during the Puget Sound War, you had to be determined.

So, who came here at the time? People who were unsatisfied with their lives back east. People running away from something. People wanting to start over. Independent people who were compelled to make a go of it on their own. Misfits. Adventurers. Con artists. Entrepreneurs. Criminals. Rough characters. Nuts.

And then those people met and married and passed on those qualities, whether they be genetic or behavioral, to their offspring. The birth of the Seattle Freeze. This makes perfect sense to me. I may not relate to it, but at least these people have come by this quirk honestly. That makes it much easier to not take it personally.

I’d further expand on this theory by saying that it explains why the East and West Coasts are so completely different from a cultural point of view. The further west your ancestors went in this country, the more independent and determined they must have been. If it were me, I’d have gotten about 50 yards into the dense underbrush west of the Atlantic Ocean and would have said, “Yeah. I’m good. This is where I’ll be, if you’re looking for me.” Such is my paltry level of chutzpah. I am only here now thanks to the interstate freeway system.

There’s much debate about whether the Seattle Freeze even exists. I think it’s blatantly obvious. But now at least I get it, because Lynn gave me food for thought along with that Lobster Mac n’ Cheese.

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Actually, No.

Here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) I was raised to be a good girl. My default position is to respect authority. Be cooperative. Don’t make waves. Accommodate others. And above all, always, always be polite.

Well, you know what? Fuck that. All those values are great if everyone is playing by the golden rule. But it’s been my experience that most people do not. As a result, I’ve been bullied and taken advantage of my entire life.

I’ve had it up to here. (No, not there. Much higher than that. Here.)

I’m over it. I’m done. I will not be pushed around anymore. Not by strangers, not by loved ones, and definitely not by politicians. I am establishing the sharp boundaries that I’ve always allowed to remain fuzzy at best. This far, and no further.

I’m not planning to become a bully. I’m not going to be gratuitously rude or selfish. But I won’t be passively stepped on. I am learning to stick up for myself. I’m learning that I have a right to say no. It’s frustrating that it’s taken me so long to figure this stuff out.

We need to teach our children to be respectful, yes, but also not to take any crap. Because as the world becomes more crowded, there will be plenty of crap to go around. And then some.

It is possible to be kind and strong at the same time. It’s okay, and very necessary, to stand in your power. It may take practice to reach that acceptable balance. But it can be done.

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Age Hath Its Privileges

Many years ago, I was standing with my niece and nephew in their Missouri kitchen. As we talked, I got the orange juice out of the refrigerator to pour myself a glass. Just then my brother-in-law walked in and snapped, “Who left the refrigerator door open???”

The tension level in that room was palpable. My niece and nephew fell nervously silent. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I did.” Then I finished pouring my juice and calmly put it back in the refrigerator and closed the door. He turned and left the room.

I thought, “What’s the matter, Buddy-roo, can’t you pick on someone your own size?”

I found this doubly amusing because this was a man who thought nothing of leaving the lights blazing continually throughout the house, and he was worked up about the energy consumption of an open refrigerator for the 5 seconds it took me to do my thing. But it was kind of sad that he “had to” let it drop because the perpetrator was full-grown me. If it had been one of the kids, he’d have probably caused a massive stink.

It seems you have the least amount of patience for the ones you love. Perhaps because deep down you know you can get away with bad behavior with them. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the opposite of the way it should be.

When you find yourself being harsh with someone, you might want to ask yourself if you would react the same way if that person were an 80 year old total stranger. If not, perhaps you should re-think your tone. If you are capable of reacting with more respect, you should do so.

Similarly, I’ve worked with people who are absolute bullies to their subordinates, but are obsequious to their superiors. That makes it even more shameful, in my opinion, because they clearly know how to be polite; they just choose not to be when they can get away with it. Given the choice, I prefer people who are equal opportunity offenders.

Bullies are a pet peeve of mine. If I see you taking advantage of someone who happens to be more vulnerable, I will take you down every time. This often puts me in awkward situations, but the buck has to stop somewhere. Why not here?

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How to Piss Off a Bridgetender

I have spent a great deal of time writing about how much I love my job. I really do. I swear I do. Just… not today.

Perhaps it’s because we are marinating in the last, bitter dregs of the holiday season, and everyone is getting cranky. Perhaps I’m the bitter one, because everyone is out on the water, celebrating in their Christmas light bedecked boats, and I’m stuck in this poorly insulated tower, alone, and will never own a boat. Perhaps my nerves are on edge due to political dread, or because I haven’t really seen the sun in weeks. I don’t know. But I’m in a foul mood.

I think everyone should be allowed to vent once in a while, even those of us who realize that in the overall scheme of things, we have a great deal to be grateful for. So fasten your seat belts. I’m about to rant all over you.

After 15 years as a bridgetender, I think I’ve pretty much seen it all. But here are some of the more annoying things that come up time and time and freakin’ time again. It’s enough to make me turn into a bridge troll.

I shall divide my rants up into the various forms of stupidity involved, just for clarity’s sake.

Boater Stupidity

  • You wouldn’t buy a very expensive car and hop into it without knowing the rules of the road, would you? Well, a distressing number of boaters seem to do this. If you have achieved enough financial success to own a vessel, kindly take the time to know what the hell you are doing. The life you save could be mine, or that of someone else.
  • If you can afford a boat, you can afford to invest in a working marine radio and learn how to use it. First of all, this isn’t a convoy. We don’t use “10-4” or any of the other 10 codes. And if you call me and have your own volume turned down, I can respond all day long and you’re not going to hear me. Don’t blame me for that.
  • My voice isn’t that deep. Why do you assume I’m a “sir”?
  • Do not call me on the phone. This isn’t a date. Contact me via the CORRECT horn signals (which you’d know if you read the Coastguard regulations), or call me on the radio.
  • Be polite. I’m not your servant or your minion. If you “demand” an opening “immediately upon” your arrival, there is nothing on earth that will be more apt to tempt me to make you paddle in circles for a while. As in all other parts of your life, you’ll be amazed at how far a simple “please” and “thank you” will get you.
  • Don’t tie up the radio with unimportant chatter. Someone could be sinking out there.
  • Know your mast height. A shocking number of boats don’t actually require a bridge opening. Operating a bridge costs the taxpayer money. And slowing down street traffic for no good reason is never appreciated.
  • Know where the hell you are. You should get charts, but even a Rand McNally map is better than nothing. The other day, I had boats calling me the Ravenna Drawbridge and the Washington Drawbridge, neither of which exists in Seattle.
  • And just calling me “drawbridge” doesn’t work, either. There are often several drawbridges within the sound of your radio. And no bridgetender, to my knowledge, can read your mind.
  • All drawbridges are bound by the Coastguard Federal Regulations. This means that many of us have time periods in which we cannot open for most boaters. Don’t argue with me about it. That won’t change anything. And don’t take it personally. I was not put on this earth to make you late for your golf game.
  • And by the way, if you’re on a sailboat, why on earth are you so impatient? You. Are. On. A. Sailboat.
  • This isn’t my first rodeo. If you ask for an opening and I tell you that I’ll start it upon your approach, continue your approach. I’m timing it based on your rate of speed. If you come to a dead halt before I’ve opened the bridge, that will just make the time the bridge has to stay open for you that much longer. Your lack of consideration backs up traffic for miles. Surprise! The world does not revolve around you.
  • Don’t call me for an opening when you’re still 10 minutes away. I can think of a million things I’d rather do than stand at the operating console, idly waiting for you to show up.
  • Don’t assume I’m asleep. It’s insulting. I’m never asleep. I’m a professional.
  • It is every bit as illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated as it is to operate a car in that condition. When you are drunk, I cannot effectively communicate with you. Ineffective communication on the water can be deadly.

Automotive Stupidity

  • The average drawbridge opening is only 4 ½ minutes long. And you knew you were taking a route that took you over a drawbridge. So there’s no reason to throw a tantrum when you have to wait while a drawbridge opens.
  • There’s also no reason to do a u-turn. By the time you take your detour, that 4 ½ minutes will have passed. It’d be far more pleasant for you to just step out of your car for a minute and enjoy the scenery. Life’s too short.
  • Turn off your engine. Why pollute the atmosphere, when it’s been proven that idling more than 30 seconds is much less fuel efficient than turning your car off and restarting it again?
  • You can honk at me all you want. It’s not going to make the bridge opening go any faster.
  • Rude gestures just make you look like a jerk.
  • When the bridge closes and there’s a pause before the traffic gates go up, it’s not that I’m up here picking my nose. The bridge locks are being driven beneath the street. Just because you don’t see anything happening doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Hold your freakin’ horses.

Bicycle and/or Pedestrian Stupidity

  • If you see lights flashing and/or hear gongs, that means STOP. Don’t cross the drawbridge. It does NOT mean stop halfway across the bridge to take a selfie. It doesn’t mean stand there and take in the view. It doesn’t mean slow down. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should crawl under the gates. The rules apply to everyone, including you, and they’re there for your safety.
  • Barges can’t slam on the brakes. You need to get out of the way.
  • Cursing at me won’t speed up the opening any more than honking at me does.
  • Projectiles are not appreciated. People in Seattle don’t throw as many eggs and rocks and beer bottles and tomatoes as the people in Florida did. But I’ve never been in a bridge tower anywhere in the country that hasn’t been shot at at least once. What have I ever done to you that merits my death or injury?
  • Please don’t vandalize the bridge. We are proud of it. And many of your fellow citizens are, too. Also, please don’t vandalize my car. I’ve done nothing to you except work hard to ensure that you are safe.
  • Climbing over an opening drawbridge might look cool in the movies, but it can get you killed. And I’ll be the one who has to carry that for the rest of my life. Be a daredevil someplace else.
  • There is nothing more terrifying than being all alone, and going into one of the machinery rooms below the street only to find that someone has broken in and is still there. And it happens just enough to make me jumpy. Can you just… not? If you’re curious, ask for a tour.

Hoooo! I feel cleansed! Now, back to work.

But don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of the boaters, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians are polite, friendly and easy to deal with. I only wish the rest were as cooperative and pleasant. Bridgetenders really do care about all of you. That’s why we’re here, doing what we do. So you’ll have to forgive me if I sometimes get irritated that there are a few out there who don’t care as much as we do.

Oh, and did I mention? It’s my birthday.

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Better Words for Women

One of my regular readers challenged me recently after reading my post, All in a Huff over Vocabulary Reserved for Women. She asked me to come up with alternate vocabulary—words that weren’t disparaging or downright insulting. I think that’s an excellent idea. Challenge accepted!

For example: How about passionate instead of easy, asking for it, slutty, tease, tart, or loose?

Caring or quite likely disagreeing with you would be preferable to hysterical, hormonal, emotional, neurotic, moody, touchy, irrational, sensitive, fretting, whiny or illogical.

Disinterested in you is probably much more accurate than frigid or prude. (And deep down you probably know that already.)

Annoyed, frustrated, righteously indignant, or just mean, depending on the circumstances, would be better than huffy, bitchy, irritable, brassy, shrill, catty, headstrong, cat fight, intense, ball buster, shrew, high strung, nag, fishwife, bossy, nasty, abrasive, or pushy.

Perhaps you might consider distracted, busy or overwhelmed instead of flaky, airhead, or ditsy.

Here’s a thought: How about not commenting on age or physical appearance at all, rather than using the terms jail bait, blonde, brunette, plus sized, or little?

How about earnest or sincere instead of breathless or adoring?

Have you ever thought that perhaps someone described as too ambitious, high maintenance, or a diva is actually decisive, confident and knows what she wants?

In addition, gossipy could be communicative, mousey could be noncommunicative or undecided, and bubbly could be enthusiastic.

Gold diggers, in my experience, are either grossly misunderstood or selfish con artists.

And if you think all of the above is not bad for a girl, how about just saying not bad?

Food for thought, I hope. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Michelle Obama was the first person to pop into my head when I was thinking of admirable women. Who do you admire?

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Another Story-The Hardest Thing to Say

Whenever possible, I attend a monthly storytelling group here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories. Each month it has a theme, and this month’s was “The Hardest Thing to Say”. I decided to tell a story about how hard it has been to remain dignified and polite in the world of internet dating.

You can hear that story below, but for those of you who don’t have that ability, I’m attaching the text I rehearsed. For once I stayed pretty faithful to it.

This is the fifth story I’ve told in front of an audience. It’s always such a rush! If you’d like to hear all my stories, go here.

I once stayed in a very unsatisfying relationship for 16 years because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. I am nothing if not polite.

That, and I was terrified of being alone, and wanted a steady date for all major holidays.  I think he stayed with me because he had no idea what love looked like, and didn’t think he deserved better. That relationship  died a long, slow, death, and it taught me what I don’t want.

Then I met Chuck, and for the 4 years before he passed away, I had met my match. We were emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, passionately, and hilariously compatible.

That relationship taught me what I deserve.

So here I am, ready to try again, but with my screwed up work schedule, it’s hard to meet people. So I joined a dating website. Yeah, it’s come to that.

And at first, what a rush! 60 guys viewed my profile in the first day! I started to think that maybe I’d actually get laid before Christmas! Yay! But then I realized that none of them contacted me, so that was more like 60 rejections in the first day. Ouch.

So I decided to stop looking at the guys who were looking at me and just look through profiles, find ones that intrigued me, and then reach out to them. I did see some that looked interesting, and I sent them messages. And most of them ignored me completely. How rude!

Which is when I decided that even if being polite did not serve me well in the past, I would still strive to take the high road. Anyone who took the time to actually read my profile and send me a message would always get a response from me of some kind, even if it was only to politely say, “Thanks for contacting me. I don’t think we’d be a good match, but I wish you the very best of luck in your search.”

The high road turned out to be harder than I thought.

One guy contacted me out of the blue with a graphic description of what he’d like to do to me.  I gave him my stock polite no thanks,  and he said that he had a Ph.D., was a counselor for many years, and it was obvious that I have a generalized anxiety disorder that prohibits me from socializing with anyone. Seriously, thank God for the block feature!

Another was sweet and attractive, and told me I was beautiful but he was also 20 years my senior. He understood when I passed on his, er, pass. But the last thing he said to me was, “That’s a pity, because I was hoping to fall in love one last time.” That still brings tears to my eyes.

I did have a few dates. One turned out to be on the sex offender’s database, due to a “complete misunderstanding” of course. (Isn’t it always a complete misunderstanding?) Another spent 5 minutes trying to get the legs of our dinner table back into the pre-established dents in the carpet.

One guy who contacted me asked me why I didn’t think we’d be a good match, so I told him that I found all the cleavage shots of scantily clad women on his profile to be a bit off-putting. To that he responded that I was obviously flat chested ( I know, right?) and not into real men.

Okay, this was all starting to feel a little bit like abuse. And it caused me to learn something about myself: I do have my limits. I responded, “REAL MEN don’t objectify women. REAL MEN don’t go from zero to hostile after a little bit of polite rejection from a total stranger. And… YOU PROBABLY  LIVE WITH YOUR MOTHER!”

Not my proudest moment, to be sure. But it felt soooo good.

So much for the high road. I told myself that I’d try to do better next time, because believe it or not, I haven’t given up hope. And I have made a few friends along the way. And I am a polite person and I don’t want to lose that quality in this process.

Then just the other day I was tested yet again. I got a message from a guy who called himself BootySmoocher. He said, “Yes, I know I’ve chosen a strange name, but it’s because I like to give r** jobs. Would you like to discuss it over coffee?”

As I stared at the screen, I said to myself, “Take the high road. Take the high road.” Plus, shooting him down would be too easy. So I took a deep cleansing breath and responded, “Thanks for contacting me, BootySmoocher, but as a general rule, I don’t rim on the first date. Good luck with…uh…that, though.”

Bully for You, Maybe, but not for Me

Brace yourself, dear reader, for I am in a foul mood.

I am gratified to see that there are now many campaigns out there designed to stop bullying in our schools. Three very good ones, but by no means the only ones, are www.stopbullying.gov/, www.stopbullyingnowfoundation.org/‎, and www.meanstinks.com/‎ .

I wish there had been programs like these when I was growing up. I was the smallest kid. I wore glasses. And I was often the extreme minority in schools located in very rough neighborhoods. I learned to curl up into a ball and let them beat on me until they got bored and walked away, the whole time praying that my kidneys would emerge from the fracas intact.

And except for one brief shining moment when I snapped and beat the living crap out of a girl who had been beating me up for months, the passive route has been mine, either literally or figuratively, my entire life. If stuffing one’s anger were an Olympic sport, I’d definitely have a chest full of gold medals.

Always be polite. Don’t make waves. Pick your battles. Take the high road. Do unto others.

But this morning I woke up furious and thought, dammit, WHY? Why should I just take it and take it and take it?

I am beginning to see a clear pattern, and it has me outraged. Bullying, you see, takes on many, many forms, and it’s not simply reserved for childhood. It’s not as if people suddenly start treating you decently once you graduate.

Have you ever experienced one of these types of bullying?

  • Being picked on or manipulated by a sibling,
  • humiliated or beaten up by a schoolmate,
  • beaten by another adult,
  • harassed by a coworker,
  • intimidated by someone,
  • treated like crap by a supervisor,
  • or raped (and yes, in my opinion this falls under the bullying umbrella because it’s a form of violence and aggression in the extreme)?
  • Have you been on the receiving end of road rage,
  • treated rudely by a stranger,
  • or treated rudely by a loved one on such a regular basis that you begin to think you deserve it?
  • Has anyone ever tried to make you feel crazy for feeling the way you feel,
  • or tried to make you feel stupid or silly for not sharing their opinion?
  • Has anyone ever robbed you,
  • cheated you out of money,
  • lied to you in order to get an advantage,
  • or manipulated you to make you do something you didn’t want to do?
  • Has anyone put you at risk and expected you to keep quiet about it?
  • Has anyone gossiped about you to damage your reputation,
  • gone out of their way to ruin an experience that you were enjoying,
  • or gotten drunk or drugged to have an “excuse” for their unacceptable behavior?
  • Has someone you loved or trusted told you to just sit back and take outrageous behavior so that they themselves don’t have to deal with the drama?
  • Have you ever been a victim of a troll on Facebook or your blog?
  • Has someone ever hidden behind their internet anonymity to behave obnoxiously when they wouldn’t have the courage to do so otherwise?
  • Has anyone ever cut in front of you in line?
  • Has someone scammed you out of your hard earned money? (For my personal experience with that, see “Andy Johnson, SHAME on You!!!“)

I have experienced all of these things at one time or another. And I’ve made excuses for people, looked the other way, maintained my dignity, done the right thing, taken one for the team, or thought, “Okay, maybe I deserved that,” my whole freakin’ life. At one point or another I have been a welcome mat for every douche bag within a 50 mile radius.

I have also spent an inordinate amount of time sticking up for the underdogs of this world, never truly recognizing that I was one of them and that I should put as much energy into sticking up for myself as I do for others.

Maybe all of this is coming to the surface for me now because I have been catching it from all directions recently. Maybe it’s because I feel like we, as a nation, are being bullied by our politicians. Maybe it’s just that at age 48, the scales have finally fallen from my eyes.

Whatever it is, I think people may start seeing a side of me that they have never seen before. I’m done with expecting respect and being sadly mistaken. Now it’s time to demand it, require it, and accept nothing less.

I am done with curling up in a ball. Now is the time to realize that not only do I deserve respect, but also that those who do not give me respect do not deserve to be a part of my life.

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When She’s Just Not into You

I have this coworker who doesn’t like me. I don’t know why. I’ve tried to figure it out for years. I suppose I could come right out and ask, but what would be the point? It would just open me up to insults, and her mind is already made up. She is the type of person who doesn’t change her mind very easily. I’ve seen her get into an argument with someone and never speak to that person again. Ever. It must be exhausting, trying to keep track of who you’ll speak to in any given crowd. She does speak to me, but it’s safe to say we’ll never be besties. We’re polite to each other, but she’s not going to invite me over to her house for an “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie marathon or ask to borrow my sweater. This used to hurt my feelings, but then I realized that, well, frankly, I don’t particularly like her, either.

Now and then, when things are slow on the bridge and I need a giggle, I imagine ways to disarm her, such as giving her a really big hug. That would definitely freak her out, but I can also see it backfiring and me getting punched in the throat. It could go either way.

It’s a pity that we can’t seem to connect because I bet she has a fairly interesting history. She’s six months younger than I am, but she looks at least 20 years older. She doesn’t appear unhealthy. She just seems like someone who has squinted into the desert sun during a sandstorm her entire life. I know she has had some interesting jobs in the past. And SOMETHING must have happened to make her a cast iron, rigid force to be reckoned with. But I have resigned myself to the fact that these are mysteries that I’m never going to solve.

Sometimes you have to let a junk yard dog be just that. Let her roam the yard and have her routine. Yes, occasionally you’ll have to hop onto a car when she goes on a rampage, but other than that, just leave a sufficient amount of kibble in the bowl and live and let live.

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