Categories
Non-Fiction

Smart

I hate being called smart. Not because I believe it’s false, not out any sort of modesty, but because of what usually follows. Because usually when someone is saying I’m smart, or observing just how smart I am, it’s usually followed by one of two things — how I’m squandering my potential, or their jealousy because they want to feel smarter than me.

I was the gifted child. The one who read above her grade level, who took to things easily, who could come up with the clever ideas. I was the one the straight A students wanted in their lab group in high school, but didn’t have the time of the day for me outside of class. But my grades were always on the brink of failing or only just passing. I didn’t want to pay attention in class, I didn’t bother to study for tests. Why wasn’t I trying?

In elementary school, I was singled out for a special class. I was told it was an advanced class, and it meant I got to leave my regular class and go to another class room for specialized lessons with a few other students. That didn’t last long, and no one ever told me why at the time. Years later, my mother commented on it, implying she felt it would have been a hindrance to me—that it was for students with special needs—so she’d fought it tooth and nail with the school administration. I still wonder what might have happened if I’d been allowed to continue with those lessons.

Homework was always a fight — more often than not it felt like busy work and I couldn’t find anything helpful about it. So I just didn’t do it. Well into high school, I didn’t bother to study and did well enough on tests without the need to. And when I finally started to hit subjects that didn’t come easily to me? I had never learned how to study, because no one bothered to ask why I wasn’t doing my homework, they’d just get angry. At home it was always “get your homework done or you can’t…” and I’d just spend all night staring at homework and hiding in my room. At school, teachers would talk to me bewildered that I was getting such good scores on tests, contributing well to class discussions, but I was constantly just not turning in homework and my grades were always on the brink of failure.

A couple of my teachers were cool about it, a couple of my favorites in fact. My German teacher would let you write in your answers during in class discussion when the homework was due, and you’d at least get partial credit. There’s something to be said about learning through repetition, and writing down the answers was better study than just not doing the homework. And then there was my scifi/fantasy lit teacher. You could literally turn in any assignment as late as the last day of the semester, and he had a sliding scale on how much credit you lost depending on how late it was — the highest you could get was a C for a perfect paper once you reached a certain point. This was a large weight on him, especially since all his tests were essay tests, and he’d have those to grade at the same time as all this late partial credit work.

As I moved into the world beyond school, things only got worse. I attempted classes at the local community college, and when I encountered a lot of frustrations, I threw my hands up and gave up on it. My dad threatened to start charging me rent if I didn’t go back to school, and that backfired on both of us because I said fuck it and started paying him rent when I’m pretty sure his goal had been to get me to engage with college.

I spent years working retail, which was a maddening meat grinder. Managers under pressure to meet utterly unreasonable goals set for the enrichment of the company shareholders, a lot of them highly unqualified to be leading people because the ones who are qualified usually either languish at the lower levels of the pecking order because they can’t ‘yes sir’ well enough, or quickly move onto better paying jobs that are less meat grinder. Those of us who make the mistake of showing any sort of potential, without the follow through to either get the fuck out or claw our way up to management, get taken advantage of. After my first manager, who was an amazing and caring woman, got the fuck out of the store and moved onto better things, I worked for a series of men who were always happy to sing my praise until I pushed back or had a bad day. Then they’d come down on me like the hellfire of a million suns.

Even though you could probably start to pick out the signs of ADHD as far back as elementary school, the difference in how girls are socialized and how it manifests, meant that even I hadn’t been aware something was different about me. I just thought I was being stubborn and lazy, because that’s what the parents and later authority figures told me. Retail is such a high stress environment, especially the further and further we work our way towards this pending collapse of capitalism, I just assumed that I wasn’t cut out for the work. Even when I actually knew my shit, I was good at what I did, but I couldn’t measure up.

My first job was at Radio Shack, and I lost count of the number of times I had customers talk down to me when they didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about, turn to coworkers who knew less than me, and then had to watch as said coworker had to turn to me to ask me to answer the question. But I was a bad employee because my dollar per ticket wasn’t high enough, I didn’t sell enough of the bullshit extended warranties (they weren’t worth it on anything other than headphones, tbh), I didn’t attach enough accessories when I sold cell phones… never mind that half my shift would be spent supporting my coworkers when the customers would go to them instead of me because my boobs apparently meant I couldn’t know about computers and patch cables and batteries and shit. Then when I moved to OfficeMax, my background in all that shit helped me be one of the best sales people with the office equipment, but again, I’d end up helping coworkers and my numbers would suffer, or I’d be given special tasks (like setting up the ad every week) but still be held to the same sales expectations as my coworkers who didn’t have to do this shit too.

When I finally got out of retail, it was such a fucking relief, and I thought all my problems would go away. And for a while it felt like they had, because I was still running on the high stress mode that retail had put me into, so I was expending twice the energy I should have to in order to compensate for all the things I could never get right. Eventually though, shit went south with that job too. I would lose focus on shit, fail to remember to do small tasks that should have been easy to remember, having to constantly write shit down or I’d forget. I’d get yelled at when the printers fucked up, even if they were repeating issues that Xerox continued to fail to fix, because I was supposed to be watching every fucking print that came off the machine while running multiple machines at once. Like, seriously? This really became a problem when the machines started getting fast enough that if I loaded enough paper for a job, started it, and turned to another machine, I could have fifty or more double sided color prints that were bad just in the time it took me to set up the second machine to start running and get the first proof off it.

Bonus round was when a coworker was harassing me, I went to the bosses about it, and I got blown off. I was told by one that ‘everyone has their issues’ and he proceeded to compare my leaving the shop silently at the end of the day, instead of saying goodbye, to the coworker’s harassment. The other boss told me that coworker just wanted to be my friend, and got pissed when I called him on that bullshit — because telling a woman that a man harassing her just wants to be her friend, and she should give him a chance is exactly that, sexist shit. I’m still not sure if either of them realized that was the final straw on my relationship with them. If I’d been in the mental state necessary to really effectively job hunt, and if there was a market that actually would pay a woman without a college degree anything resembling a living wage, I would have been long gone from the place by then. But the fucking cherry on top with that shit? They ended up firing the coworker a few months later, over other issues, and after he’d been gone for a while, one of them commented they wish they’d known sooner about coworker’s problems… then was bewildered when I stomped the fuck out of the room without saying a word. Yeah.

They sold off the business and retired a year ago, and the new boss is around my age. So far he seems to be fairly understanding who I am, and how my brain works. So work’s been a better place for me, even as we all have growing pains from his having to learn the ropes and everyone adjusting to the changes. But he and I sat down for my year end review… and he dropped that smart bomb on me — “You’re probably the smartest person here” is what he said to me, then proceeded to point out my failing to live up to my potential. And I voiced my concern over that pattern because of all the shit I laid out in this blog post… but I couldn’t really drop all that in the meeting, so I glossed over it and gave him the tl;dr instead. I’m not sure if he fully understood the depth of my concern. So, we’ll see how this plays out.

All this ranting to say, I really am starting to think I’m ADHD. I read people talk about it, and I go ‘that sounds like me!’ But they also talk about how hard it is to get a diagnosis as both an adult and a woman, and I already have enough issues following through on shit, especially medical shit I know I need to handle. So, I’m like… self medicate with caffeine and use the fuck out of reminders and timers on my phone, and hope for the best. Yay team. >.>

Categories
Non-Fiction

Twisting The Ballot Box Screw

When I got into the conversation with my boss recently about Clinton vs. Sanders, the thing that hit me the most as I pondered it afterwards as how firmly and repeatedly he was trying to give me the message that I needed to get in line, that all of Sanders supporters needed to get in line. Repeatedly he said things like ‘if there was a better candidate, I’d vote for them in a heartbeat’ about Hillary, and instead of telling me why I should vote for Clinton, he spent his time telling me why Bernie didn’t deserve the vote. These are not the ways to get someone to vote for your candidate. This is how Kerry lost to Bush — No one wanted to vote for Kerry, they wanted to vote against Bush, and that’s not how you convince the swing voters. This election cycle is looking to shape up the same, there are a lot of people who aren’t supporting Clinton because they want her, they’re supporting her because they don’t want Trump.

Part of the reason why so many of the Sanders supporters are still holding out, why so many of us are still voting for him or planning to vote for him in the remaining primaries, is because we believe in his message. We know that not all the things he’s talking about are going to actually happen, especially if we don’t also get progressives to fill the house and the senate to back him, and even if we give him a happy majority in both it will be an uphill battle. Regardless of how much of what he’s trying for he can actually achieve, we believe he will give it a good try and his goals are the things that we as a country need. We believe in him and his message, and most of us are voting for him, not against Trump, Clinton, or anyone else.

I can accept and even respect someone who actually supports Hillary because they’ve considered her position on things, even if I disagree with them, because while I dislike a lot of things about Hillary, I don’t believe that the things that they’re aligning with her ideologically about make them horrible people, and they’re actually selecting a candidate they agree with. The people who are just saying ‘Sanders has lost, we just need to accept Hillary is our only hope’ when they don’t actually agree with what she stands for are going to be the weakness in the campaign. Yes, we are subject to First Past The Post voting, so in order to get the candidate that most agrees with us we need to strategically vote, but that shouldn’t mean that Hillary’s campaign and supporters should use fear to convince us. They need to tell us what’s good about her.

As an aside, if you’re not familiar with the term First Past The Post Voting (also sometimes known as Winner Takes All voting), or if you don’t know why it’s bad for pretty much everyone except for the powerful minority, please take the time to watch this video. Also check out more videos by C. G. P. Grey to follow up on this subject: talking about alternatives to FPTP such as Alternative Vote (also known as Instant Run Off voting) and how Gerrymandering works. I highly recommend them because it breaks them down into really easy to follow examples, which are great if you’re trying to get the point across effectively.

The other experience I had recently was I was having a twitter conversation with someone I follow. She’d been expressing her dismay at how there’s a type of Clinton supporter than accuses women who are supporting Bernie of not being Feminists, and I starting talking about my boss mentioned above. She and I were pretty much on the same page, and then a Clinton supporter @ mentions both of us, telling us they don’t understand us. Now, instead of doing the logical thing that one would do when you don’t understand, you know, asking questions so that maybe you can, she instead links us to a blog post that was trying to insist that Sanders isn’t a feminist. Pretty sure that the definition of Feminist is still striving for equality between the genders, and things like raising the minimum wage to a living wage, affordable health care, affordable education, and reproductive freedom all further gender equality. Particularly when the majority of minimum wage earners are adult women, and the way to pull themselves up from minimum wage jobs involve being able to maintain one’s health, further their education, and be able to make informed, safe, and healthy choices about when and how they reproduce.

So, how about this Clinton supporters? If you want my vote, tell me why I should vote for Hillary. Stop shouting doom and gloom about Trump being elected. Stop telling us we’re not feminists because Bernie’s an old white man. Stop telling us we’re young and stupid, entitled and delusional. Woo us, tell us what’s great about Hillary. And if you can’t? Why don’t you try to affect change and hold her to task. Quit starting negotiations at the middle ground because you think you can’t do any better, aim high so that when you have to compromise you end up closer to where you want to be.

Categories
Non-Fiction

The Pen And The Sword

One thing I hear a lot of people comment on is my choice to use colorful metaphor so frequently. The word fuck is not foreign to me, actually it’s probably one of the most comfortable to slide from my tongue because it’s so versatile — whole comedy routines have been written how multi-talented the word fuck is. And the number one thing that will stop me in my tracks and make me lose respect for someone? When they call me out on my use of these colorful metaphor because of my gender. While I’ll disagree if they just try to tell me that I should watch my language, as long as there’s no indication it has anything to do with my gender I will make a good faith effort to respect their beliefs up to the point I respect the person who believes them. But the moment anything indicates they find it okay to curse and swear, as long as there aren’t women present, my respect for that person just dries right up; sometimes I even find myself cursing in their presence more simply because I am so offended by their sexism.

I’ve been lectured that it makes me seem base and crass, and that I should respect myself more than that. I’ve been told to my face that the person speaking to me knows that I’m intelligent, but because I choose to use more base language that I come across as stupid. My experience has been, anyone who can’t hear what I’m actually saying because I pepper my sentences with fuck when I’m angry is actually saying more about themselves than they are me. Words have the power we give them, the meaning we wrap them in with the sentences we construct for them… so why does a simple little four letter word like fuck have the power to just overshadow everything that surrounds it? Simply because we as a society choose to give it that power.

A genius of a man, George Carlin, had a lot to say on these sorts of words. He had a delightful routine that discussed these sorts of words in detail known to most as the seven dirty words. If you’ve never had the pleasure, or if it’s been a while, I certainly recommend you take the time. This clip of it is a little over fifteen minutes, but well worth it.

Comedians are the ones allowed to poke at society where society says no one is allowed to poke. They soften the blow by wrapping it in a metaphor or provoking a laugh, but the best ones have a lot to say under their jokes. That’s part of the reason why Jon Stewart was so successful with his run on the Daily Show, because under all that humor there is a man who is very knowledgeable about politics, who has a sharp mind with opinions to share, and he did it in a way that a large chunk of society enjoyed watching it. He said things that a lot of us agreed with, and some of what he did created waves and got attention on things that might have otherwise been ignored.

Anyhow, back to my original thread: how did we reach a point where one little word with four letters has become so powerful that it can stop everything and everyone around it like it’s a freeze ray or a magic spell? It’s the language equivalent of a flash bang for so many, where they hear it and suddenly their ability to take in anything else just is gone. I recognize that language is a collaborative construct to help clarify meaning in communication, that words are given meaning by what everyone agrees upon… I just don’t understand how one word so small has been given so much power.

Really, why do we even given a fuck?