Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “culture”

Fuck off, Pizza Man

I have not felt compelled to contribute to this blog for a very long time. I am a writer who really only writes for the catharsis — for the experience of emoting via word ammo.

For a long time, I have not been inspired to write because while I have had many meaningful experiences, none gave me the deep feeling that I NEEDED to put my thoughts on a page (or screen, as the case may be).

Today that changed.

As you may know, I am a teacher at a public high school. I love my job — even the parts of my job that I complain about.

I was having lunch today with a few of my colleagues. If you are familiar with the daily routine of a teacher, you may know that our lunch break lasts for about 25 minutes. We get very good at eating very quickly.

I finished my lunch fast and a colleague asked if anyone had a moment to help him carry some pizzas into the school. He had ordered 20 pizzas for an assembly we were having honoring students who had perfect attendance.

It was no problem, I told him. I could come help.

The pizza man came down the street with two giant insulated bags of pizza. He handed one of those bags immediately to my colleague. When I reached for the other bag, he said, “No, no no. Here — take this instead.” Then he handed me a plastic grocery bag with styrofoam plates in it. It must have weighed only a few ounces. The pizza man struggled to carry his bag.

I asked him if he did this “because I am a girl.”

His response?

“You’re too pretty.”

I am going to let that sink in for you.

Women readers are already getting it. Many male readers might not. In fact, some of my male readers (actually, do I HAVE male readers?) may have the same reaction as the Pizza Man did when I responded to him.

“I am not sure that’s a compliment,” I said.

“You should say, ‘thank you.’ It was a compliment, right?” This was his response.

Go fuck yourself with a rusty pen knife, Pizza Man.

I handed the bag of plates to another colleague in the hallway. I did not want to be near this man anymore. Then I went back into the room where I was eating lunch with my colleagues: four men and a woman.

One of the men in the group still doesn’t know why I am upset about all of this. One left the room when I started talking about it. Another got on his computer and tuned me out. The last shook his head and understood and cited that viral video of the girl being catcalled and harassed simply for walking down a street in New York. When man #4 referenced this video, man #1 said he’d not seen it, but asked what the girl in the video was wearing, you know, “just for a frame of reference.”

When lunch was over, I walked down to my classroom and I tried not to cry.

Men: this isn’t that fucking difficult. Stop the bullshit. We are not that hard to figure out.

Telling a coworker she looks nice is FINE. Telling her she looks nice in that sweater is NOT.

The difference? One is a simple acknowledgement of an effort someone put into looking pleasant. The other is a direct reference to anatomy. If you say I look good in my sweater, you are talking about my body — the personal parts of myself that I have chosen not to show to you because I put them underneath a sweater.

Look — I am no spring chicken. I am not as young and hot as I once was. And, I don’t think that this matters much. I still have men say inappropriate things to me, whistle, or ask me “how YOU doin’?” in a tone that perhaps suggests that I am not being asked an honest question regarding how my day is. I am NOT thankful that I’ve “still got it.” I don’t feel good about myself because at my age someone has called me “pretty.” This is mostly because I do not measure my self-worth on the opinions of random strangers who refuse to let me carry pizza.

Now, perhaps you may wonder if it isn’t chivalrous for a man to offer to carry something for a woman. Yes. It is. I don’t think, however, chivalry necessarily is the issue. It would have been chivalrous to OFFER to carry something for me if I were struggling with it. It would have been chivalrous if, when I had offered to take the pizzas, the Pizza Man said, “Oh, that is so nice of you to offer, but I am doing just fine. Would you mind taking these plates, though? That would free up an extra hand for me to carry these.” It is not chivalrous to refuse to permit me to help you then tell me that it’s because I have both a vagina and a cute face. This is not a good deed. It is an insult.

I let this man escape with his life for three reasons:
1. I was at work in a school full of impressionable young people and I would rather not show them that violence is the answer to anything.
2. He was old and is probably from an era where a good ass-slap was a welcome indication of a job well done for perky secretaries and receptionists. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, but does help me perhaps understand it.
3. I can’t go to jail. I have a family to think about.

Now, there are a million ways I wish I had handled this and a million things I wish I had said. And, this all reminds me of when I was raped as a teenager: I am dealt an injustice; I am treated disrespectfully. Then, I end up being angrier with myself for not immediately responding better; for not being stronger and for not being a quick-thinker. This is the great sadness of womanhood: thinking of one’s own faults when someone else has done wrong.

I honestly don’t know what to do now. I am angry and sad and disappointed and reflective and thinking all kinds of awful things. And I had been having such a fantastic day. And a few words from a stranger has sent me into such a different direction. And, when the bell rings to end my brief “free” period, I have to teach a room full of 31 15-year olds. And, I can’t let this color my work with them.

If you can relate in any way to this story, please comment here. I do welcome respectfully dissenting opinions, too. I’d love to open a dialogue about this.

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The Penis: Mightier Than the Sword

I feel as though we live in a culture of “I Want.”

Because “I” want, then I steal, I cheat, I antagonize, I rape, I fight, I bully, I kill, I throw a temper tantrum, I oppress, I hate, I flee, I yell, I abuse, disown, I hurt and I neglect.

Today, I decided that everyone pretty much sucks.

At work, we had a faculty meeting. Teachers totally love those. The only things we love more are professional development sessions and parents who claim that they pay our salaries.

At this meeting a colleague stood up and told a long story about how she had overheard some other teachers
talking badly in the hallway about a student, but, you know, “I’m not gonna name any names.”

Fuck you and your motherfucking passive aggressive bullshit. If you have a problem with an adult colleague, you act like an adult and approach that colleague as if you were an adult.

Also today, a parent demanded to meet with me so I could explain why his son was crying last night over his falling grade in my class. Dude, the fact that your son sleeps in class, refuses to do homework and actively opts out of all class work, indeed, might just be my fault. I mean, most things are. Totally. Let’s meet about it.

Also today, only 60% of my students (high school freshmen) came to class prepared to do the presentations they have been working on for 5 weeks. One even looked at me and said, “What are we supposed to do if we are not done yet?”

Please tell me how you would have answered that question. My own answer was sarcastic and a little pissy.

Also today, a core group of my colleagues were excused from our dreadful faculty meeting so they could meet privately about a course that was being mismanaged and has been, frankly, an embarrassment to our school. I was not permitted to leave this meeting to talk with our guidance counselor about devising a plan to provide homebound instruction for a student who is recovering from a virally-induced heart failure.

Next time I want special treatment, I will be sure to screw up at something first since apparently an acceptable excuse for leaving a meeting is “‘cuz I gotta clean up this shitstorm I caused.”

And finally, today, I found out that I got edged out for some professional perks I had been vying for by a teacher with less experience and who isn’t even fully qualified to receive these benefits.

Fuck me.

And there it is. That’s what I said to myself, “Fuck me.”

In that moment, everything shifted. My worldview cleared like those Claritin commercials.

Why is something that gets “fucked” a recipient, often of aggression or violence? To get “fucked” or even “fucked up” or “fucked over” is to be duped, shamed, victimized or beaten.

If Tupac says, “I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker,” it is an insult because it is supposed to be emasculating to the owner of the “bitch.” The woman in the scenario is just an object or receptacle to accept the “fuck.” Very rarely do you hear a woman say that she fucked a man, suggesting that she had asserted her dominance over him. Actually, I don’t know if I have ever heard that.

And here I am. I ponder what it means to be in the world of “I Want.”

“I want to dominate.”

“I want to degrade.”

“I want to show you I am better than you are.”

“I want to do whatever the hell I want.”

“I want to insult.”

“I want to have power– take power– assert power.”

“I want you to know you are beneath me and that I will fuck you, fuck you up, fuck you over, or fuck this shit until I prove it.”

If a penis (real or metaphorical) can do all of this, then indeed..

The penis: mightier than the sword.

The Weeds Behind Me

fire2

Today, I realized that it’s been lost
Sold and on fire, destroyed like Faust.
I recall seeing signs, blazing, “We will never forget”
But we did.

About everything.

A whole generation knows nothing of ones before.
They choose purposeful ignorance, opt to be whores
For attention.
It is about ME, they imply, not my Great Grandma Finch
Whose first husband died the night he was lynched
In Arkansas. Not Ar-Kan-Sas.

You might wonder why the schools don’t teach
About Booker T. and W.E.B.,
Wounded Knee, Kennedy, Gandhi and philosophies
Of togetherness.

Well, they do.

They teach it, over and over, to deaf ears and blind eyes,
To Orwellian automatons, in self-selected coveralls of
Skinny jeans, 60-dollar tees, an air of sleaze and a set of Beats.
And they cry about harassment, racism, and having to WORK,
Of sexist comments and how GW was a jerk
Without the slightest hint of irony at all for the absolute lack of knowledge and experience they possess.

All they know is Martin Luther King
Once upon a time had a dream.
And they can tell you that the dream was to end racism.

But, they can’t tell you a thing about Coretta, Malcolm, Louis, Rosa, Cesar, Bobby, or others who shared that vision
Except that one of those people sat down one time when she was tired.

They can’t pronounce “Tiananmen” because they’ve never heard of it.
Or “Gorbachev,” “Emmett Till” or even know of South Central before they burned it.

The only “Wall” they’ve lived knowing preceeds “-Mart.”
And it all makes me sad.

Worse yet, we try to teach a generation of kids who not only don’t know that their ancestors swung from trees in Birmingham, burned for the color of their skin,
But, they really don’t care.

This is a generation that wasn’t even old enough to remember the Trade Center collapse,
Let alone Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, or the Day the Music Died.
And, I first chuckled that teens had never heard of Nirvana, John Hughes, the Spice Girls or the Beatles.
Then I realized that this was an intellectual tragedy like I couldn’t dream of.
There was, kids, a world before Dubstep.

Believe it.

I used to write research papers by investigating information found in…BOOKS.
Now, the very suggestion of doing that would bring terribly confused looks
From students who appear to need to be surgically removed from their “smart” phones.
And I wonder when we will finally redefine the word “smart,” then.

They don’t know where they’ve come from and don’t care where they’ve been.
And yet they all think they will earn “big G’s,” drive a Lex and be freed
From the tyranny of their parents and the “system” upon turning 18.
And, they don’t know that when you’re 18, you’re still pretty stupid.

And, so Pat O’Leary hides the wire to his earbuds through his Hollister shirt
Adamantly refusing to read Swift or learn about how his ancestors survived tenement living in NYC
Only to be spat upon, labeled non-white, forever a slave to the New Country’s “dole.”
Because he couldn’t care less about how they paid the toll
For him to even sit in that seat and receive a book today.

Lily Locklear doesn’t even know she’s 3-quarters Crow
But, she’d rather chant in her head, “You don’t know –oh –oh”
“You don’t know you’re beautiful.”
Indeed, she doesn’t, but that is a whole different topic altogether.

And, Marcus knows how to design his own Nikes online and pay a few hundred for them,
But he’s never heard of Stokely Carmichael and he doesn’t own a pencil OR a pen.

Zooey is half Jewish. She thinks. Maybe.
But, she couldn’t tell you what that even means.
Is it a culture? A religion? An identity?
“What’s the difference, anyway,” she wonders as she draws on her hundred dollar jeans
With the same Sharpie she used to draw all over her best friend’s arm while they were supposed to be learning about Quadratic Equations.

And, it is a tragedy.

Not like the Challenger, which I actually remember.
But like that of the American Cheetah,
Which had existed but now is extinct
And our children’s minds, their heritage, their culture, their identities,
Too, are depleting, once having been beautiful, hopeful and strong.

I was not alive to witness Woodstock or Pol Pot; too young to really remember when AIDS first made the world stop.

But, I learned about them.  And, I grew.

And, now I say, “I, too, sing America,”
But the trail I leave behind me is growing thick with weeds and ugly from neglect
And, I can’t convince many 14-year olds to sing with me anymore.

 

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