Wednesday, June 29, 2016

If You're Privileged and You Know it Stomp Your Feet

Sometimes we don’t know we are blind until we find out that everyone else can see.

L____ and I were talking the other night about how sometimes this is still hard, despite the good days and what we are learning and enjoying, the thoughts still linger that somehow this isn’t enough.

I remember the year I didn’t work, it took months before I quit introducing myself with my professional degrees and titles and the assurance that I was choosing to take time off. I knew where he was coming from.

Why do we feel the need to explain that an honest hard-day’s work is actually both?

Then today my friend posted the following on Facebook

    "..if you don’t have the money to tip more than a $1, please go to the dollar    
      menu. These waiters and waitresses LIVE off what little tips they make.”
A dialogue followed, most people stating that servers’ minimum wage was around $2.13 and that if you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out. I added that delivery drivers are in the same boat: making well below minimum wage when they are on deliveries and depend on tips.

One person commented that she didn’t agree, that poor service negated a good tip, any tip; and that at restaurants where you could order and pay at the table that all waiters did was bring you food, who would you tip then….I responded that servers minimum wage is really low and that food industry workers are dependent on tips to survive.
She said, “K__I understand that. I also understand they took the job knowing what the pay will be.”  

They knew what the pay was when they took the job.
They knew it was unfair.
They knew they could work forty hours a week and only make $85.20.
They knew this and signed on any way.
So it is ok to continue the cycle—

That thought is privilege.

Tied in a pretty bow, a gift to ourselves to make the other party look and feel guilty… is their fault they are being treated badly and aren’t paid enough because they agreed to those conditions when they took the job.

These comments have kissing cousins: If you want a real wage, get a real job. If you don’t want to live in poverty, get a real job. Flipping burgers is for high schoolers; get a grown-up job…..

How many memes have I seen mocking a living wage for anyone who deigns to work at something the rest of us grown-ups think we are too good to do?

Or at least think we are too good to do outside of our own homes?

Most of us cook in our homes, clean in our homes, plunge the occasional toilet, pick up/take out the trash.
Most of us don’t smile when we do it, at least not all the time, certainly not if the dinner table has two crying toddlers, a teen who is snide, and a tween who burps in our face…..or we have to outside in the pouring rain waiting for someone to unlock the door for 7 minutes because you forgot your purse upstairs, then had to go back because you actually left your keys on the bed….or sent the same steak back three times because when you cook it well done at home it still has pink in it.

But we expect it to be done for us for 2.13/hr maybe an extra $5 thrown if, if we are satisfied?

What if the problem isn’t them, it is us?

It is acceptable to voice displeasure or dissatisfaction with service at an establishment.
But to imply that people are deserving of poor treatment because they knew what they signed up for, isn’t capitalistic or making America great or encouraging someone to better themselves or pull themselves up by their bootstraps, it is privileged.

And it means that at least for today you remain blind.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why I Slept With the Pizza Guy

Marriage is hard.  Texting a friend, “I’m sitting in my car alone in an empty parking lot eating a pizza because I don’t want to go home.” Hard.

 Even the good days require effort.

Forty. Some of my friends have a decade or more of marriage at my age; even one or two have crossed the 20 year mark.  My nearly 5 years seems frivolous. But then I count out what we’ve covered: miscarriage, serious illness in one of our parents, 5 moves-5 cities, a could-have-been-fatal health event for me, and those years grow exponentially, maybe a short time on the trail, but treacherous terrain nonetheless.

Even so, the hardest days have been watching as events unfold-- things that happen to L__ as I sit on the sidelines; losing one job was difficult, but another move and a new company within a few short weeks helped righten the world.

Until it wasn’t. 

And six months later, the same scene on repeat.

Everyone said it didn’t matter what he did for a living, that his job didn’t define him. He and I said it often enough; it became our greeting.

People were supportive, loved us in any way they knew how. Well wishes and phone numbers and leads and contacts were offered. All in his industry.  And then the next layer, a little different field, but someone knows someone and he thinks there is an opening. 

I quit counting after 70. 70 resumes, applications, a handful of interviews and more than 60 days on the calendar and no offers. No new leads.  There were no more home cooked dinners and lazy nights watching $1 DVDs,; mentions of God’s plan and timing were only through gritted teeth. He began to wonder what was holding him back. Days I told him I couldn’t think if a thing; other days I told him the truth.

The only job offer came from a single mom in her late twenties; she needed a delivery guy for the chain pizza store she managed. She didn’t ask him about his undergrad experiences or anything about his master’s thesis. She asked if he would work hard and show up on time. And then gave him a t-shirt and a hat and told him to start tomorrow.

A couple of friends asked, “How does he feel about having to take a job like that?”

Most of our conversations ended in, “But just while he looks for something else.” 

But there wasn’t something else, and this became our new normal.

I quit asking if any other offers had come, and he no longer sent me the rejection emails.  But the rhythm of the familiar returned: laundry, food, and children can always ground you. And then like He frequently does, God revealed subtleties, nuances in what were now our days: my husband had stopped sweating all the time, something he had done since long before I met him; his stomach was no longer painful; his high blood pressure lower than any time in recent memory. We had a cheap Mexican dinner without a single phone call, and some late nights were spent with inappropriate comedy in seven minute YouTube bits.

We quit referring to his new job as temporary.  

And on the good days the new normal was enough.
We alternate bad days; each talking the other one down, those bullet points of how life is better repeated in person, in text, in writing, in prayers.  

And most times we believe each other.


And then there was today—his turn—his apology that he wasn’t the man I married.

I told him that it was OK—that I really preferred the pizza guy.