Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coffee, Power and Agency

Can you make a pot of coffee? Do I have to do everything around here? And there I am, looking uncooperative, unlike a team player, over-educated, under-employed, unable to predict when random people with very specific coffee preferences will show up in the small kitchen behind my office.

In a snit, last week I started making hash marks in my to-do list every time I made a pot of coffee. It has averaged out to about once per day (although I made no coffee today, I have made as many as 4 pots in one day). The most ridiculous part is that I don't even drink THAT coffee. Yuban through a Bun-o-Matic = Me ban Barf-o-Matic. So we're not exactly talking about nectar of the gods here. It's office coffee.

I do wish I could be the perky secure type who selflessly makes a pot of coffee in anticipation for demand, with no regard for how that places her in the hierarchy. There's that ickiness about a MAN asking a WOMAN for coffee in a professional setting. But I worry about how that makes me look. What's next? I'm going to buy your socks for you? You've seen Nine to Five, yes?

But the main reason it seems icky is not the gender, it's the power imbalance. Making coffee as a female seems less degrading when you have "agency", as in the power to decide for whom and when you will make coffee. This is the argument that confuses so many about feminism. It's not that women need to choose to be either butch feminists or girly porn stars - it is the agency to choose or just fall in-between. I may or may not have that power right now.

My options are these:
1. Pretend I don't know how to make coffee. This may confuse them, because I have previously made coffee. But that's what the highest in power do - someone who went to medical school can't figure out how to make a pot of coffee? Balderdash.

2. Grudgingly make coffee, while pointing out that besides the actual physicians, I have the most education of anyone there. This seems kind of petty and unwise, and honestly, I don't think I could even pull it off.

3. Remain willing to make coffee, but appear too brilliantly distracted and busy to get to it. This is kind of what I've been doing, minus the "brilliant" and "busy" parts. This is honestly the closest to the truth.

4. Make coffee, but make it horribly (bitter, watery, full of grounds, whatever). Theoretically, I wouldn't get asked to make coffee very often after a while. This seems like a sitcom set-up waiting to backfire. For example, I brew the most horrible pot and then realize that I've forgotten my thyroid medication and need caffeine, which forces me to drink my own awful coffee. ha HA.

I guess I'm really picking between 3 and 4 (I really like 4! It's got legs, whatever that means!). And I do have the power and confidence to do what I want. I just must remember - never play coffee power games with anyone. Or you'll have rat poison instead of skinny and sweet.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thank you, for the 43rd time.

I am turning 43 this year. It has occurred to me through all this introspection that being internally grateful is good for me. But others need to know that they matter too. I've also been ashamed to realize that the good manners I learned from my grandmothers have fallen away. Both were quite insistent that thank you notes were written for every gift.

So I was chatting with a co-worker, who was talking about birthday milestones ceremonies like bike-riding 150 miles for your 50th birthday, or 21 shots. In the mean time, I got a very lovely note in the mail from a friend who was moving out of town just to say how much she enjoyed our friendship. I was riding my bike (and I remember exactly where it happened) and the two ideas collided and made me laugh. Yes. The proverbial out loud laughing, on my bike. I took this as a sign it was a good idea.

Hence, 43 thank you notes. Not that there shouldn't be more. I'm hoping to write one a day until my birthday. (However, I am already behind 10 days! Oops.) This will be a true challenge for me. I am not good at expressing my own feelings, but prefer to lay thoughts out in robot logic or something. I am writing this note because it necessary in the social structure to thank you, etc. A note for almost no reason will be hard. I have considered asking recipients to write their own notes to pay it forward, if you will. But that seems artificial and demanding to me, too. I think I just have to put it out there. Gratitude should be free.

So here goes. Thank you for reading my goofy blog. Even though I know who approximately 7 of you might be, most of the page views are anonymous, and that is amazing to me. I will try to present well-written and thoughtful entries, because I really appreciate your consideration. Party on. Love, me. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Well, at least now I know why it bothers me.

There's something about self-improvement blogs that I can't stop loving, but sometimes there are methods that bother me. For example, an extreme diet and exercise plan would definitely work to reduce weight, but for how long? At what cost? It seems like a stupid, obvious way to avoid the hard work over the long term.

My speck of sand du jour: This blog by Chris Guillebeau. Full disclosure: I've only been following him for about 6 months. I haven't read the book. (Maybe I don't have to!)

His general proposal is that there a gatekeepers that can keep you from achieving your "dreams". In this blog entry, he states that "unnecessary" traffic lights are one of them, and you should just blow through them (after checking both ways, natch). "It's a great decision," he claims. I suppose he eventually brings it down to flexibility, and life is short, YOLO! whatever.

Horrifyingly, the comments are primarily supportive. You're right, Chris, how did I waste all my life sitting at stoplights until now? My time is valuable! Your safety - well, you should have thought of that before you got in the way of MY no-holds-barred success wagon. As an omnipotent non-conformist, I will ALWAYS be able to see any danger (to MYself or vehicle, naturally), so this is literally awesome, to mis-use all words.

Why am I so pissy about this? Well, because it bothers me that no one has addressed why there is a stoplight there in the first place. Believe it or not, there are standards for installing those things, and you can appeal to Department of Transportation to have them removed or installed. But yes, it's harder work than blowing through it at your convenience. You might have enlist the help of a congressman, get the residents to sign a petition, etc. But, if it's truly unnecessary, it would be a benefit to all, right?!

(Even then, it seems like that would be very rare to find a stoplight that needed to be removed. Slower traffic is better for communities, pedestrians, pets, bikes, etc., which are all things I would rather see around town than some ass-face in an Audi who thinks the laws don't apply to him/her. I can't think of ONE stoplight in my town that is not necessary. There are usually stop signs there. Are those unnecessary too?)

Or how about the valuable, valuable time that is wasted? Where do I have to be that I can't sit for 2 minutes and take a deep breath? I, personally, have no where that time-sensitive to be. I don't need to be in the operating room. I am not into NASCAR. I'm actually more anxious being early for appointments. I can't see how the "entrepreneurs" following this blog would need to race to their "start-up company" (aka, living room) to open more credit cards for frequent flyer miles or something.

If I totally stretch it into a very thin metaphor, I can follow it. Yes. Sometimes you are just doing things because it is society's expectation. You always have the option to consider whether these expectations further your goals or hold you back.

But I am Literal Liz. The metaphor bothers me. Apparently, I am not a non-conformist. If we are are talking about stoplights, I am not down with this. It reminds me of college, when I tried to convince my brother it was not punk to dress like a punk, and that it was, in fact, punker to look like a preppy dork and still be "punk". I still like this argument - it allows me to believe that I am the non-conformist that can't conform to the non-conformist hegemony.

Which is kind of true, in that I rejected that metaphor but accept the overall truth. Right? I'm still cool? PUNK!!!