Okay, I think I'd like to do a little bit of ranting.
I am working a temporary part-time job right now as a patient escort at a family clinic. It's pretty informal - my housemate's mother works at this clinic and since the backdoor near the parking lot has been closed due to construction since October, I've been working with a few other people assisting individuals who need a hand to the front door since it's pretty far away.
This job pays minimum wage, but I think I've gained a lot more from it than money can pay and that's really hard for some people to understand. I've had a lot of really beautiful and inspiring interactions with folks... some who are old and appreciate an arm to hold on to to the front door, some folks who came to the clinic alone and need to be pushed to the front door in a chair because it's too far to walk, some folks in chairs who want to buy me a coffee and share a cigarette while telling me what it's like to live in a world where an able-bodied majority don't consider accessibility needs, some folks who are blind and are willing to share with me how they see with their heart, some children of elderly parents who need to talk with someone about feeling really burnt out and frustrated, and some folks who just want to shoot the shit...... So much! I've met some friendly faces that are now familiar and we catch up when they come to the clinic. These are the interactions that make this job awesome.
This job has also been full of a lot of really challenging interactions... I've had mothers walk by with their children and say within earshot "and that's why you stay in school kids"... or people who feel entitled to lecture me on why I should be in school. I have some people (always able-bodied) who seem to take personal offense to the fact that someone could possibly be paid to stand around and do "nothing"!! When people belittle my job, by saying things like "wow... bet you're having a blast... jeez, shitty job, eh?" without considering the fact that saying something like that can be (and is for me) personally offensive (considering, yes, this is my job, and they have no idea why I'm there initially or what my situation is..... Perhaps I really need the money and I don't enjoy it but am trying to be positive about what I'm spending my time doing...)... but the fact is in this situation, I do really enjoy my job. The thing is though, a lot of the time people don't believe me! When in response to a comment like the previous or "They actually pay you to do this?! What does your job even entail?!" in a really dismissive tone, I tell them that I'm there to assist people that need or want my assistance, and that those folks who do require help are very appreciative... and that I'm really happy to be there to help. I get anything from an eye roll to a 'suuuure'.
I get asked constantly if I'm in school... or if I'm going back to school... etc. This seems to be a very pressing concern for folks when they see me working. They then feel entitled to lecture me on how I 'may have blue hair and a facial piercing today, but who knows what I'll be doing tomorrow', or that I'm so young and when they were my age ..., or why it's such a shame that I'm not still in school. I am grilled with questions about my life goals and future plans by older men who think I am some lost or naive youth. This all rests on an understanding and reliance on so many social norms that I immediately appear to have strayed from. I am sure they are just trying to 'provide insight' or 'give advice' or 'help me out' but who says I need help? Have we all internalized the values of our society so much that we have become self-governing in the sense that we take it on as a personal matter when someone has stepped out of the production line to straighten them up?
Today someone actually said (and I quote directly) "What's a nice girl doing in at a job like this." What the fuck is that supposed to mean? What does it mean to be a 'nice girl'? I asked them what they meant and they sort of trailed off. They then said "Well, I guess it's not that hard of a job... all you have to do is look pretty." I said "I really don't think that has anything to do with what I'm doing here." He said he was just joking.... I walked away.
I had another conversation with a guy that was further infuriating for me. He, also, asked me if I was in school. I said no, and asked why... He said this seemed like it would be a good student job, and then told me I should really be in school. I told him that I did go to university for a bit but decided that I didn't like it, and that I was applying to college for their 2 year social service worker program. He told me he was a social worker in toronto and that he had a masters. "What were you studying in school?" I told him about the Peace Studies program and how just like Women's Studies (which has now been completely cancelled) Peace Studies was slowly being fazed out. He then decided that he should tell me why he thought feminism was great and all, but really not relevant anymore and that it had shot itself in the foot, to which I immediately emitted a sound of unease ("uhhh...."). He told me that wasnt' very academic and continued to explain to me what feminism was. I listened to his essay that went on for fucking ever... I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Was it assumed that I knew nothing on the matter and that he needed to try and put out a bunch of academic references (that,by the way, I did understand although NOT because I've gone to university, although he wouldn't know that because I didn't get a chance to share any of my politics) and enlighten me on the topic of feminism and how as a woman meant this to me, or meant that to me, or that I was being affected this way or that way ... (ARGH... I think I'm getting less and less articulate). In the end I told him I disagreed with pretty much everything he had said and that that wasn't my feminism, and that I loved it for all the ways it was completely unlike anything he had mentioned. Blahblahblah And then he told me "You know what you need to do... you need tog o back to university whether you like it or not. I don't care if you don't like it - you gotta go back. That's what you gotta do." I couldn't gather enough sarcasm to say thank you.
I love the situations where I have actual conversations with people - where people don't give a fuck about my education and can respect and appreciate that I made a choice to go to work that day and that I want to be there and that I have things under control. We debate sometimes, or talk about politics, and often times they go "wow, you're really intellegent, I'm really enjoying talking to you".... I love to listen and learn from these folks.
One good thing that happened was this person came into the clinic...I was instantly curious and attracted and I think we sort of gave eachother 'the eye' a few times... I found out their name was Martha... english pronouns can only fail us with this kind of shit. Martha appeared to be biologically female so I guess that means that I'll begrudgingly and confusedly use 'she'.
Anyways... We spoke after I came inside from talking to the feminist-expert and being REALLY frustrated. I told Martha about this and she just listened and it was pretty nice... She said that she works with kids because she can't stand adults and the things they say. We talked for quite a bit while she waited for her housemate to be done with the doctor and then before she left she said "this may sound really odd but I don't know a lot of people in this town and my housemates think I should get out mroe, can I get your numer and maybe we could go out for coffee sometime?" I said that I'd like that, so I gave her my number. She called me on my way home from work to give me her house number and say she enjoyed meeting me and then she sent me a bunch of cute and akward texts that reminded me of my own awkardness (hah...) to let me know what her cell number was and her email and to say that she wasn't meaning to be hitting on me but that maybe she was if I wanted her to.
It was really fucking nice to be picked up on someone's "queer-dar" for lack of a better word... I mean, I could sense that she was queer and the fact she was also identifying me as being accesible and open as such felt pretty good.... I feel a lot more comfortable identifying as queer than I have as straight since the last couple years of my life... I feel like queer is a much broader, more encompassing word to explain how endless and beautiful it is to not give a fuck about gender labels (i guess this is what the word has meant to me so far in my life). Beyond that I haven't really delved too far into trying to find something more specific to identify with/as, and haven't really felt a need to do so. I guess I've felt a little insecure about the idea of 'not being gay enough' to openly identify in the community I live in where there's not really a lot of talk of gender politics or any sort of dialogue around this stuff at all. I have had mostly what appear to be hetero relationships with fairly cis-gendered people and I think that people identify me as similarly 'straight' to the degree where there would be a sense of suprise if I were to have a relationship with another biological female.... which kind of goes to show how much assumptions are still embedded in our ideas of bodies and gender and sex regardless of where you're living and the people you know. Shit this stuff is so fucking confusing to try to write out. How do we use language to confront systemic ideologies when the language itself is so embedded in the very social concepts we are trying to dismantle?!
Anyhoo, I'll continue to explore my gender and my comfort with being queer.
I sometimes wonder if the people who make judgements and recommendations on what I should do with my life based on the notion that I am a 'nice girl' would think if they knew that I had hairy pits and legs... what would they think if I shared some of the ideas that I've been writing about in this journal? What if I brought the book Cunt to work to read.... would they still think I was a nice girl?