Tuesday, September 13, 2016

the uplifting

Yoko Ono has sent out a call for submissions for an upcoming project called Arising, asking for participants to send a testament of harm done to them as a woman, along with a photograph of their eyes.

Well Yoko, I've got one for you. It was a week ago, but if I think that my eyes are still reflecting the surprise.

Shock, hurt, anger - yep, I think that covers it.

My former boss was someone that I greatly respected and admired. He treated the women on the team with respect and consideration. He often complimented us, telling us how well we were performing. I was unhappy to see him go. He burned bridges when he left. He wiped his computer, taking with him much of the history of projects. We lost years of correspondences. As much as I recognized the wrong in what he did, I understood that he felt undervalued and aggrieved. His replacement wasn't the outgoing, sociable man that my former boss was, and then came the lay-offs and the pay reductions.

So now you have the setting.

Enter my CADD draughtsman from stage right. A new colleague was soon to join the team and would be taking the long vacated desk of the former boss. My CADD draughtsman was tasked with clearing out the leftover paperwork. She had one folder of papers that she wasn't sure how to archive. I opened the folder and began cursing. Among the drawings markups and project records, my former boss had left behind an HR folder which contained the salaries of every member of the team. Thank you, Pandora.

Without exception, every female member of the team was paid on average 15% less than the male counterpart. This was consistent from associate level all the way to the technicians. Now I had the truth of his regard.

"That muthafucka," I said. That muthafucka.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

side sleep

Some people like to indulge in retail therapy in their spare time; others like to play games. I like to attend classes. I especially like cooking classes, computer classes and language classes. Even when I play sports, it is the learning that attracts me. I want to know strategies and developmental goals. If you're going to be a know-it-all, you should at least be a somewhat competent know-it-all.

My random bits of knowledge come in handy for many situations. SB says that I am a fantastic masseuse. I can easily pinpoint the source of his muscle pain thanks in part to a long ago hunting license class. While discussing field dressing animals, my instructor talked a bit about how he home processed his deer. SB can tell me that his neck feels stiff and I can trace the pain along his musculature to a knot in his upper back."We'd better tenderise your chuck steak," I tell him. Sometimes my hands stray to massage his rump roast.

Today, at a first aid course, we discussed the preference of placing people in the rescue position on their left sides. The instructor said that due to the 'C' shape of the stomach, lying of the left side reduces chances of stomach contents coming back up to the esophagus. I thought about SB. He is a side sleeper and mostly sleeps on his right side. He also complains about heartburn. I told him what I learned, and we're going to try having him sleeping on his left side. I hope that it will help. If not, I will have to stop taking cooking classes. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

happy birthdays

My Ông ngoại (maternal grandfather) is 97. He looks good, eh? Supposedly bà ngoại is younger than him but the other members of the family suspect otherwise. I think she is a centurion already. She used to claim that she looked older because she had a harder life. That she had a harder life, I have no doubt. She was orphaned and taken in by her father's sister, a doctor's wife whose kind treatment of her can be seen by her bowed legs. She said it was from carrying heavy items for the family but I suspect rickets. I didn't know the story in the late 1990s when my parents were living in Hanoi and we visited bà ngoại's family. I recall that they wrote to us after the visit, asking for money. I felt bad that my mother never replied or visited them again, but now that I know the story, I don't feel so bad. I was too young to understand then, but I suspect that the warm family reunion was only at the surface and the actual purpose was for bà ngoại to rub their noses in her good fortune. She waited over 50 years to serve that dish. 

The reason that I suspect bà ngoại is older, beside her looking older, is that I don't think that an orphan who was treated as the family servant could have saved up enough money to book a trip to France by her early twenties. But maybe she did. She certainly had motivation. 

My grandfather was from Dalat, a much loved son. He was tall for a Vietnamese man and in my opinion, handsome. He always wore a flat cap; it was his trademark. I later discovered that the cap and his sweeping hairstyle covered a huge, ugly scar at the top of his forehead. It still leaves me feeling out of sorts when I think about the physical tells that reveal how each of my grandparents have survived hardship. Despite the obvious sign of a past trauma, my grandfather is a jolly man. He smiles at the world. While my grandmother is kind but wary, my grandfather is effervescent. It is obvious what drew my grandmother to him. I can imagine him in his early twenties, fresh out of university and working in Paris. She would have met a confident and happy man, sure of his abilities and secure in his family's regard. It was not easy for her to trust him but his steady kindness and warmth prevailed.

Almost 25 years ago, my grandmother had cancer. The surgery to save her life left her with a stoma bag. The doctor told my mother and aunts that my grandmother could probably live another five years if the cancer didn't return. Obviously, she long ago exceeded the prognosis. I know that she is only alive because of my grandfather and his insistent care. She was very depressed and gave up for a long time. My grandfather cajoled her into eating. She would not change her bag and so he did it for her. He forced her to start living again. His will is an awesome thing to behold. It was what helped him rebuild his life after the war. It is what keeps him and my grandmother alive. I suspect that he would live to 110 if that was his will.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

big babies

My friend shared this gem from a recent attempt in dating.

Our friends were quick to reassure her, not that she needed it. She is a smart cookie and figured that Jack was the problem, but was mystified at what he was thinking. I recalled my own mystification during my short lived foray into online dating.

During the time that SB and I broke up (he dumped me because his ex interfered with "good advice" but mostly because he was a moron) I was pretty upset and thought that the best way to get over him was to move on quickly and not think about it too much. I signed up to one of those online dating sites. I got an account and filled out a questionnaire. I recall that I checked the box for 'only interested in dating with possibility of relationship' or something like that. When I logged into my account, I was pleased to see that I had received several messages. Then I read the messages.

In the four or five days between signing up for an account and logging in to check, the messages revealed more than one man expressing interest, followed by expressing annoyance that I had not replied, followed by informing me that they were no longer interested due to my behavior and were dumping me. One of the men went so far as to fill out a review of me, telling me to grow up and chastising me for not replying with my disinterest. He warned others who looked at my profile that I was picky and would rudely ignore them instead of replying. I think this was one of those times in my life when my mouth dropped open literally. In four or five days I had managed to become a pariah to the dating website without actually doing anything. I quickly deleted my account.

With the way that communication and accessibility have increased since 2008, poor J doesn't even get those four days to be skewered by some overly sensitive man-child. She only had 30 minutes before Jack threw his toys out of the pram.

At least my story ended happily eventually after. A couple days after the breakup, SB realized what a gigantic moron he was, or at least he realized that he felt icky inside, and his poor sister was given the task of groveling to me (he was in a plane for the next 14 hours and didn't want to lose time). It started out poorly when she relayed to me that he was miserable and I was not as impressed as she had been to realize how deeply SB cared...after breaking my heart. I impressed upon her that her brother was a warty toad. There were negotiations and a plane ticket to visit him in Hong Kong for spring break. We reconciled with the stipulation that he should never take relationship advice without trying to talk to me first, and certainly never take advice from an ex who wanted him back (seriously, I'm still annoyed at what a moron he was). If he wanted to know my expectations, he could ask me. Like normal people do, unless they are man-children. I strongly prefer mild relationship retardation to man-children.