I just returned from a holiday party at an organization for which I occasionally work. The whole experience made me uncomfortable, and I’m not entirely sure why. I felt I couldn’t be my real self there. I couldn’t connect. As a result, I had a moment of standing outside myself, perhaps seeing Melanie as others do. And it was alarming.
Have I become a caricature? Am I so out of the mainstream? Do I expect everyone to share my values? Are my expectations too high? Am I too liberal to live in “the real world?”
Tell me what you think:
Bless this Food, Jesus
First of all, the boss blessed the food in the name of Jesus and said a long Christian prayer. All the music was Christmas music, and we played a Christmas trivia game. This is a group of 30+ employees, including many African-Americans and Africans. It’s highly likely there were at least a couple of Muslims in the mix. Certainly there were no Jewish people — they would have quit after the last party. Perhaps a few agnostics or atheists.
I joked to the man next to me, “Heaven forbid a Jewish person should ever start working here.” He looked at me as if I was mad. (He probably thinks I’m anti-semitic now.)
If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a Jesus-person. I’m a lay pastor, in fact. But this is a place of work. I just found it all so inappropriate. Is it me?
Is this 1950?
After our Christmas trivia game came lunch. There was nothing for a non-meat eater to dine upon, other than veggies and dip and cheese and crackers. Platter after platter of wings and crab balls and beef and lobster dip, etc, etc. Even the potato salad had bacon in it. I’m not grousing about that, it’s just kind of unusual to go someplace these days where there isn’t at least something for a vegetarian.
Everyone stuffed all their trash into the recycling containers, of course. I did not bother rifling through the garbage to pull out the recycling as I often do. It was all covered with meat juice.
Locker Room Talk
OK, so here’s the final kicker. There were gifts given out and one guy got some electric thing that looked to someone else like a dildo. Six or seven guys were roaring with laughter, making all kinds of crude jokes such as, “That’s a power tool right there” and pretending to use a jack hammer. During this time, they caught no women’s eyes, and they carried on as if we weren’t even there. (We were far outnumbered.) I *think* the guys thought they were being subtle or clever, as if we didn’t know what they were talking about.
I was astounded. It’s been so long since I’ve been in a group of men like that, I had forgotten the intense discomfort. And a big part of the discomfort lies in not speaking up myself, even just to say, “How old are you?” in a joking manner.
I have a bad cold. I have next-to-no voice this week. If I’d had any voice, I’m pretty sure I would have at least said something like that.
In the age of #MeToo, perhaps somewhere in the back of their testerone-addled brains they would think, “Oh yeah, I guess heard something about sexual harassment on the news,” or maybe, just maybe, “Wow, that might make my female colleagues uncomfortable.”
I hate that I literally could not speak. There’s remarkable symbolism in that, now that I think about it.
“Why Didn’t Those Women Speak Up Before Now??”
My muteness seemed to magnify what was going on internally, all those old familiar feelings. “I don’t want to get fired. Since I’m a temp, they will just stop calling me . . . I don’t want them to think I can’t take a joke . . . I don’t want to be ostracized . . . I want to be able to get along with my co-workers.”
And yes, “I want them to like me.”
Those are the very feelings that kept me from speaking up every time I was sexually harassed and/or assaulted in the workplace: at a theater, a hardware store, the CIA, a non-profit. Pretty much everywhere I’ve ever worked.
I thought things had changed. I thought the conversation was further along. I thought . . . I guess I thought it was safer.
The real question for me now is should I talk to the H.R. director? Should I point out that their office is not friendly to people who don’t share the boss’s religion? Should I tell her about the sexual harassment I’ve often witnessed there and use the jack-hammer guy as an example? Or should I just say, “Life is too short, I only work here sporadically, it’s not my problem?”
I could file a discrimination complaint on behalf of all vegetarians, but that probably wouldn’t be too constructive. I do need the job.
So — just a rambling holiday blog, 2017-style. I’m not going to bother to edit this, so I’m sorry if it’s not up to my usual standards. I’m tired & sick and really just wanted to process these feelings and see what you thought. Well?