Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Neuroses, neuroses

I cried at work today.

I made it through the staff meeting, which was a step up from last time, when I burst into tears in the first half hour and had to hide in the bathroom for fifteen minutes, during which time my phone rang, repeatedly, and disturbed everyone left behind in the board room...sigh.

But the precipitating events were not so dissimilar, in that I ended up locked in a death grip over an item on the agenda barely worth discussing - a tendency that I’m really trying to work on, though it’s proving surprisingly difficult. Note to self: When in staff meetings SHUT UP, for the love of god, shut up.

Inevitably, my stance on whatever issue will lead to a charming coworker vaulting personal attacks in my direction (or spreading rumors about me, or silently hating with a glowering wrath for over a depends on the workplace, I guess). The coworker here is the master of jarring, unwarranted personal attacks - including the memorable, “It’s not all about you!” launched at a manager when he mentioned bathroom etiquette.

I’ve been on the receiving end of such declarations - that I’d like to initiate volunteer programs solely in order to pass off my most hated duties to vulnerable community members, that I’m trying to make our clients' lives more difficult through my choice in art supply cupboard, that I’m thoughtless and obstinate and she can’t understand why, exactly, I’m making things so difficult. Kid stuff, really.

Today, it was nothing much worse - a prolonged discussion over a discontinued games tournament, and then, “you’re so controlling. You just need to pick over every single little detail and micromanage everything. Why can’t you just...” I tuned out at this point, and the details are fuzzy. But the take home title of Micromanaging Control Monster Who Impedes Meeting Progress was certainly received.

The meeting ended shortly thereafter.

Less than two minutes later, in a well-lit office with a large glass window and an opened door, I burst into messy tears without warning as I tried to unplug my laptop. ...Stupid laptop.

And the nerve she hit was this: I’m a perfectionist, I’m a keener, I’m an over-achiever, I’m a bright-eyed bushy-tailed whippersnapper who everybody wants to punch in the nose. I type too hard, and too fast, and when everyone takes on one work assignment, I like to take on three. (It’s hard to tell these things about be, sometimes - especially since my greatest achievement to date has been dropping out of university - but trust me on this one, it’s true.)

Just like the obsessive compulsive person who’s hands, though raw with soap burn, will never feel clean, my over-achievement disorder stems from a feeling of the opposite - inadequacy. I’m constantly terrified of failure, of being perceived as lazy, or of simply being kicked to the curb because ‘well, we collectively decided that we don’t like you, and we don’t want you, and we don’t need you. So, get out.’ The assumption of this inevitability colours every situation in my life. (...Why? I blame Society.)

To make matters so very much worse, I’m aware of all this, as well as my tendency to piss others off through my efforts to compensate - which means I often find myself stuck between a neurotic rock and hard place, terrified by seemingly inevitable rejection no matter what I do. Speak up in meetings? Shut up and be quiet? I generally fall back on my do-gooder default, secure in my belief that at least, if I do the work of seven people in one, I’ll have a list of concrete achievements to stack up against the hate.

And so, when my colleague bestowed me with the title of Micromanaging Control Monster Who Impedes Meeting Progress, it struck a very large, open nerve - the one that tells me to speed up, and then simultaneously yells ‘slow down!’ Because, when you’re an overachiever, the very worst thing people can think is that you want Control.

(Control over self and my own neuroses? Yes. Control over others perception of me, in that I’m desperate for them to like me but somewhat convinced that they never will? Yes. Control over the independent actions, desires, and generalized lives of those around me, in that I want to influence them in any way that doesn’t directly pertain to me? No, not so much.)

Because micromanagers also take on more than their fair share, but that's about taking power away from others: “I don’t trust you to do this task, or I don’t like how you’re doing it, so I’m going to do this myself.” It’s about inserting personal preferences and standards into situations that have nothing to do with you - insisting that a work room be painted yellow because it’s your favourite colour, even when all your coworkers voted on green. (That’s not a real example, but this one is - at my previous workplace, every recipe used by our cooks for use in the drop-in centre had to be tailored to the taste preferences of our executive director, who did not even work in that building or ever eat the food. She blacklisted vegetables. THAT’s micromanaging.)

But MY’s not about that, at all. I don’t want more power. Really, I’d like less power. In an ideal world, I’d have no power, and just a clearly defined check-list saying exactly what I have to do to keep my job, not be hated, and qualify as a decent person, and then I could mark off my list and be happy and be done.

And if I bring up a suggestion or an idea, or I offer my thoughts and opinions, it’s not an effort to take choice or power away from somebody else - because I want them to speak up, too. I want their opinions, and ideas, and unique efforts, precisely because they’re different from my own - because that takes the pressure off of me! I’ll drive myself nuts trying to do everything that can possibly be done - a little help, or even a dose of healthy competition...these are the things I want and crave.

The last thing I want for any coworker to think of me is that I want to usurp their ideas, or silence them, or to squash their laborious fruits into a sad, embittered pulp...none of that sounds good, to me. Because, really, in all that I do...I just want people to like me.

(And especially if I like them, which, really I do. And I like my job. And at work, well, we’re supposed to be a Team, and we rely on each other, and we comfort one another when our clients inevitably die, or have seizures, or yell at us, or throw bowls full of mustard flying across the floor... It’s important that my coworkers know I’m not an obsessive controlling psychopath.)

...Call me crazy, but that’s just the way I feel.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I was in a bad mood, which was unusual - or at least, unusually bad. And on the bus they were transit officers checking fare-cards, which is more than unusual - it’s unheard of. Never before has this happened, in the history of my riding the 99 B-line, so I was flustered, and embarrassed, and spent five minutes digging in my purse before I found my monthly pass.

The transit officer was patient and understanding - a latino man in his mid thirties, he smiled kindly as I stammered my way towards my seat. But then a flood of annoyance hit me, coupled with a sugar low and a desperate desire to be wrapped in the warmth of my puppies, which this stupid fare-checking had almost kept me from.

Seriously, though...who the hell does that man think he is, wearing that mustache?

The man’s mustache was flowing and long, extending from the farthest reaches of his nostrils and engulfing most of his lower lip. The volume was significant, and he’d obviously put effort into keeping it healthy and clean - the dark black hair had a lustre to it and was free of any debris. Still, it reminded me of pubic hair - overflowing, tumescent pubic hair. Mustaches always remind me of this, which I guess is my central problem with them.

And I tried to think, well, he’s foreign. It’s kind of charming and endearing, how entirely out of touch with local fashions he must be? But no. The man spoke perfect English. His gainful employment as a transit officer kept me from excusing his mustache as an awareness deficiency. He obviously knew.

(It was at this point I realized that a significant parental figure from my past, who turned out to be a child molester, also had a giant mustache, and that was probably affecting my judgement on the matter. I’ll try to keep my irrational anger in check.)

Because...I don’t HATE all mustaches. Jack Layton, I respect, with a wise old-man mustache that I can certainly get behind. Tom Selleck, also, a rocker of the mustache (also kind of attractive, though I’m pretty sure that’s in spite of the facial hair). You see, there are many different types of mustache. There’s Friendly Cultural Stereotype Mustache that reminds me of Mario and Luigi, which is always accompanied by terribly broken english, and an excessive amount of smiling. How can you hate a mustache like that? And the Older Gentleman Mustache (employed by aforementioned Jack Layton), where the man in question is well aware that his look has fallen out of fashion but, dangnammit, knows that respectable men of his day kept their bootstraps fastened and wore sweater vests and had giant, face-engulfing mustaches, and that’s just what he’s going to do. (Bonus points to the gentlemen who find the time to wax their mustache-edges into curlicue tips, making them look like a cartoon villain. Bravo, good sirs...You are amazing in so many ways.)

And of course there’s the porn-stash, which I do find offensive, and sexist, and terrible in so many ways. I know that it’s somewhat inflammatory to claim that the appearance of the opposite sex is offensive to me (in the way that a porn-stash man might claim that breast reductions are to him ‘offensive’). But...come on. For such beer-bellied men, in their stained, yellowed shirts, the food-stuttered mustache is a crescendo of a look that says, “I do not care.”

“I do not care,” and “I will not put one ounce of effort into looking like anything but a repulsive turd, because any such effort would make me,” *scoff with abhorence* “a woman.” And such porn-stashed men are often featured, in certain risque films, where the fantasy of beautiful women sleeping with repulsive men is created for the benefit of slovenly males, everywhere. Is this degrading to women? Yes, yes it is. But the concept of the porn-stashed’s degrading to men, too. Outside of the realm of porn, such men are often found, eating a melting cone of ice cream, masturbating on a park bench to the local high school’s coed track team.

And that, I suppose, is the end of my psychological analysis of the mustache. I still do not have any idea what that transit officer thought he was doing, nor do I particularly care...a mustache like that has no excuse. And the moral of my story is only this: Please, good men of the world, and women, too....Unless you're Tom Selleck, or Jack Layton, or Mario or Luigi, or a twee older gent from a simler time...If you’re capable of growing a mustache, for the love of baby Jesus, just please, please don’t.

Ironic mutton chops are encouraged, as are villainous goatees.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Muy Embarazada!

I am studying Spanish. Hola!

Studying a language, while mostly a tedious task in repetition and mundane phrases inapplicable to real life ("The man is wearing shoes and socks in the park!" "Look at the girl eating cheese!"), is a pristine opportunity to pretend. To pretend that I might travel, or live in exotic locales, or marry an attractive cabana boy, and spend the rest of my days on the beach ordering margaritas from los servantes. To pretend that I actually have the stamina and dedication to keep studying beyond the basics. To pretend that I haven't mastered introductory phrases in Thai, German, French, Spanish, American Sign Language, and Kiswahili, only to give up before getting anywhere near conversational ability or fluency.

But mostly, I pretend that I'm not living out one of my very worst nightmares - a return to being a high school student.

You see, in order to graduate with a BA from my university, you had to have completed at least Grade 12 of any foreign language. I started out studying sciences, and so when I transferred to a BA program in my third year, I realized with a sickening thunk of my stomach that I'd only studied up to Grade 10 French, and had slacked off at that. So I took a summer course in Spanish which was the equivalent of the first half of Grade 11, and planned on following up with a second course the following semester.

I showed up for only one class of Spanish 102, during which the teacher made no less than three students cry. I don't remember any of the content, only my rising sense of petrification. I dropped the course the next day. A meagre attempt at German, a lot more dropped courses, and my eventual dropping out altogether in order to preserve my literal sanity, and...Hola! The waking nightmare of student life has returned.

I've spent time perusing different courses I could take, online, mostly out of boredom, but ultimately my fear of being a student, as well as tuition meets poverty, kept me away. Until I discovered that anyone within the province of British Columbia can take any course offered in high school, online or in person, absolutely free. In fact, those that register to study Spanish are sent a Spanish-English dictionary, for free, to keep, just because. I like free things. Plus by taking my language credit through a high school, instead of university, I'm taking about two thousand dollars of future tuition away from my university...and I like the thought of that. And the online language courses are often via Rosetta Stone, which is a very, very expensive language software, most often used by adults to study on their!

So...I somehow registered to become a student of the North Vancouver Island School of Distance Education. And I am studying espanol. Except that my teacher isn't marking my work this week, because he's on March break. Did I mention that sometimes, I wake up in the night in a cold sweat, because I've just had a dream where I somehow needed to upgrade a math course and through a series of administrative decisions was placed back in the tenth grade, just in time for exams? No? Because...I do. School haunts my dreams, still. Maybe this is a kind of desensitizing therapy...

Oy! Es diablo!
Mi madre no come la leche, porque ella es lactose-intolerente.