Monday, 31 January 2011

How Very Dare You!

Dear Flake,
Thank you for returning our house key. I confess, I was confused as to why you took it with you, rather than leaving it with the Little Hunneydoo when I asked you to leave our house last Monday. To my mind, there are only two reasons why you would keep the key to a place you have been thrown out of: you either a) intend to return and jack or generally wreck my shit, or b) you need an excuse to return to the house and leave a letter like the one you left in the mailbox with the key last night.

I am delighted that your motive was the latter, although you can rest assured that we set the alarm after your hasty departure.

I will now take this opportunity to respond to some of the points you have raised in your letter. I don't imagine you will ever see this response, since it's obvious that your note is intended to allow you the last word. But for my own mental and emotional health, I feel the need to make some kind of answer.

You wrote: Thank you for the opportunity to be in a space that was safe and available when I had difficulty in my life.

You're welcome, but I neither want nor require your gratitude.

I understand the challenge you had with my arrival time in December and my arrival times upon returning at night.

Really? It's interesting to say that you understand because you certainly didn't change your behaviour. You continued to come in late, or to call late when you "lost track of time", and when you did come in on time, you immediately set about to cooking your supper at 11:00 p.m. You mentioned in your several apologetic phone calls that you didn't want to be "jerky", but when the behaviour persists, you are, in fact, a jerk. I'm sure you were genuinely sorry, but emotions don't take the place of actions.

As for your arrival time in December, that, too was dreary. It is not the first time you have woken us up at 4:30 in the morning in crisis, but I can assure you, it will be the last. What was meant to be a place to crash for a few days turned into six weeks in which you proceeded to live your disorganized life in our space.

I did not deserve to be yelled at.

Well, you'll have to forgive me, but I had tried talking to you nicely about it the week before, and saw no change in your behaviour. In fact, I only saw more signs that you had no intention of being out of our space by February 1st. You yourself said I had been "very nice" during the chat about your late-night comings and goings, including one episode where you swanned into the house at 1:40 on a work night, setting off the dogs. I asked you nicely, the Little Hunneydoo made her feelings clear, and still, you persisted in being disruptive and ultimately disrespectful. So yeah, I yelled a little when I threw your ass out.

I contributed in ways that I could. I paid you money (not much), I shared groceries, did dishes, let dogs in and out, gave the Little Hunneydoo a ride to work and did what I could do. I did not disrupt everything. Somethings, yes.

These thing were very nice, to be sure. It is unfortunate that you let the dogs out at 2:00 a.m. and woke us up with the alarm. I'm sure your heart was in the right place. More unfortunate, however, is the fact that no matter how we emphazised its importance to us, you could not manage to be in at the right hour (and when you weren't coming in late, you were phoning us at 11:00/11:15 to tell us so) or otherwise organize your life so that you weren't cooking when you got home at 10:45. When we are trying to settle in to sleep. So, while your contributions were lovely, the ones we needed most from you were not forthcoming and resulted in your being asked to leave.

As for the money: I told you--and you admit that I told you--not to give us any. We weren't and aren't interested in your money. We were much more interested in seeing you put it towards your own place. When you were asked to leave, it was offered back to you and you declined. So don't even bring the money up. It is a non-issue. It in no way at any time guaranteed your on-going space here.

Sorry you're having health problems, Sharon. I hope they are resolved soon.

Thank you.

I got to observe some of your day-to-day activities.

Really? And when was that. given that all three of us work full-time and you were--as mentioned constantly in this letter--scarcely home before 11:00? But do carry on...

I do not think some of the things you say are funny or loving, Sharon (an example would be, "Strip, bitch"). If that's okay between you two, okay for you.

This is quite possibly the best part of your whole letter, Flake. I find it rich to be offered relationship advice from YOU. Aren't you the woman whose husband called her by his first wife's name on your wedding night during coitus? Aren't you the woman whose husband raped her? Aren't you the woman whose husband set her up on false weapons charges, of which you were subsequently convicted, resulting in a permanent mark on your record? Aren't you the woman who went BACK to this man??? Only to have you call us at 4:30 in the morning in the middle of December because your marriage was in crisis AGAIN???

Yeah, honey, no offense, but taking relationship advuce from you is like taking weight loss tips from Oprah Winfrey.

What you observed is our public face. It is the same face we show to our friends. If the Little Hunneydoo truly had an issue with the way I talk to her, I trust her and rely upon her to let me know. Because we have that kind of relationship. You know, the kind where rape and criminal charges do not figure. Do not assume that she is in any way a victim. Unlike you, my wife has learned from her mistakes and has grown.

As for not finding me funny--big deal. I've played to tougher crowds than you.

I did see loving exchanges of food (???--What are we, chimpanzees?--Ed.) and conversation that I did admire. I'm glad I got to witness that kind of sharing. I know you love and care for one another.

Yeah, whatever.

I love your dogs.

I'll let them know. I'm sure they will pee on the floor with delight.

I'm happy you got a lovely new cat. I'm glad you have a house with space for gardening and entertaining. I'm happy you see and entertain friends.

What I hear you saying is you wish you had these things as well. But your life and attitudes will have to change drastically to realize all that, honey.

I'm returning your key with a sincere thank you for the trust that it took to give it to me and I appreciate all you did for me.

Again, you're welcome. But never again.

If you say something snotty after reading this note then that's about you, not me. I've stayed friends with you during some times when it was hard to be your friend. Sorry things didn't go exactly as you wanted it to; it didn't for me either.

I don't think this note is as snotty as much as yours is presumptuous and passive aggressive. I am cognizant of your past kindnesses and thought they were mutual, the way friendships are. I did not realize we were keeping a tally. However, I trust that after this latest exchange, any debt that I owed you has been discharged.

I would like to reiterate that if you had simply respected our wishes around the late night activity, things would have been alright. So examine your behaviour, honey. That's all I'm saying.

In all honesty,


Thursday, 27 January 2011

The WalMart Girls

In August, I lost my position at the insurance company. This was somewhat unexpected, but not devastating. I had grown tired of watching the Executive pat themselves on the back for doing fuck-all. I think, for example, that it is bad form and inexcusably insensitive, to send one of the Executive off on an all-expense-paid trip "to somewhere warm" to celebrate their anniversary at the company, and expect the office to applaud when one third of them have been told they will be in the unemployment line within two months because the company lost a crucial federal contract. It might just be me.

I was also sick to fucking death of listening to Hopalong talk about her adult-sized rocking horse in the cubicle behind mine. Because of my ever-growing disenchantment, I was able to approach unemployment with a good attitude. As Julie Andrews said in The Sound of Music, "When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window."

(And I would just like to take a quick moment here and mention that Ms. Andrews' husband of 50 years, Blake Edwards, died of complications to pneumonia just before Christmas. Since then, I've been pondering how to woo her after all these years: any suggestions? I mean, this is my shot at one of the hottest GILFs in Hollywood next to Helen ("I Do The Queen Better Than the Fucking Queen") Mirren. But I'm stuck on how to go about it. And don't worry about the Little Hunneydoo: she says this is my "freebie".)

Okay, so after not letting the door hit me in the ass on the way out of the insurance company, I signed on with a temp agency, who, in early December, sent me to do some data entry at a company that deals in the long haul transportation of things like fuel, flour, concrete, acids, etc. The work is not rocket science and the company, being peripherally connected to the oil and gas industry, has enough money to treat us employees very well. First off, they pay better than the insurance company did. Also, we have been sent home early several times over the past month due to concerns over road conditions. I received a gift card from a local grocery chain for Christmas, even though I am a temp and had only been there two weeks at the time. Breakfast is provided every Wednesday and lunch the last Friday of each month.

Overall, I can say that I enjoy my work and hope to stay on permanently.

It's just...well, it's the WalMart Girls. These are the women I work with. They are all rural and married to tradesmen (mechanics, construction workers, home reno contractors, parking lot attendants). Their conversations typically revolve around which WalMart is the best (Vegreville? Or the one in Grand Prairie? It depends whether you need a good deal on a case of Kraft Dinner or a 48 pack of tube socks), sex, their kids, how much their kids' schools/daycares/biological fathers suck, their husbands, sex, the weather. Oh, and sex.

These women get excited when the new Regal catalogue appears in the staff room.

I was with one of the WalMart Girls in the staff room one day on a break as she was idly flipping through the Sears Wish Book that showed up at Christmas. Suddenly, her eyes got big and she said, in a hoarse whisper, "Omigod, that is so cool! I want that!"

She turned the catalogue around to show me a large resin-cast timber wolf statue, its muzzle raised to howl at the moon.

"I love timber wolves!" she enthused, then pointed to the photo next to it. "I love this, too"--and it was another resin-cast sculpture, this time of a large bald eagle, its wings outspread. Painted timber wolves raced across the eagle's wings in a moonlit snowy landscape.

I almost bit through my tongue fighting the urge to ask her where her tattoo was, and did she like Formula One or NASCAR.

These women speak with appalling ease of their most personal information. I know, in a comparatively short time, how many times they have each been married, how many children and step-children they have, and how often they have sex. Have I mentioned sex is a big topic with them? Yeah, it comes up at every single break and lunch time.

As a rule, I generally like the WalMart Girls, because although they are uneducated and somewhat rough around the edges, they are fundamentally decent, hardworking and pleasant people. I would probably not have these people as my friends outside of work, but I get along with them and usually enjoy their company. Certainly, I can say with honesty and appreciation that they have been very patient as I learn their system and have made me feel very welcome, even if I am a snotty bitch.

The only fly in the ointment is Teeth. Teeth is the senior biller and self-proclaimed "WalMart Queen." I call her Teeth (tho' not to her goofy face) because she is possessed of a set of choppers Secretariat would envy. She cracks her knuckles loudly and constantly so that I can hear it across the room. She fancies herself quite a wit, although what passes for quips are heavy-handed and completely predictable double entrendres about big black boxes and knobs, etc. She is really quite inappropriate, and several times since starting there, I have heard her tell the story of how she was a bully in high school.

It's not a behaviour that has changed at all.

Teeth is a bundle of insecurities, no doubt stemming from an overbite so gigantic, fellatio must be a supreme act of trust on her husband's behalf (or maybe the danger is part of the thrill, I don't know--yet). She insists upon having her own parking spot in a parking lot of unassigned spaces, her own chair at lunch--which is different from her chair at breaks--and god forbid you should make a mistake and sit or park in these places. Rather than inform you that you are in her favourite chair, she'll look at around at the WalMart Girls and say, "Well, she moves right in, doesn't she?"

And then when you move, she says, "Where are you going?"

Yeah. I don't like Teeth. At all.

She pronounces the word "necklace" as "neck-a-liss". She orders Wolf Woman around in a passive aggressive style that sets my (rather nice, perfectly aligned) teeth on edge. She gossips incessantly and ruthlessly, and makes it her business to find out as much about everyone in the office as she can.

I was--and am--therefore reluctant to share anything personal with her. It's none of her business to start with, we're not going to be friends, and I don't trust her to have the wherewithal to cope with a lot of what I have going on. I mean, can you imagine telling Teeth about the SCA ("Like knights 'n' stuff?" Sigh), let alone, "Sometimes I pretend to be a male vampire on the weekend?"

Yeah. Not so much.

Take, for example, her reaction when I said I am a vegetarian. She curled her lip (at least, I think she did, it's hard to tell when her lips never fully close over her Bugs Bunny incisors. Actually, given how much she talks, her lips never close. Period). Anyway, she curled her lip and said, "Weird. Why would you do that?" As if I had just suggested douching with Drano. I explained it was for health reasons (because people just get defensive if you mention it might also be an ethical choice), but for weeks afterwards, she would minutely examine my sandwiches, and ask, "Is that meat?" or "Do you eat eggs and cheese?"

Clearly, vegetarianism was outside of her limited rural WalMart experience, so you can imagine that I was scarcely eager to share with her my penchant for the fragrant and sensual delights of the Little Woman. And yet, my reluctance to share this part of my life drove her absolutely mad. She couldn't just come right out and ask me about my living arrangements; that would be rude. I guess. Not like judging my diet or anything.

But, because I have a stellar command of the English language (compared to an office full of men and women who routinely say things like, "I don't got nothin'," and other linguistic crimes), I was able to talk about my partner without ever once resorting to gender specific pronouns. I confess, more than half the fun of this exercize was watching her go completely mental, trying to find ways to get me to spill the beans.

It's not like I'm Stealth Dyke or anything. I have short hair, I'm squat, I wear comfortable shoes, no makeup and a tattoo of Joan of Arc on the inside of my right arm. As far as I'm concerned, I might as well just wear a t-shirt that says, "Ellen Degeneres--CALL ME!" or "I EAT PUSSY".

Tho' maybe not to work.

So anyway, one time during break, Teeth asked me, "So what does your significant other do?"

"Oh, what's it called now?" I said, feigning a mental lapse. "Pensions analyst! That's it! Yeah, hours and hours analyzing pensions. Boring."

"Do they like it?"

"The pay's good," I said.

Round One went to me. Round Two: a couple of weeks later, the WalMart Girls were all in a flutter about the annual staff do. They asked me if I was going.

"No," I replied. "A friend of mine is having her 40th birthday party and we're all supposed to dress like we're in the '40s. They've rented a theatre and getting it catered. It's gonna be great."

Teeth snorted. "She just doesn't think we're worthy to meet her partner!"

I smiled and thought, How unusually perceptive of you, Bucky.

Finally, last week, I mentioned the Little Woman's name in conversation with Wolf Woman (who I genuinely like). She repeated the name with a question mark at the end.

I paused for a moment. It has always been my belief that if people are asking questions, they are ready for the answers, and I wasn't going to deny my spouse in the face of a direct question.

So I said, "That's my wife."

There were a few moments of silence as Wolf Girl and Teeth nodded and made an attempt to act as if this revelation was old news to them while their eyesbrows lifted above their hairlines.

Then Teeth said, "I knew it."

(And I had a strange, yet probably accurate, fantasy of her running home that night to Facebook the rest of the WalMart Girls: "You guys all owe me five bucks! The new chick's a DYKE!")

Then Teeth added reassuringly, "You don't have to worry--we've had that here before."

"That?" I repeated.

Back-pedalling is fun when other people do it, and Teeth was going at it so hard, you'd have thought she was facing the brink of Niagara Falls in a rubber dingy with nothing more than a Dixie Cup between her and certain disaster.

"I don't mean 'that' like that," she said.

"You don't mean, 'you people'?" I asked.

"No, I mean, it takes all kinds, we've seen it here. I mean, we've had husbands and wives with other wives and swingers and stuff. It's no biggie."

And I'll tell you something, dear readers: ever since I came out to Teeth, she's decided she's my BFF. She stops by my desk to show me pictures on her phone, she solicits my advice on sentence structure in emails she's sending...I mean, she doesn't let me sit her chair or park in her spot, but for all intents and purposes, I have been accepted. Not merely tolerated, but accepted.

It's as if the WalMart Girls, and Teeth especially, are overjoyed to have this opportunity to show me exactly how liberal and sophisticated they are. I'm sure they go home and tell their friends and neighbours, in an urbane tone, "Oh, yes, we have a lesbian at the office." As if I was a funky new piece of office equipment. The new Canon Dyke. I copy! I scan! In colour! Fast! Efficient! No office is complete without a Dyke!

I'm telling you, I feel like the only black woman in a white office and everyone is so anxious to tell me how much they enjoyed Roots.