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Slow burn

There are so many things that make me burn.



Deliberate callousness.

So when I feel stuck on a low emotional simmer that I can’t explain, then I feel like I’m not doing enough.

Right now, I’ve tried for over an hour to put one word after another to form some coherent account of my brain space.

It’s really busy in there right now and there’s not enough oxygen to set my mind on fire.

The bottom line though is that I hope Ellie will never be called Honey when she is on the job in the someday future where she is an adult.



The Question For A Distractingly Sexy Mechanic

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The Question: So. What made you want to become a mechanic?

Possible Responses:

  • Because I like being Distractingly Sexy
  • Because I like fixing things (this response is also known as “here’s the Cliff Notes version of my life after leaving journalism”).

I’m getting pretty adept at answering The Question politely and with more enthusiasm than snark.

The first possible response though comes from this whole fracas started by Nobel Prize laureate Tim Hunt about women in STEM being distracting in the lab and prone to crying when criticized.

It’s funny because he chose to make that statement at the World Conference For Science Journalists — because that’s a group of people you can trust to really get to the meat of a speech in a hurry.

Call Twitter’s reaction and the #distractinglysexy a mockery of his career-ending poor choice of words. In reality though, it just highlights what it’s like for women in male-oriented fields.

For starters, you get asked really personal questions that no one ever asks your male counterparts.

Oh hey Sally Ride. Will 100 tampons be enough for a 7-day mission in space?

Then there’s also the unspoken undercurrent of doubt coming from the person grilling you about how you’re doing your job.

Are you sure you want to get your hands dirty?

This week I was asked and answered The Question when one of our drivers visited the garage for an oil top-off. He got the Cliff Notes version. As a public employee, it’s the best response.

What’s always funny is the moment that leads up to The Question.

Tuesday it was after I scooted under the 14-passenger shorty bus and checked to see why it was a quart low on oil. Newer vehicle. No staining. No major leaks around the oil pan. Oil filter was snug and no drips at the drain plug. Therefore, it probably didn’t get its full 6 qts. at the last oil change. Or the filter is a hungry little sponge. Or there’s something else going on.

Duly noted. Something I’ll monitor and we’re moving along now.

But wait!

Next comes the small talk and The Question because I did an unladylike thing.

It was raining and I didn’t bother to grab my creeper first. Just laid down on the ground and inched over to the oil pan. My creeper is easily 60 ft. away from where he parked. I’m lazy and crossing the garage takes effort and time away from my buses.

Cue The Question.

I know. Being a mechanic does not make me a lady scientist.

I fix things. I only sometimes conduct experiments … and even then it’s just data collection and analysis. So I’m not really a scientist. And I’m not exactly a member of the STEM community. Details.

What it does make me though is a woman, like Patrice Banks, who was also tired of feeling discriminated against because of her sex. Banks started Girls Auto Clinic in Philadelphia to empower other women to have the vocabulary and knowledge to know what’s going on under the hood. However, she mentioned in her B-section article in the Washington Post that a technical high school class full of teenage boys admitted that women are too much of a distraction to work with men.

So maybe the problem isn’t ladies in the lab or in the garage …

Even if Hunt meant no harm with his statement, it’s 20-bloody-15. We shouldn’t be fussing over the undercarriage of who’s in the lab. We should be working on designing viable alternative energy solutions and cures for cancer.

If you’re going to advocate for segregation of the sexes in the lab, why stop there?

Better keep those clerks from working together at the grocery store. Can’t let those wily accountants sit too close together. They might be playing footsie. Better still. Let’s eliminate the possibility of anyone finding a co-worker attractive and learning how to deal with separating their personal life from their professional responsibilities.

I know.

Isolation bubble-suits for everyone.

I’m sure a lady scientist could figure out how to invent one once she’s able to see through her tears.

Sometimes A Toothbrush Is Just A Toothbrush

This is one of those posts that will possibly scandalize my mother.
Sorry Momma. For all other readers, please consider this your adult content warning.

Brushing your teeth is a lot like having sex.

After a certain age, most people do it but no one really talks about it in casual conversation. There’s really no wrong way to brush your teeth. Sure, plenty of people have opinions about how’s the best way or what works for them. When you get right down to it though, as long as you’re happy with the results, it really doesn’t matter how the job gets done (As long as it’s consensual and you respect one another’s boundaries that is.).

Couples and other people who share space will talk about it as a sort of courtesy to one another. “Hey, is it cool if I brush my teeth?” You know. Just to make sure that those around aren’t going to be inconvenienced by the fact that you’re going to be carrying on for some time and completely hogging the sink.

But you don’t talk to your co-workers about brushing your teeth. You don’t waltz through the office with a toothbrush in your mouth advertising to everyone that you prefer a vibrating brush over a manual one.

So then why is it that people seem to think it’s OK, to ask women if they’re pregnant? Giving birth once does not automatically grant permission for people to inquire about a woman’s reproductive health.

Scratch that.

NOTHING gives ANYONE permission to inquire about a woman’s reproductive health.

(We’ll go back to dental hygiene in just a minute.)

Elle is almost 2-years-old and I am asked regularly: “When are you going to have another baby?” Not once has Mr. Pirate been asked that same question.

Not. Once.

My work is such that I have one set of immediate co-workers and then two sets of peripheral co-workers. This second set is occupied by people with whom:
a) I have regular interactions because we’re all in the same department.
b) I have regular interactions with because we’re both the blue-collar side of the white-collar education industry.

This morning – while feeling a bit gross because honestly my body has never functioned well before the sun’s up – a female colleague (of the set 2a) asked if I was feeling alright. I told her no, not feeling the best and then she asked, loudly, “Are you pregnant?” In front of three other male colleagues.

She might as well have declared that my breath stinks and demanded if I’d brushed my teeth yet today.

So I told her (and three assembled male colleagues), “No, I’m not pregnant. You have to have sex first for that to happen and I’ve been missing out on step one. There’s your quick sex ed lesson for the day.”

Courtesy of:

Courtesy of:

Yep. I volunteered WAAAAYYY too much information. But she wanted to know.

Later, she apologized and we talked about it. I explained that Mr. Pirate has NOT. ONCE. been asked this same question so it makes me a little tetchy.

Like I said. Elle is almost two. I’ve been asked this question — or variations on the same theme — frequently since she was four-months-old.

I understand that people mean well. I get that they’re trying to make conversation. But, it can come across all too easily as prying into things that are painful. Or inappropriate. Or just plain none of your business.

A better question might be, “Hey, how’s your kid? She/he’s how old again? Wow. That’s a really great age.”

Better yet. Let’s just assume we all brush our teeth and call it a day.


Feminist Esprit D’escalier

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I witnessed an act of sexual harassment this evening and I didn’t do a damn thing about it.

We don’t go out to eat very often at nice, sit-down restaurants in large part because my schedule is such that I don’t get off work until after supper time. It’s usually just easier to make something, reheat, or for me to grab something for us on my way home. But we’re working a modified holiday schedule right now and there is a group Mr. Pirate joins for dinner on some Friday nights and the restaurant they had picked was one I hadn’t tried before.

So we packed up some dinner for Elle and went.

This is the part where I say that one of the members of the dining party tends to be something of a lech and a shameless flirt with the waitstaff. Usually, it’s in good humor. Usually, he tends to be polite about it. Always, he says these things in the presence of his wife.

Tonight, while taking drink orders, he said something to our server in such a way that completely soured my dinner and has caused me to seriously reevaluate my continued attendance at these outings.

Server to Lech: “And what will you be having this evening?”

Lech: “Other than you, what is being offered?”

I should have called him out.

I should have apologized to our server for his inappropriate comment.

I should have done any number of things other than sit there, with Elle next to me asleep in her car seat, and neither do nor say anything.

I should have handed the server my feminist membership card and excused myself from the table.

I am ashamed of and disgusted by my failure to act. Because I did not speak up when something needed to be said, I became complicit to his harassment. If Elle’s ability to understand conversations were greater – we’re still working on connecting “Mummm,” sounds to me as Mum – my silence would have communicated to her that his comment was socially acceptable.

It’s not and I want her to know that.

I don’t care if someone harkens from a generation where treating a woman, regardless of her profession, any different from her male co-workers is acceptable. As long as people from my generation neglect to do anything about it, then Elle’s generation will be forced to continue to deal with the bullshit that is sexual harassment.

This is not the tone I wanted for my first post of 2014. In fact, I wanted to return to the blog from my writing hiatus with positive, upbeat zany stories about the juggling act that is being a mom and a mechanic and a wife and a friend and all the other labels that I identify with.

Instead, I used my first two curse words in a public forum.


A Response to Misogyny

This is not related to the house, but rather I need to get your opinion. I need to figure out an appropriate response to men who address me as “Sweetheart.”

I am neither referring to the man who is married to me nor the men to whom I am related. But rather, complete strangers who see me and think it’s acceptable to address me as if we were familiar.

Today, while taking a 1986 F-250 formerly dark green now green/brown/rust beater truck to the emissions testing place for work, one of the technicians addressed me as “Sweetie.” Taking the district’s lightweight vehicles for their annual emissions test has recently become one of my tasks. As such, I’ve become familiar to the folks at the facility and it’s become my garage away from the garage. They’ve hired on some new techs, one of whom thought my name was “Sweetie.” Turns out, New Tech couldn’t test the truck because he couldn’t read the VIN. Never mind that it was visible on the door pillar and under the hood. It was too dirty on the dash plate so he sent me away with a form explaining why he couldn’t do it. Not, however, before he had his manager sign off on the sheet.

His manager, like me, is one of those weird lady mechanics. I casually noted that she had new staff and then added that maybe New Tech should refrain in future from addressing their female customers as “Sweetie.” She took heed and I went on my way.

I’m glad that I could directly and effectively address this particular situation but unfortunately it’s not the first time I’ve felt belittled and insulted when strangers use familiar terms with me. It happened when I worked the library. It has happened at the garage, although not with any of my immediate co-workers. Occasionally some of the vendors who do business with us and who can see my name clearly written on my uniform have done so as well.

In Georgia, I was willing to overlook it because of the fact that everyone is “Darlin’. ” Since I no longer live in the South I won’t accept that as an explanation. I refuse to dismiss it based on the man in question’s age. Being over 80 is the only age bracket where I can see people having different opinions based on their generational exposure. Since none of the people who have put me in this situation are octogenarians then these working professionals should know better.

I’m considering using one of the following terms as a verbal riposte:

  • beefcake
  • bro or broskie
  • shnookums

Do tell. What should be my new word?