On smiles and seriousness 

You know, life is too short to not let people know you see them. That you are passing each other in this moment on earth and you see them going by. I try to say hi to people I pass if it’s just the two of us going by. Not as easy if there are people everywhere, but I still try to look and smile. When I see someone wearing something I like I always try to tell them. I’ve been complimented on my clothes in unexpected places and it always boosts my confidence a bit. Everyone could use a bit of a lift.

I fuckin’ love to laugh, and I do it often. I can laugh out of nervousness, which gets annoying and I’m trying to tamp that down. I don’t know what makes a marriage work, but I know mine is assisted by the fact that my husband is hilarious in unexpected ways and I’m often near tears during conversations. The same thing often happened with a colleague at my old job when I would visit him for a conversation and he would make an observation that left me in tears. It’s the best feeling. I’ve experienced this with most of my favorite people. I know a lot of funny people, I guess, or I’m easily amused. Maybe both.

My default game face to moving through the world is smiling. It’s not an effective game face, but I can’t help it. My mom has an old picture of me…this is the 1970s when pictures weren’t taken every 30 seconds…and I’m climbing up the front steps at our house and I’m looking up at her smiling. I must have been two or three. She tells me she loves that photo because it looked like I was conquering obstacles with a smile on my face…like this is how I would go through the world. Smiling and working my way up. I love that.

When I visited my mom once for a week, she had been feeling down…perhaps she had been sick at the time from chemotherapy…but she told me I was like a “big ball of sunshine” when I came in, which made me laugh (of course). When I visited my old colleagues during my last trip to Illinios, one of them came out of the office and said “I heard the laugh and thought, ‘That sounded like Shannon.'” I reunited with a friend on Facebook and a picture I shared of myself made him comment, “I can still hear your laugh all these years later.” I’m so pleased to know that people remember me for laughing.

And Yet.

I feel like I know myself pretty damn well by now. If you ask me to describe myself I can.

And Yet.

I can’t help but wonder if this default to kindness and laughter is viewed sometimes as weakness or silliness or a lack of smarts…the bumbling, laughing fool.

When I think of public figures I admire, they do not come off as overly friendly. Often they do not seem friendly at all. They come off as bad asses ready to do the job. Intimidating.  They are taken seriously because otherwise shit is going down. I LOVE that.

I met someone recently who I get to see in action a bit, and she is funny and nice, but in an understated way, and, most importantly for her role, she does not take shit and she will get to the point of something right now if someone seems to be missing the point. It’s fantastic to watch. And I find myself wanting to be more like that…after 40 years of life in the same skin, knowing who I am innately, I still wish to be different. To be more serious. To be less smiley. To be intimidating. To be taken seriously.

That’s not to say I’m not taken seriously, but perhaps my joviality makes it easier to question my knowledge? Is being too friendly a detriment to being a good leader?

Last thought, I photographed a guy yesterday, just a head shot. He didn’t smile at all and he looked like such a crank in the photos. Angry. I thought to myself, Should I ask him to smile? It’s clear that’s not his default. I finally did and he smiled a bit and then the awkwardness made him smile more, and he said he’s not much of a smiler. Then when we were looking through the photos he said, oh, the smiling photos look better. And I thought, No shit. Everyone looks better with even just a little bit of a smile on their face.

Bitching and Moaning

The entire family is together again but I’m not a fan of our rental home.

I have only myself to blame because I chose it; I clearly have problems conceptualizing space because I thought there would be plenty of room for our stuff. There isn’t. One room is nothing but boxes. Our guest room is half-filled with boxes. We have walls lined with book boxes because there isn’t anywhere to put them if we unpacked them, and we’re already looking to buy our own house, so we may as well keep the stuff packed.

The house is actually cute from the outside. It would require a bit of updating to bring it up to our standards…even opening the washer and dryer is a hassle because the doors bump against the radiator cover. It’s death by a thousand cuts, as the saying goes. The roof is not going to collapse, but when it rains we find out a window leaks, and when we open the cabinets under the sink, we find a random puddle of water but cannot locate the source, and when we flip a switch a light may or may not come on, and when we turn on the dishwasher, we find the soap cartridge doesn’t open, and when we close a door, it may or may not stay shut…just a bunch of stupid little things that make us crazy.

But at least we’re together again and we have a roof over our head. A leaky, old roof.

 

Not Hiring

It was culture shock when my mom moved away from hot, sunny, diverse Juarez, Mexico/El Paso, Texas and arrived in cloudy, cool, tree-covered, monolithlically white rural Ohio. This was the early 1970s and she was likely the only Mexican in the surrounding 25 miles.

She struggled with her accent & people not understanding her–they told her in blunt and unkind terms.

My dad told her she didn’t need to work, but when my brother was a toddler, my mom was alarmed at how angry my dad would get if my brother left the lights on in the bathroom. He would rage. She decided that if money was so tight they couldn’t afford to leave the lights on by accident, then she needed to work. She had always worked. She is one of the hardest workers I know.

But her job search was fruitless. Someone she knew would mention that a factory was giving out applications, but when she arrived, they would tell her they were not giving out applications.

She would cry over her situation–she wanted to work so badly. She wanted to be able to support her family should something happen to my dad. People around her were applying everywhere, but she couldn’t even get an application.

She figured it had to do with her skin color or her accent…that was why she was being turned away. She recently shared a story with me that confirmed that idea.

My dad was on an unemployment. Both of my parents were factory workers in their early lives (my mom continued as one until her factory closed, but my dad moved on to being a cement truck driver).  I don’t remember why dad was on unemployment at this particular time, but occasionally there would be layoffs at the factory, but workers knew they would eventually be called back. In the meantime they’d receive unemployment.

However, one stipulation of unemployment was that you had to actively look for work. My mom says an unemployment office worker called our house and she heard my dad say he wasn’t interested.

“Who was that,” mom asked.

“The unemployment office,” dad replied.

“What’d they want?”

“Oh, Lawsons is hiring and they wanted to know if I wanted an application.”

“Why didn’t you take it?”

“I’m not interested in working there.”

“I would work there. Do you think they’d give me an application?”

My dad said he didn’t see why not, so they got into the car and he drove mom to the unemployment office.

He waited in the car as she went inside. Soon she walked back out and got in the car, empty-handed.

“What happened?” he asked her.

“They said they weren’t hiring,” she responded.

“Come with me,” he said and they walked in together.

He went to the front desk and said to the woman, “I received a call awhile ago offering me an application for Lawsons. I don’t want it, but my wife would like to have it.” Mom stood next to him, quietly. She told me you could tell the woman at the counter was flummoxed and looked back and forth between dad and mom. She finally said she needed to speak with her boss, so she went to a back office. Mom said they could see the two unemployment office workers talking and looking over at mom and dad. Eventually the woman returned and gave the application to mom.

Mom applied and GOT the damn job at Lawsons and worked there for a bit before getting a better paying job at a different factory, where she stayed for 30 years.

I love and hate that story. I hate that my mom had to deal with such stupidity and ignorance, but I love this show of solidarity between her and my dad in the early days of their marriage. My dad could be an intimidating guy, so I love imagining how pissed he was when he saw for himself the prejudice mom had to deal with, and decided to address it himself.

This story came to mind when I read in the NY Times today about Trump’s rental practices in the 1960s, and not allowing blacks to rent from his buildings. It is such a passive, bullshit way of mistreating people and making them feel inferior. It is infuriating.

Memories

PepinReposesmallCleaning off some stickie notes from my desktop, some of which are quite old, and came across this remembrance. I was trying to write posts about life that were 150 words or less:

The gentle harp alarm emanating from my iPod annoys me at 6:30 a.m. & I clumsily reach out to turn it off. Even that mellow sound is inadequate against my late-to-bed-early-to-rise snappishness. When I crack open my eyes, I see Sgt. Pepper standing next to the bed, staring at my face. Her eyes big and moist, her tail a furious blur of wags. She exudes excitement—the sun has risen and it’s time for breakfast! My crankiness dissolves; I can’t help but smile.  A highlight of my day before I’ve left bed.

I miss that damn dog.