On interacting with men.

I am trying to write a bit more about work things. Usually I don’t write too much about it because sawmill work doesn’t really seem that interesting. But I have been realizing more and more that I am truly in a rather unique situation right now at the mill. Since the beginning of September, I have been the only female under the age of forty working in the entire plant. For a while I was on a shift that had one or two other ladies on it. I think it was actually a bit of a coincidence that three of the like five women working production were on the same shift. Now that I am not on that shift I am always the only woman on my crew. Sometimes I am the only woman on site.

Over the last eight or so years I have worked on and off in this extremely male dominated job. I have also played pick up basketball on and off with a group of guys in town for quite a few years. At basketball I am also almost always the only girl. Over time, I have started to notice patterns in the way that I am treated in these environments. As I have become more self-aware and self-confident I have become increasingly annoyed with what I feel like is dismissive or preferential treatment. I see the way men interact with each other and then I see the ways that they interact with me.  I have begun to notice more and more that there are specific ways that men seem to interact with me in these places. I have been able to define categories. Nearly all of my interactions with men at work or at basketball fall into one of these categories. I cannot say that I am treated this way because I am a woman. That would assume that I knew what was going on in other people’s heads and understood their motives from their point of view. All I can say is that I am a female in male dominated environments and I am consistently treated in these ways and they are different from the ways I see men interacting with other men. Sometimes it makes me angry that I am treated these ways. Mostly I just feel like I always need to be working to overcome these perceptions of me and get to the point where I am treated normally. The longer I know a guy at work or at basketball, the more likely he is to treat me normally. Depending on which category he falls into on our initial meeting, I will have to react in different ways to try and push our interactions into the normal category.

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The “She’s Made of Glass” Guy

At work it takes the form of repeated and unrelenting help. Usually a guy who I have never seen help a fellow man, but who will drop everything if I so much as have a single board out of place. It’s like he has a special radar. As soon as I pick up a pike pole to fix something, there he is to fix it for me. I don’t want to be ungrateful here, I appreciate when people want to help me, but when a guy steps in every time something goes wrong and never lets me do anything for myself it starts to get on my nerves. It makes me feel like he thinks I am incompetent and unable to do my job. Whether or not that is what he is actually thinking I can’t say, I can only tell you how it makes me feel. At basketball it takes the form of apologizing every time he touches me. Any slight elbow or contact of any kind comes with profuse and gushing apologies. God forbid I should get knocked down. That is accompanied by even more apologies and repeated ‘are you sure you’re okay’s’. Sometimes he won’t even really play around me. It is like I have a forcefield around me and he will go out of his way not to get within a foot of me. Sometimes he will play easier defence against me or let me take easy shots, which is even worse than just avoiding me.

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The Over-Encourager

Every time I touch the ball I get a “good job” from this guy. Doesn’t matter how bad my shot was, he will tell me I did a great job and try to give me a high five. He doesn’t seem to notice or care that I don’t need or want his affirmation; he is insatiable. He seems convinced that I am insecure and deserve extra attention for being brave enough to try and play with boys. I get this one less at work, more when I was brand new or when I meet people for the first time. Usually takes the form of extra attention. Lots of questions and comments and extra reminders about job tasks and safety things. I never see him ask the new male employees those questions or remind them constantly about things.

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The Dismisser

This is a very common one unfortunately. At work this is when a man doesn’t think I know what I am doing or talking about and just dismisses me without giving me a chance. I am fully aware that sometimes these men dismiss other men, but I know it happens to me more often. An example: I was on basement cleanup and got a call about a conveyor that was down. I found the problem: a jam in the conveyor under the stacker. I went to the stacker operator to let him know he needed to shut down for five minutes so I could lock out and clear the jam. I got his attention and said, “Hi, so there is a jam in one of the trim block conveyors…” and before I could get anything else out he cut me off with “Call your supervisor if you need help.” Sometimes it also happens when I am at a job station and my machine breaks down. A tradesman will come to fix it, and instead of asking me what is broken, he will approach the closest man and ask them instead. I could give a lot more work examples, but I’ll leave it at that. At basketball, this is the guy who just straight up will not pass to me. I run up and down the court and never touch the ball unless of course I manage to get ahold of it myself. Then he expects me to pass it to him.

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The Avoider

This is when he just sort of pretends I am not there. At basketball he doesn’t look at me and doesn’t pass to me. I straight up don’t exist. Or at least that is how it feels to me. I might as well just sit on the bench. At work it can be a few different things. Sometimes it is just that he straight up ignores me. Not out of anger or meanness (I don’t think) but he won’t make eye contact with me or speak a single word to me. One guy that I used to work with didn’t look or speak to me for at least three months when I came back with no explanation. The other way this manifests at work is when there are three of us in a group and he talks to the other guy about me while I am standing right there. For example, instead of saying to me “do you want to do this job?” he would turn to the other guy and say “she probably doesn’t want to do this, eh?” and sort of either expect him to give some sort of answer on my behalf or for me to overhear and butt in. This happens more than you might think.

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The Creep

I have been lucky in that this is pretty rare. I have only had a few truly awkward and uncomfortable encounters. Never at basketball, just at work. A few examples at work: a guy leaning in really close and saying, “tell me about your boyfriends”; a guy commenting on the size of my thighs; a guy who was training me on a machine standing directly behind me and watching me for an extended period of time; a guy standing really really close to me every time he talks to me.

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So those are the initial categories. Every once in a while I meet a guy who treats me normally from the start. But believe it or not, that is really pretty rare. Usually though, situation dependent of course, I will eventually work my way out of these categories and into this one:

The Normal Person

This is the guy who just treats me like a normal person. He talks to me like he would normally talk to a person. At basketball he plays like I am just another player. If he can block me, he will. If he can take the ball from me, he will. If I am on his team and I am open, he will pass to me. Sometimes he might hit me or knock me over, he says a quick “are you okay?” and then keeps playing. At work he talks to me like I am a normal person. He interacts with me directly. He might offer to help me but he won’t take over or talk down to me. He makes jokes and has actual conversations with me. Sometimes he will sit back and not help while I am busy with a spilled load or a jammed unscrambler because it is not his job or problem. Sometimes he will help but because sometimes I help him when he has a mess to clean up and not because he thinks I need it.

Last Week

I already started one version of this post and it got very detailed and very long, and so I scrapped it and started over. Here’s the started over version.

There are four main reasons I was in Calgary last week, and they are as follows:

  • My sister’s bridal shower;
  • Dress shopping;
  • Engagement photos; and,
  • My grandma’s funeral.

Needless to say, it was an emotional journey.

My grandma died last Friday, and I spent a great deal of the weekend either crying, actively trying not to cry, or working on feeling better/okay. She had been growing progressively more ill for a long time. On Sunday Josh and I went to the place where Josh got my ring and we figured out what we want my wedding ring to look like, and I also learned that a beloved dog died. I read that news and my brain said , “everyone is dying” and I had to work not to cry in the mall. I emailed my professors, telling them I had to go to Calgary for the funeral and so miss some classes, and they sent me kind replies which made me cry even more. On Wednesday we had a graveside service and the box was so small and it was so cold out and I cried again, with all my family gathered around. I was worried, because my hair and my dress and my lipstick were all working in my favour and was it okay to look cute at the funeral? My uncle and my cousins gave eulogies, people were very kind to us, and after the memorial service the extended clan all came to my parents house and somehow ended up going around the circle and telling stories of how people got engaged before reading sympathy cards, and I think it was good for us to look to the future.

Among other looking-to-the-future activities this week, Josh and I went out to Canmore and Banff and Meg took engagement photos for us. I miss the mountains. Edmonton is nice, but it is very flat. Taking pics was fun; I felt alternately very awkward, rather photogenic, entirely silly, and then some bits of feeling fine and comfortable. It is easy to smile when I look at Josh (ugh so gooshy). By the end of the day my body decided it had had enough of the stress build-up over the past week combined with the dry air and the sans humidifier house and the going from warm car to cold outdoors, and this is the look I was sporting by the end of the day:

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There were no tissues in the car, a true oversight on my part. My nose bled again today, what is the deal?

This was a weird week. I drove by myself to and from Calgary, because Josh went down for work. I may have found my wedding dress. I sent a zillion emails. You visited. My grandma is gone. I went to the mountains. Josh and I booked a venue/caterer combo for the wedding. My sister had a bridal shower. I slept in my old room which is not my room anymore in my parents’ house. I had a productive visit to the doctor. I gave a presentation on Monday which felt scattered and slap-dash but which earned me a 91. I experienced so much kindness from people around me. My nieces have a hilarious game where they pretend to be dogs and we play fetch. I went from laughing to crying or from crying to laughing so quickly several times. I am now very tired. It was such a rollercoaster and I feel like I was gone for a month. Now I have school to catch up on and group projects to familiarize myself with and a photographer to book and and and and and.

People, Places, and Things.

A quick side note about my last post: sometimes I don’t like talking about things that I feel strongly about or that I really like. I’m afraid that one of two things will happen. The person will not like it and then tell me why they don’t like it and I will see it in a new light and like it less. Or simply the act of telling someone will break the spell and I will see it differently or feel like it is less “mine” and therefore like it less. So the fact that I wrote you such an honest thing about how Celeste and Jesse Forever makes me feel is kind of a big deal. I hope you do watch it. But if you don’t like it, I’m not sure if I want you to tell me. I probably do, but just like it, okay. If the “I can’t believe I’m having a baby and it’s not with you” scene doesn’t make a small part of you die inside, well I guess you are already dead inside, so maybe no harm done.

I have been up to a few fun things the last few weeks. I went to a Shred Kelly/Fred Penner concert with Jocelyn and it was AMAZING. Fred Penner was funny and wonderful and he sang a bunch of his own songs but also did things like cover Joni Mitchell songs. It was interesting to be in an audience filled with adults who were so excited to be seeing a children’s artist play. And then behind us on the dance floor were tables of older parent and grandparent aged people who were equally as excited to see they man their kids grew up listening to. He brought out Shred Kelly to play a song with him. He was great. Shred Kelly was also great. We did learn about the downfalls of concerts that let you take your flimsy cups of beer onto the dance floor. We spent a good amount of time dodging beer and managed to only get spilled on once or twice.

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We met Fred Penner! Also since this is a portrait oriented photo instead of landscape oriented one, the blog made it HUGE! But I think it’s hilarious so I left it

We had a stellar time. It snowed like crazy the whole concert and by the time we left there was six inches of snow on top of sheer ice. We were totally fine until we got to Jocelyn’s grandma’s driveway. It was 2:30 am and we got completely stuck on the street just outside her house. It was both hilarious and annoying. But Jocelyn is a beast and pushed us out. I also found my new favourite coffee shop in Fernie. It is called the Valley Social and it is the coolest place ever. It was a really great weekend.

Last weekend I went to the Fernie Mountain Film Festival with Ginny. I thought I was going to write a whole blog post about that, but I don’t really feel like it anymore. It was great though! There were a couple of really great films. There were also a few that I found really annoying. I felt like they were just dudes being like “look how great I am, watch this video of me doing cool stuff, listen to me tell you how awesome I am.” But the good ones were really good. There was one called Triggered that was made up at the Fernie Ski Hill. It was only like 20 minutes or something, but I could have watched a whole hour about how they do avalanche control up there and not gotten bored. You can actually watch the whole  thing on YouTube hereMira was about a girl from Nepal who became an internationally competitive mountain runner. It was very good. Shift was about a group of indigenous people in the Yukon who started building mountain bike trails on their land and transformed their community into a world class mountain bike destination.

Probably my favourite one though, was called Locked In. It was about a group of kayakers who did the first descent of the Beriman River in Papua New Guinea. It is a super remote gorge that had cliffs up to 4000 feet high on either side of the river. There were 13 gorges they needed to pass and when they went over their route in a helicopter there were parts of the river they couldn’t even see. Once they dropped into the first gorge there was no way off of the river except to go down. There was no chance of a rescue should someone get hurt and no way to get out if they came across something they couldn’t pass. It was CRAZY, here is a sort of trailer for it. It is worth a watch.

This weekend I finally went to the Kimberley City Bakery. Which is the bakery I found out about around two weeks ago. The baker there has a peanut allergy that is more severe than mine. Everything in the entire bakery is peanut-free. They do make stuff with other nuts, but they are always made after all the non-nut stuff is done and they are careful to make sure the nuts are never processed with peanuts or peanut oil. Imagine if you will: for your whole life, you have never been able to eat at bakeries. You always wish you could, but you have given up hope that it will ever happen. In fact, bakeries kind of make you nervous. You have never been to one that doesn’t make peanut butter cookies and you can usually smell them when you are by the counter. You usually just get a drink while your friends get cinnamon buns or cookies and even then you wonder how careful they are in the kitchen and whether or not someone might have touched a peanut butter cookie and then made your drink. Then you find out that there is a bakery where you can literally eat everything. And on top of that, it is a bakery that prides itself on its “from scratch” baking and makes endless varieties of croissants. The excitement you can imagine you would feel is probably just a fraction of how excited I was when I found out.

I have been there twice this weekend. It is amazing. Here are some photos:

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It is my new happy place. So far I have eaten some of their bread, a nanimo bar, a gingersnap cookie, a skor cookie, a regular croissant, a chocolate croissant, a peach and brie croissant, a bigfoot donut, a lamb roll, a baileys and cream donut, a chocolate dipped donut, and a pretzel croissant. They have daily specials and Friday is croissant day. If you ever are feeling like you are in need of a good croissant, come visit me on a Friday and I will take you here.

The only other thing I can think of that happened in the last few weeks is that I had a dream that I was dating Andy Samberg. Which is funny. Although I don’t think it gets to go onto the official celebrity dream list because in the dream he wasn’t actually Andy Samberg, if that makes sense. It’s more like Andy Samberg was playing the character of boyfriend in the production of my dream. Usually in my celebrity dreams the celebrities are themselves and that is part of why the dreams are so funny/awesome. Currently the list includes: Ryan Gosling, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zach Braff, Skylar Astin, Joe from Survivor, Noah Gundersen, and maybe some others but that’s all I can think of right now. Although, I do usually count my Abed dream as a part of the list, and that is a character that Danny Pudi plays, not him being himself. So maybe the Andy Samberg one counts.

California Dreamin

Over reading week Josh and I went to California. We drove hours and hours and hours in an effort to find the sun, and find it we did. We sat on beaches, we stood on top of hills, we went Disneyland, we toured Hearst Castle, we walked on piers, we found a perfect little cafe in Monterey, and we got engaged! It was a good trip.

Here is a picture:

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California was perfect, and exactly what I/we needed. Winter is increasingly difficult for me, and I needed to see the sun. And who doesn’t love beaches? Beaches are great.

As I said, we got engaged, and it was simple and beautiful and perfect, and we didn’t tell anyone until we got back into Canada a few days later. We were around halfway through a very long driving day when we crossed the border, and we started calling people to tell them. It was a very joyful couple of hours. It made a very long driving day seem much shorter, and I did a lot of gazing lovingly at Josh. We get to get married! We get to be married! I’m excited and happy.

As soon as we started telling people we also started fielding questions of what our date is, where we plan to get married, what our plans are afterward, etc, etc, etc. There are a lot of things to do. We’re also going to be looking for a place to live and he’s got big work things and I have grad school and weddings are expensive and suddenly I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Suddenly instead of just doing school I’m also planning a wedding and looking for summer work and looking for a house and figuring out health things and and and and and. I’d rather not be more anxious than I usually am about this. My baseline anxiety is already high. I might not be able to work this summer and I feel a bit weird about it.

BUT all this anxiety and overwhelm doesn’t extend to actually being married. When I think about being married to Josh it feels right and good. “Feels” doesn’t seem like the correct word there. I am entirely aware that marriage involves work and growth and self sacrifice, and I don’t mean that when I look to the future I see 100% roses and lollipops 100% of the time. Being with Josh makes me a better person. He brings out the best in me and challenges me and encourages me. We’re a team. I’m so looking forward to life together.

We just gotta plan a wedding. And you know what? It’ll be stressful some of the time and fun some of the time and I think the fun will outweigh the stress and at the end of it we’ll be married.

I love me some research, and in my wedding planning research I came across someone (wish I could remember where it was) saying that planning a wedding is like a microcosm of what being married is like. You set priorities, you deal with money, you juggle family, you make some compromises, you field outside expectations, you deal with traditional gender roles, you make some big decisions, and etc. I like thinking about it this way. I’m excited about planning this wedding. I’m excited about working together with Josh. I love him now and I get to learn to love him more and better and differently all the time.

I have a feeling I might write about wedding things a lot until it comes.