Wednesday, September 01, 2010

World's Most Annoying Day

I had an 8 a.m. doctor's appointment today. This is already bad news, because I'm profoundly not a morning person, although this doc has limited hours, so I have to take what I can get. I woke up on time -- before my alarm, even -- but, staggering around in my six-hours-of-sleep fog, managed to leave the house late anyhow, after giving the cats two breakfasts. The cats didn't mind, but it was still a little embarrassing.

In the car, I realized I'd left my watch at home. No prob. I could get the time from my phone.

Got to the doc's office at 8:15; I'd called to say I was late and to ask if I should reschedule, and they told me to come on in. The receptionist shoved a sheaf of paper at me. I see this doctor every six months for routine monitoring of my eyes; there's a family history of glaucoma, and at one point my pressures were a teensy bit high, so even though my pressures have been splendid for several years now, she wants to see me every six months. I thumbed through the sheaf, signed a few places I had to sign, and then said, "I'm not here for any new problems, so I'm not filling in most of these questionnaires, okay? This is a routine visit."

I passed back the papers. Someone else behind the desk gave me a lecture about how I had to fill in the forms for insurance reasons, but no one gave me the sheaf back. So, with a shrug, I sat down and waited to be called into the exam room. In the meantime, I e-mailed Gary about giving the cats two breakfasts. He e-mailed back to say that I'd also locked Bali in the downstairs closet.

I'd been in the examining room maybe two minutes when someone with a grim expression rushed in, waving the sheaf, and barked, "You have to fill these out, or your insurance won't pay for this visit!" Ooooooooh. It's one of those: one of those "jump through these hoops or we won't pay" games, which has nothing to do with health at all. So I scribbled some stuff on the forms.

The exam went splendidly. My pressures were great. But because I'd been given dilation drops, I couldn't see very well when I left the office, even though I was wearing sunglasses. No problem. I'd go to the gym; on the way, I'd stop at my garage to get the smog check required for my car registration, which expires in a few weeks.

The smog was fine. Results are reported automatically to the DMV, so I e-mailed Gary to ask if he could renew online for me. Before I'd even gotten to the gym, Gary e-mailed back to say that he'd tried, but couldn't, because the DMV website thought my insurance was out of date, even though it isn't.

I went to the gym and worked out on the elliptical for half an hour. At my locker afterwards, I realized that I'd forgotten my toiletry kit. No prob: the gym supplies toiletries, and while they aren't my first choice, they'll certainly do in a pinch.

Getting dressed, I discovered that I'd left at home the guard ring that keeps my wedding and engagement rings securely on my finger. No prob: I'd just be extra careful about making sure they stayed on (and to alleviate any suspense, I didn't lose either today, thank goodness!).

So clearly, I'm having a really bad post-menopausal Senior Moments day. I'm already annoyed and frazzled, not to mention still half-blind (the dilation lasts about ten hours after the ten-second exam) when I get to work and decide to stop in to say hi to a friend. We're chatting about an acquaintance from another state -- an artistic friend from a liberal state; these details are important -- who blew through town a few weeks ago. This woman's quite the fashionista, and my friend says, "Oh, yeah, she loves to do makeovers on people. She had some interesting comments about you. She said, 'Susan should grow her hair out and wear real bras so she won't look like a dyke.'"

I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped. I know I sputtered. The comment was so bizarre, inappropriate, and both personally and politically offensive -- not to mention ignorant and wrongheaded (tell us how you really feel, Susan!) -- that all I could do was squeak out a few entirely inadequate responses. "Why does she care what I look like? Gary likes my short hair! And I wear the bras I can find that fit, dammit!" I'd have said more, but I realized that a male student was standing behind me in the hall, waiting to see my friend and looking mortified. I think he'd overheard the bra comment.

Oh, dear.

Furious, I made my way to my office. In the time it took me to get there, my friend had e-mailed me an apology for her insensitivity in even repeating the acquaintance's comment. I appreciated that, but was still struggling with about seventeen layers of response to the unwanted feedback. I should probably mention here that El Fashionista is quite a bit younger than I am: very professionally successful, but (I'm guessing) of the generation that's been able to take feminism more for granted than my generation could. In any case, I came up with a list of the things I hope I'd have been able to say to her face if she'd delivered the insult to my face, and e-mailed them to my friend (with a note saying, "You probably don't want to send her these, but you have my permission if you want to").

I struggled with whether to blog about this, but I think her comment was one of those canary-in-the-mine indications: something that most people wouldn't say, but that -- if anyone says it -- means that too many others are thinking it. So, for anyone who's ever seen a woman with short hair or funky undergarments and made assumptions about sexual orientation (or even offered unwanted fashion advice!), here's the meat of the e-mail I sent my friend.

1. It is impossible to determine sexual orientation by hairstyle or undergarments. Honest. The only way I “look like a dyke” is if I’m actually having sex, right at that moment, with another woman.

2. Why does it matter if someone who doesn’t understand point #1 mistakes me for a lesbian? Being a lesbian isn’t a horrible thing, and I’m not on the market, so it’s not like I’m misleading potential lovers. My husband knows my sexual orientation, and he’s the one who matters (and for the record, he likes my hair short: so do I).

3. If Woman A is checking out, and making comments about, Woman B’s undergarments, whose sexual orientation might we idly wonder about? Not that it matters, since sexual orientation doesn’t determine personal worth, and somebody else’s sexual orientation isn’t our business anyway, unless we wish to sleep with that person. I’m just sayin’.

4. Yesterday when I got to the gym, I saw a woman blow-drying her long hair. When I left the gym, the same woman was still blow-drying her long hair. I thought, “Geez, I’m really glad I don’t spend time blow-drying my hair or putting on make-up I then have to take off. There are enough timesinks in my life as it is. If I did that stuff too, I’d never get any knitting/writing/practicing done.”

5. Fashion’s fun when it makes people feel better. It’s harmful when it’s used to judge them.

There's more I could have said, like, "Honey, women have fought and even died for the right to wear no bras at all." I didn't say that. I didn't tell the story of the first time I got my hair cut short, when my mother stared at me in distress and wailed, "You look like a man!" and I snapped back, "Not where it counts, I don't." (That ended that conversation.) I didn't talk about how it's nearly impossible, even with my minimal mammary endowments, to find bras that don't a) have torture-device underwires and b) cost $20 apiece, which is why I wear sale sports bras and those nifty stretch camis I found at the dollar store. (I bought one, took it home, determined that it fit, and went back to buy every single one in my size.)

I did say that I'm praying for El Fashionista, who must be very insecure and unhappy to have to make comments like this. El Fashionista is smart, funny, supremely talented, and mostly kind, in addition to always looking fabulous. It makes me very sad to think that underneath all that, she's insecure and unhappy.

I was afraid my friend might be offended by the e-mail, but she wrote back agreeing with me.

Classes went fine, for a wonder, but when I got home, the DMV website still wouldn't accept my insurance info, which means that tomorrow I need to call them and might need to go there in person.

Yuck. Crummy day, yes?

But it's now a holiday weekend, and my birthday weekend. Yay!


  1. Happy Birthday weekend to you. I hope the weather is glorious for your event.
    Just my personal opinion but I think El Fashionista needs a muzzle. Some folks shouldn't leave home without one.

  2. Alison Bechdel used to have a great comic called Dykes To Watch Out For. (She may still have it; I haven't seen it in years though.) In one of the early strips a woman sees another woman (somewhat androgynously drawn) going into the men's room and says "Excuse me, this is the ladies' room!"

    Woman #2 meditates 3 possible responses:

    Political: "I refuse to dress like a pawn of the capitalist hierarchy."
    Rude: "Well, excuse _me_, I thought it was the _women's_ room."
    Lewd: (rips open her shirt to display her chest)

  3. Anonymous10:04 PM

    I always admired your short hair because you pull it off so well. Also: you have a fabulous earring collection that is better showcased with your shorter locks :)

    I've also been given unwanted fashion advice to look "less lesbian" and I wish I'd had your response in my back pocket to whip out--you articulate yourself so well!

    Put this all behind you, and have a lovely birthday weekend, you deserve it.

  4. Anonymous2:19 PM

    Dear Susan,

    I hope you will have a happy Labor Day and an even happier Birthday! Wear what you want, and have a wonderful time.


  5. i have had something to say about the hair thing elsewhere; just last week some well-meaning old old guy amde a point of commenting on my (he thinks) too short hair.

    i only wish i had read this before that; i might have shared with him that i am also not wearing suitable underwear.

    for the record, i find it very hard to find any bra that isn't an extra-supportive sports bra that keeps me from bouncing in a way that's both painful and feels immodest to me. if i go for a run, i wear TWO.

    and it STILL hurts.

    i also have a fashionable absence of panty line, which is due to my unfashionable and scandalous failure to wear panties.

    for me it's not about fashion, but chafing.

    i gotta go; it's bedtime.


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