Friday, April 30, 2010

Sexist Customers

I'm working in a bookstore in a big, popular airport. As the weather has warmed up, a certain kind of customer has increased in frequency and insanity. He's always a masculine straight man, usually between 35 and 60 and upper-middle to upper class. Usually a businessman, white or European.

Most of my men coworkers are either flaming, laid-back or both. The more macho my coworker, the more often this happens: I ask a customer if he needs help finding anything, if he's looking for anything, how he's doing, etc. and the customer ignores me to ask my coworker his question. The first few times this happened, I thought I was just imagining things or noticing only when this happened. But then it became a regular occurrence and one customer even said "I'm going to go ask the computer guy my question" when my coworker was not at the computer!! This is insulting, apparently I'm less capable than my macho coworker despite my initiative.

And no matter with whom I'm working, if anyone, this same kind of customer (sometimes the very same person) flirts with me. Usually this is a leery smirk with a wink, calling me "honey" or "dear" or "sweetheart." Sometimes I get a pat on the shoulder... and one guy even said "you're too young to be a 'ma'am'!" WTF?!? Whenever any of this behavior happens, I basically withdraw and just perform the basic necessities of my work. What makes these guys think I - no matter how flaming I am that day - would want this attention is beyond me. Sometimes this flirting happens while another customer is trying to figure out what gender I am!

Many times, I want to say something and confront the asshole. This is customer service, though, and it would reflect terribly on me if a complaint was made to management or corporate. You can't really kill a lecher with kindness, the policy of dealing with angry people, and I've managed to show up some of the customers who assume I don't know anything to help them. I really don't know what to do about either of these habits.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Approach

There is a true joke that, in the recent history of the Catholic-vs-Protestant struggles in Ireland, an atheist was stopped at a street blockade. He was asked to identify himself as either a Catholic or a Protestant. He said he was an atheist. After a pause, the guard asked "a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"
While being amusing (and sad...really...Ireland's history is so fucked up) and a true incident, there is an interesting aspect to this joke. Where we come from contributes so much to who we are today and where we're going. An atheist who was raised Catholic would emphasize different thing than a Protest-atheist or a Hindu-atheist.

I believe that thinking in this same way in relation to gender should be discussed more. So far, the only time I've heard/read this line of thinking in relation to gender happen only at the Womyn's Music Festival "you're transgendered, I knew that I felt MALE ENERGY emanating from you!" The politics of that bullshit aside, there is something to that "male energy" that hasn't been explored (to my knowledge) probably because it reeks of stupidity so much.
One's gender, expression, etc. says a lot about one's background. An Earth Mother-type feminine person probably has a different history than a dominatrix-type feminine person and so on. It's not an "energy" but more of a way a person emphasizes different aspects. And that says a lot about one's background.
I've noticed that, maybe 70% of the time, I'm attracted to androgynous people with a feminine (imposed by oneself, by others, or just natural) background; this is probably because it lines up with my imposed-feminine background that leads to my androgynous exploration today. In some ways, the approach is more significant than the effect.

I hope to see/hear/read this kind of discussion sometime in the future in queer circles...even if I'm the one to instigate it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Yes I know it's been a couple weeks since I was in Florida...

Kelly and I flew to Sarasota and there were crying babies everywhere. Moral: if your kids are old enough to be entertained, bring stuff to keep them entertained! If they aren't old enough...they probably shouldn't be flying without drugs. Anyway, we arrived at Sarasota Wednesday night, rented a PT Cruiser and drove south to Englewood. The Florida air was so refreshing, we kept the windows down during most of the 45 minute drive so we could soak it up. The place where we stayed was pretty much perfect, too.

Thursday, we went to Manasota Beach and the water was COLD!! We did a lot of combing for seashells and we found these weird little bug-like things living among them. They were like pill-bugs, only lived in the water and had smooth exoskeletons. Finally getting to a beach, particularly a tropical beach, was so relaxing. While exploring a nearby river-dock, we saw HUGE pelicans and a tiny little lizard.

Friday morning was rainy and grey; the locals said "oh it's too bad you had to be here during such nasty weather." We just replied "a bad day in Florida is a good day in Chicago!!" And it was true! We drove to the Mote Aquarium, on a key off Sarasota, and the weather cleared up by the time we got there. That aquarium was really cool with an area for petting stingrays and everything! We checked out the bird sanctuary nextdoor and the area for larger sea life (dolphins, sea turtles, MANATEES which I had never seen before).

On our way back to Englewood, we stopped at a rookery. I'm fascinated by ciconiiformes so I absolutely loved getting to watch herons, egrets, etc. Two wild great herons got really close to us at the bird sanctuary while stealing the food of their caged counterparts. Sneaky birdies!!

That night, we had FANTASTIC seafood! OMNOMNOMNOM shrimp and crab legs!! I hadn't had crab legs in 14+ years and I didn't like them then; I'm so glad I waited for here to try them again SO GOOD!!

Saturday, we went to another beach - Blind Pass? It was warmer with bigger waves here, so I got some bodysurfing done. Bodysurfing: all the benefits of swimming with half the work. There weren't little bug-things here, it was probably too busy/warm/wavey. While driving around after the beach, I saw a wild alligator sunning itself on someone's front lawn!!

We returned on Sunday, a rainy and dreary day, which helped. On the drive to the airport, I saw a whooping crane! Those things are soooo rare, it was awesome!

There were comparatively few tourists where we were and almost no drunk frat guys, so that was fantastic. While driving to/from/around the city of Sarasota, I noticed something I wasn't expecting. Here in the Midwest, especially in Milwaukee and Chicago, there's a strong German influence with some Scandinavian, Celtic and Eastern European. Sarasota and the surrounding area is much more Venetian and Spanish; it wasn't until being in such an area that I realized how much I took for granted as far as cultural background - particularly because I'm German + Celtic + Scandinavian. That was a fascinating change...proving yet again what a nerd I am.

A big thank-you to Kelly's grandparents for everything!!