On Working With Women

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Cat Fight

This piece is not meant to represent any specific person, place, or event. It’s a compilation of conversations and experiences I’ve had in many different places. I’ve written one experience here to represent many. Any similarities to specific people, places, or events is a mere coincidence.

“I can’t stand her,” she said of me. Though I was not the one who heard her. Ariana told me.
“Are you friends with Sally over there?” She pointed to the makeup counter on the other side of the department. I had to strain to see her around all of the chrome towers piled high with soaps and body scrubs.
“Who’s Sally?” I asked.
“Sally over there at that counter.”
“Obviously no. I don’t even know her name.”
“Well, she said she can’t stand you.”
“I’ve never had a conversation with her.”
“I’m just telling you so you know who your friends are.”
“OK, thanks.”
“I don’t want you getting close to her or anything.”
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem. Did she tell you that?”
“She told Marina and Marina and I were talking when we had nothing to do the other night.”
“She’s just young and bored and she wasn’t raised right.”
“She said they were standing at the registers and Sally said, “I can’t stand that Barbara Bastet* girl.” When Marina looked up you were the one standing there.
“Thanks,” I said.
“I didn’t say that to bother you or anything. I just thought you should know.”
“I got it, thanks.”
“Well, don’t get defensive.”
“I’m good. What else do you want me to say?”

Later, Marina and I had coffee.
“So you don’t like Sally, huh?”
“What? I don’t even know Sally, but I understand she doesn’t like me.”
Marina’s eyes widened. “She doesn’t like you. I’d stay away from her.”
“She doesn’t scare me. She’s half my age.”
“I know. Just don’t deal with her.”
“I’ve never had the occasion to. I’m certain it will not come up now.”

Recently, due to this election season, I’ve been thinking about the misogyny in this country. Women can be worse than men. I don’t know how men take out their aggressions on other men in the workplace. Women are vicious to one another, particularly women who are bored, hate themselves, and hate their jobs. We’re all looking for a scapegoat when we feel like shit. It feels better to dump on someone else then to take responsibility for the life we feel powerless to change.

It’s not a good feeling when somebody doesn’t like you. Sally’s comment made it even more difficult to walk through those doors everyday and face clients with screaming children or menopause, all of whom are frustrated, agitated, and looking for someone to take it out on.

I’ve said the same thing Sally said about me twice about two different people on two separate occasions. The message got back to both of them. I regret that now. They didn’t deserve it. I wish I could apologize. They’ve both left those jobs. Their positions got the better of them. Most people can’t take the suffering. They just didn’t know how to complain. I find that if you know how to do it, you can stand almost anything.

I actually had a very good upbringing. I was taught to be kind, respectful, and hardworking. But I changed after I moved out. And I grew worse when I moved to Los Angeles. I can’t explain what has happened here. It’s a rude and mean town. That seeps in. I could say that Sally’s comment is Karma, but I don’t believe in it. The people around me are unhappy. It makes for a toxic environment, one where we turn and eat each other.

Feminists talk about lifting one another up, giving each other opportunities, offering support in the workplace. I don’t know where they work, but I’ve never seen that happen. Not in the corporate world, not in restaurants, not in retail. It doesn’t matter what their education or success, I’ve never met a woman interested in helping other women. Mostly, the women I’ve met, prefer men. I think it’s just an easier transaction. They know how to get what they want from them. Men don’t usually play the same head games or get into Machiavellian schemes. At least women can’t imagine it. Machiavelli was, after all, a man.

In 2006 I moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. I needed to get away from a possessive boyfriend who lived in New York. I figured that by 2008 I’d have untangled myself from him. I wanted to move to New York without complications. It seemed like a good place to be a writer, meet interesting people, and put together an exciting life.

Then I met my husband one month before I was set to leave. I’d already given my notice to my landlord and was looking forward to quitting my low-paying, abusive entertainment job. But I knew, as soon as we met, I wasn’t leaving. Love is not a readily available commodity, as my mid thirties unmarried friends discovered after they’d given it up for their careers.

L.A. exhausts me. Half the time I don’t know the season. It’s 100 degrees in November. I wake up every morning and feel like I’m trapped in and endless summer job. I’m aging. The world is moving forward. And I can’t find the exit.

*All names have been changed. Barbara Bastet is a pseudonym for a makeup line.