Only for those for whom this is written. You know who you are.
THE DANCE TEACHER
A few terms ago I found myself in a PE dance class which was presided by the most overtly self-aggrandising man I had ever met. If he were a rooster, he’d have strutted around with his chest permanently inflated and ready to kick out at anyone who displeased him. That would have made for an unpleasant experience in any case, but it was an especially unfortunate circumstance given the fact that I dance like a spastic ostrich. Doesn’t matter what kind of dance – group dances, formal dances, club dancing – it is an exhausting chore for me. I suspect it’s because I think in words, so any sequence – of motions, for example – that don’t involve words are lost on me.
Obviously, I quickly earned his ire. He would constantly glare at me with a look of immense hatred (because he couldn’t do much else than that, since it isn’t in the faculty handbook to penalise kids who suck at dancing.) The last straw was when I arrived late to a class and he told me that if I ever arrived late again (no matter the reason, since I was still working at the time and he knew that), I was out.
I was dancing in my partner’s arms, some pasty bespectacled guy who seemed as exhausted by the process of stringing words together to form sentences as I was exhausted by dance. Something snapped inside me. I told him, “Fuck this,” left him standing there, picked up my bag and walked out.
The room full of miserable people and the mockingly playful music of Tiklos were left behind the door which clicked shut with a a satisfying decisiveness. The hall outside was empty and silent save for the rustling of the wind in the trees in the courtyard below. I felt like I’d done something very important but I wasn’t really sure why.
After months and months of painful compromises, ultimatums I never followed through and promises that never came true, I was once again crying over the phone to A. At first it seems like just another one of our unabatedly ridiculous fights – intense and draining, but still just another fight. Then she said, “It’s not my responsibility to take care of you.” It was the final spark that ignited the last remains of whatever bridge was still left between us.
I asked her, “Why do you want to be with me?” She reeled off the usual list of what was supposedly so great about me. I was so entirely sick of never being loved for my vulnerability as well as my strength, sick of being praised for what I did well and being despised for what I didn’t do well. I longed to hear, for once: “Because I just do. Because I belong with you.”
It was never like that with her.
A pause. “Why do you want to be with me?” she asked. I took a breath. Then I told her, “I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
SOME LEFTOVER FISH
I was having lunch with my family in a restaurant and I couldn’t finish my food, so I had it wrapped. Some street kid was hanging around outside and I gave it to her. An argument ensued in the car between me and my parents. They claimed that I had wasted their money by ordering food and then giving it away.
I countered that: it wasn’t my fault that the servings, didn’t come any smaller; wasn’t it just recently that they took food away from me when I was hungry because they thought I was too fat; and how could they go to church and pretend to love God when they would begrudge leftover fish to a poor kid…
Finally, my dad said angrily (in Filipino), something that translated roughly to, “You always have to win, don’t you?” I replied, “I won because I’m right.”
There’s a poem about a man whose back began hurting, protrusions tearing their way through his skin. After a long period of constant agony, he realized that he had grown wings and he could fly. (Lemn Sissay)
FRATERNITY / SORORITY CULTURE AND THE SEXY SEXY A.C.
In 2014, there was a much-publicised death in my school. A student had been beaten to death in a fraternity hazing. My then-gf belonged a sorority, a fact that I emphatically protested. I told her that no one deserved to be subjected to intentional pain and humiliation to become part of an organisation. She explained that it was worth it for the connections and resources that it gave her – the guidance from upperclassmen, a ready net of companionship, prestige.
I observed, however, that her block mate A.C. had connections and resources aplenty despite never allowing herself to be subjected to such treatment. She replied that she hated A.C., that she was fake, that she didn’t deserve the high regard that she got. Still she attached herself to A.C, still she spent time with her and cared for her.
It’s not such an outlandish guess to say that a complicated envy was at work. She admired and loved A.C., and at the same time was enraged that someone else could get the grades, the trophies, the women, despite not being – she thought – any better of a person than herself. Not more moral, not more intelligent, not more kind. She felt that she deserved the same and could not figure out why she couldn’t have it.
She should have questioned further why she felt that she needed to be in a sorority and A.C. did not, but her sorority did have fun parties and her sisters were sexy.
THAT NGO WITH THE DUMB SELF-DEFEATING RECRUITMENT STRATEGY
A few weeks ago, I went to attend an open house at an NGO which had a position open. I gave myself plenty of time to find the place. I thought I’d get there in half an hour, at most. Two hours later, after traipsing all around the hellish ladders-puzzle game of the EDSA rotonda and a P200 cab ride (all while wearing the impractical business outfit they’d required), I rushed breathlessly into the most secluded office in the most nondescript building. They told me that I was too late. I explained that I’d come so far, and I was willing to attend the next open house – could I just observe the remaining program so as not to have wasted my entire morning? They gave me firm refusal and told me to just have a rest before I left.
The freaking postman commiserated on how hard it was to find the place. Another woman came in and a similar interaction to the one I’d just had took place. She looked uncertain and dumbfounded, as was I – that she would be treated so inconsiderately.
I sat on a row of the chairs near the entrance and cried inobtrusively while playing Dino Crisis 2 on my PSP emulator. Then I left.
Later that night, I met up with [redacted]. I told her about my experience, and how I wouldn’t want to work for an organization that could treat me like that, especially when they were low on prospects. She said that they wouldn’t take just anyone, and the very least they would want someone who could be on time. I replied that it was an open house, not an interview, and their location was impossible (they aren’t even on Waze, or Maps, nor their listed landmarks), and they should have given me consideration. I could sense her irritation when she said, “You’re going to have trouble finding a job.”
(update: They’ve texted me twice since inviting me to another open house and warning me not to be late again. Dumb.)
SPECIAL CONSIDERATION (A.K.A. SIMPLE HUMAN COURTESY, IN MORE CIVILIZED COUNTRIES)
When a person demands special consideration with no personal attributes to warrant such demands, that is commonly (and rightly) known as “being an insufferably entitled little prick.”
When the same demands are being made by a person of importance (whether real or just popularly perceived importance) that is known as “well duh, of course they can.”
THE LEDE I’VE BURIED
I’m certainly not yet a person of importance. But I’m working on it, by learning things, working hard, paying attention and building the self-perception of the kind of person I want to be. All of that would only be derailed by taking unnecessary crap from people: tolerating insults, tolerating disregard for my personal well-being, infringement on my rights and privileges.
“Well, someimes you just have to take shit from people.” I believed that, and I did. From my parents who had no idea what to do with me, and were just as emotionally scarred as I was from their own bad childhoods. From terrible “friends” who kissed me in greeting then talked about how weird I was behind my back. From A., who knew much less about love than even the little I did.
And it stunted my growth as a person. I don’t think that treatment like that is something a person can tolerate and experience day after day without internalizing it.
“But I need to belong to an organization, and if that means capitulating to their demands, so be it.” Why? Becaus you can’t find your way without one, you can’t forge your own path? Listen to what you’re saying: I don’t have any power of my own, so I’ll allow this organization to degrade me in exchange for the power it will give me.
You don’t have any power, not because you fundamentally lack it, but because you gave it up. The people who subsume to colleges that steal their money in exchange for a name – “I’m a Lasallian!” – who stay in jobs they hate, under bosses who treat them like shit – you had power, you chose that college, you chose that job. No one could have forced you if you didn’t let them. You were the one who was seduced by the glamour. You were the one who desired the lifestyle that only a torturous job could provide for you.
Without an organization, you fear that you won’t have any respect. You’re probably right. The world won’t respect you for who you are, sans the titles and the connections. Why would they? You don’t even respect yourself.