June 2010


I clip pictures of church folk from the local newspaper and post them on our “Look What’s Going On” bulletin board. There’s a fellow–a tremendously fat one–in the congregation whom I don’t much care for who is running for public office. There are a half dozen pictures of him at the county fair in the paper. I am tempted to post a picture of him posing with children and livestock. It’s captioned That’s a Lot of Bull! I find this hilariously apt. I should post a nice photo of him with his wife instead. Hrm.

I have a boy’s name. I share my boy’s name with the son of a church member. Son is getting married and the church ladies recently held a shower for him and his intended. A woman just came by with a gift bag and left it on the table outside my office with a scribbled note This is for Son. I kinda want to take his present and pretend I thought it was for me. Being single is, presents wise, a total rip off. I have bought three blenders–and given them all away. I don’t own a blender. This is the extent of my Single Bitterness.

Very Old Man who Loves Youth Ministry and New Technology wants to hire a part time youth/kids minister. He wants to do so so badly, he’s willing to pay the salary himself. He wants to hire me for what would more or less be a quarter time position. I would welcome the money such a job would bring, and the organization side of things would be awesome. But I’m not really into spending time with youth or children. I don’t know what to tell him.

And finally, I’ve been asked to be a Trophy Date. One of my friends wants me to go with him to some alumni thingy at his college to make him feel better about showing up single and under-employed. I am ill-qualified for this task: I wear a lot of homemade clothes and can be quite shy. Also, I’m a very brunettey brunette with short legs. Trophy Dates, I am convinced, are leggier and better dressed and have hilarious anecdotes that are also hilarious to people who have MBAs and/or 2.3 kids. I told him that I’d only go as the girl who drives his drunk ass back the motel and not as the girl who screws him on a Ramada Inn bedspread. He said that I could have my very own bed and could drive his car. I told him I’d have to think about it. This tidbit is relevant to my job only in as much as I just spent several minutes instant messaging him on company time.

Boys are lately a pain in my ass… and a topic that seems to have well more to do with my job lately than I’d prefer. Sigh.

So here’s this one instead.

I just got back from the post office–and the convenience store with fifty cent cokes–to find a flier on my desk with a note requesting I post it. It promoted a show by a local Christian singer songwriter. In his picture, his hair is spiked up and he’s gazing prayerfully at the middle distance. He’s released an instrumental album lately inspired by–and this is a quote of his quote–Francis of Assisi’s statement that we should “Spread the Gospel to everyone and use words only if nesesssary.” Yes, necessary is spelled with four inexplicable esses. And that’s a highly paraphrased version of the quotation which, I believe, had more to do with helping the poor than guitar noodling. But whatever. Did I mention the font on the flier is Papyrus? That’s so you know he’s extra holy.

Before my trip to the PO and my well-deserved diet Coke, I had what was easily the worst conversation in my life… as a church secretary anyway.

May I ask you a personal question?

I hate it when people ask me this. I always expect a question about lady parts. So far no one has actually begun a question about lady parts this way. But I live in fear that if I say yes to “may I ask you a personal question” someone will ask me about labias. You don’t? Well. Screw you.

I suppose, although I don’t like to say I’ll answer a question before knowing what it is.

Oh. Okay. You’re a heterosexual, aren’t you? This is coming from the previously discussed Mom of Handsome Gay Thirtysomething. Or, henceforth, MOHGT.

I am.

I’d been wondering.

Okay.

I used to have short hair. I am a feminist. I don’t date rednecks. It confuses people around here.

But you know gay people, right?

Sure. It’s 2010. Everybody does.

Have you ever helped a gay person?

What, like carry in their groceries? Of course.

I am beginning to know what she’s gunning for, but I am hoping my willful naivete will somehow make her lose her nerve for the awkwardness to come.

That’s not exactly…

I used to take the train with an elderly drag queen. I sometimes gave her my seat if the train was full.

Him. A drag queen is a man, honey.

Right. Her name was Cherry. She preferred feminine pronouns.

This is totally untrue. I made up all of this in a desperate attempt to somehow persuade MOHGT not to ask me her terrible, terrible question.

Did you know my Handsome Gay Thirtysomething Son is gay?

Yes, ma’am.

You can actually see this boy’s gayness from outer space.

I was wondering if you’d be willing to ask him on a date.

I’m not. He’s gay. I’m a girl.

I actually pointed to my boobs here, like a model on a game show points to a prize. I regret that. I was nervous.

You see, I was thinking that if he just went out with a girl he might…

No.

I think if you’d be willing to, you know, demonstrate that girls are–

Demonstrate? Oh. Em. Gee. What does this woman want me to demonstrate? I’m still uncertain whether she was suggesting I bake him brownies or giggle in his general direction or make passionate love to him on a bearskin rug. In any event, the answer’s the same.

I’m sorry. I’m not comfortable with this at all.

As a Christian isn’t it your duty–

I don’t believe it is, no. I think my duty is to be kind to your son and to anyone else. I think what you describe would make him feel pretty awful and me too.

I thought you’d be–

No. I’m not. I’m not going to talk about this anymore. Besides, I have a boyfriend.

That last bit isn’t true either. But it was the only way I could think of to shut her up.

She pulled tight the strings of her mouth and scowled at me. I feel really sad for her, actually, and for her son.

Quick, somebody bourbon up this diet Coke. It’s that kind of day.

The pastor’s out of the office on Monday, so no one ever comes by. I tend not to apply myself overmuch to the task of gussying up on Mondays. Today I’m wearing jeans and a tee shirt advertising a defunct pizza restaurant. The most minimal makeup. And a headband. Eleven people have been in. I forgot we’re still accepting those damn job applications today.

Last week was kind of a weird week. I had a sort of fight with my sister. We’re Southern-y Midwestern girls with nice upbringings, so we have spiteful but coolly pronounced disagreements. It is as awful as it sounds, in case you wondered. She suggested that perhaps I was jealous of her. I suggested that perhaps I’d set my hair on fire if given a choice between that and living any portion of her stupid life. We’ve since made up. After I got off the phone after our sort of fight, though, I was weirdly happy–and not just on account of my large and unholy love of conflict. What I’d said was true. I really will take my shit over other people’s version of happiness.

It is, in my estimation, better to be stuck and screwed and laboring at a job I mostly love and running and writing all the time than living in the suburbs, eating fast food, and dating an insurance agent whose only conversational topics are sports and killing animals. I’m not saying the latter are, strictly speaking, bad decisions. They’re fine. They’re just not, you know, decisions I would make in one hundred years.

I live with my parents, in the most Emily Dickinson of fashions. I love my parents. I try to think about how pleasant it will be to look back on these times when I am old and they are old. But mostly I just wish for any fucking measure of privacy. Or, rather, my description of privacy. My mother, bless her heart, knocks before coming to my floor of the house–despite the fact I can’t actually hear this knocking and have told her so many times. On the other hand, she insists on doing my laundry and collecting my garbage and opining on both. The horror, the horror.

My mother’s bff also has an adult daughter living at home. In my worst moments I search for my similarities to this AD. There aren’t many. She’s truly odd and prone to having internet relationships with reality stars. No. Really. It’s happened. Twice. On the other hand, we’re both on the shy side, and we both read a lot. And we both have terrible jobs and rely on our parents for some measure of support. AD is sort of my nightmare doppelganger.

BFF and my mom, after years of teaching elementary school, are incapable of having a quiet conversation. And that’s why I recently overheard them talking about me.

Churchrat has a lot of passion about life, doesn’t she?

I am standing some distance away and can still see my mother is making that “who is my daughter making out with these days?” face.

There are just so many things she’s interested in. Weird things*. But things. And she’s a real little go-getter, a hard worker. She’ll get over this hump. But AD… I don’t know about her.

But AD has… a, um, Masters Degree!

So does everyone else.

My mom hates awkward situations, so she quickly turned the subject back to who I might be making out with. Because that’s not awkward at all.

I don’t know what the point of this post is. I do know it possibly makes me sound like an asshole. I don’t know. I do know that for a while there I was getting pretty close to despair, and lately I’m better. And these conversations are two of the reasons why. I’m sending out my damn resume and plotting a church newsletter entirely written by kids instead of by me. I’m taking a vacation. I’m writing a novel and publishing a zine and running a marathon. I’m keeping that dog. And I’m not going to discuss making out with you. Or with my mom.

*Weird as defined by a Midwestern school teacher in her 60s. I just want to make that clear. I’m not going around town in a bird mask discussing earwax or anything.

I have kicked the ass of Friday. I rearranged all the church furniture while middle aged men looked on and commented on my upper body strength, made a poster, created an attractive display of women’ hats (what? your job doesn’t include really weird shit?), drove home to pee because the church’s water is off, picked up and sorted mail, made a passive aggressive flier, finished a church calendar, updated the facebook page, shuffled the recycling bins so they don’t look quite so disgustingly full, and did a little light cleaning.

I made the poster using pastels. Pastels get your fingers all dirty. Since plumbers were here and the water was off, I couldn’t wash my hands. So, when I needed a clean finger or two for my drawing, I spit on my fingers and wiped them on my feet. Retrospectively, there are at least four less disgusting solutions to this problem. Three people have brought by job applications today. Two of them asked me how I’d hurt myself.

It’s the weekend. Let’s get to it.

The church where I work is partnering with a community organization that is not all that different from ACORN but that has not yet drawn the ire of any right wing organizations. I seriously don’t know how they’ve avoided it. I mean, they’ve got a big list of abortion providers posted right up on the wall in their local office. But, anyway, they do a lot toward getting people clothed, fed, and housed around here. They also run early childhood programs for low income families. We’re going to be the host site of a free daycare for teen mothers this fall. There’s all this ridiculous extra work coming my way on account of it. Much of it is photocopying and collating. I can collate for the greater good. That I don’t mind.

But they’re hiring five people to staff the daycare and two cooks, and all the applications are running through the office here. Every ten minutes I get an email or phone call or guy dropping by to find out about these jobs. I know exactly fuck all about these jobs, in large part because no one will tell me anything. I ask, and I am told not to worry that answering these questions is not my job and that I shouldn’t worry. Unfortunately I have no idea whose job it may be: I’m the only one here.

People, it seems, are astonishingly stupid about job applications. One woman asked me if she really had to complete the application. Can’t I just give you my name and phone number? You can call me to set up an interview, and we can cover all this shit then. Um. No. It doesn’t work that way. Also, four people have showed up with transcripts they want me to photocopy and include with their application. Four people. It seems to me that that’s the sort of thing you could’ve done yourself at your local library and thereby create a greater impression of your professionalism and preparedness.

The only thing better than people who are stupid about applications are people who have spent way the fuck too much time reading Monster dot com and would like to network with me and deliver some sort of 30 second pitch about why I should hire them. I explain I’m not in charge of anything and that I need to get back to work but that I’ll deliver their application. Please tell your boss, then, that blahblahblah blah blah blah. Then they force creepily prolonged eye contact and shake my hand. This has happened three times this morning.

One guy somehow found out my name ahead of time. And came in and called me Mrs Rat. I was confused initially, thinking he wanted to speak to my mother. I asked him what he needed. I told him that I was Ms and not a Mrs, and he continued to call me Mrs. Because in 2010, year of our Lord, he somehow seems never to have heard the word Ms. He asked me my first name. I told him, and he called me something that bore no resemblance. He talked for ten minutes about his education and (irrelevant) hobbies, despite my explanation that literally my only role in the hiring process was carrying his resume three feet and adding it to a stack. He wanted to borrow my stapler. He needed something photocopied. He apologized prolongedly for irritating me, which he had. Then he shook my hand way, way, way too long.

I can appreciate the pathos here, the sweaty expectation of the job hunt, as much as anyone. But jeepers creepers. This is ridiculous.

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