Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oh, nevermind me.

I have a couple of short stories to relate about men making me feel invisible.

1. My friend's husband who won't speak to me

Recently, we had dinner with a friend of mine, at her house. I like her a lot, but I had never met her husband. They are both here from Faraway country.

She had never said anything bad about her husband, just that he worked a lot.

I got the vague impression that maybe he should have helped more with the kids, but only because I wanted my friend to be able to go back to work. One thing she had mentioned specifically was needing more intellectual stimulation. But she felt she couldn't look for a job at all until they figured out their work visas (she assumed she had to get her work status through his application for a green card, rather than applying for a job and a visa on her own). And they needed to arrange for childcare.

So I had some trepidation about meeting the husband. I wasn't at all sure what to expect.

He wasn't there yet when we arrived. When he came in, he seemed nice enough, made eye contact and some small conversation.

I was relieved.
You really don't want to know if your friend is married to a jerk.

But pretty quickly it became clear that he wanted to talk to my boyfriend, not to me.

This was obvious to the point where he would ask a question, and I would have something to say when my boyfriend did not, but as I began to speak he would turn and look at my boyfriend and say something like, "You haven't?"

It was as if I wasn't even there.

Afterwards, my boyfriend commented that it was noticeable, even to him, that this guy was not comfortable talking to women, or something.

Or something, indeed.

It was all I could do to try to describe (I can't even come close to describing), what it is like to have to work with guys like that. Or interview with guys like that. Or network with guys like that. How many of them there are. What the consequences are for your career.

Afterwards, we talked a little about how we might hope that there are enough guys who are not like that, to tip the balance. How some of these guys don't realize they're doing it (but some do).

How it's hard to know what to do about it.

Hard for me, sure, but also very hard for my friend. No wonder she's nervous about trying to look for work.

2. The dismissive colleague

This is a particular example of something that has happened to me over, and over, and over, and over again.

The scene:

I'm working on something new, temporarily, with people I don't know. This might be a different lab or a different office than where I've worked previously. I have a specific set of tasks I need to accomplish. I do not have all the information I need. Someone says Dude is the guy to ask about this thing I need to do. 

Me: Hey, you've done Y before? Can you help me?

Dude: That depends, what do you need.

Me: Well I'm trying to do X, and I have a couple of ideas. I was thinking about doing Y or Z. Do you have any experience with these?

Dude: What? Why are you even asking about Z? Use Y. I don't even know what Z is.

Me: Um... Ok, thanks.

Later, someone else says: Hey, that Dude can give you Stuff to help you get started.

Me: I asked him already. He didn't give me anything.

Them: That's strange, he's done Y. He didn't give you Stuff? Why didn't he give you Stuff?

Me: I don't know. I didn't know that Stuff existed. He didn't mention it.

Later, after banging my head for a day or two, I try again. 

Me (to the Dude): Hey, I heard a rumor that you have Stuff related to Y, that maybe I could use?

Dude: Oh yeah, I have that. Why are you asking about that? What are you doing?

Me (for the second time): I'm doing X. That's why I was asking about Y.

Dude: Nobody told me you were doing that.

Um... I did. I told you. It was the first thing I said to you. 

I'll admit I didn't always ask the best, most specific question the first time, but at first I never knew what to ask. And Dude is usually the type who never volunteers any information.

Mostly I get annoyed at having to repeat myself, because invariably Dude didn't listen to me at all.

And it always turned out that my manager (this happened more than once, with different managers), who was supposed to have arranged things for me ahead of time, had not said anything to anyone about what I was doing or what I would need.

So when I showed up and started asking for Stuff, it was the first anyone had heard about it.

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