As you may know, I recently changed jobs. So far I’m really enjoying my new job aside from a few minor niggles that are hopefully getting ironed out (the guy who works for me!)… But generally it’s been really nice.
One of the things I thought was really important was to do a team outing. It sounds corny but I think team bonding is really important to help the team work well together and also as a leader I think it is important to show some appreciation for the wider team, the guys on the ground. I have one team member who works directly for me but then a bigger team who effectively work for me on the client (as I own the client relationship), and it was those guys I really wanted to thank.
So I got special permission from my boss (the big boss!) to take them to a special London landmark for a pretty special night out. I wanted to do something really nice for the team, firstly because most of them are from overseas (living here away from home for months and years at a time) and secondly because we also had some visitors from the leadership team from overseas as well.
I kept the whole thing a secret right until the last minute. (I like secrets. Think it adds to the anticipation.) And then I took them to the top floor of the client building last night and got them to guess where we were going.
You could see it from the top floor meeting rooms…
The Shard is London’s tallest landmark, a massive glass triangle pointing up to the sky. A shard of glass! It is pretty awesome and a view from the top gives you a 360 of the whole of London.
We went to Hutong which is a Chinese restaurant and we had lots of yummy food… And I made them do team building exercises! Which was funny.
Anyway, I think everyone had a good time…
I’ve always been terrible at cleaning, so the title of this post is slightly misleading. What happened is this: We decided to have a staycation. I know, I know… It’s just so millennial of us. (We are more Generation X though I tend to dress as an overgrown teenager on days off.) The truth is, we had to take some holiday – T works at a place where he has to finish up his holidays by the end of the month, and I’m into my notice period and I never end up taking my holiday very quickly anyway, so here we are with a week off: Staycation!
(For my overseas friends: I mean vacation. Vacay!)
The weekend started off quite nicely, or quite badly, depending on how you want to look at it. We had a Saturday night party at the house of a VIP (from my work). I had said to T that we must go, because firstly I was very flattered to be asked and secondly I was kind of curious about what kind of place a VIP lives in, and thirdly this VIP is very nice to me, and I think it’s a nice thing to go to people’s parties.
Rich people in London tend to live in the West. Guess where we live? (Yeah, it’s not the West.) We spent the day with Dog and then in the evening we got glammed up and trekked across town to this mansion in the West part of West London. It was pretty big. We’d looked it up on google streetview so we knew what to expect. Biiiig. (To be fair, anything larger than a shoebox denotes rich in London. Imagine Manhattan but dingier.) I had kind of ordered T to be on his best behaviour and myself not to drink too much.
We entered the house and the staff offered to take our coats and gave us a cloakroom ticket, and a drink. Uh oh. Maybe that crappy bottle of wine we brought wouldn’t quite be sufficient. (Never mind, it had no label on… The VIP would never know it’s me bringing a mid-priced bottle of wine to a mansion.) We hobnobbed. Turns out that this was a Cuban themed partay and there were canapés being brought round by the staff (to be fair, I think they were hired for the night rather than perm – as if that makes it less blingy) and Cuban live music and free flowing champagne and mojitos. All night.
Here’s a picture to give you an idea of scale…
I think I conducted myself okay, although I did tell one of the other VIPs that I’d resigned. Oh well. We had a nice time, and it was a bit different, and everyone was very nice although it’s tricky to talk when there’s super loud Cuban music in the background. Either way it was enjoyable. Until…
Reader, I puked.
I never puke. I mean, I really hardly ever puke. Fortunately we’d already left the party (partay) and were on our way home but I have to say I’m ashamed of myself. T was sort of sorry for me and sort of found it funny because I really hadn’t drunk that much. I wasn’t acting drunk or anything. But an almost empty stomach (those canapés didn’t make it round to me very often) plus a lowered alcohol tolerance (I don’t drink much any more) and mojitos where you can’t tell how much rum went in are all a lethal combination.
How awful. This meant Sunday was a bit of a write off. T got up early to go and visit his family (pre-planned, not to avoid me!) so I lay in bed with Dog. Eventually I got up, puked another three times, went back to bed, all the while cursing alcohol and telling myself there was no way I would cope with drinking any more. I am definitely giving up drinking for a while. Which neatly segues into IVF cycle 2. It’s nuts really as I drink way less than I ever used to – but I seem to be becoming less tolerant to it. Anyway, by the time I’d recovered enough to get up, it was past 2pm and then I took Dog for a walk (poor Dog!) and sat on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. And promising not to drink alcohol for a while. At least it gives me a good excuse. (Seriously: You need an excuse in the UK if you don’t want to drink; the social pressure is immense. And I really usually enjoy it but not any more!)
Yesterday, Monday, our staycation started. We had an exciting (not) activity planned which was to go all the way to [redacted] and pick up my stuff from storage. It’s the stuff from my ex-relationship which I haven’t seen for years and years. My ex didn’t want me to come round so he put it in storage and I had to go and pick it up. Which is fair enough but the storage was only open during certain times so I had to wait till I had a day off… Yesterday.
There was a lot of stuff. I may have mentioned I’m not one of those minimalist people, and anyway, this is from a really long term relationship… So there was kind of more than I thought. We are planning on moving (house update coming up!) so we didn’t really want to put it all in the house we are hoping to pack up, so we got another storage place near where we are moving to and we moved it all there. The whole thing took most of the day… Even though we were very organised about it – you have to take several trolley loads and it takes a while to go backwards and forwards and stack it all up at each end. Not to mention the drive which was about 2 hours each way.
So now my old life is in a storage locker near where my new life is going to be…
T asked me when I left if I felt emotional. He says he always associates storage lockers with the sad stuff like relationship breakups. We got his stuff out of storage a year or so ago and have sorted through it. I don’t quite know if I felt emotional… I think I did, a bit, but it didn’t really hit because I moved out so many years ago. It’s like revisiting something that happened years ago. I hope that we’ll be able to move on from this, and of course it’s really sad, but I did all my crying back in the year I moved out and before I met T. It definitely seems weird that I’ve lived without this stuff for so long. I almost don’t want it any more, although I need to sort through it and it wouldn’t be fair to leave it all with my ex for him to sort out. So that’s a job that I’ll have to do gradually, I guess. At least it is closer to where we are now and where we’re going to be.
It was a massive job but at least gave us a sense of achievement, and it means we can pack up the house we’re currently in so we can move fairly easily (probably not – eek) if that all pans out. The update on the house is that it is happening! Well insofar as you can determine anything in the English way. You have to do all this extra stuff like surveys – you can’t just buy it. So the survey was done yesterday… We have to wait and see what happens with that. All being well we then move to exchange of contracts, which means you’re pretty much there, and completion is when you’ve properly bought it. I don’t think you can really say you’ve bought it until you at least exchange – things can still fall through but it’s far less likely. So here’s hoping! It means we would potentially be moving in April (ambitious) or May (more likely).
On the job front, I had to go and talk with the Job B people (who hadn’t yet offered me a job but said they wanted to) on Friday. It was kind of awkward in the way that I felt really pressured to take the job. They got me and the two top guys in an office and gave me wine and told me that they wanted me to work for them! I explained I already had the Job A offer in the bag and was probably going to take that… I had a good chat with them and they were really nice, but ultimately I don’t think being nice is the best reason for me to take a job.
There was lots of other boring stuff about pros and cons of each job, but mainly I think I was set on the other job; I think I’m quite bad at saying no in person though, and they then said they wanted me to call on Monday, so once we had packed up the van I called up the guy and… got his voicemail! In the end I left a message saying I was really appreciative of the time and opportunity, but I was going to take the other job (as I don’t think it’s nice to say “Call me back” if you’re going to give someone bad news)… I also told the recruitment consultant who’d been pretty pushy about it.
It’s such a strange situation as I’ve never had two who really wanted me before – I did withdraw from another process once I had a job offer, and the recruiter was quite nasty about it, but I haven’t had two potential employers basically fighting over me before. It’s an odd feeling and a sort of difficult thing to have to let one of them down, but then I suppose it’s a nice problem to have. I have this thing where I sort of go over and over things in my head and worry about how other people are going to react to them, and I worry that the Job B people will now hate me… I try and put those thoughts out of my head though!
So… I’ve sent off the contract for the job I’m taking. Pay rise! Whoop whoop. I’m working my notice which means I won’t start my new job until mid June. Which is a good thing I think, firstly because my current employer should pay me notice, I mean it’s the least they could do, and secondly because I have a bunch of stuff (house move and IVF cycle 2) over the next few months so it would be really good if I could do that whilst not starting a new job.
Part of me thinks it’s foolish to start a new job when I might get pregnant, but I think most of me thinks that’s such a far out idea and so unlikely to happen that it’s not a good reason to delay doing other things. Also if I have to take time off, it’s better to take time off a job that pays more. T and I have discussed it and if they do shared parental leave then I would probably take the minimum and then he would take more time off, or we’d try and share it. It depends when it happened but really I would probably be there 8 months or something before leaving, so it’s not that bad – it’s not like I’d go straight off on maternity leave. Also I really feel like it’s such an unlikely thing to happen so there’s no point worrying about it unduly.
Our plan for day 2 of staycation is to relax and do some fun stuff. We got up late, had some “quality time” (haha) and took Dog for a walk to our favourite waterfront cafe, where he enjoyed his special dog breakfast plus half of my cooked breakfast. It is a very urban retreat even though the owner has made a lovely garden by the river. It’s in an old shipping container. And they do an awesome cooked breakfast.
The rest of the day is planned out – we are going to the cinema and we’re going to meet a friend for dinner after that. I’m currently sitting with my wet hair in a turban and need to go and get dressed. Dog is snoozing in his dog bed (my hanging chair which he’s somehow figured out how to jump into from the sofa) and T is playing on the computer. Almost time to go to the flicks!
So far, so staycay!
Happy Tuesday everyone!
This is the week I jumped ship. (Mixing my metaphors here…) Self help-y things and inspirational blogs always tell you that in order to be happy, you have to try and get a sense of achievement. My main achievement this week was handing in my notice. It’s not unsurprisingly an incredibly satisfying feeling. The situation is:
I’ve worked a few years at my current employer – an employer that’s considered by many to be very prestigious. Many, many people here are really nice. However there’s a core group of very senior guys in my group who are
bullies “not very inclusive”. It’s really difficult to explain what exactly went on, because it is sort of intangible. But I know that I’m not in the best environment to be allowed to succeed. I’ll probably not get promoted, for example… They don’t give me work and they don’t include me in team things – I’ve never been out for drinks with them, for example – which is pretty much a standard in this industry (and something I did all of the time at my last place).
This time last year I thought about quitting. They made it so difficult for me, saying I was bad at my job and then when I produced information to show otherwise (client work and pages and pages of testimonials), said I wasn’t trying hard enough to be known in the team, etc etc. They put me on a performance plan, a humiliating thing where I had to go each week and be told my faults, all in the guise of “We just want to help you”. (This includes the classic “You don’t seem very friendly” – even though I have loads of friends here, and “You’re too defensive” – which I pointed out is a charge it’s almost impossible to defend yourself against, without sounding defensive!) Bear in mind I’m almost the only female in my team, dealing with regular stuff like the Dragon’s Den incident (where they wanted to give the solitary female on the winning team feedback on the way she dressed) plus the handy role model for Diversity – being the only non-white female in my team at my level. Basically, it felt like an onslaught of “You are different and we don’t like different”.
During this traumatic performance time last year, I was also doing IVF and trying to get through working 18 hour days with the Project from Hell. Each week I’d be told of a new thing I needed to work on. Each time I “fixed” something, they came up with a new reason why they thought I was underperforming. Eventually through a really terrible time, I sold a big piece of work (which they only let me work on because they thought it was unwinnable) and they had to accept I was okay because I had the sales numbers, which couldn’t be argued with. The
main bully lead guy still made it difficult for me by not publicising the win (the tradition being he would mail everyone each time there was a win – he was sent mine three times and never sent it out – another guy senior to me won a smaller piece and his got sent out), and also by telling other senior people not to work with me. When you work in a small industry it is difficult to avoid someone who is influential in that area… But that’s what I did this year.
And it’s an industry problem. I work in an industry where there are fewer women than men across the board. It starts way back at school, so they try and do all these attraction activities but the fact is, I’ve looked at the stats and it’s pretty stable percentages way back to 2000. With everything they’ve done to attract more women, more and more women are leaving in their droves. Why? Because – if you listen to the men – they’re all popping off to have children. But look a bit more closely and I can think of at least four women who left in the past six months who didn’t have any children. They left because it’s an anti female culture. One female who’s senior to me left her job without another job to go to. Another left after six months of sick leave for stress. It just ain’t female/diversity friendly, however you want to cut it. Which is nuts, because without supporting diversity, you’re saying you’re happy to discount at least half the available workforce.
Thing is, I stuck it out for a respectable amount of time. Most people leave after this amount of time (or less). When I told one of my managers (it’s a complicated structure!) he said he was amazed I’d stuck it out this long. Really! It’s almost like they were trying to get me to leave. I even consulted a lawyer about it last year as I was worried it was building up to constructive dismissal. I was told it sounded like it was a bad situation but that I wouldn’t be able to prove anything, so I was better off leaving. I got my head down and carried on, and I’ve done an okay job – but this is not satisfying to me. I want to do a really great job. I am one of those psychos who loves work and I want to take pride in my work and the company I work for. The worst thing through all this is that apparently I’m seen as a role model for junior females, who have asked me to mentor them and give them careers advice. It makes me feel like a giant fraud, especially when I speak with these youngsters who are so full of hope, and who haven’t realised that yeah, it’s quite possible that you’re not going to be treated as well as other people here, because you’re female/ethnic/not a typical hetero white guy.
And here, they kind of don’t think they have a problem. They are too busy congratulating themselves on being so inclusive because they have all these initiatives where ethnic people / women / gay people get together in their own little groups and get on with stuff. They can tell the world they celebrate diversity. Here’s the ironic thing: based on the work that I do, I was on the radio to talk about how my company thinks diversity is important. They take the credit for the stuff I do in their name, when I have to fight every year for funding – even though it’s a tiny amount and less than they probably spend on a team night out.
I stuck it out because I didn’t want to go out beaten, with my tail between my legs. I stuck it out because it’s important to try and be a role model for more junior employees, so they can see that there is someone who isn’t exactly the same as the homogenous mass of white guys in pinstripe suits who run the company and think the most important thing for women is how they look, and who think (as one told me a couple of weeks ago) “We live in a post racist / sexist world”. Who think we should be grateful that our stereotypes are “positive” because “You lot are good at maths and tech”. Who only started thinking about inequality and the gender pay gap when they looked at their own daughters and realised that they were likely to be at a disadvantage to their sons.
And what of me? The one who’s just not trying hard enough to fit in.
I interviewed with two companies.
They both want me to work for them. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go with one of them, the one who is actually offering a lower salary (still higher than my current one!) because they have made me feel valued. They already have plans for me in the team. When I accidentally ended up interviewing with the big boss, that guy said he wanted me to work for him. And the thing is, it might be just the same as it is here. (I think it may be slightly more diverse – just based on the reception test, where I look at the people walking past as I sat in reception. Lots of women. Lots of non-white people. More importantly – everyone smiled and was friendly.) But even if it is… I’ll be paid more money!
I have options. I have a contract ready to go. I handed in my notice to the big team boss and he went on the offensive. He asked my reasons and I said that I was leaving because I didn’t feel that it was inclusive and that it was going to limit my ability to succeed.
He said [paraphrase]: Have you ever thought that it might not be us… That it’s you?
(Yes I have. I thought that when I was trying to build relationships with people who ignored me or talked down to me. I thought that when I was deliberately excluded from client work even though team members would come by and ask why I wasn’t on the job, because I was more qualified than the person who was. I thought that when I found out that I hadn’t got certain jobs because one guy was going round telling people not to have me work for them. I thought that when people in my network heard what my work was like and advised me to seek legal advice because it sounded like they were trying to make it untenable for me. I thought that when my female friends quit with no other job to go to, simply because they couldn’t cope with being here any longer. And I thought that when junior women came to me and asked for advice on how they could be as “successful” as me.)
Maybe it is me. Maybe I’m all those things you’ve variously said I am. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, not sensitive enough, a hysterical female, a bossy female, not friendly enough, too friendly… Maybe I’ve got that b!tchy resting face that people always complain that my race has – the side-eye (yeah sorry, I can’t do anything about my eyes; they’re just like that). Maybe it’s that you just can’t tell us apart, because that’s happened to me as recently as a few weeks ago when you mistook me for the office junior because we are both of the same ethnic group. (Never mind that I have a British accent and she has a foreign accent, and is about 15 years younger than me – we literally all look the same.) Maybe I’m just…
Maybe I’m just not a fighter. I’ve had to be, being here, but I’m done. I don’t want to fight any more. I think of what I have to give, and what I want to give. I think about all the great things about this company – because they’re not all bad – the fact that they attract the brightest and best students and that I have had great opportunities to influence that. I’m proud of that. But I think… Imagine if I didn’t have to fight; imagine if I could use all my energy towards doing great work rather than fighting a system that thinks I’m somehow not a team player because they won’t let me in their team… Imagine how good I could be then! I’m just tired of fighting and I don’t want to be a fighter.
It’s like school. It took me a long time to realise that some people just didn’t like me. It took a longer time to realise that it was based on not even knowing me, and a lot of the time it was because they just didn’t like people who are different. Even if the difference is skin colour, or eyes, or gender, or accent – something you have no control over. It’s a bad realisation when you figure that some people will literally want to kick you because of something you can’t change, and it’s a worse one when you realise that there are harsher treatments than physical abuse, and that some of the teachers believe that too. The idea that you are intrinsically different, and somehow lesser because you’re different.
There are some people who aren’t logical like that. And if those people are in power (like the “popular kids” at school), you need to realise that no amount of reasoning with them will get them to like you or include you.
At school, the time I realised that I was was 14 or 15. (I was a late developer. Book smart not street smart!) And I realised I wouldn’t ever be what they were – I wouldn’t suddenly morph into being white, and tall, and good at sports, and a smoker (because smoking was cool….. ironically I did take it up as an adult before I realised what a dumbass thing it was to do).
And the time I decided to be myself… A funny thing happened.
I suddenly got “popular”. I had my own clique, only my clique had a very low barrier for entry which was pretty much “If you want to be in our gang, you can be… Just don’t be mean*.” [Being British, sarcasm is totes okay. Just be a nice person and don’t put down other people to make yourself feel better.] I spent all that time wishing I could be popular when all I had to do was have the confidence to accept myself, and in doing so, be accepting of others. I always thought of myself as an absolute geek… But when I met schoolfriends as an adult they told me that they admired that I was different. “You ploughed your own furrow.” Weird because I always thought I was an idiot. (I probably was/am. But I’m quite nice if you get to know me and ignore the obvious dork alerts.)
And now… I’ve realised the time has come to be authentic to myself. I’ve got to stop beating myself up about not being like those guys who don’t want me in their gang. I have to accept that some people aren’t ever going to accept me, and my efforts are worth more than that. Some people like difference, and some don’t.
In my last couple of interviews, both final round interview panels, I took risks. I made it really clear I was different. (It’s sort of easier to articulate when you look different, too.) I acknowledged that some people find me a bit much… I’m very excitable. I get easily frustrated. I work my ass off and I expect the rest of my team to as well. And I abhor that kind of thinking where people think they’re better than other people for no reason other than race, gender, age. I believe the best ideas come from diversity of thought, and the best teams incorporate a bunch of different people. (It’s like the pub quiz: You need someone for the music round, and someone for the geography, and someone for the cryptic clues – and Dog, for the licks.) I kind of don’t see why you’d want to limit that. In my book, everyone’s default okay unless they show themselves not to be.
And a funny thing happened.
Both of those companies want me to work for them. They think it’s worth having some different people. (And the whole “working my ass off” bit probably doesn’t harm the chances of job offers, either.) They actually seemed to enjoy the ideas and the bouncing so. (I sort of bounce a bit – I drink a lot of coffee.)
So I’m now in quite a nice position. I can figure out the best opportunity for me right now. But I also have a bit of confidence to say, if it all goes pear shaped I can find myself another job. It will be okay. I guess my philosophy has always been that you need to be able to react to whatever life throws at you. You never know what’s around the corner, so keep beavering away and grasp the opportunities when they arise. If stuff is bad, it means on average that good stuff is around the corner! So I just keep going…
Our house (flat) is still going through (slowly).
The transfer of the old house is still going through (slowly).
I’m starting down regulation at the end of March, for IVF cycle 2.
I’ll start Dr S’s borderline protocol alongside.
I’ve lost a bit of weight (though I have my period therefore insatiable craving for pizza, so a bit up, but YTD down).
I’ve quit my job!
I’m feeling a sense of achievement. For anyone who made it this far, you should too!
This weekend I went to see my parents. They live a while away – a few hours – and it took a couple of train rides and a car ride to get there. I took Dog, because I don’t like to leave him.
The main reason I went to see them is because T was going to see a friend along the way, so we thought we could take the same train for a bit and then I’d go and see my folks. Same for way back. Also, in the UK it’s Mother’s Day / Mothering Sunday next weekend so I’m kind of due a visit (although on the actual weekend next weekend, we will be at an engagement party / recovering). And also because they live a while away, I don’t see them as often as I should.
Anyway, I had literally been there for less than an hour when we got into a huge argument! I don’t know how this happens. I guess it’s families. T even texted me and said he hoped I was “being nice” and I thought, probably not.
Got me to thinking about how much of us is tied up in history and triggers and the roles and identities we’ve had since forever. I’ve always been the headstrong one. I’ve always questioned things and refused to go along with the status quo. Maybe I’m the difficult one. (I probably am… Funnily enough we all have our difficulties and mine wasn’t a life threatening one like my other sibling, or a “lifestyle choice” like another. We are all unfavourably compared with The Golden Child and we’ve all railed against it at one time or another. I’ve kind of always done my own thing rather than seek my parents’ approval.)
The reason for the argument was the decision I told them about to buy a place with T. They started asking about the settlement with my ex (which I’ve mentioned before which is in the works) and I’ve already told them I’ve done everything I possibly can to sort it out. They’re not happy that I’m getting next to nothing for the house (which I paid half the mortgage for the entire time I lived there), but I don’t really have a choice. I’d have to either take him to court and try to evict him (which I don’t want to do because I’m not heartless and I can’t afford anyway), or wait for it to be resolved (probably years and years by which time we would be old and grey!).
They also asked about some stuff that they’d given me that they wanted to make sure I got back from the house. I got exasperated then and said I have sorted it out and everything is in storage, and I’m picking it up in a few weeks when I have time off work. They literally can’t understand the stress I’ve had to go through to try and get to this position, negotiating with a mentally ill person who won’t allow me access to the house I half own, and who insisted the only way I could get my belongings back was for him to put them in storage – at a place near him, which is only open during work hours (hence having to take time off to go and get them).
We all have our triggers. Being questioned on my ex relationship, the one I left years ago and have tried to move on from, is one of mine.
It’s worse because my parents, especially my mother were against it from the start. They made it really clear they didn’t think it was a good idea. But offered no actual alternative other than the fact that I’m not The Golden Child (married to childhood sweetheart: perfect family, one boy, one girl, naturally and easily conceived). When they question stuff like this, the old resentments come to the core.
They questioned whether the new place was “a good investment”. It makes my blood boil. Not only was I the only one of the four kids not to get given a deposit to help buy my first house (because I was proud and wanted to do it on my own, so went ahead and did it anyway) but now they think that the new place isn’t worthy either. I’m not looking for an investment. I’m looking for a home.
This very small flat we are looking to buy is half the price of The Golden Child’s house. They made a lot of money on their first flat. In all honesty I think between the two of them, they probably earn less than I do, but they struck lucky on the property market and their previous modest flat tripled in price. They also had help from both sets of parents. The flat we are looking to buy is easily affordable and either one of us could afford it on our own.
We are trying to be sensible, and we are trying to get something we could live in and call home for a few years. Then we’d either trade up (if we have a baby we’d probably outgrow the flat by the time it’s two or three) or we’ll stay put and pay off our mortgage really quickly. And hopefully have an easy early retirement! There has to be some consolation to not having kids. Either way we are trying to do the best we can, and parental disapproval is really tiring – especially when you’re the adopted one and you feel you’re constantly being negatively compared to the real firstborn.
I guess it’s a trigger for me. The funny thing is, my parents love us fiercely and they don’t see anything wrong with making their feelings known. I guess sometimes I just wish they were those more standoffish parents (like most of my friends’ parents seem to be!) who approve of everything or don’t care enough to intervene. I think mine care too much!
We made up of course. And I’m sure it will be okay until the next time. Although I’m on the train back and get a little text from my mother saying that she wishes I’d speak with my father about whether it’s a good investment or not. That’s the other thing about my folks: they don’t live in London and to anyone outside of London, London things seem crazy. When I mention people are sexist at work, they just sort of say things like “Well you just have to tell someone about it!” (Yep, it’s that easy.)
Aside from that we had a pretty good time. My family are definitely the kinds who have fever pitch arguments and then completely forget about them and you’d think nothing had happened. It’s a bit strange actually. I’m the kind of person who likes to have a resolution rather than pretending that nobody got upset. I think it’s a British thing. I often feel like a bit of a foreigner in my family. (Ironic.)
We took Dog to the pub. It was funny because it’s only when you take Dog out of his home environment that you realise just how badly behaved he can be. I guess he’s nice most of the time, and he’s little and cute but omg does he make a fuss over food. We got to the pub super early so it was quiet, and even though he had food and I gave him some of mine, he kept yapping silly little yaps (in Dog language “How dare you leave me on the floor and not let me sit at the table and eat with you!”) until the couple on the next table decided to move tables. I was very apologetic but the wait staff said not to worry. Once the pub had gotten a bit more busy, it wasn’t bad at all – it was just his little yap in the middle of silence that was bad. (I probably sound like one of those horrific parents pretending their kid isn’t Chucky.)
Then this morning I took Dog for a run about the garden. This went fine for a bit. He’s tiny and he’s a Londoner so he likes space. So much so that he ran out the back of the garden and onto a golf course. This wasn’t planned at all. I had to get across the divide and onto the golf course all whilst wearing high heeled boots. It’s been raining a lot so the whole place was waterlogged. A load of golfers were pointing in a direction and it turned out they were pointing to where Dog had run off to.
I had to run as best as I could all the while calling Dog’s name. His name is a human name which means it’s quite comical. I ended up over the far side of the golf course where Dog was happily running about and sniffing things. I eventually coaxed him over to get some food (as the only thing he’s motivated by – he’s so disobedient) and grabbed him for the walk of shame back to the house. Of course the golfers thought this was quite funny. My boots will probably never be the same.
One of the saving graces about going to visit parents is that you get to go home again! (I promise you I love them; I just find them a bit much at times. Like all adults I think. Maybe it’s always a bit weird to be forever someone’s child, even though you’re grown up.) We are currently sitting on the very slow train – this is the result of Austerity (our plan to save enough to buy a place). It costs about £50+ less than the fast train so it’s worth it. As long as you don’t have anything else to do!
Some other funny stuff: I’m actually going to get interviewed on radio talking about a work event I organise for my company. It’s pretty cool but obviously the idea of being interviewed gives me the chills. It’s all part of my plan to do things that are outside my comfort zone.
Also: I had a really positive meeting with the HR lady about the job! They definitely want to offer me the job. Which is awesome! (We got on like a house on fire- she was so lovely and was like a good friend. We happily chatted for two hours instead of the allotted one! Haha. One hour for worky stuff and one for chat.) I’m hoping to get an informal offer on Monday and then if I agree then they will formalise it. It would really be a great feeling to hand in my notice! Not to mention that it would probably coincide quite nicely with IVF and moving house.
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t count chickens before they’re hatched. But we do have a few things going on. A few eggs that might turn into chickens!
Our house is progressing – I signed the papers to sign over the old house to my ex last week, and we have a lawyer working on the new one doing whatever it is they do.
We are seeing Dr S tomorrow for the test results. T can make it, as it’s after work. Which is great. I’m interested to know what is wrong with me, if anything. (“Personality disorder” – haha.) But at least we can try and figure out what the plan is for IVF 2. I mailed my clinic about the random bleed – it didn’t turn into a full period, which was weird – so hopefully will get some answers, and a plan for the second round. Second time lucky, maybe!
And I won’t believe I have another job offer until I see it in writing. But… I think it’s progress.
I hope it’s progress. I hope we have some chickens to count in the next few months!
I’m a woman of a certain age. (The age where if I ever manage to have a baby, I’ll be a “geriatric mother” – the old label which was used to define women who were over the age of 35 when they have their first baby. Here’s hoping that term’s died out!) I’m also a female of a certain ethnicity, and it just so happens that people think I look young for my age. The last times I got IDed, people thought I was, variously: 16 at the age of 34, or under drinking age at the age of 37, so I’m going to go with that.
Nevertheless, there’s nothing quite like a bevy of students to bring it home to you just how ancient you really are.
How it started: I got an email at work asking me whether I’d be interested in being one on a panel of a “Dragons Den” style exercise where students from one of our affiliated universities would have the chance to pitch their business ideas to real life corporate people. (Me! I know! Don’t tell them I wear pizza sweatshirts and animal clothing in my spare time.)
It occurred to me they were asking me to be a dragon. And that I’d probably (as per usual at my work) be the only female. Which makes me Deborah Meaden, I guess. (Do you have Dragons Den in the US/Canada/Aus? I don’t know. It’s a show where there’s a panel of 4 “dragons” who are businesspeople and then entrepreneurs come into the “den” and pitch their business ideas, and the dragons decide to invest or not. I think they’re called dragons as they tend to be pretty brutal.)
This sounded way more appealing to me than the other activity I had planned, which was to have a meeting with The Most Tedious Client In The World to go through a data collection task that they were determined to get us to help out with for free. (Yeah, I totally love working for free, don’t you?) I decided I’d try and get out of that meeting and be a dragon.
The whole thing was awesome, for the following reasons…
- I’d forgotten the sheer joy and enthusiasm of youth. I’ve been at my company for so long that my natural enthusiasm has kind of been stamped out and replaced by cynicism. It’s still there, of course, bubbling away, but I’m constantly told that I need to be less like me and more like [insert old white guy here]. It’s tiring. And there’s something joyful about seeing young people who really believe in an idea, and have worked their asses off to see it through, and who aren’t afraid to fail – who don’t even consider that they might fail, in many cases! That enthusiasm is infectious. I kind of felt great about the world.
- It reminded me that there were some good bits about my job. I mean, there are plenty of good bits, but occasionally it can grind you down. A lot of the time, people are busy stomping on me and anyone else who dares to be different. These students all had different great ideas that they’d worked on – in their spare time – and were busy making them happen. I felt privileged to get to do that for a day as part of my job.
- I actually have something alright and useful to say. Turns out I was the only female, which was no surprise. And turns out that I went down quite well. I was doubling up with one of the other guys who I get on well with (he’s senior to me, natch) and apparently we were a great double act. A few of the kids asked for my business card. These kids were 19-21 and they were interested in what I had to say. I kind of think that’s crazy, as I was so interested in what they had to say – they were brilliant. Even the ones with whacko ideas were great.
- It takes a lot to stand up in front of peers and pitch your idea, and get constructive feedback. It was kind of mind boggling how well they did it – even the ones who were nervous. I can’t imagine doing it at that age, and yet here they were, in London, wearing suits and they took a day out of their lives to do this. I get the heebie jeebies if I ever have to present, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone to have people hanging on my every word (the format is that each dragon has to speak, each time) but I managed it – mainly because, well, if these kids can do it, what excuse do I have? It was strangely liberating to just go with it.
- Represent. As the kids would (maybe not) say. I was that one female. And in the group, there was that one female too. Tough when you’re one among the boys. Also tough when you get singled out. One of the other dragons (who I later began to think of as “pompous old guy”) decided in our summing up that he wanted to single out the girl for “not dressing smart enough” and “women are judged more than men on looks” and “she should have worn heels” etc. I called him out on this. I said to him, no way are you giving that feedback to that girl in a roomful of men. There were guys who weren’t as smart, either. I said I’d be happy to give her some offline feedback, but please don’t make her feel bad about being female when she’s been the one girl who made it this far. He started ranting something about “everyone’s so politically correct, yadda yadda” at which point I filed him under Pompous Tw*t. But yeah, made me feel good to stick to my guns. Even if it doesn’t help me later.
In other news, on my lunch break I got a call from the recruiter for the last job I went for. The one where I worked over last weekend to prep a business plan and so on. Anyway: good news! Positive feedback from the boss’ boss. Which was really nice to hear.
One of the things I took a gamble on during the interview was to include some non-traditional stuff about myself. There’s a psychometric test we use which compares different traits and behaviours and how they apply to business. (I usually hate psychometric tests as they’re mainly bunkum, but this one is brilliant as you can easily recognise the different types – at work we actually refer to the types all the time.)
In my profile for this test, I’m kind of different. I’m a certain type which is more excitable and enthusiastic and willing to try new things. (Also: easily frustrated and intolerant of people doing the wrong thing. It’s not all positive!) For that I’m in the 95th percentile, which means I have a higher score in that one area of behaviour than 95% of the industry average. It’s a bit nuts. My type is more associated with entrepreneurs and inventors… And I work in possibly one of the most traditional industries and firms you could think of!
Anyway, I knew I was taking a risk with this because some people don’t like different people. And some don’t like psychometric tests, and some people don’t like me. But hey ho, risks are made to be taken. (That will be my personality traits coming out.) So I did it. And the head honcho really liked it!
He was awesome. Really I think sometimes you have chemistry with people and sometimes you don’t. I am a naturally ebullient person and I get that sometimes people find me a bit much. And this guy was a big guy in a pinstripe suit. Not like me. And yet… He was smiley and friendly from the outset. He was super enthusiastic talking about growing the business. He wanted to hear my ideas and he gave me a lot of non verbal feedback. I would happily have gone to the pub with him. (My ultimate test: Would you buy them a pint? How many? I’d buy him a few.)
Chemistry is that kind of undefinable thing, really. I don’t mean s*xual chemistry. I mean human interaction and feedback and enjoyment. Sometimes I forget how much that matters.
Upshot is, I don’t know if they’ll offer me. It’s not in the bag yet, but this afternoon I have an appointment with their HR, who was this lovely lady I yakked to on the phone for like an hour as she called to persuade me to go to the second round interview. We had a great rapport and she sounded absolutely lovely (which I can’t say for most HR folk I’ve met!) so I said we should meet for coffee if she was in town. So before the second round she scheduled this in… And I figured if she didn’t cancel then it might be a good sign! Also, yesterday morning the head honcho linked in with me on LinkedIn, which I reckon also had to be a good sign. (Unless “Yeah, liked you but as we won’t be giving you a job, let’s stay in touch.”)
So, wish me luck!
This week has been a bit of a slog. I like to keep profanity off this blog (for some reason I’m one of those people who worries about releasing swear words into cyberspace) but, really, thank €#%¥ it’s Friday!
Anyone else enjoyed their week as little as I have? In the spirit of trying to see the good in everything, I give you:
The rubbish bits
- My work is literally the most thankless task at times. (All times.) This week I’ve been yet again working on a project where they’re really rude. I’m basically doing them a favour but they treat me like the proverbial – and I’m one of the most senior people on the project. It reached a tipping point yesterday when the director told me that he wasn’t interested in my expert opinion (when they’d brought me onto the project to give my expert opinion) and “We’re going to break the business anyway” (when I said I couldn’t recommend a course of action they wanted me to recommend, as it would in my opinion be detrimental to the business). Not being able to act with integrity I find hugely depressing.
- Annoying woman at work is still annoying, and is still hugely pregnant, and I still want to smack her in the face. But I won’t, because that would be bad. It’s nice to think about it though.
- I don’t get to spend enough time with Dog, as I feel like I’m working long hours right now. Yesterday I did around a 12hr day even though I was working from home, so I feel guilty for not giving him enough attention.
- My favourite work friend who sits opposite me handed in her notice. She has a new job with a great payrise so I’m happy for her! But I’ll miss her.
- I have to work this weekend because I have to prep for Monday’s presentation (see below).
- I’m still infertile! Ha. (I just added that for effect. It hasn’t changed or gotten worse or anything.)
The good stuff
Because life isn’t that bad! I just feel all tired and end of the week-ish.
- We won the pub quiz! There’s this team who always win, but this week we won! We don’t go every week but it’s nice as there are a bunch of people from our block of flats and other friends who occasionally turn up. So that’s nice.
- I managed a new YTD low on weight loss. -4.8kg, yesterday. The fact that I cancelled it out by going out drinking last night is just minorly annoying. Hopefully I’ll be net down on last week! I measure myself every morning and compare it to this time last week. Today I was still down but not by as much! At least austerity is helping. (I tend to go up again at the weekend – boo!)
- I had one of my second interviews this week and it went pretty well. I don’t know if they’ll offer or not but it would be nice if they do as I would have some escape options. I have the other second interview Monday night. Am less looking forward to it as I have to give a presentation, which is one of the things I hate the most in the world!
- We had a nice night out as a trio (me, T and Dog) as we went out for a friend’s birthday. The friend lives the other side of London so we don’t see her very often, and she also has a dog and we get on really well. It was nice to see her and her boyfriend and dog, and reminded me that sometimes it’s good to make an effort to stay in touch. It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane day to day tedious stuff and not make enough time for fun!
- A friend of mine from school started a whatsapp group to share some old photos she found. They were really funny. I’m still in touch with everyone but they’re not in touch with each other, so we got them added to the group (I think five of us in total) and had a bit of a chat and a reminisce and a laugh about the old photos (turns out I’ve always had b*tchy resting face) and it was a nice little interlude in the week.
- We may have bought a house! Well, a flat. We saw one last weekend and really liked it. It’s teeny but has lots of character and is in our preferred area. We put in an offer this week and waited to hear. Then they said they’d accept if we offered the asking price as we were the favourite buyers. (They had 3 offers but I tried to build a rapport by email – I think it worked!) So now we have an offer accepted and just need to try and get all the legal stuff in place. I really hope it works out!
So that’s it really. Highs and lows of a very tiring week. Sometimes I’m just too tired to process anything until Saturday morning! I’m hunkering down for a night in with Doglet – after a couple of nights out this week I’m very tired, so obviously getting on a bit! T is out with the boys so I’m in with my boy-Dog and we are lying on the sofa reading (me) and snoring (Dog). It’s a gentle way to finish the week!
Plans for the weekend involve (annoyingly) prepping for the presentation. But some other nice things – planning to go to the flicks with a friend tomorrow night (T is off with one of his friends from overseas who’s in town) and we are meeting another couple of friends for brunch on Sunday. These two are quite hilarious in the way that they’re always exceedingly drunk! Unfortunately I won’t be able to drink if I want to be on my A game for the interview on Monday. Probably a good thing!
Happy weekend y’all! Tell me what you’re up to!
In case you hadn’t gathered from my blog musings, I work in a very competitive and fairly aggressive industry. It also happens to be an industry mainly populated by white males… which isn’t something I considered that much as a student at a Russell Group university, or as an adolescent doing her GCSEs and A levels, or as a little non-white girl dreaming of what she’d do when she grew up. I went into this industry largely inspired by my father – a white male* – who was my main work role model growing up.
(*I was adopted transracially by white parents so have grown up mainly around white people, as an ethnic minority.)
That’s not to minimise the role of my mother. She is possibly the strongest woman I know, and probably the main reason why my youthful dreams weren’t shattered earlier. I grew up with the British version of the American Dream, with a female prime minister – with no concept that we might be limited as women by the lack of male genitalia.
But my dad was the corporate guy. (My mother the entrepreneur, which as all good children of the 80s know is dangerous.) The number one focus for us growing up from our “Tiger parents” (very Asian even though they’re white!) was how we were going to be self sufficient later. And the route to security was not strewn with artistic and creative endeavours. The path to Comfortably Middle Class (for my working class background parents) is lined with Bloody Hard Work, and University, and Getting A Good Job.
I once said I wanted to be an artist. Like Van Gogh. The response? “In your spare time. Van Gogh never made any money whilst he was alive, and he cut off his ear!” I loved art as a child but I relegated it to a side interest. (Even now, I try and introduce creativity to spreadsheets and powerpoints, but I’m fighting a losing battle against corporate branding!)
The fact is: there aren’t very many women where I work. And in the sector and industry where I work, there are considerably fewer. I kind of thought I was used to it, until in the past week I was called in to provide subject matter expertise on a client outside my usual industry. (My usual one is the old white guys in pinstripe suits stereotype, and I have to tell you, it doesn’t deviate much.)
I walked into the office and the first thing that hit me was:
There are women!
There are ethnic women!
There are people like me working here!
Seriously, I could have had a little party right then and there. I went to a board meeting and I was prepared (and scared) for the usual being talked over and so on that comes with being an ethnic female in a white male space.
It didn’t happen.
Because when I looked around the board table, there were almost equal numbers of women, and this was a senior exec meeting. They were in charge of stuff. There was a black guy too. It was extremely diverse and it wasn’t even worthy of comment, other than for me – who wasn’t used to this level of diversity or equality. I talked through my section and nobody challenged it. There was no pushback. The white guy in charge even backed me up.
Shocker! But sad when you think that my default position as an ethnic female – even as the most senior female in my position – is automatically to assume that I come lower down in the pecking order. To assume that I am less valid than others, and that I’ll have to justify my opinion harder because of it. That’s nuts.
And I know that part of this is the industry I work in (where white guys in meetings routinely “forget” to shake my hand, or acknowledge me last because they assume the males are more senior, even when they aren’t). I guess it’s some kind of syndrome where you have had enough bad treatment to not be surprised when someone treats you badly – like a maltreated animal shrinking from humans.
And I realised yesterday how that way of thinking was damaging my own ability to think of myself as someone who is competent. Not just competent, but pretty good.
I mentioned the other day I did two first round interviews lately. (Not because I’m actually desperate to leave my current job… I mean, I am, some days… But because my philosophy is that you might as well have a conversation about opportunities. Every time I have changed jobs in the past few years it’s been because someone reached out and said “Why don’t we have a conversation?” And I took the opportunity! I kind of think you have to make opportunity for yourself.) The completely unexpected outcome is that I have two second round interviews. One of them even had their recruiter call me yesterday (as I’d expressed some concerns about it, mainly that the interviewer didn’t seem very keen on me!) and she told me all this great feedback. Somehow the interviewer had seen something in me I didn’t see in myself.
I also had a feedback session with one of the senior women at work, based on some work I did for their team before Christmas. She asked me to write some notes on my own feedback and then gave her own version of what I should add. She would then write up the notes.
Firstly, this woman is one of the most senior in my industry – there are very few who get to the top, and she’s one off that.
Secondly, she was really nice to work for. I mean, she cared a lot about the people who worked for her and everyone got on really well. I was there to write a report, kind of an external programme assurance report on their team performance and they were super high achieving, and also super nice. And it was due in no small part to her leadership.
Thirdly, every time I ran through what I’d written, she gave me a different, more positive way to write it, and also thought of things that I hadn’t even thought to include.
Me: Able to draw on previous experience of XXX structures in XXX.
Her: Nara was able to run information gathering sessions with the team to focus on articulating the XXX sections which were more challenging to define.
Me: Identified ways in which the information gathering process could be streamlined for future reports.
Her: Nara was inventing and driving us to the reward (net new business) – coming up with conceptions of the report and articulating that with the client, and coming up with ways to iterate with the team.
Me: I didn’t really work as part of the team, so I haven’t put anything much in that section.
Her: Nara’s role enabled the team to deliver whilst she produced the report – it was hugely important for the team to be successful and not overloaded. She recognised that they all had other priorities but was able to extract the information with minimum distraction.
Do you see what I mean? The woman’s a genius.
One of the cliché ways that women apparently don’t help themselves is to not want to “blow their own trumpet”. I’m considered a confident woman, and I even got asked by some more junior women to mentor them at work. (I was really honoured as I don’t work with them and they’d somehow come across me and considered me a role model. I even have weekly meetings with one of them.) And I’m still not comfortable having to tell people what a great job I’m doing. It’s definitely something that she really helped with. (Even if it sounds like jargon, which I think it probably does to someone outside the industry – what I’m trying to get across is that I had put down some very objective and neutral feedback, and she found a way to say it in a more positive way, that would be seen as a better contribution.)
At the end of our meeting, she said to me that she realised that I had no direct female leadership or even any leadership in my specific area. (The complicated way our company works is that you’re aligned to multiple teams – one team based on what you do, and one team based on the industry you work in… The type of clients you have. I am basically the most senior person – not just female – in my specific area, which makes it kind of tricky to develop new business without going more technical or more into industry.) She saw that, and she offered to mentor me. It was all I could do not to bite her arm off!
So I was really pleased. I guess the thing is, I don’t focus all the time on being a woman, or being non-white (I promise I don’t!). But sometimes it takes someone more senior to say: I think you’re selling yourself short. You’re actually okay. I think you’re quite good.
It’s what I try and pass on to my mentees, a belief in themselves and a way to try and think of the positive things about themselves and how they can build on them. In business speak, how you can monetise yourself! I think as women *mass generalisation* and as ethnic minorities *mass generalisation* we often fall into those roles that stereotype us as submissive, or less able, or less hungry, or not one of the guys. (The last one is probably true.) And nobody’s asking us to be white or male, no matter how much we might pigeonhole ourselves. Sometimes we have to figure out a way to tell them our value – and sometimes (a lot of the time), that value is in not being a white guy.
My dad, the white guy, used to tell me that he always made sure he had women in his team. He was pretty senior in his industry before he retired, and he worked in a stereotypical white male environment. He didn’t want the women for their looks. (That would be bad!) He said he wanted them because they’d often be able to see things in a different way. He said he wanted to make sure he’d considered every angle and that the more diverse the team, the more different ways of thinking there were. This is from the guy who adopted two ethnic babies. But also the guy who won industry awards many years running for being the guy everyone wanted to work with.
So I say…
A February resolution:
- I’m going to blow my own trumpet more.
- I’m going to encourage others, especially my mentees, especially those who are not stereotypically into telling people how good they are, to blow theirs.
- And I’m going to take that leader up on her offer. Partly because every time I speak with her, I come away with a new insight. And partly because she’s really bloody nice and really bloody cool.
Call to action!
Tell me how awesome you are. I already know, but I want you to tell me.
1. IT’S EMASCULATING FOR HIM “I can’t give up the position of empress. Everything is in my name. When I’ve gotten really bratty, I’ve said, ‘Well fine, leave,’ knowing he can’t leave. I’ve never had such security in a relationship. There’s no risk of flight. But it’s only giving me a short-term…
(Edited to say… I think this is a thought provoking read and does not reflect my personal opinions about female breadwinners – I am involved in various women in industry initiatives as part of my job, and I think it’s interesting that something as basic as tipping the scales in favour of female breadwinners seems to be considered so radical. This is notable as it’s about now that we have Equal Pay Day – the day in November after which, on average, reflecting the difference in male and female wages – that women are effectively working for free until the end of the year. It’s a sobering thought!)
It’s been a while since I had an update on our fertility treatments what with the holidaying and back to working, so I thought a status update was somewhat overdue.
The first consultation for our next IVF cycle was meant to be this afternoon. Instead it has been put back a month or so as we were informed last week that there’s a problem as no doctors are in next week.
I can’t complain really. We are in the UK, which means we get treated (almost*) for free on the NHS (National Health Service). The cost of IVF is nothing like it is for you guys overseas as we are not expected to fund it ourselves as long as we are eligible. There are some strict-ish criteria, like you can’t be treated on the NHS over a certain age (I think it’s 39 or 40 but either way, older than I currently am) and I think you have to be healthy in terms of not being chronically obese etc. The rules for entry and number of cycles vary from trust to trust but in our catchment area in London it means we are eligible for up to three cycles.
(*Almost free as everyone has to pay something called National Insurance contributions from their salaries which fund things like the NHS and public services. This means we are contributing towards it but some are contributing more than others, such as those who are unemployed/retired – and some pay taxes without ever using the service. We also pay a prescription fee of around £9 per prescription and on my last cycle I probably used around 5 prescriptions – obviously less than if you get them privately. A lot of people also have private health insurance subsidised through work – I pay for mine but it’s less than if I got it not through work, which is for example why I was able to get my fibroid operated on in a shorter time than if I’d waited for my NHS turn to come round. So indicatively a cycle of IVF cost me around £50 last time for prescriptions and the tax I pay from my salary, whereas it would cost around £5000 upwards to go private.)
This also means we are somewhat more passive than active consumers – we are told our protocols, and we don’t get to pick whether there is any testing or any further investigation of reasons for infertility. In our trust the investigations extended as far as treating my known endometriosis, doing some scans, and removing a fibroid found during the miscarriage. For T it was a sperm test (for which he got the all clear and was so chuffed with himself he demanded a certificate!). Those along with my medical history of 15+ years of never getting pregnant were enough to jump right to IVF. There was a brief chat about IUI but the doctor advised me at my advanced age to get on with IVF! There was no investigation of why I might be infertile.
Of course I’d never wish to be subject to the whims of insurance funding or worse off, funding it ourselves. We could probably scrape together a cycle (which would have replaced our holiday this year and probably Christmas too). Maybe our parents might fund another cycle – T’s sibling doesn’t look likely to have kids so it would be the only chance of a grandchild on his side. And my parents were overjoyed when we announced our ultimately doomed pregnancy.
However it does feel like we can’t really ask for stuff. We can’t ask for tests. As a stats fan (and T is too, and much better at maths) I’m always asking why they aren’t maximising chances by testing. T says it’s a numbers game. By which he means most people who get referred on the NHS have fertility problems that would get treated by a dose or three of IVF. Tests cost more and probably only solve the problems of a few. Most people have one or two years of infertility, not 15. After miscarriage followed our first IVF cycle, I can’t help feeling that if there is something I could do to avoid that pain, I’d do it. But our treatment is in essence free so we don’t get to ask for those tests. And many people do have successful pregnancies from NHS treatments.
It’s not a great consolation though to those of us who are on the wrong side of the stats. I read all the blogs out there (well, not all!) and they talk about auto immune problems, and scary sounding reasons why my body might be incapable of getting pregnant on its own. In the time since July when I had the miscarriage, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to try things “the natural way”… We’ve taken antenatal vitamins and done the deed at appropriate times as given by apps or ovulation sticks. But I have little faith. (T says I need to believe but after 15 years, I don’t.) I’d love to be that couple for whom it happens but I really doubt it will be us (like my friend from uni who had one via IVF and then boom! Another one naturally within a year).
I guess part of me wants a Dr Braverman to tell me what’s what. But our doctors are fantastic and sympathetic (and one in particular is a total hottie! Even though he was probably still at school when I was at uni!) and so I’m not complaining. The NHS is overstretched and who are we to demand treatment for something that isn’t life threatening… I feel mad at the unfairness of it all, that I can’t do something so simple and human that school kids manage it first time. The irony that I was the result of an unwanted (or unkeepable) pregnancy.
And related to this, I wanted to tell you about something that happened a while ago at work, because I’m still sad/angry (sangry!) about it. It was quite a while ago now. I guess a week or so after I was back from the two and a bit weeks off I had for the miscarriage.
I was sitting in the office minding my own business and trying to finish some work. As you might know if you followed my first IVF cycle, I was on the Project From Hell which meant I was working all the hours in all the days on a very stressful project. And yes, I was probably bloated from the pregnancy and the drugs.
This woman – I refer to her as Cray-Cray – came over to speak with me. I can’t say I’ve ever encouraged it give her crazy reputation. This is someone who, following the birth of her child emailed a set of extremely gory photos of the baby, fresh out of the vajayjay to an entire list of work people – including ones far more important than me. Since then everyone has been like, oh, [her name], she’s crazy!
For one thing I have an infertile woman’s resentment of women who bring their children to work / plaster the workspace with photos and artwork and bring them into the office during holidays. I’m not kidding you – Christmas time turns into crèche time every few days, with screeching children running around the office. And when someone has a baby, it’s practically the rules that they bring it in for people to coo over. I don’t work in a very informal environment – it’s pretty corporate – but unfortunately the rules are relaxed for children and they’re probably too scared to say anything for fear of being sued. I find it kind of unfair that the rule isn’t the same for dogs but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. (I’d probably stay even later hours if my dog was allowed to come in to the office.)
For another thing, Cray-Cray is quite simply too intense for everyday conversation. Unfortunately for me there are very few women in my group who do exactly what I do so she decided we are the same. (I am actually super encouraging of women and I feel it’s my duty to encourage and help the more junior women… But perhaps you’ll understand my stance when you read the next bit.) I always felt a bit guilty that my first instinct was to make excuses to stop talking with her. She has this way of staring into your eyes in a very intense way and quite frankly I find it deeply offputting.
Anyway, the conversation went something like this…
Cray-Cray: Hi Nara, are you busy?
Me: [still staring at computer screen and typing] Yes, I’m pretty busy right now.
CC: [ignoring obvious cue to leave me alone] How are you?
CC: [ignoring the universally acknowledged “Fine”-means-I-do-not-want-to-talk cue] So how is work going?
N: Fine… I’m very busy right now.
[Insert brief exchange re clients and work where she tells me she would like to work for me on some project if there is a space and I’m thinking, over my dead freaking body…]
CC: So how’s your personal life? [WTF? Who even asks that?!]
N: It’s fine thanks; how are you?
CC: Where are you living now? [What? I genuinely don’t understand where this woman learned the art of conversation as it wasn’t from a human.]
N: [My area of London].
CC: Oh, you should move over to near me!
N: I probably couldn’t afford it. [Thinking: When oh when are you going to go away?]
Then The Thing happens.
It happens almost in slow motion. Cray-Cray focuses her crazy stare on my stomach. Bear in mind I am sitting down, I’m maybe a size 10-12 (6-8 US) compared with the 8-10 (4-6) I’ve always been before, but still not very large, not obese or anything. I’m still probably in the bottom quartile of my friends, or maybe I just hang out with larger people or something, but I don’t feel like I am chronically obese even though I want to lose weight like all women seem to want to do.
CC: [Staring very obviously at my stomach, more obviously than anyone ever could… Unambiguously] So… ANY NEWS?
CC continues to make crazy eyes at me and my IVF / miscarriage / sitting down stomach.
Me: No. I don’t know what you’re trying to say. Are you saying I’ve put on weight? I’m not pregnant, if that’s what you are trying to ask.
CC literally doesn’t miss a beat and continues yapping, entirely oblivious or uncaring about the upset / offence she has caused. For another few minutes.
I don’t hear what she is saying because the sound in my ears is white noise.
It’s that anger, that sad-angry burning white resentment of her and everything she stands for.
She’s a mother. Some crazy f***er has actually chosen to impregnate her. (Did she talk incessantly and stare wildly into his eyes during the deed? One can only try to put that horrific image out of one’s mind.) She has a healthy child. Nobody would wish anything less, but I resent her. I want her to leave me alone, forever. I never want to speak with her ever again. EVERYONE KNOWS YOU NEVER ASK SOMEONE IF THEY ARE PREGNANT, EVEN IF THEIR GIGANTIC PREGNANT BELLY IS RUBBING YOU IN THE FACE. IT’S JUST NOT BRITISH.
Instead, I just try to ignore her until she goes away.
Instead, I tell everyone in the office who will listen the hilarious story (with actions) to demonstrate how cray-cray she is and how not-pregnant I am.
Most people find it hysterical. We are British (she is not – Portuguese I think) and it is unthinkable to any Brits that anyone would ever ask if someone was pregnant. You don’t even mention it until there’s a huge bump in your face and even then you probably only offer them a seat on the tube without mentioning it.
Never has this happened to me before. Yes, people inappropriately ask about plans for having children but never has someone done something so blatantly offensive and upsetting as this.
Anyway, it’s now months later. I’m more or less over it, but then what happens last week but she has decided – in this age of hotdesking – to come and sit in my aisle. I have a fixed desk because of a specific thing I was working on. So do a bunch of people round me. There is a whole office of hot desks, and she has decided in her infinite, CRAY CRAY wisdom, that the best place to sit would be right by me!
You couldn’t make it up.
Footnote: I have my period today. (Of course I do… The ultimate punishment for infertiles.) It’s about a week early. This means that I have even less patience than normal… and every time I have to walk past Cray-Cray I want to slap her.
I had an experience yesterday, and I wanted to talk it through a bit, as it is illustrative of how it feels to be a female / transracial* in the society where I live. (*I use this word to denote US: “of colour” or UK: “ethnic minority”) – and how this feels as a result of being transracially adopted.
Last night, at work, I attended a “working dinner” for two of the leadership teams. Now, for background, I’ll explain: I am a senior manager at a large corporate. To my friends, I’m successful. I work in the City. (London is so arrogant it’s a city known as The City! Although the City bit is just the main financial district, I guess like Wall Street.) But within my company I’m one of hundreds on the first rung of seniority. I’m really not very senior at all.
The purpose of the meeting was to provide representatives of all of our sub-teams and to foster understanding so that we can work better together. I was deputising for another senior manager who leads our sub-team, as he was on holiday. I had a presentation prepared that talked through what our team does, the kind of clients we serve, and so on.
I got to the room. The other attendees were already there. I looked around the table and I saw 10 white guys and a female (South Asian). It soon became apparent that she was junior, there to take notes and had been helping one of the men to prepare for the meeting.
As I looked around the table, I heard the white guys speaking and I observed how they acted. They were all confident and articulate. They all interrupted each other and vied to speak.
And I thought: This is how it feels to be an outsider. I have a presentation prepared; I have a lot to say. I can contribute to this conversation, but I have to butt my way in if I want to do so. I sat in silence for over an hour.
I didn’t interrupt and I watched. It was like a cockfight. (It often is at our company – there is a lot of posturing involved; it’s all part of the company persona. We know best and it’s our job to tell clients that.) For example, one of the guys arrived later than I did, and instantly felt comfortable making jokes (“banter” as we call it in the UK) about specific individuals in the room. It was quite inappropriate as many had not met before (it was the first meeting of two larger teams) and it was deliberately “in joke” and exclusive. It’s the kind of behaviour that a lot of white males exhibit all the time in the corporate world.
Finally, towards the end, they realised that my team had not been represented yet so they invited me to speak. And I spoke. I didn’t even get to show my presentation as they were running out of time, but I was able to speak articulately (I hope!) about what we do, and I also suggested how we could action what we’d been discussing. A number of the guys were nodding and agreeing with me, and they actually ended up going with the plan I proposed. (They’re really good at talking about stuff but not so good at crystallising things into actions. For that you need someone who’s listened to the whole conversation, ie me.)
But – I could easily not have spoken up. I could have remained meek and mild and not done anything more than what I was asked to do (a brief synopsis of our team). I didn’t… but many Others do. It’s hard to feel like you have to butt in to be able to be heard. It’s a double whammy when you are female and not white. Certain ethnic minorities especially are seen as more subservient, and are also seen as more pushy when we do try to take ownership – I get told I’m “too direct” all the time. My parents weren’t very good at teaching me to bow down! (Incidentally I find it interesting how certain races have crystallised around certain roles. East Asians work a lot in audit and actuarial. South Asians work a lot in Tech, especially Indians. And almost all the black women I know work in administrative roles.)
And I think there you have the essence of white privilege. Those guys in that room did not sit there waiting to be asked to speak. They didn’t look around for a seat at the table. They already had seats at the table and they assumed that they had the right to speak.
They don’t have to wait for a gap in the conversation because they are the conversation.
They don’t need to be an agenda point because they are the agenda.
And that, my friends, is what it feels like to be female and a “model minority”. I know my face doesn’t fit. I know that those white guys I haven’t met before were pleasantly surprised that I speak English with a flawless English accent. I know they all stopped to listen because “OMG she knows some stuff… What a novelty!” And I know that I have to measure my contributions and ration them, lest I step too far from knowing my place and wandering into a white male space. (Nobody likes a pushy ethnic female. I feel ashamed of my own pushiness. If you’re a white guy, ask yourself if you are constantly questioning how you are perceived and checking your behaviour. I do. I have to.)
I look around for people like me and there are next to none above me. In our entire firm we have female partners I wouldn’t run out of toes for counting, and I can name all the ethnic minority female partners. At my level, the most junior level on the senior ladder, I’m the only female “of colour” in my team. My team has 400 people in! I look upwards and there is ONE female partner of my ethnicity. And she’s considered a bit scary because she doesn’t take any s***. (How many men have to define themselves like that? Answer: none. It’s quite okay for white men not to take any s***; it’s a given.)
You might ask why I chose to work in this world. A white male world. A white male world where they pat themselves on the back for “promoting diversity” and don’t see anything wrong with the idea that they’re advocating “tolerance”, as if skin colour or gender or sexual orientation is something to be tolerated. They’re super proud of themselves that they’ve set a target of 30% females for 2030 (wow, that’s just so… tolerant of you!) – and none for ethnic diversity because there probably isn’t a problem… And I think, ethnic women need to work even harder to be a part of that tiny female minority.
The answer to the question of why I chose to work in a white space is that it was accidental. I was good at school and I looked for a career I could build off my academic achievements… and I kind of modelled myself on my [adoptive, white] dad. It’s been a painful learning process over time that my much less academically able [white, bio] brother never has to kick doors down because they’re always open to him. (He’s better interpersonally, of course, which is a skill in business. And he is a lovely, nice man, which is something to be valued in anyone. But of course he’s a product of his experience, a life where he’s never experienced anything other than belonging and where people are nice to him by default.)
So… What was the purpose of this vignette? I guess I wanted to illustrate the thought processes and feelings behind what, on the surface, was a very everyday event in the corporate world – to look at it from a social anthropological point of view, if you will. I bet if you asked those guys, they wouldn’t even have noticed anything out of the ordinary. (They might remember an ethnic girl saying something but believe me, I’ve been mistaken for other [females of my ethnicity] more times than I can count – they literally cannot tell us apart.) They are used to being in their spaces and at their tables. They don’t ever feel that hammering heart before you’re going to speak. They don’t see all the thoughts and fear whirling around before you say something that comes out confidently (with a slight tremor; damn you, voice!). They never have that sense of being an Other in a space, unless they’re on holiday somewhere, and even then, they are superior, the tourists, the colonialists.
And we the transracially adopted grew up in this. This is our lives. I can “make it” and I can push for it, but at the end of the day I’m always going to be the Ethnic Female. I’m “special” because I got this far, because I’m not the norm. I don’t take any of it for granted, but sometimes I get tired of pushing. (For example: In my end of year review, I actually got feedback that they were amazed I hadn’t left yet – as far as they’d go towards an acknowledgement that I’d been treated badly, for whatever reason, completely unconnected to race and gender, cough cough.)
This is how it feels. I am not the default. We are not the default.
And for adopting parents, know this: In the world outside of your love, special doesn’t always mean better.
There are some differences in terminology between the UK (where I live) and US. Here are some I’ve become aware of through the forums, although they may not be correct for every state / area. I am discussing adoption on largely American forums so end up slipping between the two. Also note that some terms are considered mildly offensive in the other country, eg ethnic minority in the US or people of colo(u)r in the UK!
UK / USA
Ethnic (minority) / People of color
Black / African American
Asian / South Asian/Indian
Chinese / Asian (note: “Oriental” is considered offensive in both although still sometimes used)