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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Yes, Ugh, I Was a Maxim “Man”

Being male never really came naturally to me, so I started reading Maxim back when I was still in the Air Force. The AF was an environment where it really paid off to make sure people saw you a real manly man, well, unless you came in there looking like a woman, but I didn’t have that advantage. I know you Army ground pounders and Marine jar-heads will guffaw at the very notion of the importance of being a tough guy airman, but that is mainly because you all picked on us so much for being wussy. Yes, I left the Navy out on purpose because let’s be honest, you put a dude in a white bell bottom sailor suit and he has to work twice as hard, especially thanks to the Village People. Anyway, I sucked at this, so I started reading Maxim.

Maxim is a magazine conceived in the late 90’s to fill the niche market of providing men something to read in a typical 2 hour bathroom stay. The niche used to be occupied by Playboy, but that led to a lot of unsavory speculation about what was taking so damn long anyway. While Maxim does contain the obligatory T&A, the advent of the internet rendered lingerie and bikini shots to dustbin of self gratification along with the Victoria Secret catalog and that issue of National Geographic with the half naked Zulu women. Aside from cheesy posed pics, it contains lot of articles written at a 6th grade reading level dealing with topics like women ( how to get them, please then, not piss them off, and get away with stuff with them), grilling, sports, amazing true tales of adventure, bawdy jokes, and how to do things a guy should presumably know how to do. Essentially, it’s Cosmo for men.

I thought Maxim was a gold mine. I didn’t know how to do any of this shit and it showed. I was baffled by my woman problem. I understood women just fine, I never quite understood the whole big mystery guys were always talking about, but that didn’t translate into actually attracting them and such. I looked to Maxim to teach me and even bought the supplement ‘100 Ways to Pick Up Women’. It didn’t help. In fact, the majority of it involved a lot of trickery and made me feel slimy to even contemplate trying. In the end, I used one tactic. I spritzed a tiny bit of my cologne on to my ex’s pillow before leaving (it was a long distance relationship) so she would think of me. I’ve never been totally sure if it worked.

I also didn’t know how to do other manly stuff, except for repair related activities my dad showed me. I could whip up a perfect quiche, but put me on the grill and you were looking at either a hockey puck or nice little case of e coli poisoning. This troubled me for many years because I understood mastering the grill was essential in guy culture, and managed to tout myself as a certified grill-meister in spite of the endless string of fuck ups I attributed to increasingly unlikely circumstances. This was my secret shame for many years, and it was ever so gratifying to unburden myself from the yoke of the BBQ tongs and hand them over to someone who knew what they were doing.

Maxim also painted a compelling picture that as a guy, I was expected to know how to survive extreme wilderness hardship and possibly fight bears, sharks, and mountain lions. It seemed this was a relatively common thing because there was a new story every issue and I could only assume they picked the best out of hundreds available. I found this worrisome. I had been camping many times before and clearly wasn’t doing it right. How manly could I possibly be if I didn’t have one story in my repertoire that involved a showdown with a cougar?  In either sense of the term for that matter. I wasn’t exactly jazzed to have this happen, and it put me in a real pickle as I knew my tale would carry less weight if it involved me wetting myself or running off screaming. I resolved to camp less.

It took several years, but eventually I was able to admit to myself I was never going to be a Maxim Man. I was married, presumably forever, and since the majority of the information revolved around getting girls I felt I no longer needed this advice. I also found a reduced need for information regarding pub crawls, hunting, bear attacks, and anything involving fast moving balls flying at you. It just wasn’t a fit, though at the time I was in no way ready to admit why.

I will admit though, that early in my transition I did become a Cosmo Girl for at least a bit. It was fun, made me feel good and there were absolutely no articles about grilling to rub salt in the old wound. Cosmo girls don’t grill I guess, or maybe there is big minefield I’m about to walk into when it pops up that women are born with such a natural gift, reading about it is pointless. I eventually gave this up as well. I’m no longer 25, and really don’t care what ‘he’ is thinking about in bed or otherwise, and the fashion advice was making me look like a badly aged Olsen twin. Now it’s just me and Buffalo Spree.

7 Thoughts on We as a People

I’m glad this election is almost over with. Yes, it’s exciting and makes for witty Jon Stewart satire and side splitting SNL sketches, and who doesn’t like that? Enough is enough already though. Between Tea Party hullabaloo and the elimination of bi-partisan cooperation, this campaign season been going on for 4 years now. Yes, I am voting for Obama. Maybe not entirely because this has been the most transgender friendly administration in history, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

This election has somehow become about the economy, even though that makes no sense to me. If anyone, president or otherwise, knew the recipe for a good economy, they would simply use it and be the hero. The truth is that the world economy is so vastly complicated that having a politician, even a well heeled business savant, say they know how to fix it is like having a corner garage mechanic boast he can fix the space shuttle. If a true blue real answer exists out there, I would hope both sides would run on the platform that yeah, we are going to do that thing, whatever the hell it is.

What I hope is at the heart of this is a decision on national character. Who do we want to be as a nation? The Republican platform touts rugged individualism, helping the few who will allegedly help the many, an overwhelmingly powerful military, and a focus on the ‘traditional’ values that allegedly made sense at one time in heterogeneous rural communities. The Democrats tout national cooperative assistance, balanced taxation, a ‘powerful enough to deter anyone’ military, and a focus on inclusive values that manage to cross ethnic, gender, and faith based lines. Look, I’m trying to be as bi-partisan as I can be, but like anyone, subject to inherent bias toward my side, even in my best attempt to be wholly objective. Nevertheless, who are we?

In spite of focus on the economy, I think the real issue is about values and what people hope to achieve with them. I can’t help but get the impression that Romney is trying to paint a picture where as President, he will have some sort of influence to wind the clock back to a fictional ‘Leave it to Beaver’ land and that somehow the immense diversity that is now America will somehow go away. That and prosperity will be restored as a mystical causal result. I feel Obama recognizes that the population also includes a plethora of minorities, immigrants, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Call me crazy, but it makes sense to me to have more faith in the guy who recognizes what is, then the guy who is selling a ‘what was’ that wasn’t.

Here are some of my takes on the whole ‘national character’ issue. Imagine, me mouthing off my opinions about things in a closed forum! Oh, the nerve I have…

1. Healthcare: Put up with government meddling or leave things in the hands of the good people who profit solely out of denying coverage or claims? For some strange reason, I’m just not comfortable leaving my fate to people who are gambling that they will be able to take more from me than they have to pay out. I’m slightly more comfortable giving this to people who want me to reelect them. Slightly.

2. Public Assistance: Yes, ideally people should be held accountable to their own decisions and fate, and let the charitable actions of those who can catch the rest. The problem is that many are kind of screwed since birth and in a hole no one could reasonably climb out of. As a wealthy nation, it seems to be the right and charitable thing to help our own, especially when the majority of them are children. Even if we can’t do it out of human kindness, it is wise to remember that people in need are not just going to disappear. Instead, they are going to do whatever they need to in order to survive. Ever notice how the highest crime rates are in nations with the least assistance? I don’t think anyone wants that.

3. Marriage: Seriously, why is this still an issue? It’s not the government’s purview to define any particular faiths version of marriage as the national standard. Less that, without the religious component it’s a contract between two adults, the success or failure of which rests solely on them, so the idea of needing government defense on this seems silly. Why anyone gets snippy about anyone else’s contract is beyond me. If a particular religion doesn’t agree with two people of the same gender getting married, why can’t they just not participate and leave it at that?

4. Foreign Relations: I’m somewhat convinced we’ll never really know what is going on behind the scenes, except when someone royally fucks up and it gets into the papers. At the heart of it though, and in the interest of our economy, a huge chunk of our effort should really be attempting to create conditions favorable for the rest of the world to buy from us instead of spending billions to enforce Pax Americana. I know we like calling the shots and all, but return on investment should really be considered.

5. Immigration: Nothing new here. The anti-immigration folks like to speak in righteous indignation about the overwhelming costs of people coming here illegally and taking from them. I find it interesting that everyone I ask knows exactly what they paid for their car, house, groceries, or a sweater at Sears, but none of them know in dollars how much of their tax money actually goes to this, or even what they actually paid in taxes last year. The former items they know, because they care. If they don’t know, it’s hard to conceptualize that they really care. Then it goes to the principle of the thing, which I see as a fancy way of whining that someone else is getting something they don’t think is deserved. It seems petty. Anti-immigration seems like a good way to spend a ton of money vilifying people who want to come and clean our toilets because America is awesome. Unemployment bites, but chances are you didn’t lose your job as a chemical engineer to a guy who snuck across the border.

6. Women’s Issues: Horrendous misconceptions about both rape and women’s health issues come way, way too often from the GOP side of things. As a woman, I’m not at all comfortable with all the rhetoric indicating rape is ever something the victim is remotely responsible for, nor the notion that there can be a sunny side to it. No and no. It’s all backed by the just world hypothesis; something the world is hell bent on proving wrong and has done so very effectively. I’m also not comfortable having old men making decisions on women’s health issues. The issues need to be decided (if such can ever really be done) solely by people with skin in the game. Yes, I’m purposefully not taking this further because I don’t want this blog to erupt into another unwinnable fight on something that comes down to belief when life begins.

7. The Environment: Yes, drilling the living shit out of the land and sea, and removing EPA control probably would result in a short term economic gain. It seems odd to me, however, that the party so concerned with passing debt down to future generations is OK with them living on Planet Craptastic. This is exactly, by the way, what the Soviets did. In the corporate world, the immediate quarterly financial results, seconded by the annual results, are really all that matters, so of course they are highly in favor of anything that gives them that bump. With all the backtalk about environmentalist conspiracy, doesn’t it make more sense that people who make tremendous financial gains by floating a ‘climate change is a myth’ have a lot more reason, not to mention means, to conspire?

To sum it all up, the economy is going to go up and down and all over the place seemingly by magic no matter who is in office, even though the guy there will take credit for the good and blame the bad on the last guy. In terms of national character, my impression is that Obama better represents forward thinking, a generous and gregarious kindness of spirit, and dedication to equality, open minded attitudes and fair play. Romney waxes more toward a certain rigidity and seems to be favored by those who come across as somewhat mean in spirit and fearful that an unfair receipt of assistance by some will denigrate their own standard of well being. That’s just my impression.

Finally, for the record, in spite of the endless fear mongering by both sides, I find it difficult to understand how some can be sucked into the in-group mentality that believes the other side is dedicated to the destruction of America, their personal religion, or really anything else. I truly do think that both sides really want the best possible outcome for most, but have different ideas of what that looks like and how to get there.

That’s all, now please go vote.

Flipper-Flopper, No Way to Stop Her

He, she, he, she… ugh! The other day I was called downstairs and introduced to a foreign customer team I had not yet met. As the program manager described my function and that of my group, I could not help but notice a startling lack of pronoun consistency. Within one run on sentence I was she, then he, then she again. Always pleasant. I’m very certain it was not intentional, but I could tell the visitors were somewhat confused, or at least more so then they were when I first walked in the room and got the hairy eyeball. Is there a right way to deal with this professionally?

I’ve said it before, but just want to make it clear that my work has been wonderful in dealing with my transition. Not just HR and management, but the overall employee base in general. I got some weird stares and a bit of avoidance at first, but if it’s still going on at all, it’s not so that I even notice. In short, I am not trying to claim any sort of unfair treatment or discrimination; quite the opposite in fact. I’m now even more heavily investing in ensuring success here because I’m really not interested in having to go elsewhere.  Well, this might be a onetime occurrence I figured.

It wasn’t. Last week I attended an all day meeting with the same PM, but different customer. Over the course of 8 hours I was an even mix of Mike and Michelle; he and she, often in the same sentence. Most of the time they silently stared at me from across the table and only engaged in a minimum of chit-chat during lunch. Ugh. I could not have been more uncomfortable and retreated back to the safety of silence whenever possible. Plus I wore the wrong shoes and my feet and ass were killing me just sitting there.

I already know there are some of you out there who are simply aching to get furious. “That’s bullshit Michelle! Next time you stop her dead in her tracks, grab her by the short hairs (I’ve never been sure what that means, although I’ve always guessed it means ‘the short and curlies’ which is inappropriate and pretty gross) and lay it on the line. ‘You will call me ‘she’, bitch.” Yeah, that’s not how I do things at all. I’ve never been super good at beating people into submission. In fact, my team still talks about the one meeting in my 11 years here where I actually raised my voice and got a little upset. When people yell at me, I tend to tune them out in favor of drafting an internal plan on how to get even in the near future and have to assume that anyone else is going to do the same thing.

The calm and reasonable approach is to talk to her on the side, say I noticed what was happening and how our mutual customer was receiving it, and just wanted to let her know. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and I believe it is how most people would professionally approach such a delicate subject. What is bothering me about this then? Why does this seem like the right answer on paper, but not exactly right with a bullet in the forehead? If such a right even exists that is. It’s not conflict avoidance, because the approach isn’t confrontational and falls right within my comfort zone. I don’t even expect the information to make her feel upset or embarrassed. It was an honest mistake and something she is still continuing to process in her own mind. What then?

I think I nailed down my concern. True, if I bring it up, it won’t get anyone in a tizzy. We’ll both write it off to an honest mistake and all part of the transition process. She is human though, and I think it’s a fair bet to say she’ll feel self conscious the next time we are in that situation; that much you can bet on. I would. Do I want that? The human reaction to feeling self-conscious is to avoid those situation when we see no harm in doing so (actual harm is of course in no way related to perceived harm). Next time would she invite me down to meet a new customer or attend an excruciatingly long meeting? She certainly doesn’t want to look like a horses ass in front of them, so wouldn’t it be easier to just handle things herself? What’s the harm? Other than marginalizing my position of course.

In reality, the root of the faux pas is that while she has accepted my change and been very respectful of it, she hasn’t quite made the full switch in her own mind yet. She knew me as a guy for 11 years, and I’ve probably interacted with her about 4 times since my work transition. Couldn’t one argue that ongoing periodic exposure will help her make the mental leap and set a new neural pathway that has ‘she’ and ‘her’ naturally rolling off her tongue without a second thought? The devil in me is saying this is the cowardly way of handling it and I am simply looking for an excuse to do nothing and have everything turn out just ducky. Unfortunately, I think it’s the only option.

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