Jun. 10th, 2010

mrissa: (Default)
Here in Minnesota, 10:00 to 1:00 began, as it so often does, at 8:30. When we lived in California, when the internet was broken (as it so often was), the people who were scheduled to come out to fix it would say 10-1, and we would know, absolutely know, that there was no way they would get there before 11, and the likelihood was that it would be more like 2:30 or 3, and that was just the way of it, you couldn't leave your apartment if you wanted the internet fixed. Here, about half the time we're having work done we'll get a call: "Do you mind if we come early? It's just that we've finished the thing we had scheduled before, and it'd be awfully convenient...."

Mostly this works great for us with our circumstances; getting stuff out of the way sooner is lovely. But the thing non-Minnesotans who live here need to know is that you are absolutely within your rights to say, "Sorry, no." They may passive-aggress at you. But if you arranged to be off work and home between 10 and 1 and they are sighing and twitching over the phone at you about how convenient it would be for them to show up at 8:30, if it is not convenient for you, you can say, "I'm sorry, I'm afraid that just won't work, I'll see you between 10:00 and 1:00 as planned. Thank you," and hang up the phone. They are the one asking you a favor, even though it may work out better for both of you.

Anyway, very soon we will have fully carpeted basement stairs, padded against falls, and the peasants rejoice.

Another thing I want to clear up, because it came up recently in an e-mail, is that I have heard the misconception that you have to be offered something three times before it's polite to accept it--coffee, say, or cookies. Either this is absolutely not true or I have the rudest Scandosotan family on the planet. (Note: this latter case may, I suppose, apply.) Never once have I waited for the third offer if I actually wanted a cookie. Someone offers me pepparkakor? I am on that. Ya sure you betcha. I may even articulate, "You don't have to ask me twice!" Does this make elderly Scando ladies sniff and draw back at my forwardness? Not at all. They are delighted. (They like to see a young woman enjoy her pepparkakor. Or coffeecake. Or like that.)

I was trying to think where this myth might have come from, because I have never, ever seen it work that way around here. I have known lots of Lutheran church ladies in my time, and never once have I seen the dance of, "Would you like some coffee?" "Oh, no, I couldn't trouble you!" "It's no trouble, are you sure you don't want some coffee?" etc.

The only conclusion [livejournal.com profile] timprov and I could come to is that some of the Lutheran church ladies we know--and this applies to Catholic and Presby and Methodist and Quaker and Episcopal and Jewish and Buddhist and atheist ladies too, and also some ladies who are perhaps gentlemen and so on--are physically incapable of understanding that someone might be saying no to an offer of cookies.

"No, I am allergic to everything you have in the house," okay. But other than that, there are just people who are going to keep offering. And keep offering. And just. Keep. Offering. Because, "I do not care for a cookie, thank you," is not a thing they can really believe in. I think my grandmother has some friends, and I'm pretty darn sure I have some great-aunts, who believe with all their hearts that there are some cookies that I secretly wanted in 1983, and I was just being shy, or trying to be polite, or it was an attempt to look like those silly stick-thin fashion models, or something inexplicable about Kids These Days or my own personal quirks. So if they offer three times in the hour that you are there, and then you go home, it's not that there is a ritual around threes. It's that you didn't stay all weekend, so they didn't get to thirty-seven times for the cookies plus setting out the cereals in a row on the counter plus the late night row of grapes and Doritos and inexplicable cinnamon and prunes.

I try not to do this myself. The way I get around this is by instructing people that I will wait on them for their first visit here but after that they are family and must get their own beverages and second helpings and things. This is not strictly true--I will often serve up helpings of dessert to order. But telling you to get into my cupboards to get yourself a glass of water if you want one (the glasses are to the right of the sink and the mugs above them; the wine glasses above the stove) is my way of not repeating every fifteen minutes, "Are you sure I can't get you anything?" Because, y'know. It's sort of genetic. Or possibly environmental. Either way, I got the full dose.
mrissa: (intense)
One of my friends has posted a bit under friendslock about dealing with a health-related thing that is also a work-related thing; you can see why this would be understandably private and not the sort of thing I would be poking this friend to unlock. So I wanted to pull what I was thinking out here where I can poke at it and not poke at my friend's private issues as well.

The thing is, I think we are, as a culture, sort of in love with the broken leg model of illness, injury, and disability.

Here's what makes the Hollywood broken leg model so shiny.

With a broken leg, you:
*know what has happened.
*know when it happened AND
*know it right away.
*know what to do to fix it.
*know about how long it will take to heal.
*know that it will not suddenly get less healed for awhile in the middle and then jump back to more healed again.
*can easily predict which things will stress the injury.
*know that it will be completely fixed when treatment is done.
*have at least some theory of where the person experiencing it falls on the continuum of sinner ("What were you doing on top of that water tower at 3 a.m. anyway? You're lucky it wasn't your neck!") to saint ("Hit by a drunk driver while helping an elderly nun across the crosswalk? Let me fluff that pillow for you, you poor baby!").
*do not have any doubt as a casual passerby whether there is something wrong, or what.

Of course, not all of this is actually true of broken legs, even! (I have edited in a few spots to add "Hollywood," because I want it to be absolutely clear that I know that my friends' leg injuries to not come with these magical advantages.) It's just the assumption from people who don't have the said broken legs. But it is a mighty convenient set of traits for an illness, injury, or disability to have. And the farther from this model your actual illness, injury, or disability goes, the more frustration you are likely to face from other people, because their questions are likely to be centered around the broken leg model.

Why didn't you go in sooner? they will snap. Sometimes they don't even notice that they are snapping, and if you point out that they're snapping, you need to stop being defensive. But see: if you break your leg, there are bits of broken leg sticking out, and you are an idiot for not going right in, right now! But what if you wake up just exhausted one morning? Should you go to the doctor that morning? "How long have you been exhausted?" the doctor will say. "Since this morning," you say. Wrong answer. Get more sleep, or less sleep. Get more exercise, or less exercise. Eat differently. Change something up. What if you feel a little dizzy? If you're female, does this correlate with your menstrual cycle? Well, if you've only had it for one day, you can't really say, can you? Why didn't you go in sooner? Because some things are not a broken leg. And if you get a history of going in and mentioning things that have not really been a problem very long, if you're not very lucky, you get a doctor who writes down "hypochondriac" or "drug-seeking," and then when it's still a problem later, you've got that to deal with. The cardiac surgeon's memoir I read recently acted as though women could go in with fatigue and find out whether they'd had a heart attack every time they had fatigue, since fatigue is the main symptom of heart disease in women, and I laughed and laughed. It is not some feminine perversity that makes that not happen. Really, really not.

Why don't you take meds for that? they will ask. Because naturally there are meds for that in existence. And they work for you. And they don't interact badly with anything else you have to take. It's just spite that makes you not take them, or spite that makes you take them wrong so that they don't work perfectly. This is the twenty-first century! They can fix things! Who can? You know--They! They can! Them! They would have already if you had only gone in sooner! What these people mostly want is for you to have a big plaster cast on your kidney, your endocrine system, your ears, or whatever else is not working--in some cases your actual broken leg that was not perfectly fixed by divine fiat somehow, because the world does not magically work like that--so it can fix the thing, they can sign it, and then in a few weeks somebody can come along and saw the thing off and everybody can go skipping merrily along. Most of us want this too. It just doesn't happen to work that way.

I'm pretty sure I do this to people, because one thing I've learned in the last few years is that we are all really terrible at spotting the ins and outs of illnesses, injuries, and disabilities not our own, so one of my new self-checks before I open my mouth is going to be, "Am I trying to treat this like a Hollywood movie of a broken leg again?" Too many of the formal things we have set up for employment and compensation are working on the broken leg assumption. The least we can do is not perpetuate them when we have the option.


Jun. 10th, 2010 04:58 pm
mrissa: (Default)
Lifted from an e-mail I sent to a friend earlier today:

Confession time: much of the time I think of myself in the appropriate meter and as Mrissahainen. As in:

Then the mighty Mrissahainen
Pixel-slaying Mrissahainen
Mighty-sinewed chemist's daughter
Got up from the sucking sofa
Made herself the magic tisane
Made a pot of useful tisane
Useful tisane made from ginger
So she would not puke her guts out
Keep the lunch of Mrissahainen!

I cannot explain why this helps. But upon reflection I think I don't have to explain why this helps.

What I did not say in that e-mail, that I probably should have because my friend would also have gotten it, is that ever since I watched Desk Set lo these many years ago, I hear my bits of dog-Kalevala in Katharine Hepburn's voice from when she was doing Longfellow at top speed. Which I also find comforting.

I should specify further that the sofa sucks energy rather than being a generally sucky sofa in the colloquial sense of bad or nasty. It is a very fine sofa and I am fond of it.

And pixel-slaying Mrissahainen is one of my whatchems, you know, the thingers that they always call you while they're thinking up the thing to say in the next line. Wily Odysseus. Cognomen? That might not be quite it, because what I'm thinking of is like cognomen but for fitting in the line of poetry, and I don't know if there's a separate word for that.

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