Mid-life Crisis?

It has to be midlife crisis:

Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been patient to a fault. My very first job in the US was for a home hardware store, and on occasion, I would be posted at the check out that was frequented by contractors. A rough, impatient lot who were also experts at getting discounts for what I deemed imaginary faults with their purchases. It didn’t matter how many times I was yelled at for being too slow, not charging the clearance price or whatever other fault they saw or imagined, I always had a smile on my face and never requested to be posted to the regular aisles as many of coworkers did.

My next gig was at a call center for one of the largest banks (at the time), making collection calls. Talk about a thankless job!. We had supervisors walking around to ensure we were harsh enough and made concrete payment arrangements, even though to be honest, the bank did not need the puny amounts we were going after. We were dinged for spending too long on a single call; it’s a wonder I kept my job because I was known to yap especially with the older ladies who clearly had no intention of or ability to pay us but were desperate for the company. I’ve always put myself in people’s shoes and even that one angry contractor who yelled at me because his credit card was rejected: twice no less, I rationalized that his clients had probably not paid him and his anger was with his situation and I was just collateral damage.

I have stopped being that person. Case in point, our IT specialist recently brought to my attention that the LT in the naming of our inventory stood for laptop, even though my boss and I had been part of the team that first introduced this naming system before he was a member of our staff. My old self would have humoured him by either completely ignoring his statement or fake thanking him for his brilliance but I advised him of the fact that I was well aware of that and proceeded to push for completion of the audit that he was not actual doing.

Then today I got on a call with a vendor contact, who did not hide the fact that she had been in the middle of making coffee or for all I know, loading her laundry. Again, I’d normally play along her unprofessionalism but I completed the call in record time once I got the answer I was looking for: and had to hold my breath when she responded in a condescending tone. It may not sound like much but I didn’t make an effort to “smile on the phone as the other person can hear it”: that is not who I am at all.

The absolute worst though was when I got on a video call with a prospective IT vendor a few weeks ago. He had requested the call but I had to wait about 2 minutes before he logged in. I think he’d had a valid explanation for his tardiness but once he saw me, I could tell he visibly was surprised by I am guessing my faux dreadlocks because it truly can’t be my hue. Without bothering to apologize for his tardiness, he proceeded to ask if anyone else would be joining the call; a fact we had discussed several times via email and even on a call when I’d informed him that my boss: the VP and final word, would only be joining once I’d narrowed down to the company and product that I felt best serves our company’s needs. He then went on to use as much jargon as his sales training had fed him, basically to imply that it was above my head while repeatedly asking if I could get the VP or someone else on the next call. I was ready to call it except his accomplice, who incidentally is the IT specialist between the two, read the room and took over the discussion, and he and I had a lovely almost 30 minutes call about the merits and demerits of their ERP system.

I want to blame midlife even though I am a hair shy of that age-grouping, because I still need to be blame my exhaustion at the requirement of women (especially black ones) to behave a certain way in public, to avoid being labelled as difficult or angry. It’s a lot easier to blame my hormones for an anger that I have had to swallow for so long that my reservoir of anti-anger is almost completely depleted. I am angry because as some claim we only need to pull ourselves by our bootstraps, the reality is not only do most of us have flip flops on but in some instances, those straps are used to choke us. I have realized that all my politeness and walking within the lines and “going high” accomplished was to make me appear weak: to make a good house slave but not open anyone to seeing my true value or seeing beyond their stereotypical expectations of someone like me.

It’s easier to blame middle life because many in this stage of life, even those who had privileged opportunities to make something of themselves, go through a reckoning and either completely jump ship and try to turn the vessel around. So I will use this created crisis period I am in to free my tongue to lash out at microaggressions when I see them; angry-black-woman labels be damned!. I can’t imagine it will bring healing or improve my situation but it may perhaps earn me some time to rebuild my reservoir of politeness, even while I map out a plan to live my life (seeing as I supposedly just started it when I turned a certain age) with less of the world’s weight on my shoulder

I really hoped to have a more positive post on my mom’s birthday (today) but my mama raised me to not be the person I have been in the last 15 years so toast to her today 😊

Today I met an angry black woman

The line at the first food wasn’t particularly long and she and her family were next in line to order. Engrossed in a deep conversation with her teenage son, she didn’t hear the “next customer” shouted by the pleasantly polite cashier/ order taker.

The lady behind her asked if they were in line to order; a pretty routine question albeit worded in a conclusive manner: as if they stood in fast food lines to converse with no intentions of ordering food. She said yes she was and continued speaking to her son. At this point, the lady behind her made a move to go to the now yelling employee and it was then that the black woman noticed what was going on and moved ahead to place her order. The “about to take your place while you yap” lady took it upon herself to comment to black lady that the server had been calling the next customer in line, by this time having abandoned her quest to be said next customer. The black lady, with as much malice as she could muster in her voice, told her she hadn’t heard the beckon and would be placing her order now thank you very much. Almost took your spot lady then proceeded to tell black lady that she’d been advising her about the open ordering counter all along. Please insert the all knowing “mmmhhhhh” emoji here and roll some eyes for good measure.

You see,  black lady was me and the random lady is somewhere living her life- probably having completed forgotten the exchange or full of venom for others like me.

I wouldn’t have thought much of it either if my son had not told me later that he’d thought I over reacted; that was heavy coming from my teenage son who’s always found me the voice of reason. I justified my reaction by stating that a) she could just have told me the server was calling me instead of asking if I was in line to order b) the move to bypass me and then change her story once caught in action justified my snark.

However, because I am said reasonable Libra, who always weighs everything one too many times, I did start questioning if perhaps I’d over reacted somewhat. On the one hand, the two points above are true and surely deserving of a snarky attitude. On the other hand, I had just walked about an hour in 30 degrees Celsius in my quest to reach the almighty 10K daily steps (don’t even get me started!) and my head was literally boiling.

The more likely reason though was that I had simply acquiesced to my membership in the angry black woman race.  It is not a club I was glad to join but one that I now realize is perhaps a survival mechanism more so than just bad manners. It brought to mind an article I’d read in the blog Psychology today suggesting that black women are the most invisible members of society (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-social-thinker/201012/are-black-women-invisible) and must work twice as hard to be seen, let alone respected. Across the pond, black women are dealing with similar if not identical issues as we are (https://metro.co.uk/2017/08/03/black-women-are-the-least-valued-people-in-society-6808199/). The point about black women being the least desirable group of people to date is especially worrying to me as a mother to two beautifully black females who may not allow me to get rich renting their rooms to weary travelers if they can’t couple and move out at some point.

So, did I overact somewhat? of course I did. It wasn’t premeditated but at some point, one deserves some R-E-S-P-E-C-T; heck we were both standing in line to buy heart attacks in a package so I didn’t appreciate the better than thou attitude. Perhaps the angry black woman exterior is just an attempt to matter; to be visible. I daresay though that it’s all in perception because society not only ignores us but expects us to silently and obediently tow the line and anything but is met with judgement. That my loving son has already joined “the man” was perhaps the most heartbreaking part of today but now that I am card carrying member of this subclass, I will find ways to show him my point of view and perhaps some brown skin girl out there will thank me for it one day 🙂