Thursday, June 3, 2010

Throw the bum out!

On Memorial Day I wrote that my dad was away at war from the time I was 8 months old until I turned two. The family photo album contains black-and-white photos showing my mom, grandma, aunts, and cousins. Society as I knew it was run by women.

Then a man came home, this stranger with a deep voice who walked into our house and acted like he belonged. What’s more, my mom and grandma acted like he belonged. (Let me quickly add that my dad was a respectful, even-tempered guy. But to my two-year-old self, he barged in and disrupted our lives, and of course he took away my sense that everything revolved around me.)

I’ve had issues with male authority figures ever since. As in, Who does this guy think he is? Why doesn’t he respect that I know what I’m doing? As I write this I can feel the creeping resentment I have felt toward so many male bosses. Women, fine, I can work with them. Men seem like they’re…barging in.

I was dealing with an especially large dose of this resentment in the mid-1990s. I reported to a boss who was in way over his head. I tried to give him helpful information and advice, but he didn’t know enough to take it. He wasn’t sure he wanted to keep me around. One of my benefits was free tuition for my stepdaughter at a great college. It would be a year until she started, and I was determined to hang on until she graduated. With my hubby’s coaching, I handled the situation. But I always had to be careful and act respectful, and sometimes I wanted to explode.

One night at a baseball game, I found release. The umpire made what I thought was a good call. The rival manager strode onto the field to complain. The crowd was yelling at the manager to get off the field, and yelling at the umpire to throw him out. I joined in. I climbed up on the seat and screamed as loud as I could. I kept it up as long as the two men kept arguing, as long as anyone in the stands kept heckling. A friend said he thought it had been a bad call and the manager was justified in complaining. I said I didn’t care, I was having a breakthrough.

I was very publicly voicing my disagreement with a male authority figure, and I reveled in the feeling. It didn’t matter that he had no authority over me. It only mattered that I chose to let go, to be loud and disapproving and unrepressed and, yes, undignified. I wasn’t trying to persuade him, I was just feeling free.

I don’t need to yell at the umpire any more. Whether I have a good boss or a bad one, I can cope. But it's only in the last couple of days that connected all this with that unsuspecting man who came home when I was two and shifted my reality in a way I couldn't understand. 

19 comments:

The mad woman behind the blog said...

Wow. I have the worst time with authority figures too, now if only I could have a break through too.
How interesting that you were able to connect this with your dad's return home.
BTW, I LOVE the release of yelling at a ballgame. It is better at the ballpark than in the living room, for sure!

Katie Gates said...

Wow, Nancy, this is fascinating. Brings new meaning to Memorial Day, eh? I love it that you processed all that so recently. I, too, have had major issues with bosses (of both genders), and that's probably why I'm self-employed. Your story, though, reminded me of an anecdote I think you'll enjoy. One of my first nonprofit gigs here in LA was working on staff for an education-oriented agency whose ED fancied himself the father of a work family. He had NO sense of personal space, and he was way too paternal for my taste. When I shared with my own father (a professor; an artist; a total space cadet) that said boss was patting me on the back and acting really paternal, my dad said, "Oh, hell, that sh-t doesn't work on you!"

Cheryl said...

I wish I could have seen that! I'm still waiting for my breakthrough. *sigh* Yours sounds so cathartic.

Kathy said...

That would be tough on a little one for sure...and could have a lasting affect.

It's great that you understand it and have been able to overcome it.

The Good Cook said...

I think it's wonderful that you were able to recognize where your authority figure problems stemmed from.. I'm going to have to give my own some deep thought now... I have always had trouble with FEMALE bosses and have always gotten on splendidly with male bosses.. but maybe that's because I have always worked in male dominated fields.. oh wait, there's more to self analyze...

DJan said...

I have never had problems with male authority figures, but now that you mention it, maybe it's because I learned how to tie my dad around my little finger as a child and used that same technique with them! Manipulating the male ego is usually embarrassingly easy...

Jeanie said...

Good self analysis and I'm sure you are spot on. I wish I could have witnessed your catharsis. I love what DJan said above.

Kat said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing this side of you.

Emma said...

Very insightful! I love the image of you standing on your chair at the baseball game.

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

that is such a great breakthrough!

I love the way you describe the your early years in a society run by women! I can imagine how peaceful and calm that would be - not perfect, but with sort of a gentleness to it. To have a man come in to all that would be a huge, huge change - especially at that point in time when men were so much the center of everything!

Thoughtful post,thanks for sharing it with us!

grammy said...

Hmmm
My Dad died when I was 3 and my Mom never remarried or had a man in her life
I do have trouble with authority...for the most part I hold it in...then when it blows it is down right embarrassing.

Leah Rubin said...

Wow, you're very self-aware. So what if it came a little late-- for some of us it NEVER comes. So here's to you, for getting it, and for sharing! Yay!

L.

gayle said...

Very interesting post!! I love working for and with men. I really don't like women bosses.

#1Nana said...

...on the other hand, some bosses are just asses and it has nothing to do with being an authority figure. Oh, I think I personalized this post! Very thought provoking.

IndigoWrath said...

Damn Nancy, that was a huge join-the-dots moment. "Epiphany" doesn't cover it sufficiently. All those years of resentment without really being able to point to why. Wow. Huge. Indigo

Far Side of Fifty said...

Ha! I love the way you found to act out your frustrations..I do believe it is socially acceptable to holler at a ballgame:)

Anita said...

It IS freeing, to make connections from your past to your present.

FabuLeslie said...

That is an amazing breakthrough! It feels like I can relate, and will have to do more thinking on this for myself. It's funny how that stuff is so buried deep in our subconscious that we don't even know it's been with us all these years... Great catharsis. Maybe I need to go watch a great baseball game and yell at the ump for a while.

Kitty Moore said...

That is an incredible breakthrough - I'm so happy you made it!

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