Wednesday, March 16, 2016

And now, a break for something desperately nerdy

You know that something fundamental has changed within me that, only halfway through my spring break, I actively sought out a numbers-based puzzle and gleefully opened up Excel to begin doing calculations for exactly zero reason beyond "oh boy! Something to do!"

A friend on Facebook shared the following image, with the (unverified) statistic that 53% of people who cast a Democratic ballot yesterday were over the age of 50.
This was originally shared with the editorializing of
"Good job, Illinois Democrats.
53% of Democratic voters were 50 OR OLDER!
We literally let everyone over 50 make our decisions for us. "
The intent behind sharing this image and that statistic was to really show young voters that their voice counts--that they very well could have turned the tide of yesterday's primary if they had actually bothered to come out and vote.

So I got curious. What, exactly, would have happened if the "youth vote" (that is, people between the ages of 18 and 44) came out in force? Would it have had a truly significant impact on Illinois' Democratic primary between Sanders and Clinton?

Let's do the math.

Before we do anything, we have to figure out all of our assumptions. A frustrating barrier is that voting information is technically secret, and so we can only base our demographic information from exit polls, whose raw data are incredibly difficult to suss out. I was left with 2010 census information, 2012 voter registration numbers, and prior election voter turnout information. I had to do a lot of guesswork, is what I'm saying.

Yet, I pressed on. What follows are the figures off which I based a lot of my assumptions:

First, the background information about IL voters and voter turnout.

Now it's time to confirm some assumptions:

Total IL Primary ballots cast 3,399,800

Total Democratic ballots cast 1,987,432 58.5%

This seems about right--Illinois tends to swing ~60% Democrat, so it makes sense that would be the ballot choice split. It's convenient that this is also the national figure for how "youth" (aka: 18-44) vote.

Next, let's make some logical leaps using EVEN MORE MATH! Hooray!

Logical leap #1: 58% of the IL Democratic voters were 45+.

The original person who shared CBS's graphic stated that 53% of the Democratic voters were people over the age of 50. Unfortunately, the bar chart shows us information for voters under 45, so we're going to have to infer some numbers. The 2010 census showed that 13% of Illinois' population was between the ages of 45 and 55. Around half of them are 45-50, and assuming they get out to vote slightly less than the 50-55 sect, I added five percentage points to the "53% over the age of 50".

Logical leap #2: The 45+ crowd would not have come out in greater numbers

Generally, people 45+ have around a 55% voter turnout. So I'd venture it's safe to say that a "get out the vote" push that caused young people to come out and vote more wouldn't have caused older voters to make it out in larger numbers. The 45+ group who stayed home would have stayed home no matter what.

Logical leap #3: Republican voters turned out in the same way (58% older voters, 42% younger voters)

I have exactly zero information to back this up, but I figured it was a safe bet considering the mobilization of the young Trump supporters.

Finally, the satisfying part: getting some results!

This seems to make sense--the youth vote has been growing from an abysmal 20% a couple decades ago to an historic 47% back in 2004, only to drop a bit in the subsequent decade. Let's say that the youth had a 55% voter turnout instead, like their elders. What would that look like?

Well, 55% of what I'm assuming are young, registered voters in IL would be 2,185,896 voters. But that's all of the potential youth voters. Only 60% of them would have picked up a Democratic ballot, which is what I'm worried about today.

So in a "perfect" world where the youth of Illinois came out to vote like older voters, that would look like 1,311,538 young voters who should have voted on a Democratic ballot yesterday. How does that hold up to what actually happened?

Likely reality:

Actual Democratic ballots cast: 1,987,432
Assumed actual "youth" Dem ballots cast: 834,721

Hypothetical alternate reality, if 1,311,538 youth Dem ballots were cast:

This means 476,817 more young people would have come out to vote! Holy smokes!

If, according to CBS News' assertion, 70% of those young Democrats would have voted for Bernie Sanders (and this is assuming they're all equally fired up and #FeelingTheBern and wouldn't have voted for Clinton in slightly higher numbers), we would have had the following results:

70% of the additional 476,817 votes = 333,772 more votes for Sanders
29% of the additional 476,817 votes = 138,276 more votes for Clinton

That would have made the final results from the 2016 Illinois Democratic Primary look like this:

Total (potential) Dem voters: 2,442,364
Clinton: 1,140,891 (47%)
Sanders: 1,301,473 (53%)

*~* Conclusion *~*

If Illinois were a winner-take-all state, this would have been an enormous coup for the Sanders campaign. That kind of split between voters is about as decisive as an election gets in this country. As it stands, however, Illinois splits its delegates between candidates so Sanders would have merely gotten a marginal bump. According to the results, Illinois has 156 delegates to give out, and in reality gave 68 to Clinton and 67 to Sanders. That only adds up to 135 delegates, so I have no idea WTF they've done with the other 21 delegates. I hope they're okay, and that the Democratic Party is treating them well in whatever bunker they're being kept in.

Dividing the known 135 delegates in the 47/53 split, Sanders would have gotten 71 and Clinton 63. That's a nice 8 delegate lead for Sanders, but isn't an Earth shattering triumph.

Is your head spinning? Have your eyes glazed over?

All you need to know is that your vote counts. This might not have been the radical revolution Bernie Bros keep dreaming about, but it would have made a tangible difference. Our political system relies on an inane system of surrogate voters, and you HAVE to show up to make sure those surrogate voters (be they delegates to the party conventions to select a nominee, or members of the electoral college) are empowered to choose a representative you trust. Leaving it in the hands of Grouchy Old Norm from down the street who hates children, the Commies, and lukewarm coffee because you don't think your voice will be heard is the reason we continue to have lopsided voter turnout.

Imagine what this would have looked like if I'd been even more optimistic? If I hadn't cynically thought that the best we could do was a 55% voter turnout for youth voters.

Think about it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On Superstition

People who know me would tell you that I have a good head on my shoulders. I'm always calm, eminently rational, and have a broad outlook that serves to keep me and those around me on an even keel. People who have known me for a very long time, especially people who for whatever reason have been reading my online ramblings since I was a teenager, could also tell you that one of my favorite themes when I write about myself and my life is that I am suspicious of expressing my emotions: I'm afraid I'll jinx things if I verbalize hopes or fears. For all of my level-headedness I'm bizarrely superstitious.

To wit: I am actually writing this on Monday, July 27th at 10am, about 36 hours before I get some important news. Partly, I am writing this because the spirit has so moved me, but I'm also writing it in this moment because deep in my heart of hearts I'm hoping that I am somehow jinxing the outcome--that by writing about impending bad news that I am short-circuiting the universe and will actually end up getting good news tomorrow, that by affirming and acknowledging and putting effort into recognizing the bad news the universe will instead decide to be contrary and give me good news instead.

Obviously, since this has been published and you are reading it (and because jinxes do not exist and things like "writing blog posts" do not actually impact physical outcomes), the news was still bad.

I've had a second miscarriage. My second in a row.

I thought I'd be safe this time. I don't know why, maybe because this time I actually wanted to be pregnant and magical thinking is a powerful force. Statistics are just numbers, and even when the odds are low there always has to be someone who comprises the outliers. Both of my miscarriages were "silent", or "missed". This means that the fetus inside of me stopped growing and my body didn't notice. Last time it was detected at 14 weeks. This time it was detected at 10 weeks. These are quite rare--1% of pregnancies end in a silent miscarriage, and I'm now part of the 1% twice. It seemed so unlikely, you know? I figured if I was going to miscarry this time, I'd know. The pregnancy to this point had been so perfectly textbook, I assumed I'd have a textbook miscarriage as well, if it was going to happen.

There is no one and nothing to blame, these things just happen and it's no one's fault. And yet I firmly believe that this was somehow jinxed. I was too overconfident this time, despite knowing that having a prior miscarriage increases the likelihood of having another one. I blame myself for telling too many people before having a confirmatory ultrasound. I blame The Buddy for buying pacifiers when they were on sale the week after I got a positive test. Those little omens of hope and possibility were obviously an affront to the fertility odds. I blame my coworkers for "betting" on me to be the next one to get pregnant, and for telling me that I was the front runner the very day I took the pregnancy test. I blame my dad for telling our favorite waitress at our regular restaurant about my pregnancy the day before I went in for my appointment last week--why oh why would we tell people before I saw the doctor? But mostly I just blame myself for getting excited. I shouldn't have.

We're just going to wait this one out. We are still fighting with the hospital and my insurance company about the D&C I had oh, right around this time last year. The fetus was underdeveloped enough that it won't be dangerous to me when my body finally does recognize that nothing is actually happening in there and we really don't want to have to deal with the medical bills again.

At least, that's what my brain is saying to rationalize just waiting it out. One more small bit of superstition: despite the cold, hard evidence from the ultrasounds and the sad and serious look on my doctor's face, despite the hormone levels in my blood telling us that this is another failed pregnancy, I am still holding out hope. One of our best and favorite stories from the family lore is of the gestation and birth of my little sister. When my mom had gone in for an ultrasound they'd seen bad news: a tiny blob with no heartbeat, a miscarriage. Ever the frugal robots, my parents chose to forgo the surgical removal option and just let nature take its course, and miracle of miracles, Seester ended up being alive and well. The heartless blob was a tiny, benign tumor and Fetal-Seester was hiding somewhere, being sneaky. If you've ever heard me call her "Tumor", now you know why.

And so, not because I am a frugal robot but because I am a mess of sadness, emotion, and superstition we've decided to just let nature take its course. I'm not entirely sure what that's going to entail, but I have a couple weeks until school starts again to get through it and get in a better head space.

The grief is a little less than last time, but the anger is greater. I'm angry with the universe that this happened to me again, even though it was so unlikely, and I'm extremely angry with the sheer biology of pregnancy. I have been very sick and very tired for the last two and a half months. I've been throwing up multiple times a day, constantly nauseated to the point where I would just curl into a little ball and cry, and so fatigued that I could barely make it through a single work shift, and now I don't even get a baby out of the deal. It is so, ridiculously unfair that the first trimester can be so awful and life-ruining and end in merely a whimper.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Of all the words of mice and men...

...the saddest are, 'it might have been'."--Kurt Vonnegut

I haven't written about, or even really talked in general, what's been going on in my life recently. This would be because a lot of things have been happening, and I tend to not like talking about ~things that are happening~ in case I jinx it somehow; that by vocalizing anticipation or excitement I'm somehow setting myself up for inevitable failure and letdown.

One thing that has happened: I finally changed jobs. Goodbye increasingly-soulless mega-corporation, hello independent-corporation that still operates with a conscience, for now. It's been a good change.

One thing that is almost happening: I got accepted to NIU's Post-Baccalaureate accountancy program. Assuming all goes well next week, I'll be starting a 2-ish year track to becoming an accountant. I deeply look forward to having an office job with benefits.

One thing that happened: I got pregnant. Surprise!

Another thing that happened, learned just yesterday: it miscarried, surprisingly late as far as fetuses being gestated in healthy 28-year olds go. Surprise.

It feels a little bit like this looks
The Buddy and I hadn't necessarily told a whole bunch of people--no Facebook posts or printed announcement cards--just called our families and mentioned it to friends as we saw them. I'd been not-so-secretly imagining the delight I might feel when the first week of February came around and I suddenly announced to social media "Surprise! We have a baby!" It would be within reason for us to just quietly move on with our lives and not make our private lives a public affair.

But as I started to tell people yesterday, the women in my life all had eerily similar things to say: many shared that they had experienced a miscarriage or two, or their mothers' had, everyone expressed sympathy, and to a woman everyone used the phrase "I wish people would talk about it more." So here I am, to talk about it more. Here to talk about it before someone else miscarries and, despite knowing the statistics of how as many as one-third of all pregnancies don't end up being viable, feels a bit alone. Here to talk about it as someone who doesn't have living children to look to for comfort, as someone who wasn't even necessarily planning on having children.

This pregnancy was a surprise, and I'm not going to soften that concept like many tend to do and call it a "most welcome!" surprise. It was simply surprising. Right at the outset I couldn't even figure out how I wanted to be reacting and needed the clear head of bff Poncho to come talk me through the various possibilities. As a family, The Buddy and I weren't ready to be parents and as an individual I absolutely wasn't mentally or emotionally ready. To my/our credit, we didn't panic or even get terribly stressed out as the weeks stretched on, but there was an abiding sense of ambivalence and trepidation. At the 11-week mark there was a strong, steady heartbeat and we began to tell people. I still felt nervous, as if it wasn't necessarily "real", or that it wasn't "really happening".

And then at yesterday's 14-week appointment, there wasn't a heartbeat. My OB wasn't concerned at first, he actually accused me of being "too thin" and that the Doppler was going straight through me and missing the fetus, but the visual scan confirmed that the fetus had stopped growing a little over a week before.

I expected to feel relieved. I'd actually wistfully hoped for an early miscarriage so that we wouldn't have to face being parents before we felt ready, and I had asked The Buddy a couple months ago if I'd be a bad person if, in the event of a miscarriage, I was more relieved than sad. Of course he said that wouldn't make me a bad person, probably just a normal, conflicted one.

But I wasn't relieved. I'm not relieved. Maybe in a couple weeks when my hormones are back in their regular balance and life has continued on I will feel a small sense of relief that our life isn't getting upended in five and a half months, but not now. I just feel sad. When the scan technician left the room to go get the doctor, I turned to The Buddy and asked what he was thinking, and all he was able to say was "really sad."

The deep sadness is inexplicable to me, since this wasn't one of those really, really wanted pregnancies that a lot of couples spend months or years praying for. I can't imagine how I would be feeling if it were. It wasn't an experience I was enjoying, and it wasn't something I had been connecting emotionally to yet, but here I am, sad enough that I'm not necessarily fit to be out in public yet. I had the DNC procedure this morning, where I was put to sleep and our non-viable fetus was removed from me. I'm glad it's out, the emotional place of having a dead baby inside of you wasn't the best place to be. I spent two hours on the phone with our insurance carrier confirming that somehow, this isn't a "covered" procedure in the sense that it's not covered until we meet our astronomical out-of-pocket deductible, which made this whole thing worse.

I'm not sure there's really a whole lot to say, beyond: This happened. I'm really sad. I want you all to know that it happened and that I'm sad, and that if it happens to you and you're sad too, it's okay.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Marriage: It's Great? 10 Small Domestic Annoyances That Actually Have Nothing to do With Marriage, Just Co-Habitation

I know I usually start off the year with a recap, but who's really grading me on consistency anyway?

There was a flurry of posts about marriage a couple months back--I believe spurred by backlash against Seth Adam Smith's "Marriage Isn't For You" piece. A large majority of the pieces I read (including Mr. Smith's) were written by people who'd been married for a short period of time. Baby marriages, baby families. They seemed simultaneously full of hubris and desperately naive. They asserted a variety of viewpoints (marriage changes you! Marriage doesn't change you! Marriage is for your spouse and your children! Marriage is to honor God! Marriage is absolutely for you!), but all of them were in earnest. All of them made me uncomfortable.

The Boy* and I have been married for a year and five months. Marriage has changed our relationship in some ways--being 100% sure feels amazeballs--but the majority of changes and lessons and "hardships" have been borne from the mere fact that we didn't cohabitate until we tied the knot. Hopefully, a year and five months will be a mere 2% of our marriage, and I absolutely don't feel qualified to be giving anybody advice or announcing that I've learned any sort of actual lesson in this short amount of time.

And so I bring to you, Interested Party, "Lessons I've Learned From Marriage: It's Great? 10 Small Domestic Annoyances That Actually Have Nothing To Do With Marriage, Just Co-Habitation":

10) He left wet towels on the floor when he would come visit. He leaves wet towels on the floor now. This is an annoyance that will not change.

9) He picked up after me when he would come to visit. He picks up after me now. He never expects thanks, but I thank him anyway, because this is a quality I greatly appreciate.

8) He uses my shampoo, which makes him smell like a girl. I guess I've learned I don't mind. He always buys new stuff that I like, because he is thoughtful, which is another quality I greatly appreciate.

7) His shoes smell. Marriage stinks.

6) Despite showing him the proper way to fold t-shirts, he continues to fail to do so to my satisfaction. I've learned to stop caring about his t-shirts, and only worry about my own.

5) No one but myself, my mother, and my sister can load a dishwasher properly. This doesn't mean that when he does it "wrong" that the dishes won't get clean. Unless they don't. Because large bowls do not belong on the bottom rack.

4) He plays way more video games than I ever imagined. Men need time to themselves, you see. I probably read more blogs than he ever imagined. Women need time to themselves, you see.

3) He hates Christmas. Which isn't true, but he doesn't express the same sort of joy and does not celebrate in the same ways I do. A proper lesson would be that we should grow our Baby Family into having our own traditions. Reality is that I'm just going to force Christmas cheer down his grinchy throat until he learns to celebrate properly.

2) His little beard hairs get everywhere in the bathroom. If only I had been properly forewarned about this hardship.

1) Annoyingly, I've learned very little, other than that I have a lot to be grateful for. The Boy is great, marriage and cohabitation have been a breeze, and I am very happy. He's the best dude I've ever known, and it's a privilege to get to be his partner and live with him. Some people have a rough time of it, for all kinds of reasons, and we've managed to avoid those somehow. We're blessed in that way.


*At some point he should probably grow into a more mature title. "The Man" is dramatically patriarchal. "The Dude" is a moniker taken by a dude in a bathrobe. "Hubs" makes me want to vomit. We call each other "Buddy", that might work. We'll field test it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When again the better angels of our nature

I was recently told by an extremely smart person that she greatly values my thoughts and opinions--that I should "start a blog" (knowing full well I have this...thing) because she thinks the way I interpret the world, and my ability to break things down, are valuable. Of course, I was deeply flattered. Anytime a PhD. wants to tell me that they think my brain is valuable, they're welcome to do so.

So I thought about that for a while. I do have certain things going for me: Chicago Public Radio is my most-listened to preset in my car, and due to my work hours I hear a lot of BBC World News. I spend a lot of time on social media making judgmental Martin-squinty-eyes at happenings in pop culture. I detest hyperbole and overreaction. I tend to subscribe to Occam's Razor in most everything. I have a lot of free time, and I actually do enjoy gathering outside perspectives on most things. I'm pretty good at summarizing things and being legitimately fair and balanced.

All that said, the world is full of middle-class, white 20-somethings who think their thoughts and opinions are worthwhile. A lot of them cook and bake way better than I can, most of them dress way better than I do, and I'm willing to bet a bunch of them are a lot more resourceful than I am. A lot of them have more life experience than I do: they've lost someone close to them, they suffer from a chronic illness, or have overcome cancer, or perhaps overcome an addiction. Who am I? Other than being a lady, I more or less have had every privilege afforded to me. I can't believe that my ideas or point of view are needed in any way, shape, or form. I'm a slightly poorer, less disaffected, and far luckier-in-love Lena Dunham (who has been quoted as saying "I'm anti-pants", so we clearly have things in common).

All THAT said, here are my thoughts over the last couple months:

-I was very surprised George Zimmerman was actually found not guilty of any sort of culpability in the murder of Trayvon Martin. I assert you can easily figure out where people's hearts and opinions lie about that case based upon their framing of it as a "murder" or a "killing/shooting". I spent a lot of time thinking about ways I could speak out about what I felt was injustice, without co-opting the feelings of black Americans.

-The WikiLeaks scandal made me uncomfortable. I understand why Julian Assange is free while Chelsea Manning is jailed. I don't like that our government was keeping some really damaging things from the public, but I also don't like government secrets getting leaked. I'm team "anti-leaks" while also being "team transparency in governance. I assert you can tell how compassionate a news organization is whether or not they respected Chelsea's request to call her Chelsea and use feminine pronouns.

-Mass shootings keep happening, and I will never, ever be able to have a rational discussion about gun control with people who aren't anti-guns. Not because people who are pro-guns/pro-2nd Amendment/anti-gun control are horrible people, but because I am extremely irrational in my fear and loathing of guns. I can understand the right to bear arms, and the framers' intent, and social/cultural factors that probably contribute more than access to guns, but I don't think I'll ever be able to shake that gut feeling that guns are bad, and no one should have access to murder machines. For these reasons, I stay out of these discussions.

-Boo government shutdown. Boo Tea Party. Boo Republicans for letting yourselves be bullied by party extremists. Fist-bump to the President for negotiating with Iran and not bitter GOP House members. Some people thought that reflected poorly on the President, but I think it sent a loud, clear message about what he thought about the Tea Party and their demands. We don't negotiate with terrorists.

-On a related note, I'm not completely a bleeding heart namby pamby liberal person, in that I had only marginal reserves of sympathy for the government workers who were on forced paid leave. I repeat--paid leave. Yeah, not getting your paycheck at the beginning of the month was probably hard, but welcome to the private sector. Except in the private sector you wouldn't be getting those un-worked days paid back to you on a later check, you'd just be SOL. "What are they supposed to do??" cried politicians and citizens decrying the shutdown. IDK, dip into their savings? Budget? Find a new job? Your average American seems to have been able to figure it out when it happened to them, and Congress hasn't been securing their back-pay.

-The Affordable Care Act has already helped me (the Boy only needed 6 months of gap insurance before he could be added to my plan since he could stay on his parents' plan until he was 26, free birth control, free yearly preventative care screening), and I'm excited to find time to read the literature Friday's sent me to see if I'm eligible for subsidies. I'm sorry if younger, healthier people will be "penalized" for being young and healthy and having higher premiums than they're used to, but I think (if for some reason this system stays in place for the long term *cough team nationalized health care cough*) they'll appreciate young people carrying that burden when they themselves are older and sicker and don't have to pay a zillion dollars to stay alive, let alone have any sort of quality of life.

-Logic behind American obsession with English nobility re: royal baby eludes me to this day. Didn't my elder Martins fight a war to ensure I didn't have to care about the monarchy?

-Egypt: get your act together. Please don't ask me, or the US, how. We don't have good ideas. A similar entry would fall under "Syria".

-I'm kind of mad at Edward Snowden, more than I am Chelsea Manning. That is exactly the kind of leaking I disapprove of. Boo Edward.

-I've been married for over a year and will be spending Thanksgiving in Boston. Thumbs-up and smiles all around.


Word-vomitingly yours,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's in a name?

I was simultaneously hoping no one would notice, and that everyone would notice.

I changed my name on Facebook a month or so ago...back to what it's always been.

I had changed my name on Facebook shortly after the wedding only semi-reluctantly. Even though I was pretty sure I was comfortable with the choice we as a couple had made, it still felt wrong to me. But the flush of nuptial bliss and all those shiny pictures of me in a beautiful gown with my glowing and handsome husband (!) made me feel a bit like a new person on Facebook already, so why not go and update the name?

It took a couple attempts. Should I do the full thing? The Boy and I had agreed to share both a middle and a last name. He would take my "maiden" name as a 2nd middle, as would I, and I would assume his surname as my own (it seemed egalitarian. ish). Catherine Elizabeth Martin Durbin. But, would people think I was doing a double-barreled last name instead? After several gos, I finally settled on Cathi EM. Durbin. Several friends joked I should be Cathi Elizabeth M.D. I silently sulked that, even though The Boy went to the DMV with me to change his name on his license, he didn't change anything on Facebook. And why should he? He didn't have his original middle name up there, why should he suddenly decide to display his new one? Our egalitarian-ish choice was seeming less egalitarian, and I bristled.

I changed my display name on my e-mail, and after several months I changed my voicemail message. I held off doing anything with Social Security--I didn't want to confuse the IRS, you see. Paperwork takes time, who knew if three months would be enough time for the corporate office to officially change the I-9 or W-4 or whatever it was before the W-2's came out? Tax season came, and went. We filed jointly with no issues.

Time passed and still I stalled. Friends and acquaintances got married in the meantime, and all of them changed their names on Facebook too. Every time one of my lady friends gleefully changed her name online, my heart sank. Where were my strong, feminist peers? Why wasn't anyone standing firm and keeping their original name? How was I supposed to live vicariously through someone, if no one was doing it?*

It was around that mental point that I realized it wasn't too late for me--I could still remain Cathi Martin. I didn't have to live vicariously through someone, I could I rolled that concept around in my brain and felt a small thrill--and a huge dose of guilt. A couple days into mulling over this option, I had a conversation with a coworker who accused me of not wanting to be married anymore. I asked The Boy a dozen times if he would be sad or mad or disappointed if I never officially changed anything and he kept reassuring me (as he did when we were engaged) that it really, really didn't matter to him; do whatever made me happiest. I read things online cheering on the non-changing choice as small, individual victories for The Sisterhood, and I read things online forecasting the demise of my marriage since I was obviously holding something back.

I told my dad that I didn't think I was ever going to officially change, that I'll always be a Martin. He smiled into his plate of nachos before fixing his face into an expression of bland concern and told me that it sounded like I'd put a lot of thought into this. The irrational sense of guilt I was feeling (like I was somehow cheating The Boy out of something?) was still there, but it was so, so much smaller than the hot ball of anxiety and wild horror that had been spinning inside my chest when making the small moves to change my identity. The final straw came when a couple wedding invitations arrived addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Boy Durbin". While I know my poor friends were just exercising "proper etiquette", something finally snapped inside of me.

So, here I am. Cathi Martin. On the one hand, I really hoped no one would notice that "Cathi EM Durbin" had changed back to "Cathi Martin", since I didn't want a Facebook wall full of "omg--divorce?????" messages. On the other hand, I wanted everyone to notice. I wanted it to be a big deal, so that the next time someone has to think about changing their name, they don't worry themselves sick over it like I did.

In the meantime, I'm pretty sure there's still time for both of us to officially change our last name to "Awesome" if we wanted to.

<3 p="">CMart (who reserves the right to change her mind again)

*For the record, I don't think changing one's name is inherently an un-feminist choice, or that my friends who did change their last names are weak, or downtrodden. I know that's the implied counterpoint to the above rant, and I want it clear that I don't think that. My brain was just in a weird, bad place where everyone else's choices seemed like a referendum on my own, and on society as a whole, which absolutely isn't true. I almost wish that changing my surname upon marriage was as natural and joyful a choice as it was for so many of my friends. Having a family name would be nice, you know?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Puppets (or: The Double Edged Sword of Projected Expectations)

Last night at work a familiar scene played itself out in the corner of the bar. Some guests had a perfectly  normal experience, and ended their stay by hailing a passing server to get a manager to lodge complaints about the evening that were a complete mystery to me.

The details are irrelevant, really. Perhaps they were angling for free food (our culture seems to support the transactional model of "here is my complaint--I'd like to redeem it for one free meal, please"), perhaps their expectations were unrealistic, or perhaps they didn't like the cut of our jib. The motivations of guests who fabricate complaints aren't really any of my concern. The other bartender and I provided perfectly fine service and we weren't in trouble, so we just shrugged and rolled our eyes and went about our business of giving perfectly fine service to our other guests.

I've been bartending for six years, and unfortunately it's taken me almost as long to reach a state of acceptance about my place in the world while I am in uniform. I spent a long time confused about it, as my bosses, coworkers, and the regular guests all seemed interested in me as a unique person (as I was, them), and so my assumption was that all the other persons I was interacting with also considered me as a fellow person. Having been raised my entire life by parents and a community of people who acknowledged that I am a special snowflake, worthy of consideration as an individual, it's easy to see why it has taken several years for that paradigm to shift.

All snark aside, it really has made my work life immeasurably less stressful to truly internalize that by and large, I am not important to my guests. Sure, the caliber of service I provide will impact their enjoyment of the 45 minutes I've been placed in charge of their food and drink, but I am but a cog in a machine. This realization shouldn't have taken so long, honestly. All those guests are cogs in my own personal life machine. Insert Bar Guest, Receive Money. Their lives outside of the walls of my bar are irrelevant to me, and their worth as a person is directly tied to the amount of drinks they order and how generous of tippers they are, so why should I expect them to care about my worth as a person outside of competently mixing up a tasty beverage?

The bright side of this is that when guests behave irrationally, I am a duck and their nonsense is water. Off my back. And such as. When someone starts our interaction by sullenly ignoring me, or snapping at me, it's easier to remember that it really isn't personal. When someone tries to scam a free meal by complaining about me because they've decided society's rules about payment for goods and services don't apply to them, I know it has nothing to do with me.*

The dark side is that sometimes I'm reminded of my interchangeable status after a bar guest has lulled me into a false sense of making real, human connection. I get plenty of people (men, usually) who obviously just want to talk about themselves and their own opinions--that's a fact of bartending I accepted long ago. No one wants to hear what I think about the Cub's bullpen when they have their own theories and gripes. What has surprised me, and taken me just as long to accept as the aforementioned zen-like shrugging, is when I find myself floundering through some sort of personal script a patron has lured me into. These scripts tend to take the form of the patron offering me advice, trying to "save" me from bartending. I used to not realize what was happening until they ignored my statements of "actually, I'm quite happy" by trying to convince me that I couldn't possibly be. I've since had enough experience with these conversations to see them starting, almost always with a "So, what else do you do?" which is rapidly followed by the patron telling me how smart, pretty, and capable I am. I hear that question and those words and heave a heavy, inward sigh, and hunker down for some concern trolling doused in paternalism, disguised as friendly banter.

These people don't know me. They've never met me before, and the only information they have about me is that I am cheerful and capable of pouring a Bud Light in a timely fashion. I'm no psychologist, but I feel pretty comfortable asserting that the people (men) who tell me how much potential I have after three minutes of interaction, and who spend the next thirty minutes telling me exactly how I can turn my life around, have a deep seated need to feel powerful and smart. I'm a captive audience member. I'm female. I'm in a position of service to them. They have implied social status over me in myriad ways, and by exercising that status to educate and inform me, they're enacting a scene for themselves where they themselves are smart, powerful, and capable. I could be anybody. I definitely don't have to be me, personally.

So, it's a double edged sword. Being a cog, in general**, protects my insides sometimes and shreds my insides sometimes. Mostly, I just want to mix some drinks, lament about the Cubs, and come home with some money.

*Obviously, sometimes I do mess things up and I take full responsibility for those mistakes--usually by apologizing, correcting the mistake, and offering something beyond mere correction to placate the angry folk and delight the understanding folk. I actually can't think of a time when I legitimately messed up/didn't notice a kitchen mistake that required a guest to request a manager of their own accord. Not to brag, but I'm relatively good at most aspects of my job, including foibles.

**I am not a cog in many specific cases. I have lots of regulars who like me as a person, and whom I enjoy as people. They ask about my husband and the TV shows we have in common, I inquire after their pets and and their upcoming international travel. We make each other smile and the 45 minutes we spend together some days leave us all with more than a full belly or a pocket full of tips.