It’s 3:30 in the morning. I took my evening supplements. I brushed my teeth. I put in my night retainer. Then i sat in a chair until morning came and it was time to pull the retainer out and take supplements again. I was thinking about my job interview. It wasn’t so much that i had tanked it as it was that i never had a chance. I spent an entire day researching the company. It was 115 years old. It was founded by a very brave woman who was determined to support 5 boys on her own after the death of her husband. It was a company that gave back to its community through charity efforts and christian values. I wanted to be a part of such a company. I laundered my interview clothes, tucked in my shirt, picked out my most masculine earrings, shirt, shoes, and mask…i didn’t wear anything remotely girly. No pearls. No pink. I wanted to be taken seriously. I couldn’t risk coming across feminine. I was off to try and convince someone i could handle physical labor and i could be taught to drive a fork lift. Now, i know how that sounds. I know people look at me and see 98 lbs of femininity and nothing else. But, people once felt the same way about me becoming an occupational therapy assistant. I graduated, passed the certification exam, the licensing exam, and spent 6 years walking an average of 5 miles per shift and lifting 100 to 200 lb people with a gait belt and a good understanding of body mechanics. So, things are not always what they seem. You can’t just assume you know what someone’s capable of by looking at them.
I dressed for the role i wanted. I perfected my cover letter and resume. I researched the company to Timbuktu. I came up with an answer for every question i thought i might be asked. I was assertive, confident, and upbeat. It didn’t matter. The interview lasted 5 minutes. The first thing that was said was that i was not right for the position. They did not see me as the quota-meeting, fork-lift driving, fast paced kind of worker. They felt i’d be better at carrying grocery bags through the parking lot to peoples’ cars. Less stress and a more appropriate amount of physicality for me. I could tell the interview was over. I didn’t want to lose the possibility of a different job offer down the road so i tried not to let on how insulted i was. I had lifted people from bed to chair, from chair to toilet, and from chair to tub for the past 7 years. I had dug 6 tree-sized holes through straight limestone with a metal stick, i had lifted those chicken pen panels by myself and constructed a greenhouse, a chicken coop, and a chicken pen by myself while combatting covid symptoms. I built and carried my own winter tree boxes. I lifted bags of salt chips, dog food, and chicken feed on a regular basis. I had actually been known to lend my box cutter to baffled employees in the produce section who werent sure how to break down their boxes without the one they’d left in the back of the store. I never went anywhere without mine. You never know when you might need it. I was strong enough to do all those things. I was fast enough to see all the patients daily at 95 to 102 percent productivity. I was collected enough to handle the stress of working in healthcare. But i was not qualified to open boxes and put items on shelves quickly. What bothered me was not so much that they didn’t think i could do it. What bothered me was the notion that a man could sit in the same chair, stare at the same interviewer and answer the same questions and somebody would decide to take a risk on training him on the off-chance that he would be fast enough to meet the nightly quota. How did they really know if a man would be good at or fast at the job just by looking at him. They didn’t. They thought. They figured. They decided to give him a go and see how he did. As i untucked my shirt and ditched my bra and boots i looked in the mirror and i tried to see what other people must see when they look at me. I tried to put myself in their shoes and look at myself with new eyes, as if i’d never met me before. It gave me a sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach. I saw a small-statured woman around 100 lbs that wouldn’t be able to reach things that others could. How my appearance betrayed my soul. How my stature betrayed the amount of fight i had in me. Even my gender was all wrong. To own a homestead i needed to be a man. To run the homestead without help i needed to be a man. To drive a forklift i needed to be a man. To be decidedly single in a small town without it being news…i needed to be a man. Sometimes i wished i were. Not because i felt like that’s who i wanted to be or because i was uncomfortable in my own skin. I just sometimes wished others could see what i knew to be there, and i didn’t feel like it would be such a fight to have my gumption acknowledged if i had dangly bits. I sighed.
My thoughts began to drift towards other jobs i’d like to have. I thought, “if i didn’t have fruit trees and chickens that needed tending i would just go ahead and learn to drive a semi. I could travel the country, watch weather patterns developing, spend the whole day driving, listening to tunes, put the dogs in the truck with me, a bag of dog food in a chest where they couldn’t reach it…the thought balloon busted. Truck driving would have probably been the same thing…a guy’s job. I could be a server, a nanny, a cashier, or an in-home care aid. Those were the roles people would see me in if they looked at me…i applied for a pest control technician, delivery driver, and telecommunications specialist. I might not win this game but i wasn’t ready to stop trying yet. At some point, somebody would have to take the chance that i knew myself better than they did by glancing at me for 5 seconds.