Josh was very supportive when I told him I was already applying for new jobs.
"Great," he says, "Where?"
I name off a few restaurants that are hiring in the kitchen. Immediately he winces.
"Hon, um... what about ECE?"
ECE = Early Childhood Education, Valerie's chosen field, what she just graduated from College to learn. A subject I happen to know nothing about, despite recently playing the part of "Mom."
At this time, it was early August, still time to find employment in that field by September, but I am not interested in trying to fake my way through someone else's job.
I stammer out a lie, "Oh, yeah, I've been looking... nothing concrete yet. But I figured I'd take on a second job, too, you know... student loans don't pay themselves off."
"I see," he nods. "Okay, if that's what you think is best."
I twist my mouth mischievously. "Not all of us got a nice Wall Street job right out of school, with our uncle's neighbor." I happen to have some knowledge of Josh's life.
"Hey, I earned this," he smiles, "With hours and hours of unpaid internship, remember?"
"Right," I say, delivering the coup de grace, "And that internship was possible because your loving girlfriend worked 40 hours a week on top of her school schedule to pay for a place to live."
He huffs an apologetic, "Let's not have this fight again," and hugs me. I don't feel good about it, but knowing how Val had him wrapped around his finger comes in handy.
I did put in some applications for Daycare and Infant Care positions, and any interviews I got, I bombed -- perhaps deliberately but I doubt I would present as the most capable candidate. Still, it doesn't take much, just slouch, seem disinterested, and have bad answers. So I could look Josh in the eye and say I tried.
By late August, I still didn't have an ECE job and Josh was off my case. But I still didn't have a part time job either.
It was frustrating. I'm not a brilliant chef by any means but I have some good skills and can be slotted in to any line. But I'm used to Kitchen Managers looking at me and seeing a rugged, experienced guy, not a fresh-faced young girl with no kitchen jobs on her resume, just waitressing (snd knowing the friction that often exists between front-of-house staff and the kitchen... yikes.) Honestly, I look like a delicate flower who would get stomped on in a kitchen, and I know it.
So, finally, I challenged my interviewer: take me back there, slot me in for a shift, unpaid and off the books. If you like my work, hire me. This is at a pretty nice Manhattan hotel, they don't usually do stuff like this.
This was no exception. But I had "balls, for a broad" so I got a two-week assessment period.
At the end of week one, I was sweaty and exhausted, this body not used to producing the adrenaline necessary for a high pressure work environment (although I'm sure childcare is not a snooze either!) But I survive my probation.
Two benefits here: One, I make my own money, so I don't have to pathetically ask my financially-stable fiancé for hand outs. And two, the hours are like 4 PM-close, which could be well after midnight, so I don't much see him... which, hey, I like the guy well enough but it makes things a lot easier with our no-intimacy pact.
The only problem is? I freaking hated it.
Like I said, Val isn't necessarily built for this... I have no reach, and my boobs get in the way of everything. Plus, there's a lot of yelling that needs to be done and whenever I hear my high-pitched voice call out "Yes, Chef!" I cringe. I felt like I'd lost more than a step and was going home frustrated and upset every night. I was almost as achy and tired after one day as I was during a week of being Judith (who, you might recall, was prone to migraines and sore joints.)
A lot has changed for me, but kitchen jobs are basically the same. The mentality is very much immature frathouse hijinks to take the pressure off. Guys talk about dirty stuff they would to do female patrons, have contests to see how long they can hold spatulas in their asses, and of course do filthy things to the food of patrons they didn't like.
Aside from my years in the Guard, I spent most of my 20's as part of that world. And it made a lot of sense then. But not now.
Even worse... I'm an outsider, a new hire who seemingly has no experience, looks prissy and soft, and has no previous experience. So I got targeted pretty bad. Now, I can take it, like I said I've been around the block -- if they want to come at me with some sexist remarks about how they want to tie my tits to the house from "Up" and float away, I can fire back about how I would crush their junk into a cube like "Wall-E." And if they want to smear certain bodily fluids on the very nice, very expensive bra I left in my locker (remember, not many retailers carry decent bras in all sizes) I can deposit certain sanitary devices in their lockers.
I could earn their respect, but it took me a while to realize... why should I bother?
I was venting to Pete about how much extra work it was, how I felt so differently about it now, because I'm a bit older and female, so my perspective has changed.
Pete shrugged, "So, why bother? Why not just quit and do something else?"
I scoffed. "I'm not going to let them chase me away."
"Why not?" Pete said, "Is this your dream job? Do you see yourself advancing in this world? After all, you're only gonna be Valerie for a year or so. Why put up with shit you don't need to take? What are you really losing if you take the L here? Find an easier, less frustrating and sexist job. That's not letting them win, that's showing them you don't need to play."
I blew that advice off initially, but it was ringing in my ears the next time one of the guys tried to twerk on me during he lunch rush.
I went to the kitchen manager, and said, "Hey, I'm quitting."
He looked at me like an irritation, "Don't get your panties in a wad... I can talk to the guys if you want me to."
"No, no, don't bother," I sighed. "I know what it's like. Believe me. A few years ago I would have been up for it, and trust me, I could give as good as I got. But I'm tired, man. I'm older. These guys are having a lot of fun being young assholes, and they'll outgrow it eventually I hope, but it's not the right place for me anymore."
He raised an eyebrow. "Older? You're what, twenty-two?"
I shrugged, "Twenty-three," meaning really thirty-one, "But I've gotta grow up sometime. Thanks for giving me a shot."
I had mixed feelings about that decision. By this time it was early September, too late to get an ECE job if I had wanted one. I went home and crawled into bed next to Josh.
"Mmm... babe, 'zat you?" he muttered.
"Uh huh... shhh, just go back to sleep."
"Our deal..." he said dreamily, "Does that include hand stuff?"
I snickered, "Yeah, I think so."
"Aw, that's too bad," he whispered, eyes still closed, "...For you, I mean."
I rolled over, and he did too to be the big spoon. "I'll manage."
"Yeah," he said, "I managed twice today. G' night."
More to come...