To do: 10:00 daily review, 12:30 meeting with Brev, 2:00 pick up Corey from school, 4:15 back at office, 4:30 meeting with clients, 6:30 pick up groceries on the way home. That’s my day. I practically relive it over and over. There’s barely a need to write it in my black book. It’s the same thing every day. My only saving grace is the weekend. That, and the fact that I am lucky to have a job like this in the first place.
I am a woman engineer. And a mother. People shame me for having a job as a mother. That Corey will be messed up from not having a mom at home. People would shame me if I didn’t have a job as a mother too. You really can’t win. But where I really can’t win is in this office.
My boss, Jared, pulls me in, “G’morning Rach...can I have a word with you?”. Not this again. I bet you he’s mad at the way I handled the situation with Brad. Brad is the kind of guy that has everything handed down to him, just able to float through life. Yesterday, we got into a little (or maybe it wasn’t so little) argument. It started with him saying, “yeah, makes sense you women get paid less here”. He pulled that line out of thin air, tossed it around as if it carried no weight. He looked at his email, from a woman, and practically said “ah….yes, women are indeed inferior” while kicking his feet up, relaxing back in his chair, soaking in that superiority complex. And that was just the last straw.
I have a habit of biting my tongue when it comes to these things. The sexist remarks, the eye rolls, the constant ‘mansplaining’ or the way they feel like they can just talk over me. If I fought every one of these things, I wouldn’t have a job. There would be no women on the ‘inside’ that could actually get far. You have to choose your battles. Yesterday, I didn’t feel like I had a choice, and maybe got a little too heated. Brad cried. I laughed. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most professional choice for any of it, especially him.
“I heard about your little quarrel with Brad…” Jared sighs. It was a belly sigh of disappointment.
Great. The one time I say anything at all is going to be the time I get fired.
“...and I want to offer you this bonus of $20,00” he said with his pearly whites showing and a nod of assertion. My body is frozen, stunned.
He rambles on, “I figured this money could clear the air about the whole ‘salary issue’. See, Brad came to me last night. He was so hurt by your words. As much as Brad is always right, this time he wasn’t. I knew in that moment that I should give better attention to you female workers here. So, I am happy to award you with this bonus and have the whole ‘situation’ dissolved.”
Is he kidding? Air cleared? He even proceeded to use air quotes... As if he didn’t think there was an actual issue. My salary has always been less than the men at the firm. There is a wage gap and I haven’t had the opportunity to bring it up. I was waiting for the perfect moment to mention it to Jared. Instead, he thought that $20,000 would just shut me up. That this money makes this issue disappear. This money is nice, don’t get me wrong. And I’m going to take it because I need it for my family, and I do deserve it, but what I really deserve is a fair salary. This money doesn’t even make up the difference. Especially not Brad’s difference. He sucks. Barely puts in any effort. They don’t know. They don’t get it. I don’t know if they ever will.
It's hopeless. If I said even the smallest remark about this bonus, these men would turn it against me and tell me I'm not grateful, that I’m not appreciative of all that they’ve given me. That they are granting me a favor, and I should be happy. Maybe even call me a bitch. It wouldn’t help. It definitely wouldn’t give me or any other woman here a better salary. Any of the other 3 women in the sea of men. So, instead of lashing out I gulp and exclaim, “thank you!”.
I feel defeated. I just got a huge bonus, I should be excited. I should be calling my husband ecstatic that I got $20,000. I should be already planning in my head the wonderful vacation that I can use the money for. That’s what all the other workers do. I hear them calling their wives, giving each other high fives, pats on the back. Instead, I will be using this money to pay off my last and final chunk of student loans, and guilty that I couldn’t fight for myself more, that I couldn’t fight for women more.
In less than 24 hours I’ll have people on all sides telling me what I “should've done” in that office. My gramps will say that I should’ve asked for a bigger bonus, to scrounge for what else he could offer me. My best friend, Marissa, will be offering her opinion that I shouldn’t have taken any money. I should have fought for an equal salary or nothing. She is a wonderful person and feminist and all of the above but it makes me feel like shit. Like I’m a bad person. That I can’t do a single thing right. Can’t even accept money that I earned, even if it was on bad terms. I know this doesn’t make me a bad person, but when everyone is constantly telling me I’m wrong, it’s hard not to believe it myself.
I open the door to my tiny two bedroom apartment. My husband in the dining room, feeding Corey. He glances at me. He knows. He nods with a little grin and sighs. Almost like Jared’s but not of disappointment. He says he’s proud of me. He makes a face at Corey who lets out a giant screech of laughter and I forget about the whole day. The two of them make it worth it. They help me remember that even if the world is against me, they would never be. The two men that I would do anything for. Everyone else can screw it.
Sometimes we have the most growth in the mundaneness. I don’t need big things to happen once a week, I’m just fine with doing the same thing everyday, writing the same thing in my black book, excited to go home, waiting for the weekends, watching Corey grow up. There is comfort in this repetition.