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Way Cool Women Doing Way Cool Things

We'll Call This Shameless Self-Promotion

We’ll call this shameless self-promotion

During these last lazy days of summer, spend some of your afternoon spinning around in your desk chair looking at these lovely lady entrepreneurs of the interwebs. Some of these would be fantastic bookmarks for holiday gifts.

Goddess Leslie Hall

Leslie Hall is one of my new feminist heroes. Her YouTube channel is a treasure. And if you want to buy some things she made, you can just visit her website.

Vegan Soap

A very strange woman I know recently got serious about selling some of this spectacular soap she and her people make. Check it out.

An annoying vegan told me they might be doing gift packs + wrapping for Xmas at very, very reasonable prices.

Whale Snotbot

So, if you like whales, and I totally do, this thing is happening. It’s a newly funded kickstarter an acquaintance of mine ran to make researching whales a) easier, and b) less stressful for whales by COLLECTING THEIR MUCOUS. USING ROBOTS. Huzzah! Girl Power!

Lady Lucy’s Madness

I really love knowing creative people. Mad Lucy makes the most excellent accessories I have ever seen using doll parts, clay, sequins, eyeballs, and all manner of other fantastic things. Visit her Etsy store for more info.

Sojourn of a Hungry Soul

Laurie Cannady’s memoir is beautiful and powerful and astonishing. I’ll be introducing her at her book launch in November, at Lock Haven University where she teaches. Reserve your copy on Amazon or at etruscanpress.org.

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Notes From The Road.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/2789113344/in/photolist-5fsWe7-diugKp-o6qxW-ehDioj-8YPQQ4-9QPp9-6Mdx3F-4Mxiuu-4mAQff-cadkCj-cT5RAY-4xSKzt-5LDsRZ-64W8kL-7TYWbb-9LE1CS-nGwmYu-7dTyrL-mWzQjZ-bYfPzS-djCqm-f1Eu12-89ytzh-qeKBw8-avAjXu-fW3cSS-FNWa4-g6K4Z-5APGkK-5fzZ5b-ao19br-5HMTxE-4hJkMi-ef8Fhz-fxZTv-7hMxyh-ddSJg-8XLpCR-4oLyv5-5GsUpX-dd9GfR-mGnJWn-8tsqTm-81JA6w-aqtYNJ-k3D94x-fcbKFp-7RTdXx-4r96YV-y994Y

Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelll

Today I drove 40 miles south, then a few hours later I drove back. I saw at least ten cars pulled over, but only got a look at four of the drivers. Two black; two white. I wish I could say I believed there’s a chance the six drivers I didn’t see were white.

Christians, if you’re going to drive like assholes, maybe don’t have those WWJD bumper stickers or icthyses placed prominently on the rear end of your car which I will undoubtedly see as you cut me off.

Brokeass white people with Romney Ryan stickers left over from ’12, one of these days I really will rear end one of you. Know how I know your asses are broke? You drive Jeeps and Ford Escapes from ’89 that almost look lacy for all the rust. Your cars make more noise than semis, and not cos you installed a muffler enhancer. And at least half of you drive around shirtless.

Anybody reading this have any experience with 4th graders and pickup lines? Asking for a friend.

Thinking about law school and getting a PhD with equal lather lately. Anybody know the starting salary for a social justice lawyer? HAHAHA.

Sometimes, I eat onions then I smell really bad.

Nobody in my family loves the Green Ralph Lauren cologne the way I do. Anybody who wears that wanna follow me around so I can inhale deeply your delicious odor like a sweaty perv?

My student’s incomplete is due on Monday. I will turn in his grade on Friday. Don’t know why I feel so anxious about whether or not he will actually turn in his incomplete. Maybe it’s related to the fact that I haven’t been brave enough to view my scores on rate my professor dot com.

Finally, I’m 34. It’d be really unfair if I were really perimenopausal. If, in fact, I am, I am looking for a gynecological surgeon for some pro bono work on my uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. You may keep them for study. Say you found them in a dumpster. I don’t care.

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Franzen, Weiner, and Nuance

From Flickr User Gerard Stolk

From Flickr User Gerard Stolk

I’ve been planning my triumphant return to blogging.

Since I’m done with grad school (for now), I theoretically have time for this again.

What I planned was this confessional about how I’ve been in a shitty mood and fuck the patriarchy.

But then I got sidetracked by Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Weiner.

My writer friend, Beth Bates, pointed out this interview by another writer friend, Susan Lerner, with Jonathan Franzen.

Here’s the interview.

Read it. It’s great.

It also blew up the internet a little. You Go, Susan.

I’ve been noticing these past six months or so as a teacher and person-who-occasionally-reads-and-writes-emails-in-a-professional-setting and a person-who-has-relationships-with-other-people-that-sometimes-include-talking-about-important-shit, that people in general do not see nuance.

Roxane Gay, in her book Bad Feminist, agrees with me. I am obsessed with that book right now. It is saving and affirming my life.

But people are even less likely to be able to see and appreciate nuance if a situation is emotionally charged in any way.

I become a dreadful adherer to the divine principles of black and white when I am upset. We all do.

And therein lies some of the danger of the immediacy of internet publishing (tweeting, blogging, rocking out an essay for Slate, etc).

Discourse between Jennifer Weiner and Jonathan Franzen could be so interesting, complex, and helpful.

But because they both have the platform and freedom to reply in the heat of the moment, and because they are both super brainy people with big opinions, and because they genuinely rub each other wrong, they do a lot of name calling.

Jennifer Weiner’s not the only woman lobbying for equal representation for women in publishing.

Here’s a lovely piece by Meg Wolitzer, and another, from 1988, by Francine Prose that  could’ve been written last week. And let’s not forget VIDA in all its myriad glory.

Franzen is not the only grumpy white guy who is well respected in the world of letters.

You can find your own links for that–those dudes got enough of my time during my education.

It seems Jennifer Weiner is not the only thing Jonathan Franzen is grumpy about. He is irritated with social media. And lord knows what else.

But Jennifer Weiner is plenty grumpy about Jonathan Franzen, too. Read her rebuttal to the recent shit storm.

While punchy and entertaining, her remarks are defensive. She ignores the nuance. She sort of takes what JF said about her out of context. She writes as if he just randomly decided to say something else inflammatory about her.

That’s not really what happened. He was asked, specifically, about women writers and Jennifer Weiner. My girl Susan even mentioned VIDA.

Was he kind? No. Did he “slam” her? No. I don’t think so.

Something else he didn’t do? Slam all women writers.

I think he asked an important question, “Do we want Jennifer Weiner to be the spokesperson for equal representation of women’s writing?” to which I would add the following questions:

  • Why aren’t there many male spokespeople on this topic?
  • How is it not clear that crime novels and romance novels and other commercial novels have the same value as each other, and if some are reviewable, well damnit, so are they all?
  • Why does Jonathan Franzen get to ignore the fact that there are other spokeswomen on this topic, some of whom I’m sure he’s actually read? Some of whom probably also have a fraught relationship with Twitter!

These are important questions, all of them, and even though he’s a blowhard some of the time, Jonathan Franzen would be interested discuss. So would Jennifer Weiner.

Jonathan Franzen actually said *this is an important issue.* And the problem with the idea of Jennifer Weiner being perceived as The Spokesperson is that a) she is not, and b) she is not the only kind of woman writer. There are lots of us.

The bigger problem, as I see it, is that Jonathan Franzen (and many other white male writers) are able to live in a world of total ignorance of this conversation.

They just don’t know how many of us women writers are speaking out–on twitter, on our blogs, as teachers at universities, as public figures, sharing the VIDA count link every year, getting together with our lady writer friends and guzzling wine and talking talking talking about this very shit.

They don’t know because they don’t have to, because the stakes are very very low for them.

But who wants to pay attention to a conversation full of name calling, especially if they are on the long end of the privilege stick?

I like Jennifer Weiner. I heard her speak, shook her hand. She is funny and warm. I would have coffee with her without thinking twice. I bought one of her books for my mom for Xmas. New.

But these two are publicly quibbling over a VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE, that I doubt, when the rubber hits the road, they differ on much at all.

Imagine if these two leveraged the breadth variety of their audiences to raise awareness and !Action! on this issue? Weiner’s already made strides.

I think that Franzen must be ignoring information that is certainly at his disposal, since he claims “[Jennifer Weiner makes] no case for why formulaic fiction ought to be reviewed in the New York Times.

The thing people have seized about that statement is, “Jennifer Weiner makes no case.” (she does, it’s in her rebuttal)

I haven’t read anything that notes how Franzen’s got the wrong stick here. Nuance, anyone?

NY Times Book Review lets you search all reviews since 1981. I typed in Stephen King , got numerous hits of reviews both by him and of his books on the first page. Then I typed in the less-famous-and-way-less-notoriously-tight-with-the-intellectual-lefties, John Grisham, and the same.

Just for funzies, I typed in Anne Rice and got two articles. One from 2014, a year after Times Books’s controversial hiring of a female Editor Pamela Paul, and another, on the second page of results, from 2008. (I also found the review of Weiner’s most recent).

But Franzen says something else, too, in that interview. Something surprising. Something I think Jennifer Weiner would have to wholeheartedly agree with. He says what people read doesn’t have to be emotionally complex, that adults reading YA Fiction aren’t doing anything wrong, even though other Grumpy White Dudes think so.

I think Franzen would have to agree that fiction on par with Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, and Stephen King, is the same kind of delicious, ready escapism.

And some other day I will write about the problem that almost everyone mentioned in this little blog post is white.

So let’s all unbunch our panties, boxers, or dingleberries, shall we, and have an actual conversation. Let’s ask honest questions and discuss them after taking a break to scream, privately, into our pillows, about how much of an arrogant prick the question asker is, or what an entitled c-word.

Wanna?

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#NaNoWriMo, it’s not just for writing novels anymore.

from Flickr User Monda, used under a Creative Commons attribution license

from Flickr User Monda, used under a Creative Commons attribution license

So, it’s NaNo.

The month that fills every writer I know with a sense of hope and possibility. Or, as likely, dread and insecurity. Whatever the feelings, NaNo inspires a certain type of person to get behind a keyboard.

Whatever the end result, writing is good for a person’s soul.

And as much as I am not prone to loving the hype, I think NaNo is pretty great. I have never successfully participated myself, but I talk about it from time to time, and I like to hear about it, read the posts, enjoy the energy from my every-month-of-the-year-WriMo perch at my little table in my little office.

I get annoyed with all the snobbish woe-is-me posts from seasoned or professional writers saying things like, “better yet, don’t write that novel,” and “to win, you could theoretically write the prhase, ‘nipple sandwich’ 25,000 times and earn yourself a little certificate.”

The second quotation isn’t from a technically hating piece, but it’s from a post that does, at its core, seem to be about de-glamorizing the writing life and explaining that writing is not just this magical thing that happens while you hardly notice then suddenly you’re getting piles of cash and accolades like you’re some kind of Stephen King protege.

And that’s truth. The piece is called “25 Things You Should Know about NaNoWriMo.” It could also be called “25 Things You Should Know About Being a Writer, some of these relate to NaNo.”

Get to the point, already!

I hate hacks.

I would tell anybody. And I am. See? You’re anybody. I maybe don’t know you at all. And now you know a little truth about me. Hacks make me full of ire and nasty words I have no shyness or fear about spewing all over hack backs.

But I don’t hate NaNo.

Call me Pollyanna, but my feelings on the matter are this: People who finish NaNo are people who are, at least in some small way, committed to living the writing life. It is not easy to write every day, least of all 1666 words.

And whatever else happens, the douche fools who query agents and editors Dec 1 with their shitty 50,000 words are people who would do it anyway. Maybe they wouldn’t do it Dec 1, but at least now there is the possibility for an editor/agent to blanket ignore any unsolicited submissions that appear on Dec 1-15 (note to self).

But this year, my writer friend and I have committed to writing-related goals in honor of WriMo. She’s finishing her novel (she’s been working on it for years), and I am submitting my essays to literary journals and querying agents to the tune of 5 each week.

It took me a year and a half to write all these essays, and I still consider the manuscript to be in progress, I am, in fact, revising three new essays for it now.

I’m keeping a spreadsheet which I will show to my friend once a week.

My friend is showing me her pages.

So NaNo is about accountability. About setting and reaching writing goals.

So get yourself a partner and write! Or Submit! Or Query! Or Revise! Or Outline! Or plot! Or whatever you need to do to get wherever There is.

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5 Freelancing Hacks That Will Improve Your Adjunct Life

https://www.flickr.com/photos/denisecarbonell/2099081714/sizes/m/

Flickr image courtesy denise carbonell

Friends have complimented my work boundaries. That is, my no-bullshit approach to getting everything done and committing the appropriate amount of personal resources to each of my projects so as to avoid burning out. I’m telling you, this has been a hard-won way to live, there have been stretches of years during which I ran hot at full speed + did burn myself out.

I want to share with you five things I learned as a freelance Editor and Writer that translate DIRECTLY into the world of adjunct professorship.

1. Money F*cking Matters

It is certainly my impulse–and I think a lot of adjuncts have this problem–to totally live, eat, sleep, and breathe the teaching. But for what I’m getting paid, I just can’t. You can’t either.

That is, you have to allocate a number of hours that means you have time to do all the other things. Pick a dollar amount that you need to make per hour, figure out how your adjunct pay breaks down into that figure, then WORK THAT NUMBER OF HOURS. Do what you have to do: set a timer, set up a standing appointment with your hair dresser, best friend, acupuncturist, mom, or yogi to get you away from the teaching space at the end of that time.

If you have multiple teaching gigs, and if you’re adjuncting you probably do, spend the most amount of time on the school that pays the best, even if students at the other schools are needier.

Look, if you sweat blood in service of these really wonderful jobs, and do it in exchange for too little cash (which is kind of an unfortunate truism about them), you’re going to resent it. You’re going to ultimately take it out on the students. Don’t do that. It’s not their fault. And you have an obligation to provide some value. Which brings me to number 2.

2. No Is Not a Dirty Word

Protect your mental, emotional, and physical health by saying no. You will have more energy for teaching. Maybe that means saying no to a third section of a class on a day you’re not already teaching. Your dean/chair will understand. They know what you get paid. Maybe you resist the temptation to give them supplemental readings that are SO INTERESTING! Maybe that means sending a student who is way, way behind in her writing skills to the University Tutoring Center instead of helping them word by word, even if you totally love to do that sort of thing. It definitely means saying no to students who think they need you to meet with them on a day on which you are not at their school. Be firm, and kind, and remind them of your office hours.

I am reminded of this wonderful thing by Elizabeth Gilbert.

For me, saying no to myself has been the hardest thing to learn (and I’m still learning). No, April, you may NOT make that deeply involved handout that will require hours of research, or hours of finding the perfect image. No, April, you may NOT spend an hour grading every paper. No, April, you may not make shit harder on yourself by doing grades on paper, even though you completely romanticize the grade book. Spreadsheets are good. The time you spend figuring out how to tell them to do your math for you is well spent. Which is a good segue to number 3.

3. It’s not cheating to use the internet to save time

This is what I mean: unless you are some kind of genius on the cutting edge of your field (and if you are, you’re probably not adjuncting or reading my blog), there’s already a handout or resource available for free on the internet about whatever you want to teach. Google it. Copy, Paste, Edit, Go!  There are loads of study and discussion guides available about everything. If you’re out of mental energy at the end of a super long day but you still have to plan the following day’s lesson, or if you’re teaching something you’re not 200% familiar with, Get Ye To Yonder Interwebs! I teach writing and reading, so I rob stuff from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab all the time. I always give them credit, right on the handout.

It’s not that I don’t know the stuff I’m teaching, it’s that it would take me a LONG LONG time to write, revise, obsess, and create the perfect thing, which I WANT to do, but which is energy I need to use doing something else that pays better.

If you worry about losing credibility with your students, don’t. Your students won’t notice. And if they do, you are modeling information literacy. And that, friends, is an unbelievably useful skill.

4. But Sometimes, You Gotta Work for Free

I don’t mean in exchange for publicity or some other nonsense proposed to you by a person in a more advantageous situation than yourself. I mean, in adjuncting (and in freelancing), there’s a certain amount of stuff you have to just be willing to donate your time doing, but here’s my rule: don’t donate time unless it’s a new or more impressive line on your CV. That is, only work for free if the payoff is a direct, personal advantage that will allow you to advance your career.

Here are some possibilities in adjuncting:

1. Writing Syllabi. I am lucky to be in a school where I am barely supervised in the development of my courses, and developing syllabi from scratch is a rockin’ thing on the CV of a person whose University teaching experience could be described as “1-3 years.” I write them between semesters and do not calculate that time into my above-referenced hourly wage.

2. Advising Undergradutes. Some of my colleagues advise students. I would advise students for free, because a) it is fun, and b) it can be done during office hours in which one often hears the whistling of the wind against the prairie.

3. Advising a club–this is not exactly free labor because Adjuncts are often offered some extra cash or, if they’re lucky enough to be visiting or 3/4 time or full-time temporary (or whatever your school calls it), they may be offered an exchange of some sort: advising a club means you teach one fewer sections, but get the same money. But advising a club is heavy lifting (probably more hours than teaching, at least in the beginning). And while the joyous part of it is that you work with high-achieving, super-involved students, the disadvantage is it probably means some evening and weekend work, and going out of your comfort zone to write a grant or manage a budget or interact with school bureaucracy, all things that may come with a time-intensive learning curve.

5. If you hate the job, you don’t have to keep doing it.

All you need to be an adjunct is a master’s degree and a pulse. There are other gigs, and no university expects adjuncts to be long-term employees. That means many of the rules that apply to other jobs do not apply to adjuncting: you get no credit for showing up early and staying late. You get no benefits. You do not get a living wage. Therefore, do not feel strange loyalty to the institution that let you break into the field. Do not worry about personality conflicts (like, for example, if your dean or supervisor hates you cos you have breasts or just doesn’t get your communication style), do not worry about disappointing your boss, even if you adore her (or more likely him). Use a bad experience as a stepping stone to get into a better situation, and for chrissakes learn from it.

Maybe you don’t teach for a semester while you look, and maybe you fall into a better gig, or a full time job in another field, or the perfect school for you. But you do not, not, not stay teaching in an adjunct situation that diminishes you personally, professionally, or creatively. There is absolutely no advantage to that for anyone.

Fin

Do not misunderstand. I am not advocating being a shitty adjunct professor. I am advocating being a damn good adjunct professor while honoring your personal boundaries + the boundaries of your tiny paycheck. Do the best you can for your students, but be realistic. Do not do more than you can. Even if you want to. It’s not sustainable.

Take some of the excess (if you’ve got it) you’d like to devote to your delightful, eager, remarkable students whose energy is an eternal well of encouragement and joy, and funnel it toward this cause: make your experience public. Advocate for adjuncts, for labor, for aid to our broken, fucked up, awful, unfair economic system in this gorgeous land of opportunity.

That is all. Sending love.

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Ethical Quandries In Becoming an Adjunct Prof.

from CC License holder at Flickr, Robert the Noid. Note: search "Professor" in Flickr, pictures of men come up. Seacrh "female professor," and you get tarantulas and Harry Potter stuff.

from CC License holder at Flickr, Robert the Noid. Note: search “Professor” in Flickr, pictures of men come up. Seacrh “female professor,” and you get tarantulas and Harry Potter stuff.

I will not be insinuating any wrongdoing or accusing Universities of being slave masters in this post. I will not be bitching about adjunct wages. I am interacting with my reality, forgetting for a moment that things for adjuncts are in real need of intervention.

Adjunct wages are an improvement over my current wages. Especially during the Spring semester. The second-best (or maybe third or fourth or fifth) money I’ve ever made. But it also means I get to do what I love to do, which is talk, read, and write all day long about reading and writing, which makes small money seem like a big deal.

Here are some important pieces of my reality: my student loans are currently in deferment as I finish up my MFA, and I have the privilege of a domestic partnership with a person who is relatively well-employed, so we can (sort of) afford for me to make $20,000/year. Or less. I am also comfortable with working multiple jobs in order to serve my life as a writer, mother, and reader (in that order).

It is my ardent wish to someday be paid a living wage for talking, reading, and writing all day about reading and writing.  To not have to do anything else.

But none of this is why I sat down to write this post.

This week, I had a massive disappointment.

About a month and a half ago, I accepted an offer to teach one section of a literature course scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Tiny-Private-University a bit east of here. I got to develop my own syllabus, which was fun, and I get to teach The Book That Changed My Life.

About two weeks ago, I was hired as a part-time lecturer (fancy speak for adjunct) at Large-State-University a bit west of here.

While each university is 1.25 max hours from my house, they are three hours from each other.

I went to an interview, and exchanged a half dozen or more emails with Chair and Assistant at Large-State-University, one of which suggested that someone would be in touch with me soon “about [my] availability.”

A week passed during which time Tiny-Private-University (which pays only a bit more than half what the Large-State-University pays per section) offered me a second section of the same course, later in the day MWF, which I also accepted. Large-State-Univeresity only promised me one section (but insinuated that there would likely be 2).

When my burning need to have a plan for classes and a life that was to start a week from Monday overcame my ability to patiently wait for communique from Large-State-University, I reached out to Assistant to find out about the training sessions, and to give her my availability, now Tuesday/Thursday. Which was answered with “But, but, all first-semester teachers have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule!”

Which was the first I’d heard of it.

“Didn’t anybody tell you? I can’t believe you didn’t know!”

How could I know? I reviewed all the correspondence. It was not in the job posting. It was not in the offer letter. It didn’t come up in the interview. It was not anywhere. Why would I assume it?

Which meant I had to decide: probably less money at Tiny-Private-University, a job I had accepted first, developed a syllabus for, and ordered books for the book store; OR, Large-State-University which is sexier AND pays more, but I had nothing in hand and would be obliged to drive there every day for the week before the semester began for training sessions.

I wanted to choose Large-State-University because money. Adjuncts do this all the time: better offer elsewhere, go there. Since these offers are almost always made at the last minute, this is not a thing adjuncts should have to worry about, or feel bad about doing.

But after some time and reflection and weeping (for a lost plan, a lost semester of getting paid mainly to read and write and talk about reading and writing), and after making a mental pros-cons list, I decided that the university to which I felt ethically obliged, Tiny-Private-University, is probably a better professional choice, too.

Here are the primary reasons: Tiny-Private-University has a smaller faculty + student body, which means more entrenchment in the culture, more support, and smaller classes. Developing a Western Euro Lit syllabus that spans the Renaissance through Early Modern looks way, way better on the CV of a trained creative writer than teaching a staff syllabus at a bigger school, even if more money looks better in my bank account. And hell, what’s one more semester of 7-day work weeks?

What do you think? Did I make the right choice? Should I have assumed that I would be required to teach MWF? Is this a normal procedure? In my experience + knowledge, it isn’t. Though my experience and knowledge of adjuncting is admittedly limited. Is it even reasonable for any university to require people to whom they’re not offering a living wage to teach on a particular schedule?

I welcome your thoughts.

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In Response To Haughty Posts About What Food Servers Wish You Knew -or- 4 Important Things About Tipping

From Flickr user torbakhopper

From Flickr user torbakhopper

My current money-getting gig is as a food server at a brew pub. I generally LOVE my job. I am energized by hanging out with people, I am witty and friendly so I often get laughs + big tips, and it’s fast, fast money which leaves me lots of room and time for writing, grad school, running, and being a momma + lady friend.

Do I want to do this job for the rest of forever? No. But I am glad it’s a skill I have. I like to say, “It’s the closest thing there is to having a money tree.” Need cash? Pick up a shift. Usually around $100 in your pocket.

But it is hard work. It’s hard physically and intellectually and emotionally. Sometimes, people are jerks. You have to be nice anyway. Always you have to hold at least eight things in your mind at once. It is not a job that just anyone can do. Sometimes, after busy weekends, it hurts your body, especially when you’re not 22 anymore. Ha.

People I don’t know are constantly touching me. People ask dumb questions about my tattoos. Men look at parts of me that have nothing to do with their hamburger (uh, no. Not a euphemism.). People tell me how much they want to do x artistic thing if I happen to mention I’m a writer, because they ask. I do not volunteer information about myself as a general rule, or unless I’m making fun of myself. For example, on Sunday morning, I told a table I could see was good-natured + full of humor that, “I usually go home and cry after brunch.” They laughed.

But whenever I read things like “Servers Not Servants: 31 Things Your Waiter Wishes You Knew”, I go through this cycle. First I’m all, “Oooh. Yeah!” And I get all fist-pumpey and self-rightous. Then, I go to work, and I start to notice how frequently people interrupt me when I’m talking to them, in the middle of answers to questions that they asked me. And I get annoyed and I stop liking my job.

Then I start to notice all the other bullshit from the article (or some other like it), and I get really super pissed.

Last night, I had a sharp headache that pain medicine (ibuprofen, acetaminophen) wouldn’t touch. I just wanted to be asleep in a dark room. But I was at work because I had to be. Because I need money. Because with jobs like waiting tables, you don’t get paid if you don’t go.

My first three tables were people who pretended to be jokey and fun, but continually interrupted me and acted like rude jerks. Two out of the three tables weren’t good tippers. I felt grumpy and annoyed while I waited on them, these are feelings I do not normally experience toward my tables. I have to wonder now if their poor tips were a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Even in the midst of the dang headache, I realized that I was being poisoned by the article. So I had to make a conscious choice to return to my blissed out state of legitimately enjoying “helping people.” Ha. Semantics.

I play little games with myself to make the job fun + to not allow it to become sucky and dehumanizing the way restaurant gigs can do. I never tell tables my name unless they ask me. If they care enough to ask, they will likely use my name. If I tell them, and they call me Miss or Ma’am instead, it pisses me off. The first thing I generally say to tables is, “What may I bring you folks to drink?” or “Do you know what you would like to drink?” I don’t have an introductory spiel because more often than not, people don’t listen (even if they don’t interrupt), and it pisses me off to repeat the special and the soup after I’ve already said it, minutes before, to people who *seemed* to be listening.

Here’s the thing, I don’t care if you hate where we put you and ask to move eighteen times. I don’t care if you claim you’re in a hurry and then tell me you’re ready to order when clearly you haven’t actually looked at the menu because you ask me what I suggest, what it comes with, what ingredients are in it.

I don’t care if you change your order after your friend goes because what she got sounds better than what you picked.

I don’t care if I recite the soups six times at a table.

I don’t care if you ask me the same question three times expecting a different answer.

I don’t care if you want separate checks.

These things are par for the course, the territory, hazards of the work I do.

I don’t care if you interrupt me. I expect you to. We are transacting. We are not friends.

It is my job to make you believe that we are friends, even though we are not. Maybe this is shallow, but it’s another self-protective measure. Serving is performing. And it is serving. I have the answers to your questions. I know how the food is prepared. I am  your link to the kitchen, the manager, the hosts, etc. I want to get you fed and on your way as quickly and as happily as possible so that someone else can have your table.

Sure, it’s nice if you tell me when I take your order that you’ll want some mayo, mustard, A1, and a side of ranch, honey mustard, and Italian. But if you don’t, and if you ask me for those sauces and condiments and I make 85 trips to the kitchen, that’s cool. It’s what I’m there for.

It’s nice if everyone could order a mid-meal glass of water all at once, instead of folks ordering one-at-a-time. But you know what? Whenever one person asks for water, I make eye contact with every person at the table and cheerfully, as if I haven’t a care in the entire world, say, “Would you like a water, too?” This has proven an effective strategy + it makes me efficient. But if everyone else declines, then someone asks me the second I return with the first guy’s water, the other water goes lower on my priority list. Like, if I get around to it. And when shit like that happens, I recognize I may be forfeiting a portion of my tip. But sometimes, to paraphrase a Six Feet Under character to whom I was once compared, my humanity rises up.

It is my job to know and do all this stuff. To do whatever I have to do in my own head so that I can be pleasant and make your dining experience a good one.

What I’m saying is you go ahead an be as obnoxious as you want to be.

Mainly, what I care about is that you pay me for my service. I forget about every awful way you were if you leave me a nice tip.

20% of your check is minimum. I have a house, kid, partner, and car, just like you. I forfeit my nights and weekends so you can enjoy your time off. If you are unwilling to part with $8 to $30 of your dollars for the privilege of table service on date night, then don’t go out to eat.

It’s absolutely true that food servers make no money per hour. Every money we get paid by our employer (I am on the clock for $3/hour) is eaten up by our obligation to Uncle Sam (from our tips), and many of us have to pay in to our employers to satisfy our tax burden at the end of the year. Sometimes hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Food servers have expenses like every other professional (yes, professional): waiting tables is hard on shoes and clothes. I replace my sneakers at least once a year and I cannot buy the cheap ones. I ruin T-shirts like nobody’s business. My work pants all smell like grease.

At the end of my shift, I am obliged to tip out a percentage of my sales to the people in the restaurant who help me do my job to your satisfaction. Bartenders, hosts, bussers, etc. If I get bad tips all night, my obligation to those other people does not change. I often tip out 30% of my tips. Sometimes more.

I rely on the people I wait on for my entire income.

If I do a good job, tip me 20%. If I do a great job, tip me 25-30%. If I suck, you don’t have to tip me, but remember that everybody has a bad day sometimes. Would you like it if you didn’t get paid on days you felt like garbage at work?

Here are a few little thinking points:

1) If you get a discount, tip on the amount before the discount, and never assume the gratuity is included (ask if you can’t tell, we are HAPPY to answer that question).

2) If you buy merchandise from your server, tip on the total amount of your check, not the total less merchandise. That merchandise is still in her sales, and she still tips out on it, even if you don’t think of a T-shirt, mug, or bottle of salad dressing as a tippable item.  Your server brought it to your table, right? You can usually make a second transaction at a bar or gift shop or with a host if you don’t care to tip on merch.

3) Tip your food server as you would your favorite person in all of the land. Even if she isn’t.

4) Your server didn’t make the food. If you hate your dinner, tell your server, she will do everything she can to get you something you won’t hate. Ask to speak with a manager if you want, provide constructive feedback (what was wrong with your food specifically. “I don’t like it.” is not helpful), and still tip your server well.

That is all.

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