Bougie Career Advice

I just spent 6 months job hunting. A lot of that time was spent on the popular job networking site, LinkedIn. It’s basically Facebook for working professionals. It is somehow not less political. It is full of career advice. Most of this advice isn’t from people I actually know, but I see it because people in my network like or comment.

I’ve compiled all the advice I’ve read over the last 6 months, and I’ve come up with the perfect formula for success: be as privileged as the person giving the advice, and do what you love; lean in; lean out; find a balance; work smarter; work harder; say no; say yes; network; build a brand; be authentic.

If this sounds hollow, it’s because it is, and that is most of the advice LinkedIn has to offer people who are job hunting or seeking career development.

Here is my real advice: form a union in your field to demand better wages and benefits. Advocate for universal healthcare, a wage ratio, high taxes on the rich, a 32-hour work week, and adequate paid family leave for all genders.

Barring that, you will probably spend your life doing jobs that allow you to select only a couple of the above items and making trade-offs on everything else that will be somewhat unsatisfying in a variety of ways. Even if you find a way to do a job you love, you will probably struggle with medical debt, saving for retirement, and having enough money to grow your family. If you are a woman, gender-non-conforming, disabled, or a person of color, you will deal with the added tribulations of workplace and lifeplace discrimination at just about every point, so you might not even have time to think about retirement or a promotion. Instead, you’ll repeatedly prove yourself while someone else takes credit or your contribution goes totally unnoticed. Or you will spend most of your life with no idea how to get past service industry jobs because of sub-par or incomplete education, red-lining, and diminished opportunity for everyone in your professional and social sphere.

These things aren’t about being more hard-working or cracking a secret code; they are about human dignity and social good. When we live in a society where wealth isn’t consolidated into a few billionaires and millionaires, when race, sex, and gender presentation isn’t a deciding factor to career success (let alone life expectancy), then you can talk to me about how I need to work harder or smarter or be more balanced or lean in or out.

Until then, the only code I’m interested in cracking is how to actually level the playing field so everyone has a chance to think about what brings them joy and then go do it.

Housing Court, Yes I Went There

I was hoping this post would be about my unopposed triumph at housing court last week, but court isn’t about winning. As one friend put it, court reliably makes everyone a little happy and a little disappointed.

Why did I got to court?

I was trying to get out of my lease, because my next door neighbor is an AirBnB with a revolving door of late-night parties on the weekends. My building management virtually refused to get involved. I contested that this is a breech of my lease, which has an implied covenant of habitability and quiet enjoyment. In other words, loud parties have kept me from using my apartment as intended (for sleep), so I told my landlords (via the court) they were in breech of the terms of my lease.

After 6 months of this absolute circus, relief is on its way. I will be living elsewhere by March 14th.

Basically, this involved sending a letter citing the specific law I thought they were breaking at least 14 days before rent was due. Then, when property management failed to respond in any way to the letter, I filed an affidavit and paid my rent to the court instead of to my building. It cost $70 to file. My court date was set when I filed for just 2 weeks later.

I represented myself. Lawyers are expensive, and most people file pro se (without a lawyer) for this type of case. I gathered every piece of documentation I could think of from floor plans to emails to phone records. I even included an ultrasound of my unborn child and doctor’s notes from Kevin’s sleep doctor. It was a lot of work, but I knew I needed all of it to make my case.

I wore my most fitted dress, to show off my six-month pregnant belly. I didn’t have to fake my waddle, and I brought a pillow to sit on.

I got nervous. I reviewed my material and talked over every possible angle we’d need to anticipate from the apartment’s lawyers.

Then, it turned out that before appearing before the judge, I’d have to sit down and negotiate with the apartment’s lawyer. If we couldn’t reach a settlement after that, I would present all my documentation and the court referee would decide if it merited a trial. This being my first time in court, I didn’t know that at all and had come prepared to present an argument to a judge.

The negotiation took place in a little room with me, the lawyer, the property manager, and Kevin. The lawyer and I did 99% of the talking. Kevin graciously carried my things. The lawyer started by saying there’s no way a noise complaint case would win in a trial and that the tenant legal hotline (Home Line) we used should stop telling tenants to file Rent Escrow over noise problems. This was gratuitous, and he shouldn’t have said that, knowing I didn’t have counsel. Further, he was lying, but I’ll get to that later. Next, he hammered at my request of 2 months rent abatement. According him, there was no way the property company would agree to return 2 months worth of rent to us. When I held my ground and asked why the property manager’s written promises for fines and eviction had gone nowhere, we moved on to the actual offer.

The offer: Get out of of the lease at no cost. Pay rent for the remaining time we live there with a move out date of March 31.

Everything prior to this offer was intended to make me feel uncertain about my course of action and grateful for the offer once it came. Moving out was always going to be more important than getting money. The lawyer knew that. Also, moving out was the most likely outcome if we had gone to trial. The money was always a long shot. I knew that.

At this point, Kevin and I spoke privately, decided to take the rent abatement off the table for a move out date of March 1.  I knew they’d say no, so I was prepared to accept March 14, the date I requested in the affidavit.

After this, the lawyer and property manger spoke privately. When they came back, they agreed to a March 14 move out date. We filled out some paperwork, submitted it to the court clerk, and waited for our case to be called again.

When it was called, the lawyer and I stood before the judge, who read our settlement agreement, made sure those terms were what both parties agreed to, and dismissed us. I waited in the lobby until the court order was printed. The lawyer went to deal with his other cases that day.

Back to the lawyer lies: Minnesota courts have ruled in favor of tenants regarding noise disturbances. Those cases had documented complaints with failed intervention on the part of the landlord, usually over a the course of many months. While our case didn’t meet every detail of the cases I read about, it fit a lot of them. The main difference was the amount of time a tenant went before filing rent escrow. I couldn’t afford to wait longer as a pregnant person, and I couldn’t deal directly with the problem tenant. Plus courts generally don’t really like AirBnB. All this is to say that trial would have been a bit of a gamble, but probably not to the degree that the lawyer wanted me to think it was.

Additionally, Home Line’s advice to file Rent Escrow was extremely effective insofar as, prior to filing, my landlords were offering terrible solutions that would have required us to downsize while expecting a baby or pay them more money to fix a problem they created. Once I filed, we got what we wanted. They had to pay an expensive lawyer. We had to pay $70. At the end of the day, we are only paying for half a month more in rent than we had originally planned when we started negotiating in January. But the property company paid a lawyer more than we pay in half a month’s rent. They also have to list the apartment, show it, and they still have a disruptive AirBnB to deal with, regardless of who is in our unit.

Maybe there aren’t winners in court, but this time there was definitely a loser, and it wasn’t me.

If you care about tenants rights and access to safe, habitable housing for all, please consider donating to Home Line. Most of the tenants taking on their landlords were dealing with unattended repairs. Home Line operates in Minnesota to help these folks who have fewer resources and worse living conditions.

If you are a tenant with a problem landlord, call Home Line. It is free.

Kevin Forbid!

This is a list of Kevin/Heaven puns. This list is neither exhaustive, nor does it reflect the personality, desires, or sensibilities of all Kevins, namely, my Kevin. It has been a delight to other Kevins and friends to Kevins, so much so, that I hope to one day develop a line of men’s dress shirts with these phrases embroidered on their pockets. In the meantime, enjoy.

  1. Seven Minutes in Kevin
  2. Kevin must be missing an angel
  3. Kevin and Hell
  4. Kevin is for real
  5. All dogs go to Kevin
  6. Just like Kevin
  7. Between Kevin and Earth
  8. Good Kevins!
  9. Kevin on Earth
  10. Thank Kevins!
  11. Kevins to Betsy
  12. Knocking on Kevin’s door
  13. Match made in Kevin
  14. Died and gone to Kevin
  15. Oh, for Kevin’s sake!
  16. Kevin can wait
  17. Kevin-sent
  18. Kevin Help Us
  19. Kevin Forbid
  20. Stairway to Kevin
  21. Pennies from Kevin

Secondhand Islamophobia

My senior year of college, I started attending an Eastern Orthodox church. I loved it. I still do. Eventually, I became Orthodox. Few things have taught me more about Islamophobia than joining a conservative* Christian sect.

Here is a thing that happened: I was getting ready to leave for church. I put one of my pashmina scarves on my head. My parish did not require women to cover their heads, but many women did. I did, especially after I had shaved my head. I loved my hair that short, but I knew it would draw questions and glances at church, and I felt it was more respectful to just cover. It also felt like I was doing something set aside in my life. It felt…holy, something that prepared me to engage in worship. Clothing is powerful.

As I was leaving for church, my roommate told me that the friend who was picking her up for her church had asked about my headscarf (to be clear, it was a scarf that I put on my head). Apparently, it made her uncomfortable. My roommate suggested I wait to put on my scarf until I was off-campus.

I have never cared very much about making people—especially people I have never met—comfortable, so I did not do what she suggested.

This was the first, but not the last, time someone questioned my head-wear to my face. I didn’t realize at the time, but that was Islamophobia. They associated me with Islam for having covered my head. I remember thinking to myself, but I’m not even Muslim. That was my own unaddressed Islamophobia.

Other people have told my how I was anti-feminist, an accusation faced by many Muslim women, more frequently. And the hostility is less masked.

The point is this: Islamophobia is bad for everyone, worse for Muslims. Do some research. Call your local mosque about when you can visit and how to visit respectfully. Listen to Muslim women who talk about head covering and believe them.

I am sorry it took experiencing Islamophobia to realize it was a problem. I know this is something that comes up for many marginalized groups: why didn’t you just believe us? And the answer is that I wasn’t listening to you. I was listening to white guys on TV.

 

*I am using conservative theologically. While some aspects of Orthodoxy may be politically conservative, for the most part, the Orthodox Christians I know are Democrats or, at least, vote that way. Church leadership is carefully apolitical in the United States (with a couple of exceptions), not the case in Russia, Ukraine, and Greece.

Things to Watch on TV

I watch too much television, but, lucky for you, I can tell you what’s good.

The Magicians

The Magicians is a Sci-Fi Channel (you can watch it on Netflix or Amazon Prime) series based on a trilogy by Lev Grossman. Some book people will hate me for this, but the show is better. Grossman’s original concept–a world in which magic is real, and so is Narnia, but it’s darker than the children’s books make it out to be–is superb, but it focuses an in ordinate amount of time on one of the least interesting characters, Quentin Coldwater, and is vaguely sexist, homophobic (the gay characters and relationships are portrayed as very sad or embarrassing), and whitewashed. The TV show brings the supporting characters into a new life, making some of the most lovable characters I’ve ever seen on TV. I may have to name a child after Elliott and dress up as Margot for Halloween for the rest of my life. But seriously, can I please be Elliott’s mom, so I can tell him how proud of him I am and mean it?

One Day at a Time

You know how sometimes you are scrolling Netflix, and you are like, “I just need a laugh track sitcom about a Cuban family in LA!” Ok, so you probably have never thought that, and I am 99% grateful that laugh track sitcoms are a thing of the past, but One Day at a Time, a Netflix original, tackles big social issues in a new, yet familiar way. There is plenty of mugging from the indomitable Rita Moreno (best known for her role as Anita in West Side Story) the unflappable abuelita, who dances and talks to her dead husband, and the intrusive landlord has a catch phrase. It makes me think of my childhood TV experiences and how sitcoms were about the typical American family. I just imagine the creators of this saying “what would tv look like if we had had representation 20 years ago?” Anyway, it’s charming, sincere, and there’s a fair amount of Spanish spoken without subtitles, if you want to test yourself or see yourself represented without explanation or excuse. You’ll also recognize a lot of actors from Jane the Virgin.

Sense8

This is a masterful series by the Wachowskis (The Matrix). What if, one day, you became telepathically linked with 7 other individuals around the world. You could understand each other speak, feel each other’s feelings (all of them) and see what they see. The Wachowskis weave a thrilling tale of love, romance, and empathy through this exceptional show, shot on location world wide. I cannot recommend it enough. Also Daryl Hannah. Need I say more? It was cancelled after just two seasons, but Netflix brought it back for a two-hour finale to appease fan outcry about the show ending on a cliffhanger.  I am sad the show was cancelled, but I’m also glad that it didn’t get 5 more seasons and lose the plot.

Midsomer Murders

What? Why? Well, it’s just so…reliable. You know exactly what you are getting, and Hot Fuzz will make more sense to you once you watch all 120 episodes (and counting) of this process crime drama.

Fleabag

I cannot get enough of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Fleabag (and Crashing–watch that too). So far, it has two seasons on Netflix. The unnamed main character, aka Fleabag, is a wreck, but not in a women’s empowerment romcom circa 2012 kind of way, like, she’s unapologetically horny (sex positive!), but all of her relationships are deeply unhealthy. She is a compulsive liar and thief, and socially awkward to an extreme. But you somehow love her. She vulnerable in a way that makes you root for her. It’s crass, funny, sad, and winning.

 

That’s all for now. You have hours of entertainment ahead of you. Go and enjoy these stories.

Paris Fashion Week (Yes I Know if was Two Months Ago)

This outfit makes me irrationally angry. I also love it, which is why I’m irrationally angry.

First things first: I hate almost all the components of this outfit. I think puffy coats are the worst–yes, they are warm, but they look and sound terrible. Second, I hate slouchy jeans. I would never buy the shoes or the scarf–both of which I would categorize as fine.

But this is a great outfit. Roberta Benteler looks fantastic, effortless and yet intentional. She’s probably achieving the golden ratio between the length of her coat and the way the she’s rolled up her pants to expose the slenderness in her boot’s ankle. This look is working.

I guess that’s at the heart of what sometimes gets to me as a designer and enthusiast. It’s one thing if a look doesn’t work because of failed design elements or ill-fitted garments (I’m looking at you Zac Posen). That’s just human error, and now we have to suffer it walking down a runway or on a famous person. But this–Roberta Benteler–is a different thing. The whole outfit is greater than the sum of its parts. So now, it’s not human error, it’s the universe’s error that clothes I could never bring myself to buy, appreciate, or want, based on their aesthetic appeal manage to look so good.

Man Interrupts Woman at Party

One of the things I have dealt with since childhood is men talking over me. It doesn’t matter if I am at a party or in a meeting or in school. I will be talking and a man will talk over me. This was a prominent feature of growing up evangelical. While I was at times amusing to men who found my passion and conviction unthreatening due to my youth, overwhelmingly, men paternalistically explained things to me. There are men with whom I had meaningful conversations, who invested their time and resources in me as a person. They typically were not the ones talking over me; although they did, at times, explain things to me.

One of the reasons I have distanced myself from identifying as evangelical is because of this tendency at church and the Christian university I attended. It was always annoying, and as I learned more about feminism and equality, it became infuriating.

I have managed to build a life where this rarely happens to me now. Part of that is because of my partner who is remarkably good at giving space to women, which in turn promotes other men in our social circle to do the same.

I recently went to a party without him, though. I was having a conversation with one of the partygoers that ended up being broadened to the whole group, where I explain my position about why I think baby boomers are The Worst. It is an unpopular opinion in media today, but a correct one nonetheless.

Two things of note happened.

One, a man interrupted me with an even more unpopular opinion that was both off topic and off base.

Two, the rest of the men in the room wanted nothing to do with it. They repeatedly attempted to give me the floor and enact other mild social shaming approaches to no avail. The first man continued to insist on talking.

This resulted in all of us leaving the room.

I was with active progressives at this party—they are both politically engaged and intersectionally knowledgeable—including the man who couldn’t stop interrupting me. The dominant feeling was that women with valid points should guide the conversation, not the man with an invalid point. Still the other men were unable to successful subdue the interrupting man and proceed to engage on the original topic.

This reminded me that extricating myself from evangelicalism has not solved this issue for me or for society as a whole. The striking difference was that rather than no men helping me be heard, I had most men helping me be heard. Just the same, the outcome was that of a derailed conversation where no one felt heard, including the interrupting man.

Please Sir, Can I have a Job?

Job hunting makes me anxious.

I know it makes everyone anxious, but for me it reminds me that I spent three years after college trying to find work and only being successful with temp work. It brings up memories of day-long stints in the library pouring over any and every job posting I could find. I am reminded of those feelings of defeat, as I took a low-wage 4-month position over an hour’s bus ride away, doing employment verifications for a fish processing company (even though I kind of loved that job). It reminds me of being homeless, of the uncertainty of my next paycheck, and daily general fear that I was actually just mediocre.

I’ve spent the last three and a half years fighting that feeling. I have a proven record of learning and improving, earning a promotion, a certification, several raises.

I designed entire functions of my job that had not previously existed. I formalized informal aspects so that whoever took the role in the future would have a better job to walk into. It is hard to be creative in an administrative role. I did it anyway. Not to mention, I worked on the largest project my company has done to-date: moving 700 employees to a new headquarters. I am so proud of the work I have done in the last three years.

I am not sure if I know how to put any of that on my resume. I’ve employed resume writers and sought out the advice of recruiters to make sure that I’m showcasing my very best self and accomplishments.

I have applied to 40+ jobs in the last two weeks. LinkedIn tells me whenever a recruiter looks at my profile, which is around three times per week. They also tell me when someone views my application, which is around 5% of the time.

While I didn’t do much online dating, I suppose that’s what this feels like. You put out extensive information about yourself and hope that someone sees it and likes it. It’s one of the reasons I liked Tinder as opposed to almost every other dating site. I liked not knowing much going into the first date. I liked not relying on an algorithm to tell me whether to be attracted to someone.

The other thing I realize, amid all this job anxiety, is that I have only ever gotten a job by knowing someone or through an agency. The one exception is the time I got a job because I walked up to a group of people speaking French and started speaking French. The one woman in the group that didn’t speak French became my boss a few weeks later. Even then, it was not at all conventional. I didn’t submit a resume and get a phone call. I met someone. It was a meet cute.

I don’t have a solution to these feelings. Graduating from college into our worst economic recession has just been hard for my career. I will keep applying to jobs. I have more to say about how the process of advancing in a career feels like dating and what kinds of gender norms exist in this space, as well as the influence of capitalism on this process, but I will save that for next time.

In the meantime, if you live in the Twin Cities, I am looking for entry level project management roles in just about any industry where a physical product or a social good (bonus points for both) is the outcome.

36th Legislative District March Meeting

Bailey Stober, Chair of the King County Democrats, still hasn’t resigned. He could resign via e-mail at any time, though he has intimated that he has an important announcement to make at the March 27th meeting, location TBD.

Last night, however, my home legislative district voted on a resolution calling for Stober’s resignation. Unsurprisingly, some of the women at the center of the controversy, Natalia Koss Vallejo and Mona Das, were present, though they are not residents of the 36th. Bailey was also there at the start of the meeting but left shortly after we started.

I have been attending 36th meetings regularly for just over a year. Even though I had project management classes on Wednesday nights for 9 months, I would sometimes skip class to attend and participate in local democracy.

I am an acting precinct committee officer. At first, I was accidentally assigned to two precincts. One of my only interactions with Bailey was over e-mail rectifying this error and asking that he only sign off on one precinct appointment. Thus, I became an acting PCO in precinct 36-3699. This means, I have a vote in our meetings.

The 36th district is known for being the bluest district in the state—encompassing Ballard, Phinney Ridge, Magnolia, Queen Anne, and even Belltown. We consistently vote for democrats up and down the ballot. We are so sure of our candidate’s victories in our own district, that we adopt a district each year and canvas for them. While I would like to see more people of color in positions of leadership, I can’t deny that the executive board is solidly progressive. A couple members even attempted to change our bylaws to be able to endorse candidates who aren’t Democrats, like Nikkita Oliver. In communities of color, especially the Black community, north Seattle has a bad rap, and that’s not wrong. We’re a wealthy district and we live in desirable, majority white neighborhoods where property values are some of the least affordable. I can only afford to live where I do because I have a roommate. I would need to be making 22% more than my current income to afford my below-market apartment on my own (but we can talk about that later).

In the last month, I have been to two KC Dems meetings, and I have written about those experiences, the climate of the room, and the lack of process in place to address the need for Bailey’s resignation. I don’t know what they are like when it comes to less contentious subjects, but I will say that being back in my LD was a comfort. And that comfort was not the familiar faces of my neighbors, but came directly from the top, from the leadership of our chair, Jeff Manson.

I like Jeff. I have always liked Jeff, even when I have paused to ask myself why this progressive district is led by a white man. The answer is in his presentation of last night’s resolution. It is rare for a chair to present on a resolution. The impartiality of the chair is a valued tradition and Jeff adheres to it. However, Jeff broke with tradition last night, and presented on the resolution calling for Stober’s resignation, not before explaining his reasons and giving space for anyone to voice their objections. No one objected.

I had prepared a statement in defense of the resolution. As Jeff spoke, passionately and precisely, I felt affirmed. He was touching on all the points I had planned to make. He was saying things that I have said during this conflict, in whispers, between eyerolls, in post-meeting car rides. He was saying those things, not in opposition to power, but as the person in power. I felt my insides melting—trepidation gave way to hope and feeling seen. Jeff stated at several intervals that he believed the accusations of sexual harassment and emphasized that our resolution’s scope only included whether we believed Bailey should resign as chair, making an apt distinction between kinds of due process.

When Jeff finished, we had several technical questions, none of which came across as hostile. Before anyone had a chance for debate (at which point I would have volunteered to make a statement), a member made a motion to “call the question.” For those of you unfamiliar with Robert’s Rules, this is how to end debate on something when you think further debate would not be fruitful or you are in a time crunch. Calling the question needs to be approved by a two thirds majority. Otherwise, debate is allowed to continue. The motion passed handily. Moments later, the 36th LD unanimously passed the resolution calling for Bailey to resign as chair of the King County Democrats, 96-0.

Here is the statement I would have read, had there been any call to do so:

“I was raised in a conservative environment where I saw multiple men abuse their power with no consequences. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I cut all ties with the Republican party, because I knew that my voice as woman would be discounted, not matter my qualifications. I joined the Democratic Party guided by the belief that this was a party that supports, empowers, and believes women. Allowing Bailey Stober to continue as chair of the King County Democrats only sends a message to women that we only believe them if they accuse our political opponents.

Even if we were not in this moment, if the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements were not the focus of our public discourse, King County Democrats is broke. They are not financially viable and will not become viable as long as Bailey is chair.

But we are in this moment in time. The #TimesUp and #MetToo movements are central to our discourse. So, I urge you, if you are inclined to lament to lost potential of Bailey’s leadership, to instead consider the lost potential of the women in the organization who will be disenfranchised if Bailey stays.”

I firmly believe that this passed because Jeff spoke in favor of it and because he so rarely does so. I believe that Jeff and other leaders have built a healthy organization, an environment where women and workers are supported, protected, and believed. Jeff volunteers are chair in service to the party, not so that the party can serve him. The last line of our resolution called for 36th Dems to investigate and put into place the correct procedures for removing our own chair in a similar situation. This is significant, because it signals Jeff’s understanding that his wisdom is not infinite, and that we need transparency and process to protect us from abuses of power.

This is in such stark contrast with Bailey’s behavior since allegations of creating a hostile work environment and sexually harassing his employee surfaced. Bailey has tried to use Robert’s rules and the lack of process to stall and protect himself. He has performed political theater, and all but used the Trumpian line “fake news.” This is abuse. Even if somehow all the allegations against him were false or misleading, his behavior toward the executive board of the KC Dems has been abusive. Culture is created at the top. And the atmosphere of abuse created by leadership is toxic and infectious. It created the mentality that the leaks to media were worse than the accusations being made. It allowed Bailey to draw out this process, further deteriorating the function of the organization.

Last night was a breath of fresh air to me, because I was finally in a room where my leader wasn’t trying to gaslight everyone.

Inspiration

Here is what happens when I look at good fashion.

My heart beats faster. No really. My heart rate increases. I can feel it.

My mind starts to extrapolate new designs based on what I am seeing. This is sometimes immediate, sometimes delayed. Certainly, for the next handful of days, I will imagine and literally dream a variety of new designs, pine after the fabrics, and doodle in the margins of notebooks.

I experience a physical and emotional sense of desire. It’s just behind my rib cage. It makes me breathe a little differently, lean forward in my seat. I consume the image before me, details, composition, styling, silhouettes, fabric choice, colors, accessories. All of this happens in an instant, but the feeling slowly spreads throughout my body and mingles with satisfaction. I am both full and hungry.

If this sounds like sex or getting high or falling in love, maybe it is. I can see some similarities there. Maybe that’s why so many artists’ muses have been their lovers. Just remember that when I say that I love clothing, I am not being hyperbolic.