Tuesday, September 18, 2007

father, may i?

it's no secret that i have an 'issue' with authority: dads, pastors, cops, bosses, presidents, boyfriends, bus drivers. it's all one thing: Authority. seeing the world divided into sheep and masters, i guess i'd rather not be a willing sheep.
some people think differently. some people think being a sheep is really great.

amanda marcotte has a link to a post by some waay fundamentalist sisters about the dangers of sending your christian daughters to college. her fisking is sharp and funny.

then i read from those two sisters about maturity and the role of an adult daughter still living with her parents and i had to fight down bile:

The sign of maturity isn’t that we simply “obey” our parents’ commands, but that we understand deeply what our parents’ hearts and goals are, and can anticipate and even exceed what they expect of us. A mature, adult daughter who deserves her parents’ trust most certainly isn’t the one who says, “I’m not a child anymore, Dad! I’m an adult! I’m old enough to decide for myself when to get up, and it’s not something you have authority over anymore!” (Literally, “I’m mature enough to demand my own way, and throw a tantrum and threaten to run away if I don’t get it!”) But she also isn’t the one who says, “Ok, ok, Dad, I’ll get up when you tell me to.” The mature daughter is the one that takes the initiative and says, “Dad, what time would you like me to get up? I know that spending time with your family before you leave for work is important to you, and I love that about you… so how can I help make it happen?” This is one thing that makes us different from mindless automatons with no wills of our own (which some girls seem mortally afraid of becoming.)

why does this make me spew?

because this is exactly what makes a great executive assistant (which i was for a while before i came to my senses and got the hell out.) to be the ideal assistant you have to completely evacuate your own identity; your ways, needs, sensibilities and wants are completely replaced by the routines, habits, desires and enmities of your Executive. the line separating the two of you, if the relationship works out to the Executive's advantage, begins to disappear.

your day begins by asking yourself, 'what will upset Executive this morning and what can i do to make sure that it doesn't? what will make Executive happy and what can i do to facilitate more of that happiness? who is Executive going to fire today and how can i make sure that person isn't me?'

your day is filled with wondering what Executive will want for lunch, if Executive knows how to get to the airport, if Executive can find his/her way to baggage claim without step by step directions and whether Executive will have to stand in line longer than necessary once Executive gets to the hotel. you even ponder the possibility of traveling with Executive just to make sure everything gets done the way Executive wants it.

you will be consumed with wondering if Executive noticed how long your lunch break was, if Executive will buy you a birthday gift and if Executive will notice that you supported the whole team and made that presentation happen at 10 pm while the rest of the team went home and Executive went home to Executive's spouse. the idea of taking a day off scares you; what will happen to Executive if you're home or on vacation? how will Executive accomplish anything?

you will know details of the Executive's life only a partner or family member would know and you would order the world of the Executive to cater to those details: favorite foods, allergies, likes/dislikes, anniversary dates, birthdays, number of children, second home location, social security number, credit cards, taxes, personal finances. as ideal Assistant it's your job to care for these things just like they're your own.

while the Executive is proud of the fact that 'his Susan' or 'his Ali' or 'her Cathy' runs the Executive's life for them, they are also unaware of the seething resentment and anger that will slowly build in their assistant until it's bribed away. at least, if Susan, Ali or Cathy had any sense of self-preservation, they'd be filled with resentment and anger. if they know no better they will acquiesce and sink into a gray little nothing who doesn't exist unless they have an Executive to serve.

those of us who quit being an assistant did so because we hated every single frakking minute of it; being subservient was foreign to our sense of identity and purpose. whenever we interviewed with other firms we were forced to say, honestly, 'i don't do deference very well.'

the sisters have an odd way of defining 'independence.' though they say that the virtuous daughter asks her Executive - uh, Father - what his wishes would be for her, the end result is that she obeys. the virtuous daughter's will is entirely subject to that of her patriarch. in history, we'd call that kind of social organization a fiefdom.

and that's what these two sisters are advocating: deference. service. servility. servant.

who would groom another human being to glory in that kind of personal abnegation?
and why would you say that it's what God wants?


Molly Malone said...

good post, Ding!
i, too have been an assistant - technically still am. and you're very right about the resentment. my current situation is such that i'm entry level (STILL), but i'm also called upon to help the boss manage his personal life. it irritates the frak out of me. i always want to be helpful and useful at work, but it's bloody uncomfortable dealing with someone else's - your EMPLOYER'S - personal life management. i'm not a family member and lots of times these are family or personal issues. it's really unsettling.
i'll have to read the creepy women at home article in its entirety later. that makes my ovaries shrink. blech!

Pearl said...

These families baffle me. I think what I find most difficult to grasp are the finances of it: why are these women willing to be financially dependent for their entire lives? And why are their families so keen to collude with this? If I announced that I was staying home until I got married, and that no, I would not be working/studying etc, my parents would kick me up the arse and tell me to get a job, and rightly so. I know that there are lovely fundamentalist answers to all these questions, but I can't grasp the logic of them. I just plain don't get it.

ding said...

molly: the only thing that made being an assistant bearable was using my high falutin' education to justify a great compensation package - and the occasional chance to use my high falutin' vocabulary to stymie my less swift boss. (and to correct his grammar and usage in his emails. heh.)

your time will come.

pearl: from what i've read, these families depend solely on the income of the husband/father; the women are encouraged, however, to begin cottage industries to ease some of the financial burden. what i find puzzling is the hypocrisy. if the world is sinful and damaging (so much so you must keep your daughters from it at all cost) then isn't a market economy also sinful? and isn't the father/husband tainted by the same world?

or is there some strange logic that says a capitalist market economy is OK because it isn't 'feminist' - or feminine, for that matter? in other words, the marketplace is 'masculine' and a fitting place for the patriarch.

i think this is also why they encourage large families - more hands to support it. it really is a throwback to an older way of organizing the family.

Anonymous said...

Stop being so smug! You maybe smart, but remember your still not the one in charge!


ding said...

you know, that's hardly helpful.
if you have something to say about the post and the conversation that's in progress, then cool.

if not, go someplace else.

if no place else, over here i *am* in charge.