Ain’t She Sweet?

That depends largely on who you ask.

I am overweight, I carry the excess largely around my belly. Whereas most of my family members have issues with alcohol, mine is with food. (That’s me. I choose the one substance you cannot quit cold turkey) It has caught up to me, but we’ll get into that a little bit further on.

Yesterday, I went to a doctor for the first time since 2004/2005. All those tut-tutting over the gap can keep it to themselves. In that amount of time, I have lived an unsettled life that did not include health insurance for stretches at a time, or the means to pay out of pocket. And when you have a pre-existing condition, insurance is either unavailable or ridiculously expensive. The insurance companies are risk averse, wanting only young, healthy, and wealthy.

But I digress.

I got a diagnosis of diabetes. Not completely unexpected (see second paragraph), but I’m experiencing a bunch of strong, negative emotions and “Hell fuckity no” response.

Already, it’s reached an unacceptable level of disrupting my life with having to stop and periodically stick fingers, draw blood, and write down blood sugar levels. I’m supposed to take a class on care, but they’re 2 hours long, it’s a set of four, and they’re offered midday during the workweek. No. “But shouldn’t your health be a priority?” Fuck that if I lose my job and can’t pay for it. I feel like I’ve been caught, shackled to a chain with millions of others, and we’re expected to just obediently march forward in lockstep and jump through all the hoops presented without question.

Part of this is my view of the diabetic industrial complex. We see ads all the time for various drugs with a host of side effects like yeast infections, bladder infections, diarrhea, keeling over, voting for Ted Cruz, none of them desirable. And monitors, and services to save money on your supplies. And special foods and shakes and diets. There are billions of dollars to be made in treating diabetes. And it’s so widespread, it seems, that someone should be asking why. Is it high fructose corn syrup in everything? Is it from years of exposure to Round Up? Did American pancreases take a secret vote and decide to go on strike? Is it a side effect of other widely prescribed drugs that we haven’t been told about? There was no history of diabetes in my family until my parents. And one sibling, so I’m not down with “Oh, well it’s in your family history, so it’s not surprising you’d develop it.” No, uh uh. We’re talking one generation back, so I’m skeptical about “it’s genetic.” These things don’t spontaneously happen. Heart disease? Yes, and it’s been over a few generations. Cancer? Yes. Are we all sitting around on our asses and scarfing Doritos? Consistently overeating and just crap? Not moving (even before the lockdown)? A lot of people are, but still, something’s amiss.

I am having a severe emotional reaction, perhaps out of proportion to the situation. And it’s largely anger. (Not denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance) Like channeling it into trashing a room level of anger.

Since I was a child, like 10 years old, pressure has been applied to me regarding my weight. We are talking specially packed lunches with low calorie bread, skim milk for me (as opposed to what my siblings got). And I was not a fat kid. Solid, yes, but not obese. I never heard, “Well, the doctor says you need to lose weight.” No. I had a mother with a bad self-image and a superhuman ability to project. (She had weight issues herself. As did Dad) My older sister caught it, too, but not to the same degree. While my family prized humor and being able to zing with one-liners at the speed of light, there was a depth of cruelty behind it. Teasing a child to the point of tears for amusement. And the adult women in the family piled on, with ones in my generation graduating into offering unsolicited comment, “helpful tips,” and criticism. As a result, for my adult life (and some time before that), I have been drowning in a variety of self: consciousness, criticism, loathing.

Since thin has been in, the burden has largely been on women to comply with the 36” 24” 36” stereotypical standard of size. I’ve mentioned the diabetic industrial complex, but that was preceded for a couple of generations by the diet industrial complex, who now has a “daughter,” if you will, in all these people now dealing with blood sugar. Phrases like “net carbs” and “glycemic index” are part of the advertising, and it’s mostly aimed at women. Now we have diabetes drugs that say “And you might lose a little weight” as part of the pitch.  Despite fifty years (half a century) of the Women’s Movement and feminism, we are still urged to make ourselves attractive for others, usually men. And where the advertising, articles, and that shithead Dr. Oz leave off, there’s the off-camera pressure we apply to each other: “Does this make me look fat?” “You know, I wasn’t going to say anything, but…,” “Have you seen ___ lately? Have you seen her ass?” While I have never heard, “Well, you can’t catch a man if you’re overweight,” I have heard men who qualify as morbidly obese (nice guys, and I’m not saying that sarcastically) rejecting a potential date because “One of us in this relationship has to be thin.” (Maybe not so nice). Good old dead fat Rush Limbaugh claiming feminism was invented so unattractive would have opportunities. Rot in hell, Rush, but humans are biased toward favoring more attractive people for advancement, etc.

And I didn’t conform. I didn’t not eat. I didn’t obsess over what or how much I was eating. Up until I was 30, I was a size 10. And this really bothered various women I knew. They did spend a lot of time and thought on what they should, should not, or actually did eat. And they were (and are) truly unhappy people. There’s a deep vein of resentment because they are bending themselves to please others. And it is not pleasing them. They are not feeling secure in themselves, and thus, we get the Mean Girls: “I don’t feel good about myself or at ease in my body, so I’m going to make comments and passive aggressively chip away at your self-esteem until you’re as miserable as I pretend not to be.”

Back to the diabetes.

I walk around with a Greek chorus in my head of people, real people both living and dead, who have commentary on everything I do. These are all things that have been said to me over the years that hurt and made an impression. Not one of them is part of my day to day life anymore, but the wounds they inflicted with their words linger like an oil spot on a silk blouse. I hear the comments, I can see the scenes when they said the things, complete  with the eye rolls and sighs. They will sit across from me in a restaurant as I dine alone, they stick their faces in into meals I’m preparing, they stand at the foot of my bed as I sit on it. I know that they are not there, but the presence is palpable, constant, and negative. It’s like an artificial intelligence like Siri or Alexa programmed to respond to everything I do, mostly focused on my weight and eating habits. At least two of these phantom women wanted to control me and my life, not out of benign motivation. And the common theme was, “If you don’t lose weight, you’re going to get diabetes.” “If you don’t eat better, you’re going to get diabetes.” “If you don’t exercise, you’re going to get diabetes.”

This, Gang, is fat shaming couched in threatening medical terms.

Diabetes has been held over my head for YEARS as a punishment. It’s evidence of a moral failure – gluttony and sloth (which one of these assholes, code name Crapsack, hurled at me when I didn’t offer to share something with her. I was committing a sin. I kid you not), and if I didn’t change my ways, I would be struck down.

This is why I’m angry above all else at the diagnosis. These miserable, vicious, two-faced assholes can not be right. Even though none of them are part of my life anymore, I will not be able to stand “Told you so.” Once started, it will not stop. “You’re just as miserable as we are. Our work is done here.” “Well, you know, if you’d listened to me, this could have been avoided.”

So here I am, fat, angry, somewhat scared but mostly angry, and trying to cope with this new stage.

“Oh, you should write about it.” I don’t think so. The diabetic industrial complex has enough inspirational and helpful hint little chirpers out there already. I have zero interest in reading or writing the following: “I limited my lunch to a piece of chicken the size of a Bicycle deck of cards and I carefully measured out 2 cups of yummy zucchini with a squeeze of lemon juice. I was so full afterwards and felt so good about sticking to my meal plan.” First of all, fuck zucchini. “Yummy” is a dumb, childish word and the sensation it describes doesn’t come within ten miles of zucchini. Second of all, this is more of seeking validation from outside the self. “I want to inspire others.” Bitch, please. You want a pat on the head, praise for conforming,  a big following, and maybe a lucrative sponsorship for your blog from a diet shake maker (“Now with lower glycemic index!”). I’d rather write, and you’d rather read more entertaining and informative stuff. So, I’ll spare you.

I’m going to find my way through this. Find my way out of the rage. And find a way to shut out that Greek chorus.

 

Remembrance of Things Past

 

“Remembrance of Things Past” is the title of a Marcel Proust work (I have not read) in which the bite of a madeleine cookie (which are delicious) brings back a flood of memories. Many, many pages of them.

I’ve been emotionally off-balance all day, wanting to buy a bunch of random, mostly useless stuff online, or eat. These are both activities that I have used as coping mechanisms. Bad coping mechanisms, but it’s what I do instead of the family tradition of alcohol, or doing recreational drugs.

A friend sent me a picture of Niagara Falls from 1969, the year the American side was shut off so they could examine it and perhaps clean out some of the debris from centuries of erosion to preserve the flow.

 

She shared it saying, “You were there, right?” I looked at it, and commented back about my dad and his love of big engineering projects, like canals and lock systems. My folks took a cruise through the Panama Canal and he was disappointed because they went through in the middle of the night and didn’t get to see anything. I also mentioned that there had been some personal, lasting trauma from that trip.

I was 7 or 8. It was the summer of 1969. The falls were “shut off” from June to December, so I think we went in late summer (we were camping when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and my younger sister had been born at the end of May, so August seems about right).  We had been to Niagara before in 1967. During that trip, we went through the Cave of the Winds (a boardwalk behind the American Falls). I made family history by complaining to my mother how much I hated it. She tried to get me to stop by saying something like “Stop that. Daddy paid a lot of money for this.” My six year old mouth replied, “I don’t care how much Daddy paid for it. I hate it.”

My mouth has made a lot of family history, come to think of it.

Anyway, on the 1969 trip, we were on the Canadian side in some kind of big building with kiosks. I got separated from my parents and siblings. Just looked up and didn’t see them. I don’t remember if I called for them. I remember being utterly terrified. Like borderline “pee your pants” terrified. I remember thinking I would never see them again. I was bawling. I don’t remember anyone trying to help me, either.

I went to one of the kiosks (a jewelry counter) and I remember telling the very nice ladies that I was lost. I gave them my name and they paged my father over the loudspeaker. My brother came to collect me.

We moved from Brattleboro, Vermont to Rutland, Vermont in November 1968. Before the actual move, I had a dream where I woke up in the old house all alone. Everyone had gone on without me. I woke up in tears. I was sharing my older sister’s room that night, and tried to tell her about me dream, but she said something like she thought it was stupid.

My family’s reaction, when I rejoined them in the Niagara Falls incident, was to make fun of me. In fact, this has been ongoing, my brother especially delighting in singing “Lost in Canada” to the old Canada Dry jingle.

Here’s the thing: my family loved dealing in humor. If you were funny, if you could come up with a fast zinger, you were a star, regardless of whether it hurt feelings. There was a deep vein of cruelty, and I confess to having done my share. Somewhere in my twenties, however, I stopped bringing up the old errors and misdeeds.

Here’s the thing: while there was no physical trauma, the incident has had a lasting effect. If I am out with a group, especially if it’s something where the members might split up and go separate ways, I am on edge the whole time, unless I’m holding the car keys. I do not trust that I will be missed.

Back in 2005 when I was training to work for a due diligence firm (not Bohan), the trainers and I (because none of the “hot” girls wanted to go with them) went to a bar on the Pacific Coast Highway. They weren’t happy about having only me join, and when I wen to the ladies room, they ditched me. I searched the bar with a clenched stomach and a bitter taste in my mouth because, I had been abandoned (by a couple of douchebags, but still…). I had enough money to get a cab back to the hotel. I’ve never seen or spoken to them since, and that’s fine, but I was having flashbacks to being 7 and feeling abandoned.

My friend’s innocent post about the falls (she had no way of knowing) triggered the flashbacks. I spent the rest of the day trying to focus on work when I was unwillingly remembering crying at the jewelry counter, all the mockery, the two guys ditching me at the bar, all of it.

I have unhealthy coping mechanisms I’ve been trying to get rid of, emotional eating and emotional shopping. I had to fight all day (and days later, I’m still fighting) the urge to stuff myself, to buy whatever caught my fancy on Amazon, to cry until I was dehydrated. I’ve said it before, I’m not a good crier. It’s loud, it’s ugly, it’s feral, and growing up, I was told that my tears were “crocodile tears” and not genuine. Thus the unhealthy coping.

Why am I posting this? Because I haven’t posted anything in a while, because maybe sharing will help me, or maybe it’ll help someone else to realize that the reason they don’t feel okay is a subconscious memory of pain making itself known.

 

As I was thinking back on this incident, a new angle occurred to me about getting lost that I hadn’t considered. At the various times this story was recounted over the dinner table, no one ever said anything about noticing I was missing. There was never “We looked around and you were gone.”  And never “Your mother and I were so glad to get you back.” Never once did anyone indicate that they cared. No “you must have been so scared.” Just my father with, “Mr. Thatcher, please come get your daughter at the jewelry counter” as he laughed and my brother with that stupid fucking “Lost in Canada.” Was it a cover-up of uncomfortable emotions? I don’t know, but given the behavior around the incident, I suspect not.

And that, I think, is the core fear: abandonment. Not just “I got separated, but I came back” but people walking away from me and not regretting it. Being left alone.

The irony being is that, while I’ve lived among people, I have never yoked my life to someone else’s. There is a defensive element to this isolation: if I do not get close to you, you cannot abandon me.

I’ve managed to get past the urge to eat/shop today, although I canceled an order from Amazon of a photo drone and Air Pods. Toys I didn’t need. In food terms, it’s like putting those 10 Oreos back in the bag I just tore open. It’s progress.

Will there be a time when this memory doesn’t hurt? I don’t know. It’s been 51 years already, and the pain has gone underground to drive me to cope without realizing what’s bothering me. But, now that I know about it, maybe its poisonous power is now gone.

 

 

Oh No, You Didn’t

(I think smoke is still coming out of my ears)

Today, August 26th, is Woman’s Equality Day, which celebrates the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Yea!

Wikipedia says this about the 19th: “prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.”

Remember that particular phrase. It’s going to be crucial.

This being the age of social media, one of the popular Facebook pages posted pictures. The following picture.

 

We live in an age of movements and slogans being co-opted and undermined by members of the oppressing group, and then acting like victims when the backlash hits them. “Mansplaining” and “whitesplaining ” come under this heading.

Well, Readers, we got mansplained. “Don’t forget to be grateful to the Nation, its system of governance, related Constitution and Bills that paved the way for the fight.”

Wait. What?

Gratitude to the system that had not provided the right to women in the first place, the governance that had deployed police officers to arrest and beat women for demonstrating for this right, and force fed them in prison when they went on hunger strikes. The related Constitution and laws that refused to enumerate the right to vote regardless of sex. The one our great (or great-great) grandmothers had to FIGHT for.

You just gave it to us?

Hell fuckity no.

I’ve been seeing this sort of sidestep lately, mostly from men, and mostly from white men. It’s a way to avoid ownership of oppression and terrible deeds done to maintain a grip on power. And to still claim ownership of power.

“It was white peoples who freed the slaves.” (My personal favorite)

It was white people who enslaved them in the first place. I even had a Southerner tell me straight-faced that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery because they were going to free the slaves, it was all states’ rights. Read the various Articles of Secession: they are EXPLICIT about leaving the Union to preserve slavery. This guy also told me they were teaching slave to read. Sorry, but it was the death penalty to teach slaves to read.

“We gave you that right.”

That’s akin to Britain saying to the US, “Well, we gave you your independence.”

Not without bloodshed. Not by being asked nicely.

It is patronizing, this “we gave, we allowed.” It implies that the speaker holds all the power and it cannot be taken from him without consent. Even if there have been uprisings, protests, marches. No. The benevolent overlord shall grant unto you. Not because he’s been convinced of the right of it, but because it is his pleasure. “We let you win.”

And, yeah, we’re going with “him” and “his.”

For 50 plus years, I didn’t believe, didn’t want to believe, didn’t see discrimination against me on the basis of sex. I thought I got what came to me in the workplace on the basis of merit, even as guys who’d been working at the same place less time than I had got promoted, then promoted their buddies, leaving women on the bottom tiers of the office hierarchy (and sitting around talking about those women in sexual terms when they thought no one could hear).

There are women who whole-heartedly support the patriarchy because they have a niche of privilege within it as long as they support the men. Why? How about a collection of stories, self-serving laws, and self-serving letters written in a dead Bronze Age language that has been interpreted and re-interpreted so many times nobody knows for sure what the actual words were? Claiming it’s the will of a God unknown, but damned if He didn’t create men in his image as opposed to the more likely Man created God in his image. And will you look at that? God wants mento rule the world, and that’s gotten narrowed down to white men. What? The Biblical teaching was that people of color had no souls. It was the rationalization for Christians to own slaves.

Don’t forget: Genesis claims that the first family was a man, a woman created from him (let’s reinforcement lesser status, y’all), and their three SONS. The usual response is that “faith trumps facts.” Want to make a fundamentalist crazy? Tell them that one of the surviving boys must have undergone sexual transition to make the human race happen.

FiveThirtyEight.com released two maps in October 2016 showing the difference if only women voted and if only men voted. On the women’s side, it’s overwhelmingly blue for Hillary Clinton. On the men’s side, near solid red.

Election Update: Women Are Defeating Donald Trump

There were cries, not many, but they existed, for #Repealthe19th.

And we know how it turned out anyway.

Men giveth, men taketh away if their power is threatened, apparently. Benevolent overlords?

Right now, voter suppression is an ugly fact of life in the US. Thank you, Supreme Court for gutting the Voting Rights Act. Quick primer: the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed racial discrimination in voting.
“The Act also contains “special provisions” that apply to only certain jurisdictions. A core special provision is the Section 5 preclearance requirement, which prohibits certain jurisdictions from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C. that the change does not discriminate against protected minorities.[10] Another special provision requires jurisdictions containing significant language minority populations to provide bilingual ballots and other election materials.”

On June 25, 2013, this pre-clearance requirement was struck down by the Supreme Court and within HOURS, states that that had been subject to that requirement began filing new laws requiring voter IDs, began striking voters from the rolls, began disallowing certain kinds of addresses. Few if any of these requirements affected the white men who wrote them.
Oppression is oppression. And yes, I recognize that the 19th was largely for white women due to the Jim Crow laws and resurgent KKK.

Grateful to the Nation and the governance.

There is a small grain of truth, I suppose. You can fight until the last warrior falls and still lose. Most peace treaties are some form of compromise, but someone is losing before they’re signed. It’s still not “giving” freedom, rights, etc. it’s an accommodation so the winners don’t obliterate your side.

I am grateful to be an American. I give thanks to the women who made it possible for me to vote. But in no way am I going to bow and kiss the ring of those who denied it to us in the first place.

 

“Late Night” Review

Written by Mindy Kaling (this is important)

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling walk into a bar…

Well, not quite.

Age. Gender. Breaking into a male-dominated business.

This is a good movie; well-written, well-cast. Not overly preachy, although dealing with timely issues of gender politics. I’m considering going a second time and adding it to the personal collection. Definitely personal collection.

Mindy Kaling stars as Molly Patel, a showbiz outsider who longs to be an insider. Like the actress who plays her, Molly has a great sense for comedy and timing.  I don’t want to spoil things, but as a chemical plant quality analyst in Pennsylvania, she comes up with a brilliant plan to get an interview as a  writer for the show she has loved and studied since she was a kid.

Emma Thompson stars as Katherine Newbury, the host of a late-night talk show, “Late Night with Katherine Newbury.”  It’s a somewhat intellectual show, but in danger of going under because ratings are flat and dropping. She won’t engage in Jimmy (Fallon/Kimmel) hijinks with her guests. And her guests aren’t the kind that would necessarily indulge themselves. Doris Kearns Goodwin in Tight Pants? No. Just no. Katherine is not your warm-fuzzy type of personality. In fact, she is rather detached, especially what’s going on with her show and with the people who work for her. I wouldn’t call Katherine a bitch. She’s not knifing anyone in the back (although, there comes a twist in the third act). She’s not out to emasculate her all-male writers room. She  is stubborn and not a fan of change, thus the 10 year decline in quality and ratings. The show is safe and stale, but she won’t see it.

The talk show host who came to mind as I watched was not Samantha Bee, but Dick Cavett. Same higher-brow content, same dry humor.


Katherine is a tough boss. She is not portrayed as an unreasonable demanding bitch, like Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” (another workplace comedy). She’s intelligent and intellectual and knows what she wants. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily what’s best for her or for her beloved show. As mentioned, she is detached from what’s going on with her staff (one guy died years ago and she didn’t know), or the changes in the world. At one time, Katherine herself had done stand up (Emma Thompson, before we in the US came to know her, had been performing sketch comedy for years with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, among others). Her sense of humor is displayed in some of the cutting remarks she makes in defense of her positions, and in an unplanned stand-up set. it’s a step forward in depicting powerful women. Representation matters.

The network president, a talent agent, and the writer’s room all want Katherine to change her format to the more sophomoric ones put on by the late-night guys.

Molly’s opening into Katherine’s world is precipitated by Katherine firing one of the writers who asks for a raise. When she says “No,” he protests based on having additional expenses due to a growing family. The firing isn’t because he asked, it’s because he  objected and based the request on HIS needs rather than warranting a raise for a greater contribution to the show. Katherine tells him it’s sexist. (Okay, so we do have some preachy) She’s right in that his reasoning has nothing to do with his work. Sound logic. Good business sense. However, because she’s not giving in to the emotional appeal (“Please, Sir, may I have some more?”), she seems heartless. Katherine isn’t. She’s just thinking more practically. More of what we perceive as “masculine thinking.” The writer fires back that she’s a sexist because she does not work well with other women. There are some facts to support this: Katherine has a dismal track record of retaining female staff.

Enter Molly.

The writers for the show are all white men, most have Ivy League credentials on their resumes, and the head monologue writer, played by Reid Scott (“Veep”), was expecting to have his brother hired for the open slot. His brother who had run the Harvard Lampoon. That’s a solid credential. The first time Molly goes to sit in a meeting, they deny her a seat at the table, literally, saying one open chair was for a guy who was running late because he was trying to sort out a now long-distance relationship. She end up sitting on a waste basket. This is what you call a visual metaphor. An even greater one is that, since women were scarce, the writers have been using the ladies room when they shit, something Molly learns the hard way. I’ll come back to that later.

Before I go further, let’s delve into Molly’s creator/portrayer, Mindy Kaling. She had the same education track as those writers, a top private school in Boston, BBN, then graduated from Ivy League in 2001 (Dartmouth. Big whoop. We at UVM routinely eat their lunch at Winter Carnival. Go, Cats, Go), interned for Conan O’Brien, did stand-up, and began with the American “The Office” in 2004 as a write/performer, for which she won an Emmy as a writer. After “The Office,” she went on to “The Mindy Project,” creator/lwriter/producer. This is her big screen writing debut, I believe, but my point is that Ms. Kaling knows her stuff. She is intimately familiar with writers rooms, television production, comedy, lack of representation. They tell you “write what you know.” She has. Some of the casting reflects her experience as we see faces we know from “The Office” (Amy Ryan) and “The Mindy Project” (Ike Barinholtz).

You get the idea, Molly has to prove herself to a bunch of skeptics and wants to save the show. From the outset, she’s depicted as intelligent, driven, and willing to think outside the box to achieve her ends. So, we have an underdog to root for and we have a near-impossible task we want the underdog to master. And the focus is on Molly’s work rather than her personal life. (“Why are you making a point about that?” We’ll get there) So this is a workplace comedy.

We also get #MeToo elements, some romcom elements, big missteps. Look, it’s a great movie.

This movie hit my feminist nerve endings from nearly the start. Not in a bad way. I mentioned the the writers preventing her from taking a seat at the table. The fact that the Late Night writers were all white male. Racial comments were made. Sexist comments.

The biggest metaphor for me was the men using the ladies room to shit. And continuing to use it even after Molly’s arrival. What bugged me was when, in the middle of Molly having a private breakdown in what is supposed to be a ladies’ room, one of the guys comes in to do his business. They have a quick, somewhat sympathetic exchange over her meltdown, but he still insists on using her facilities and SHE LEAVES TO ACCOMMODATE HIM.

My God, that pissed me off no end! Yes, there’s something to be said for him insisting on still getting his way, but goddammit, she should have yelled, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE AND DON’T FUCKING COME BACK!” Ms. Kaling is a damned good, very experienced writer, but this was a missed opportunity for Molly to claim some power and autonomy.

What also pissed me off was the twenty something white man sitting two seats down constantly fiddling with his phone during the movie, at one point, something loud started to play. I yelled at him. With support. It was analogous to what was going on with the movie. People, if you want to talk or fart around with your toys during a movie, do the rest of us a favor and wait for it to come out on Red Box, huh? You have a responsibility, when out in public, to behave in a way that is considerate of that public.

The above picture speaks volumes. When yours has been the only voice in the room and things aren’t working so well, perhaps it’s time for different perspectives. Part of the ongoing snark in the writers room was how, as a woman of color, maybe the writers (or the brother of the head monologue writer) could gain advantages in hiring. The boys’ clubs in certain industries weren’t established so much as treehouses with no girls/people of color/LGBT/different religions allowed as they were networking within an insular sphere. Nepotism. Friends of friends. Alumni of the same college. Fraternity brothers. It’s a tribal thing: we will favor the members of our tribe until there is no room for anyone else. This dynamic plays out in the men in the story pressuring the star of the show to do what the men are doing, things. Rather than working to perfect what she’s doing, they insist on things being done their way, their idea of what’s funny. The threatened replacement for Katherine is a male comic in the same age range as the writers.

I’ve worked in the financial industry on and off for 35 years and I saw it up close and personally: in the mid-1980s, we had the invasion of the “Suits,” who fit one of the above categories. Didn’t know what in the hell they were doing, but damn, they got promoted fast. I spent a lot of time talking to angry customers cleaning up after the messes they’d made.

But, Molly shows her smarts and eventually wins over the other writers. And that brings up another thing that bugged me:

It’s a workplace comedy. There was no good reason for trying to go to romcom territory.

And

The guy in the blue shirt is Reid Scott playing the “Head Monologue Writer.” The guy on the street is Hugh Dancy playing one of the other writers. There are subtle undertones of working towards a romantic relationship (very subtle) with the Reid Scott character, and a flirtation with the Hugh Dancy character that ends abruptly. He is where we get the #MeToo content, but not what you’d expect. During their first flirtation, he mentions it taking 3 weeks to get her into bed and that’s treated as something cute. While this movie could pass the Bechdel test (Two women having a conversation that doesn’t center around men), given the subsumed hostility of Molly’s work environment, romance just doesn’t belong. And it’s not necessary. Ms. Kaling has made comments that Valentine’s Day is Christmas Day to her. Okay.  That’s your thing, Mindy. In my perspective, when it started to come up, my response, “Aw, Jeez! Really? Do we need this?” This is how women get stereotyped: always looking for love. This sort of subplot is why, even as late as 1998, women at my law school were told that we were just there to find husbands. (If that was the case, it’s an expensive damned method you’ll pay for the rest of your life. Literally) What I loved about Molly, is that this was the first time I’ve seen Mindy Kaling play a  major character that wasn’t “bubbly,” obsessed with pop culture and shopping, or boy-crazy (Kelly Kapoor and Mindy Lahiri, her two biggest roles prior to this one. Mrs. Who in “A Wrinkle in Time” doesn’t count). Are women not interesting if they’re focused on a goal other than a romantic relationship?

The romantic comedy element, though distracting, did not ruin the story for me. I liked that Molly found her way on her own. No mentoring from within the boys club, you know, no “I’ll help you, Little Lady.” Molly solved her own issues. Molly breaking into a rarified world isn’t about race or gender. It’s about making the argument using your own skills and merits.

Representation. It matters.