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Ladies and Gents Who Lunch photos
Oakland Ladies and Gents Who Lunch

September 24th, 2003

Out Of Control
Wednesday. I had an epiphany of sorts recently. I learned something obvious that's been hidden from me for all these many years.

I had a friend ask me to describe three women we both knew in terms of "forwardness" and I thought about it a bit and gave her an answer. Then I thought about it some more and realized I was seeing a pattern I'd recognized, but never really thought about or understood very clearly. How unobservant. The epiphany was followed with a glimpse of my own pattern (or patterns) and how I related to these three particular women, yes, but also how I related to other women who seem to have similar constitutions. Oh, boy. I could have really used this epiphany forty years ago. Ten years ago. Shit, last month.

The intuition was about control, people who aren't comfortable unless they feel they have you (and the rest of the world) pinned under glass. In a work environment it's more obvious in managers since they wield a stick - men and women both, by the way, this isn't an (altogether) sexist observation - it's spread throughout the crowd. Someone who always calls a meeting just before lunch, consistently calls such meetings knowing (but not admitting to knowing) that you and others had plans. Meetings called on a Friday at quitting time. Sometimes these things need to be done, life is hell, but we're talking about managers who do this routinely, who do this, ultimately, to keep you in line.

Another characteristic is you always feel on guard. You'll be going along and suddenly "wham!", the person is pissed. Seems pissed, anyway, since they won't admit it. This too is a method of control. They give good reasons for their actions - and they are good reasons, it's just they happen all the time - and they'd look at you with surprise if you called them on it. Another example (these are two guys I'm thinking about) is the person who always has that last task before they can join you for lunch. Always. Always you wait on them for another five minutes. The key is consistency. They will always make you wait, not just when something really does come along that needs tending; things do, after all, come along, but they will always make you wait for "good reason".

I'm still thinking about this and as I think about it it's changing, flipping, morphing into things that question my own routines. Where in the hell am I on this question? Control isn't quite the term I'm looking for, it seems to have permutations and flavors that lead into uncharted territory and it's hard to get my mind around it. You meet someone in this life, they seem to be manipulative or controlling, you pass: "Nice to meet you, goodbye". I think. Unless you have to deal with them on a day to day basis because they're your manager, mother-in-law, father, mother or (dear god) your husband or wife.

The epiphany wasn't so much in recognizing these patterns or the lack of these patterns in the three women mentioned. "Forward" isn't the same thing as controlling, although controlling was the first thing that came to mind. There are one or two people in the building I have to do business with occasionally who definitely meet the test. They are pretty much universally considered problem children, so I don't think it's just me going off on a tangent. Still, how much of this is me not recognizing the me in these controlling relationships and why does it seem to have been so much less an element in my early life and so much more prevalent today? Have I changed for the worse? Did I miss something in passing?

Thursday. I had a talk with one of the women I mentioned yesterday and now I'm not sure now about any of it. Life is strange. The question about the three women was a starting point, the examples I gave were from a cross section of the people at my office, but it obviously pushed my buttons because I'm writing more than incoherently about it here.

Bad judgement to write about it here.

So be it. My next entry will be about kitty cats, nice and soothing, no sharp edges, nothing too far out of control.

The photograph was taken at a recent Oakland Ladies and Gents Who Lunch Happy Hour at PCB.