At work when all the shit went down a few weeks ago, a startling number of cashiers asked me what to do.
"I don’t know. I’m not a manager. I’m not paid enough to know," I told my therapist.
"You should just say that," she told me. "You declined applying to be a manager, so you’re just a cashier."
But in the moment, I find I cannot for the life of me stay out of it. One of my co-workers came to me last night about my boss who hits on all the cashiers and how he was making her uncomfortable and she asked me what to do. She didn’t want to go to our main manager, under the (correct?) assumption nothing would come of it. The details sounded made up—it was too clear-cut a story, the sort of thing so black-and-white you’d expect to see it in a training video of How Not to Sexually Harass Your Employees—and later I wondered if it was a test to see if I would tell our manager who would tell the harasser. But instead of saying “I’m not a manager,” I told her to call corporate. Told her that he has a history, which is true. Told her I would call too if she needed me to. Because she should call corporate, and I would back her up. She said she’d think about it.
Maybe she was lying. I don’t want to think she was though.
People come to me but I am not sure why. I go out of my way to not be known. I stay surface-y: don’t detail the things I like to do, the places I go, have mentioned only a few times the thing I hold close (my depression, my fat, my total breakdown, my intense self-hatred) but also only briefly mention everything else (the friends I love, the trips I’ve taken, the shows I’m addicted to). I expect anything I reveal about myself will be met with negativity. It got out that I am taking a class and a few of the other cashiers were especially kind about it, telling me what a good thing that was, and I felt overwhelmed by the positivity, which was really only a few nice comments one day.
A week or so ago a friend emailed a short survey for not-straights about being out and I felt ashamed at how not out I am. It’s all fear-based, but not so much of being out as it is about being known, allowing people access to all the little parts of you, and also being bad at being not-straight, because I don’t like the term bisexual even though I use it because it is easily understood and I worry I will one day define myself differently and this will be used as evidence in the trial of my ongoing failures.
(And also part of it is a fear of being seen as someone who has sex, because I have said for many years if I ever give my parents a grandchild I think we will all pretend it was a virgin birth or that my partner impregnated me through some lively hand-holding. Although maybe this is me projecting on to them—I inadvertently got into a discussion about birth control with my mother recently where I didn’t even realize until halfway through that I was saying I felt conflicted about remaining on birth control because while the hormones make me suicidal I really don’t want to get pregnant and when I realized what that implied—that I could get pregnant—I felt like if I pressed myself back into my chair hard enough I could maybe disappear.)
At work I hear a lot of “I’m not, but” statements. I’m not racist, but why don’t black people give their kids normal names, but Mexicans have the worst kids, but Indian people so cheap. I’m not sexist but women shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions after eight weeks. I’m not homophobic but don’t act like that around me. Yesterday my co-worker D, a woman who looks older than my mother but is in reality a decade younger, said something biphobic about one of my coworkers—I’d forgotten S was, then remembered all the stories I’ve heard from people assuming S was in love with them or hitting on them, even though we all know she only has eyes for the hot young punk bread guy whose number she fought hard to get. (I admire S in this, because she is not conventionally attractive, but she does not hide her desires. She comes on strong, without any fear of rejection. I pointed this out to M on the day I watched her easily get the number of the bread guy, and M admitted she agreed: “I’m 30 and I’m still afraid of getting rejected. How sad is that?” I’m right there with her.)
I doubt S likes any of the women we work with, because based on prior evidence I think she’d be forthright about it, but that doesn’t stop anyone from assuming S is in love with them and trying to convert people. I suppose after the survey it was in my mind that I am not out at work. I never planned to be out at work—I like being able to keep parts of myself tucked away. But instead I said to D, “I don’t think S is like that. I’m bi, and I’m not like that.”
She changed on a dime to being very supportive, wouldn’t stop mentioning it the rest of my shift, to my own discomfort, but I suppose that’s something to get used to. D is my gossipiest coworker, so I assume the store will know by the end of the week. I should probably tell my mother before they run into each other next. But I said something. I can’t stay out of anything at this job, I guess.