Thank you

From: Felicitas Fortuna

To: Seabiscuit

Subject: Thank You

[Name],

Thank you for being honest with me about seeing someone else. It hurt more than I thought it would. Kissing you before we said goodbye was a mistake. We should not kiss again.

It was cowardly of you not to tell me sooner, and it hurt that you kept it from me. That was not kind of you to hide the truth from me; after what we shared, that is what hurts me most. I couldn’t bear to ask for how long, but I will guess a few months from what you said. 

I am sorry I was foolish enough not to get it sooner. I told myself your lack of response to my emails was due to all the stress and family drama, and I tried to be supportive as much as I could. Now I realize you were a coward and did not want to face the truth and tell me the truth. I wonder if anything you said when you broke up with me was true; it does not feel like it. How could you say you didn’t feel you should be in a relationship and needed to work on some things only to start dating someone else?

The problem is not that nothing good comes of being honest; the problem is you hid what you should have told. You knew you should have told me, but you did not. I would not have flirted with you if I had known you were seeing someone else. I wouldn’t have kissed you either. I doubt your current girlfriend knows you’ve kissed me so much. Well, you better tell her when you break up with her. She deserves to know.

I won’t ask to spend time with you. I won’t invite you to any additional events outside of the plays already scheduled for CS and LCT. Those words you said, I couldn’t tell if they were meant for her or me or both of us: “You like me too much and want to spend too much time with me, and I want to be free.” Well, I get it now. I won’t waste my time.

I deserve better. I deserve honesty and kindness, as all friends should, and I do not see that in your actions. If you want to be friends, you will have to do better and work harder at it.

But you are free, for whatever that is worth. You are free.

F

Old School

Getting back home from dinner had two options: public transportation or Lyft. Given that there were three of us (myself and my parents), I opted for Lyft. It would be faster and only 10$ more than all three of us taking multiple transfers between different transportation systems.

Plus, it turned out the recent heat wave (100°F plus mugginess) caused some power outages. Not sure the public transportation systems (electric based) would even be running.

So our driver was Azeem, who had been in the area for a few years and came from Afghanistan. He chuckled at my father’s request for turning up the AC; it had already been on, but he wanted it full blast. He politely turned it up.

He was neither the chattiest nor the quietest of Lyft drivers I have encountered over the last few months (I have been using Lyft more because of the buses I must catch to go part of my journey home do not run on a more frequent basis. If I miss it, I will have to wait a full half hour or 45 minutes for the next.) Even so, he was friendly, and I made sure to mark that in giving feedback. I also always write comments; tonight it was my gratefulness for his air conditioned car for a 30 minute ride.

As we made it to our destination, Azeem parked to let us out. My mother and I exited, but my father remained in the car: “Wait!” he says, “Did you tip him?”  He pulled out his wallet and is going through his bills.

“Dad, that’s in the app.”

“Wait, he needs a tip.”

“You tip in the app.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get the tip.” 

To the Lyft driver, I say, “Sorry, he’s old school. He thinks you are a cab.”

He just smiles, amused, and then grateful when my father hands him a twenty dollar bill before exiting his car.

I tipped him in the app anyway.

Shooting the Messenger

The scene at dinner:

[I am seated with my mother, father, elder brother S, and his partner O. It is a charming, old Italian restaurant with dark red tablecloths and curtains, plus pretty Tiffany-style lamps for each table.]

Mom: I messed up on Facebook. I’m so confused by Messenger.

O: What did you do?

Mom: I don’t know what happened. I was trying to create a group on Facebook, and next thing I know, I’ve sent a bunch of messages to people, and they’re all saying they aren’t interested. So I deleted my page.

S: You were trying to create a group? I am confused. What were you doing?

Me: Were you just trying to make a group list of your contacts, like for privacy permission?

Mom: Yeah.

Me: Ohhh. I bet Messenger sent a bunch of messages to people in your contacts telling them you joined Messager–and Facebook then will try to get them to download the Messenger app if they try to view new messages while on mobile.

Mom: I think that is what happened.

Me [ready to stab a steak knife through the table]: I HATE THAT MESSENGER SHIT.

[The table breaks out into laughter.]

O: So tell us how you really feel.

Swamp-Cooler Talk

I was going to lunch with my team.

Katelyn said, “I love working with F because she’s funny when she’s not even trying to be funny. She just tells it like it is.”

Some 30 minutes later, my boss and I are talking about a former coworker at our previous employer:

My boss: “…she just wants to be a big fish in a small pond.”

Me: “Too bad she turned it into a swamp.”

Being a Woman in the Workforce

I am not an engineer, but I have worked with many of them, side-by-side in the different job roles I have had. Outside of work, I have taken coding bootcamps through RailsBridge and even volunteered at an event or two. I am employed in the tech industry of the Bay Area, and I have worked at different startups over the years.

It was upsetting to me to read the (now) ex-Google engineer’s manifesto about women in tech. Horribly upsetting. I will not go into why he is wrong as there are other great responses out there, such as this one, that have already covered that territory. What I will share is my experience as a woman in the workforce.

It is fucking hard to be a woman in the workforce. It gets even more difficult the more checkboxes you can select for being a part of marginalized groups.

On Thursday, we had two sales reps from one of our vendors come to the office. My boss had left early for a flight, and my coworker who would also be joining was running late. This left only myself to greet the two sales reps, introduce myself, and escort them to the meeting room. I am relatively new to the company, so I had never met these reps before.

I introduced myself and said I would be part of the demo meeting we were having. The male rep (who dominated his female counterpart and gave her little room to speak), shook my hand and said, “Well who are you? Where’s Chris?”

Chris is a white male who no longer works for the company. I said he was no longer there. Next the sales rep asked if he would be meeting with X or Y — two other white males (only one of which is still employed at the company.)

I found it a bit rude. Here I am introducing myself as taking part in the meeting, and instead of chatting with me, he is trying to direct himself to talk with a white male instead of me.

I shake it off as insensitive, poor manners (trying to give the benefit of the doubt that it’s not blatant racism or sexism or both) and escort them to the meeting room. My boss had asked me to ask for a pricing sheet to make sure we were up to date for our billing processes. Once we were seated, I explained that I would be taking over billing and would like a copy of our pricing sheet to make sure what we have is up to date.

His response: “What background do you have in billing? Have you ever done any?”

When I said I had at my previous job and gave the name, he answered, “Never heard of it.” He remained unhelpful, did not offer to get the pricing sheet and told me to ask my CEO for a copy of it if I wanted one.

Around that time, my late coworker (a white female) finally arrived. He then focused most of the demo on talking with her rather than me (another flag). But I did not miss his comments to her, “Oh you actually know your stuff.”

What does that say? It says that he doubted our abilities, our experience, and our knowledge. He questioned everything we had to say, our credentials, and our authority.

I want to say that this was a one-off experience and rare. Sadly, it is not. These types of interactions are common for women. I cannot count how many times I have been in a room where someone has a computer question and I know the answer, but the person assumes a male next to me is the one who knows the answer.

How often does a white male encounter that? How often has he found his abilities, his experience, and his authority are questioned?

I cannot imagine meeting someone, having them say they’re a computer engineer, and then responding, “Do you actually know anything about computer programming?” But this happens to women all the time — in tech and outside of it.

I was angry after that meeting. Livid. So many wounds were opened. I thought about my white male friends in tech. Have they ever experienced this? I bet it’s been rare, if they have, while this has happened to me dozens of times. Dozens of incidents that you try to shake off and move forward and not let yourself become bitter despite the anger and pain it causes you.

I went to bed upset. I was still upset the next day and worked from home, not wanting any more human interaction than was absolutely necessary.

My boss wanted me to schedule a meeting on Friday with an engineer to execute a plan we had gone over together and that had been approved. So we had our video conference (my video wasn’t working, thankfully), and essentially the engineer said he was not comfortable with the plan and would not execute it without speaking to my boss first. Even though I had been clear about why it needed to be done and that the plan had already been reviewed and approved by my boss, he refused.

It was too much. My authority was questioned again, even though my boss had put me in charge of project managing this plan and had signed off on it, he was absolutely refusing to do his part. Alrighty then.

I had to do an hour walk after that meeting. I was angry. I was deeply hurt. I was suddenly reminded of all the times I had worked with other engineers where I pointed out there was a problem, the engineers would doubt me, and then I turned out to be right.

I’ve had moments like this all my life. Even now, I am still deeply hurt and angry. Every time I encounter just “one more” incident like this, it gets harder, not easier. The numbers keep piling up. It can feel hopeless: yet again, another obstacle to overcome.

I wish I had an answer for it all, but I don’t. I just know it gets harder and harder. I don’t want to let myself become bitter and hateful, and it’s taking all the strength I have to keep moving forward.

2017: A Year of Many Changes

I realize that the year is only a little more than half over, and it has been a tumultuous year so far. This is my life recap:

January
Work: I began working overtime constantly. My strict adherence to trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance became impossible with the work demands. 10-11 hour days became a new a norm.

Love: My one great joy was a long weekend with Seabiscuit for his birthday: Point Cabrillo was beautiful. We went naked hot-tubbing together in Mendocino. We saw whales spouting off the coast. I had never been so happy as that special weekend with him.

Home: Chaos. My ex-boyfriend still refused to move out even though we had broken up roughly 9 months ago.

February
Work: The overtime continued. Fellow coworkers on my team began to leave the company, adding more to the workload for me and the few left behind.

Love: Seabiscuit confessed he loved me, but two weeks later he broke up with me, saying he needed to fix things in his life first before being in a relationship. I was devastated and only had consolation in that he said he still wanted to remain friends, see plays together and wanted to see a Monet exhibit together with me. I think things had gotten too serious for him (neither of us expected our relationship to become so serious so quickly) and scared him. I still think that. He also announces he is most likely going to be taking a job in Texas. A double heartbreak.

Home: After a nightmarish drama (including threats and calls to the police), the ex finally moved out the last day of the month. He took the three cats with him, and I am still sad, even now, that I never got to say goodbye to them.

March
Work: Still craziness as the team shrunk. The burnout began as I felt more and more unappreciated. My boss told me we all have to make sacrifices; her inconsistencies in her directions began. I became very unhappy with work.

Love: Heartbroken and still trying to navigate what it means to be friends now. It was a sudden shift from daily emails to maybe an email or two a week. A great light in my life was no longer there to comfort me. I cried a lot. At the end of the month, he decides against the job in Texas. I wonder then if that was also partly why he broke up: to not have me be a deciding factor in the job decision.

Home: My parents moved in next door. Literally next door. We share a wall. I begin trying to clean the mess of the apartment to make it my own home.

April
Work
: The burnout continues. I no longer know who my boss is anymore as she has become someone I don’t recognize. Our team continues to shrink. I become the sole person on the team as the only other team member left comes down with shingles. When I describe how overwhelmed I am to my boss in a one-on-one, she tells me: “What I’m hearing is this is a role fit issue for you. Maybe you should start looking for work outside of [Company].” she also tells me, “You don’t seem alive anymore.” I realize then that this place I felt was my second home for over 3 years is now a hostile environment.

Love: It is my first time seeing Seabiscuit since February. We see a play late in the month, Dog Sees God, with a couple of my friends. Before he leaves, he hugs and kisses me on the lips. I am happy about that but more confused than ever and still brokenhearted.

Home: I have ripped out cheap, built-in particle-board closet cabinets in order to remove a smelly old strip of carpet (about 60 square feet). It reeks of cat, and no carpet cleaner can get through to the strip of padding straight out of the 1960s that has been glued to the uneven concrete floor beneath it. Fun. Lots of home improvement fun. And chaos as I destroy cabinets. It’s also weird getting used to parents next door. We put in tile to replace the carpet.

May
Work: It’s all downhill. Resentment builds along with the burnout. I feel my boss throws me and the other member of our team under a bus. Despite telling me we all have to make sacrifices and that I need to work now, now apparently it’s my fault I’m burnt out and working more than 8 hours. She used to care about our team, but that care has been MIA for a while now. Our team grows, but it’s a too little, too late effort. By the end of the month, I begin considering other jobs and looking.

Love: Still struggling to understand my relationship with Seabiscuit. It is hard feeling I’ve lost him. I keep asking about when we shall see the Monet exhibit together as it ended that month. At the second to last weekend of it, we tentatively set a date to see it together. I am then heartbroken when he announces Friday he shall see it with his daughter instead but I also realize I can’t be angry with him. He wants to spend as much time with his youngest daughter before she goes to college. It is a double pain. I go to the Monet exhibit separately with a friend instead. Unbeknownst to me, the same painting that is his favorite of the exhibit becomes a painting that inspires a poem when I see it.

Home: My parents offer some comfort, but the boundaries between my apartment and theirs need to be set. While I am grateful for their help, I also feel overwhelmed by constant presence. Sometimes I just need peace and want to be alone. They help with repainting the apartment. The apartment is chaos as things get shuffled around and I haven’t replaced the cabinets I destroyed.

June
Work: At this stage, I’m having multiple moments weekly where I think to myself, “Why don’t I just get out of my seat and quit this job RIGHT NOW?” I feel it is important I quit soon. I know that I will not be able to keep giving 100% any more. The resentment is building, and I don’t want to be that asshole who quits and leaves a mess behind. I will give 100% up until my last day. I apply to a job that opens up and land it by the end of the month.

Love: Still confused. I see another play with Seabiscuit, As You Like It, and am nowhere nearer an answer to our relationship status. We kiss, hug, and hold hands while together. It is very confusing. While our email contact is still distant from what it was, he pulls through during important moments, like especially bad days at work and to help me prepare for the job interview I had. I read the book Sex with Shakespeare and am convinced Seabiscuit is my lost other half. I cry while reading the book. It is the most important book I have read in all of 2017 and might be one of the most meaningful ones in my entire life. (I am grateful for Dan Savage having mentioned it in one of his columns as well as column’s wisdom.)

Home: It is still a neverending work in progress. Painting is still underway. The apartment feels like it will always be chaos.

July
Work: The first week of July, I’m in Alaska on a cruise. Work since then has been chaos, but I know my boss is supportive and will help me grow in ways I’d never expect. Long days, a long commute, and lots of work piles on. Despite how hard I have to work, I know things will get better.

Love: When I realize it is 5 months since Seabiscuit broke up with me and that our relationship lasted just a week or so shy of 6 months, I am very hurt and sad. One friend, whose wedding I will attend later this year, tells me to get over “Seaface”. I am more hurt. I feel people do not understand why the relationship is special. I got to see him today for our play, The Glass Menagerie. We hold hands almost the entire time. I want to talk about us, but as he tells me about his daughters, I hold back. While I am sad to not get more time with him, I am happy for him in seeing how happy he is to spend so much time with his daughters.

Home: I really gotta set boundaries with the parents. It feels intrusive, even though I know they mean well. I feel like I will always be alone if they do not give me space. And after a long day at work and a long commute, I just want my own space. Painting is mostly done but still in progress.

So as we get closer to just 5 more months left, I wonder what’s going to happen next?

Fathers and Daughters

It’s hard to love someone who is much older than yourself.

It is hard to love a man who has grown daughters closer to your own age than he is to yours.

I fell in love with someone 24 years my senior, and when we were together, they were the happiest moments of my life. Every moment felt precious, every minute. Just being able to hold his hand or feel him squeeze mine was feeling as if I were whole.

Some friends have said it’s time to move on. It has been over 5 months since he broke up with me. He had other things in his life to figure out.

But we still see each other occasionally. My feelings are still as strong now as they were then.

I wanted to spend more time with him today after seeing The Glass Menagerie with him, but he planned dinner with his daughters.

He will be an empty nester soon, and he is enjoying all the time he has left with them. Who can resent that? It breaks my heart, but not because he won’t have dinner with me; it breaks my heart because I will never know that: I will never be a parent. I will never have a daughter.

Elevate Summit at Saguaro: A Trip to Palm Springs

My team and I were given the opportunity to attend Elevate Summit in Palm Springs over the weekend. Although I grew up in Southern California, I have not been back in 6 years. I also have never flown in to Palm Springs airport. It is small but surreal: open canopies, lawn chairs, grass and palm trees alongside shops and restaurants. There are even umbrellas you can borrow once you pass security to get to your gate. It felt like a Hollywood set. I kept expecting to see a movie camera peeking out somewhere. A truly bizarre experience.

We arrived late Thursday evening, the last flight to arrive at the airport really, and landed around 11pm. There was a man effectively directing and coordinating taxis for everyone. It was warm. I don’t miss the desert heat and hot air.

We stayed at the Saguaro hotel, a hotel that manages to look appealing in website photos, and under certain diminished capacities such as it is late at night and you are too tired to care. The place is a maze. The room numbers do not seem to make sense. In the morning, I realized the weird slanted windows give it a Fred Flintstone vibe along with the bright colors.

We had four rooms total. One colleague had a room that reeked of cigarettes despite being non-smoking. Two rooms had their own bluetooth speaker while the other two didn’t. The room I shared with a colleague had a weird odor that others said was the smell of cocaine (I wouldn’t have recognized that smell). A co-worker started sniffing the walls and said we should flip the mattresses because it smelled like the room was somebody’s stash house.

The inner courtyard is also a maze of construction, metal decorative mesh wall-barriers (as shown in the right of the photo), a large pool, two hot tubs, and flowers where dozens of hummingbirds zoom by your head and do battle. You will feel like Pocahontas about to sing “Colors of the Wind” if you stand close to the flowers in the morning.

It became even more fun when, in the morning, I asked the front desk where Elevate Summit was being held. The guy instructed me to board a shuttle outside. We texted the rest of our group that information and boarded. We were driven to the Palm Springs Convention Center where a science teacher’s convention was going on and the shuttle nearly left me there in error.

When we got back to Saguaro, we realized the front desk failed to mention that Elevate Summit was upstairs and did not require a shuttle ride. I guess the guy just assumed I liked like a science teacher. Is that a compliment…?

Dads and Daughters

Even though R and Dina are gone, the parents are still in town until Monday morning. Last night, we ate at Dad’s favorite place in Berkeley (Sliver) before–well, let me not get ahead of myself here. We went to IKEA. I wanted a bench, a simple bench for the window of my apartment (still a shortage of eating there, which my father complained about constantly while in it).However, Dad insisted on a loveseat Bygyll or Mygyll or some other Swedish name, you know how it is. I was extremely doubtful we could fit furniture of that size and the three if us in his car. 

He asked the IKEA staff for measurements of what the boxes are that it comes in. They printed it out for him and he determined (in 100% confidence of Dad-is-always-right mode) that it would fit.

Then we got separated as he had to keep running to the bathroom but only came back as he said he couldn’t find it despite all the signage and arrows. So my mom had to escort him, but her phone was dead from (what else?) playing Pokémon Go. I waited a bit to see if they would find me before checking out as I wanted confirmation the sofa WOULD fit before buying it (if I didn’t, I knew I would be hearing him complain for the next two years every time they visited about having nowhere to sit.)

After browsing the rest of the store, I waited in Self-Service. I waited 30minutes before I went ahead and moved to check out, paying for the couch. It wasn’t a purchase I could pick out myself in the self-service section, but one the staff had to pick out from the back once I paid for it. I met the parents as I’m paying for everything.They move the car to the loading zome while I wait for the 2 boxes that are being picked out from their backstock.

The IKEA guy brings out the boxes, and as soon as I saw them, I knew we were in trouble. Sure was a hell of a lot bigger than I was expecting. Well, this will be…fun. Dad damn near threw a tantrum as we played Tetris with the poor IKEA guy in the middle. I grew worried Dad was having a sugar low and/or about to have a PTSD/dementia episode and hurt someone. He got the crazy eyes when he shouted, “Goddammit!” and I thought we were minutes away from a 5150 call.

The good news:

The boxes and three people CAN fit in a KIA Sorento.

Buuuuuuut in order to accomplish this, both middle and rear seats have to be fully flat. Thus, Dad was forced to curl up into a snail position, wedged between the side and the largest box. He did it in the trip from IKEA in Emeryville to Sliver in Berkeley, and then from Berkeley to San Francisco.

We managed to avoid any tickets and made it to my apartment in one piece. I then had had to go up three flights of stairs five times. I carried the stuff up myself. Dad attempted to help with the largest box, but really it was all me pushing.

Family–never a dull moment.

I shared this story with Seabiscuit and found his reaction (from a dad’s perspective) a perfect ending:

OMG. Dad in moving car, no seat belt, stuffed in a small corner of his own making. The epic metaphor of fatherly wisdom.

Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.

Mr. Fix-It: Part Two

Prepare yourself, gentle readers of Northern California, for a life-changing experience. I hope you are seated, but not too closely together to another chair.

On Monday the five of us (me, my mother and father, my brother R and his girlfriend) had traveled up north to go on a cheese tour. On our way back from goat cheese and wine pairings, we stopped at a Peet’s Coffee in north Santa Rosa. I hadn’t had coffee all day and felt deprived; it isn’t their coffee I love so much as their espresso.
I ask everyone their order except my father because what he says he wants is not what he wants; he says hot coffee with steamed milk, but at the ratio he considers perfection (i.e. when he won’t complain and ask the barista for hot water or to microwave it), what he really wants is a latte. I order everyone’s drinks while everyone’s taking turns at the restrooms. I put together two round tables and bring together five chairs for us.

For whatever reason, when my father sits down, he grabs another chair and pulls it close to his own even though we already have enough. I go up and grab our drinks as they come out.

Everyone is enjoying their drinks, even my father. I help my brother with his phone because he couldn’t figure out how to get Pokémon Go working. (I still don’t play it, but I knew what the issue was.)

My father decides his drink needs one more Splenda, so he moves to get up but immediately sits back down. There is a look of pained horror on his face that I find baffling.

“What’s that face for?” I ask. “The Splenda is right over there.”

He hangs his head down and shakes it.

“What?” Now all of us are turned and looking at him, giving our full attention.

After a long pause and more head shaking, he says:

“These chairs were too close together, and when I moved,” here he lowers his voice, “I pinched my scrotum.”

If any of us had anything in our mouths at that moment, I am certain we would have either choked or spit it out. Instead, we all began laughing, me especially because if he hadn’t pulled in the unneeded sixth chair to begin with, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

When he finally got his Splenda, he stayed standing a while, hovering over us.

“Why aren’t you sitting down?” My brother asks.

“He’s still in recovery from his chair incident,” I say. More laughter.

I shall never be able to visit that Peet’s ever again without remembering this story. And if you, gentle readers, should find yourself at that Peet’s in North Santa Rosa, be careful where you sit, knowing that two chairs there once pinched an older man’s scrotum.