Monday, February 9, 2009

How to Cope with Unpleasant People at Work

When I'm getting angry/frustrated/exasperated by idiotic or mean things people at MPOW do, I have a trick for calming myself down.

I remind myself to adopt an Anthropological Perspective.

Imagine you're hanging with Jane Goodall and watching a bunch of chimps flinging poop at each other... and at you and Jane. (I should point out that in this exercise, you and Jane are tight and she's told you not to call her "Doctor Goodall.")

Rather than getting upset about getting poop on her safari outfit, Jane turns to you and says, "Isn't that fascinating? They flung poop at us! I wonder what made them do certainly is curious behavior, this flinging of feces. That big one has quite an arm and looks pleased with himself for having hit us from this far away."

There's no need to get upset. There's no need to fling poop back- that'd just be childish. There's no need to have an emotional response to this poop-flinging. Just study the behavior and focus on what you can learn from it. You are among the chimps- but you're not one of them.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Girl Stuff"

When we visited Minnesota for Thanksgiving, my 5-year-old nephew, Ben, saw me bake cookies, change diapers, and feed Simon. Looking very contemplative as I shaped cookies onto the baking sheet, he asked me:

"Do you do a wot of giwl stuff, Unca' Dabid?"

"Ben, sweetheart, there's no such thing as 'girl stuff,' or 'boy stuff.' Men and women can be teachers, firefighters, doctors, rocket scientists, or hair stylists. Men and women can cook, clean, care for children, and bake delicious cookies. Except for a couple of biological things, there's almost nothing your Mom can do that your Dad can't...and there's almost nothing your daddy can do that your mommy can't."

[Long pause while Ben thinks this over]

"Wot awe th'biowogical things girls can do that boys can't?"

"Women can make babies in their tummies. Men can't do that."

[Long pause while Ben considers this]

"wot awe th'biowogical things boys can do that girls can't?"

"Boys can comfortably pee while standing up."

[Short pause]

"Why can boys do that and giwls can't?"

"Boys have penises that make it very easy to point what direction their urine goes in- just by pointing the penis."

"But...giwls have *vaginas*!"

"Yep. You're right. Girls have vaginas."

"But a vagina is just wike a penis!"

"No, Ben. A vagina is not just like a penis."

"Wot does a vagina wook wike?"

[Pause while David considers an answer which is both true and simple enough for a 5-year-old to grasp]

"Well, you know how your penis and testicles stick out of your body?"


"Well, for girls, the important parts are tucked away inside their bodies, so there isn't a lot to see from the outside. I think you know that, though- you've taken a bath with your sister."

"Oh yeah. Dat's wight!"

I later repeated this conversation to my brother, Andrew, Ben's Dad. First, Andrew was perfectly satisfied that I gave Ben truthful, simple, and appropriate answers. Second, he was impressed that I actually satisfied Ben enough that Ben elected to stop asking further questions. This, Andrew tells me, is the real accomplishment.

Me, I was just pleased to reinforce the idea that there's no such thing as "boy stuff" or "girl stuff."