Key for the front door

I was out at dinner with some friends tonight, and a friend came over after to relax and catch up on random things. Then, suddenly, my colleague friend texts me to ask me if I have a key to the front door of the office. He was out at dinner with our east coast head of sales and our CEO and had just gotten back to the office with them in an attempt to have our visiting CEO pick up his luggage, which he decided to leave at the office. Our office building is set up in such a way that after 8pm, the doorman goes home, which means that the front door gets locked, and you need a physical key to get into the building, then a keycard to get into the floor we’re on.

When he explained this to me over the phone, I got so annoyed. Why would he just leave his luggage at the office and not bring it with him? The restaurant is so close to the office. And how could neither of the other two remembered that the door locks at 8pm? And if they had the key, which they do, why would they not always carry it on their set of keys and instead choose to leave it at home?!

I was getting ready to leave and kick my friend out to go downtown to open the door when my colleague calls me back and said that plan B worked out; they were able to get a hold of our office manager, who was able to call the cleaning lady, who just happened to be cleaning another office just a ten-minute walk from our building.

It seems like poor judgment, panic, and unfortunate events seem to descend upon us whenever our new CEO is in town. And the mood isn’t great. No one wants to be around. And I almost left my apartment at 9:30pm on a Tuesday night just so that he could get his luggage. I was so mad. And I was irritated that my colleague asked me to do this. This is what happens when you’re too nice of a person and people rely on you to always be there for them. You just get abused and are left feeling unappreciated.

Not all Asian people look the same, and the failure of “Diversity Inclusion”

Within an hour yesterday of arriving at our company’s headquarters in San Francisco, I was chatting with a few of my local colleagues when one of my Amsterdam colleagues walked up to me to hug me, and he said, “I just saw you three weeks ago, and we meet yet again!”

I was so confused. I hadn’t been in the SF office since February when we had our annual sales kickoff. What was he referring to? “No, I haven’t been here since February,” I responded, unsure of what he was referring to.

“Yes, you were here three weeks ago!” this Dutch colleague insisted. “We were working on our side project together.”

And that’s when it hit me. Damnit. He’s mistaking me for another colleague… who is very likely another Asian female.

Our colleague visiting from London knew immediately who he was mistaking me for. He pulled me aside later and said, “(Insert Dutch colleague’s name) thought you were Diana,” he said in a hushed voice.

So, that’s when I decided to post on our company’s Diversity Inclusion Slack channel this message:

“So @jess asked me to be more vocal on this channel given my experiences in general, and so I think now that it’s my first day back at Optimizely SF since February…maybe I can ask this question: Should I be getting used to the fact that as an Asian American woman at this company that I should be confused for other Asian women repeatedly?”

It received a lot of reactions, many of which were other people of color getting mistaken for other people of a similar color. It was just so stupid and senseless. No response from HR was seen, just more outrage from other employees who were not white.

We have a diversity inclusion group at work, which frankly, is more for show and venting than it is for actually solving issues around diversity in the workplace. To make matters worse, it’s only in San Francisco, which is our headquarters. As one of my colleagues said to me when I shared this repeated experience of getting mistaken for other Asian female employees, our company fails to handle diversity management in a productive way that actually effects change. This Slack channel is mainly a steam valve to let people complain together. If our Human Resources team were serious about doing something, they would hire outside professionals to not only come in and do these trainings, but also advise HR on how to handle these issues, as they will constantly come up.

But, that isn’t happening. So, I will continue to be mistaken for other Asian females, and other Asian females will get mistaken for me. Because in a white people world, all people of color look the same to them. We’re not individuals. We’re just a single race duplicated into multiple bodies.

 

What We’re Up Against

Tonight, we went with some friends to see a show at the Women’s Project Theater called What We’re Up Against, which is about the blatant sexism faced by the two women at a small architectural firm in the 1990s. The most enraging part of it is the “bro culture” and the blatant sexism that gets swept under the rug. The most disturbing part of it is that today, that’s still tolerated, and the most passive and subtle forms of sexism are so hard to define, but we just know it when we experience it. Like the sexism I faced at my last company, when you write it down on paper, it doesn’t seem so glaring. It’s very subtle. It’s like the time when my ex company’s former female legal counsel left (because of sexism), and she got replaced by a male friend and lawyer of the company’s president, my (male) colleague said to me that our ex-female legal counsel “just didn’t get it. She just didn’t know what she was doing. But (new male legal counsel) just gets it. He’s a dude (I kid you not — there was real emphasis on this word in his speech)! He just knows how to do this!” Oh, really? She just didn’t get it? But this man does, not only because he’s “bros” with the president, but also because… he’s a “dude“?

You try proving in a court of law that that was an example of sexism. You’d probably lose. But we both know that was sexism. This is one of many problems we face today even when we have it so much better than the many generations of women before us who got us to this “privileged” state.

In light of Harvey Weinstein

Today, I had a video chat with a new colleague of mine who will be based remotely in Minneapolis to service our customers in the Midwest. We do these random one-on-one sessions with new hires on our team to get them acquainted with the rest of us and to make everyone feel welcome. I actually really like that we do this. The intention is quite good here.

One sad thing I learned about my new colleague is that she is a former opera singer who finally got disillusioned by the industry when she was told she could move forward with the San Diego opera only if she was willing to “give a certain amount of sex” to the director and ultimate decision maker of the opera. “Well, what can you do for me — I mean, sexually?” he propositioned her. “You’re not very good looking, definitely not the prettiest person we could put on stage, so you’ll need to provide for me sexually to get anywhere with us.” She was floored and immediately declined and walked out. And she left California, never to consider opera as a career ever again.

These stories are so prominent everywhere for women. We’re treated and looked at as objects by men who have too much power and are driven by money, power, and the desire to ravage any sexual object they want. And they make excuses they can do this because of their money and power, or because of the “time” that they grew up in as Harvey Weinstein did. Just look — President Dipshit does the same thing and is now commander-in-chief of this incompetent country that willingly and happily elected him. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it only makes me sad because sometimes when I hear these things, I feel as though progress is being halted.

Dependency

My colleague whose father died from suicide the same year Ed did asked me about my walk this morning when I came into the office. He was originally planning to come and take his three kids and wife, but his mom had some melt down the weekend before and had to come over unexpectedly yesterday. His younger brother recently got married, and part of the agreement is that their mom would live with this younger brother and his new wife. Unfortunately, the adjustment in living with her new daughter-in-law wasn’t going very smoothly, and a lot of drama was ensuing.

“Why does she live with your brother?” I asked my colleague.

“Dude, she can’t live alone,” he said to me seriously, shaking his head. “She’s just not in a mental or emotional state where any of us can trust her living alone. She doesn’t trust herself living alone.” He said that she’s physically capable and moves around on her own, even is a teacher to first-grade children, but when it comes to actually running a house and leading her own life, she’s incapable of doing it, especially in light of being a widow.

I asked him why his younger brother has to live with his mom, and why don’t he and his wife and children? He shot me the look.

Oh, shit, I thought to myself. That sounds like my own mother. If God forbid anything happened to my dad, my mom would be 100 percent incapable of living on her own. Even when my dad was told he needed to get bypass surgery three years ago, she sobbed endlessly and said she wanted to die, too, if he died.

Opioid crisis

I live in the land of plenty: plenty of food, people, money and general wealth. I live in a country where it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the things you don’t want to see or choose not to see. I also live in a country where, in a population of about 320 million, as of last year, we dished out about 236 million opioid prescriptions. That’s over 70 percent of the population of this freaking country. And that’s just prescription pain medication. What about the people who are taking and eventually overdose on over the counter pain killers?

That’s just the amount of pain killers and opioid prescriptions, though. What about the actual dosage levels in the over-the-counter medications we take? I honestly never thought much about until I went to Australia and had to get prescription medication for my pertussis two years ago, and I started looking at dosage information. I was told that dosages are much lower in other countries than in the U.S. And, I was reminded of this when I ran into a colleague at our conference in Vegas this week who is originally from the Midwest but now lives in Sydney, Australia, and she complained endlessly about how “weak” the over-the-counter and antibiotic prescription medications she had there were, how they “did nothing” for her, and how every time she comes back to the States, she literally packs a huge empty suitcase to fill up with stronger over-the-counter medications, antibiotics and prescription pain medications (her sister is a doctor, so she can easily write whatever prescription she wants), and liquor (liquor is really expensive in Australia). She experiences frequent pain, has difficulty sleeping more than an hour or two at at time, and relies on these American levels of pain medication to keep her going.

She’s discussing this with me and two of our American colleagues who have never been to Australia before. They know nothing about healthcare outside of the U.S. I’m not criticizing them by saying that, but it’s true; before Chris, I didn’t know much about healthcare outside the U.S., either, other than in China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, only because I’ve either visited or had family there who told me about what it’s like in those places. So, they are shocked and think Australia must be a crazy place to see a doctor or get any Rx filled. I painted a very different story of what I’ve experienced my time getting treatment there, as well as in New Zealand. I also made a joke about why we now have a national opioid crisis and literally tens of thousands of people are dying because of their addiction to pain medications. She didn’t seem to find it funny or get how that was relevant to what she was talking about.

At the end of the day, we all have our own opinions about what healthcare should be and what makes sense. But the numbers don’t lie: the U.S. sucks when it comes to healthcare, both cost, treatment, and preventive care. There’s a reason we have an opioid crisis. There’s a reason infant and new mother mortality is so high here across industrialized nations. There’s a reason we have a shorter life span than our industrialized nation counterparts. And it’s not because we’re better. It’s because we’re fucking worse.

So yes, I do like my colleagues overall a lot more here than I have anywhere I’ve ever worked. But I don’t think all of them are smart or have perspective or even see how flawed ┬átheir arguments are. This one was down right neurotic and ignorant. You always think that traveling and especially living abroad would give you more perspective, but when you just take all your nationalism with you, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose? If it’s so much better here, why doesn’t she just come back and live in the greatest country on earth with the greatest president on earth?

No Wake

Tonight, we went to see the show No Wake at the E59E59 theater, which is now conveniently just a walk away from our apartment now. The show is about a divorced couple who is reunited when they learn that their daughter, who has been estranged from both of them, dies from suicide. They spend the play navigating their conflicting feelings about their daughter and each other.

I’ve wondered a lot about how my parents interacted with each other after Ed died and how it may or may not have changed. From what I can observe during my short visits home, they both seem shorter with each other, snap at each other more quickly, and are quicker to raise their voices at each other than when Ed was here. But what I also wonder, which I’m sure I’ve wondered about here, is whether they’ve actually discussed the many events that led to their son’s decided passing and what they could have done that contributed to it. Or is it all just denial, a matter-of-fact statement of “he’s gone, so now we have to move on”? Have they actually discussed it? Did they ever acknowledge to each other how sick their son was and how he needed help that they didn’t want to give him? Probably not given who they are. Would they benefit from it? I’m honestly not sure. If I could ever picture that conversation happening, it would be one of those conversations where no one ever truly says anything meaningful, and you are left feeling like you’ve just wasted a lot of time.

“She was sick,” they kept saying during the play. But they acknowledged how useless those words are after a while because how are you supposed to respond to that? What do words like that actually mean?

To me, they mean, someone had a problem, no one in his life who could feasibly help wanted to help over a span of decades, and now he’s fucking gone and the tears his parents may cry are just a bunch of crap. It’s a sorry excuse for all the times they could have helped and simply chose not to, or even worse… to ignore and look the other way, or exacerbate the situation by calling him names and criticizing him relentlessly. All that is conveniently forgotten once he’s jumped off a bridge and is gone now.

Well, I haven’t forgotten.

Dentist dread

I went to see the dentist yesterday, and with my cleaning, I also had to get some restorative work done on my two front teeth. I am a teeth grinder at night. It’s a terrible habit, but one that I am unable to control because what I do in my sleep… is when I am not conscious. So I wear this pathetic, childlike mouth guard at night, which is very unsexy, but despite that, the grinding continues. The guard is there to lessen the damage to my teeth, but the damage still happens. So the dentist took x-rays and saw there were some cracks in my front teeth that needed some help.

Can you imagine going to the dentist when you are 31 years old and being told that there are cracks in your two front teeth that need some sealant? That’s like being told you’re at risk for becoming toothless for the rest of your life, at least, for the two front teeth that really matter every single time you meet or speak with anyone.

I can never get any good news at the dentist. Ever.

Admitting bias

None of us are perfect. We all have our hidden prejudices and reasons for not liking certain people or even certain groups of people. I frequently say that I can’t stand men… but I also ┬ásay women really suck and make things so complicated when they don’t need to be. But I was really disappointed today when I came in to be told that my doctor from Tuesday wasn’t going to see me today and that a different doctor would be seeing me. I immediately was skeptical and thought this was going to be bad. And once the doctor walked in, I immediately knew I couldn’t stand him.

He was this old, immigrant Chinese doctor with a thick Cantonese accent, and he barely made eye contact with me. He didn’t introduce himself, came in and said, “Yvonne, is your throat feeling any better?” so no greeting, and basically immediately wrote me a cough suppressant prescription, a NEW antibiotic which he didn’t even explain until I asked him what it was for (laryngitis?!! because I still don’t have my voice back?!), and almost rushed out of the room, but then realized he forgot to check my lungs and breathing, and hurried to get that done. I was barely in the room with him for four minutes, start to finish. It was a rushed job, he clearly didn’t care or have any bedside manner, and despite my notes clearly saying I was coming from out of town, he told me to come back in a week. Just like my dad’s idiot retired Cantonese male doctor who said my dad didn’t have any heart conditions just two days before his scheduled double bypass surgery, this Cantonese male doctor is a total moron who should have his medical license revoked.

This is the reason the medical industry in this country is terrible, and is the reason so many people probably avoid doctors like the plague and ultimately die earlier than they should. If you can’t trust the ‘professionals’ who are supposed to help you, then who can you trust with your health?

 

History repeats itself again

In Trump’s America, history is repeating itself once again with white supremacist rallies and violence, leading to the death of an innocent equality seeking woman and the injuries of many more. What is really shocking is not what the self-proclaimed neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and people-of-color hating white racists say and do; what is really shocking is the people who you’d least expect defending these rallies as being representative of “freedom of speech” and opinion, or the people, whether they are colleagues, former colleagues, or people within your professional network, who think a quote like the one below are delusional or “total crap”:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love… …For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

This was originally said by Nelson Mandela, and Tweeted by former President Obama after the Charlottesville act of domestic terrorism that happened this past Saturday. And someone posted this quote in my LinkedIn feed today, to which one very ignorant white woman responded that this quote was totally crap and all lies, that as if lions and zebras just “learn” to hate each other, that it’s instinct, so how are people any different?

So, I have a couple responses to that: 1) I didn’t realize that black people, white people, Chinese people, whatever ethnicity you want to name, were actually different species of animal the way zebra and lions are. That’s probably one of the most insulting and inherently racist things someone can say – that white people are innately different from any other race, or a comparison of any races in that sense; and 2) behavior towards people, towards things, thoughts, anything is very much learned, especially when it comes to expressing emotions, and it’s sad to see that people aren’t educated in school or in life enough to realize that. We’re not born thinking or knowing we are Christian or Indian or Muslim or anything; we are taught all those things. And in the same way, we are taught that one religion or race is superior to the other. Babies don’t have a clue what race they are or what religion their parents practice, and neither do most kids under the age of 5!!

It’s as though every day of 2017, I am becoming more and more aware of how delusional and short sighted my fellow Americans are. And every day, I kind of just want to bury myself under my sheets and not deal with reality.