On the George Washington Bird Project

16Oct08

In which The Gay Recluse becomes increasingly obsessed with seagulls.

Today we heard a story about a woman who used to work at one of our former employers.

At the time, we barely knew “Nan.” She was older and had a severe haircut and wore monochromatic outfits that kind of screamed Midwest/suburban*: she was based at an office outside of St. Louis, so all of us in New York made fun of her whenever she tried to tell us what to do. We pretended to be vaguely insulted that she had more authority than we did, even though she had been working at the same company for twenty years.

*Please note that she – like us — was in fact from a suburb in the Midwest, but unlike us still lived there. While we regret to have judged her on the basis of her hair, clothes and geographic home, and would certainly treat the situation differently today, it was true that — as sometimes happens — she played to the stereotype in ways that made her a vulnerable target to us, i.e., her new subordinates in New York City, who also had other reasons to distrust and resent her (our company was being acquired by hers). We should also add that none of this rose to the level of open antagonism on either side, and ultimately — as so often happens in corporate America — money carried the day. All of this happened approximately fifteen years ago, when we were young(er) and stupid(er). We apologize to anyone who was offended by our initial characterization.

But just today we learned that, using her cubicle as a headquarters and a base of operations, she was known to have run a business making and selling — of all things — candles. (This obvs had nothing to do with the business of our employer.)

If this is true — and possibly even if it isn’t — we are now in love with Nan.

If you’re running a business within a business, we want to hear about it.

Is there a more subversive (or artistic) gesture to be made in the year 2008?

If so, we haven’t heard about it.

So the next time you’re feeling suffocated at your corporate job, light a candle and think of Nan.

Then call her up and order some candles.

If you’re lucky, she may hire you to sell.

And you’ll remember what it’s like to be alive.

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4 Responses to “On the George Washington Bird Project”

  1. 1 IHeartRyanReynolds

    Wow, your humanism has a dark corner! I am really surprised that you and your colleagues would make a coworker’s job more difficult simply because she is Midwestern and taking orders from a Midwesterner would offend your sense of superiority! How is that any better than, say, making fun of your gay supervisor whenever he tries to give you orders because you just can’t take fags seriously? It’s a slap in the other person’s face, either way.

    P.S. What does living in the Midwest have to do with wearing bland colors?

  2. Thanks for the comment, I Heart RR, even though you totally missed the point of the post. The exercise here was to look back at my younger self and say yes, I was an elitist asshole, and the very person I was making fun of turned out to be 100 times more interesting and subversive than I ever could have imagined. I’m sorry that my imperfect record from fifteen years ago disappointed you and your faith in my “humanism,” whatever that means; I’m sure you’ve been perfect your entire life and have treated every single person you’ve known (or worked for) with the same degree of polite deference and consideration no matter what they were wearing or where they were from.

  3. 3 IHeartRyanReynolds

    Well, your original post doesn’t give any indication of how much younger you were when you were a a raging anti-Midwestern bigot, or that your snarky attitude towards Midwesterners has actually changed. In fact, without the clarification it’s perfectly conceivable that you’ve just learned to employ a balancing test: being Midwestern is a bad quality, but it can be outweighed by being subversive. And by “your humanism” I meant the humanistic perspective that you usually demonstrate — you know, like being sensitive to human difference and respectful of other people’s feelings and appreciative of the arts and stuff like that. I did not invent the concept of humanism, but I’m sure you can find a more precise definition by consulting secondary sources.

  4. Again I’m sorry, IHeartRR, to have disappointed you, but the truth is that people make superficial/prejudicial judgments all the time, and while I’m not endorsing it — to the contrary, I like to think that I’m able to judge people as individuals — it would be dishonest of me to pretend that I never did so in the past, as my post indicates.

    You are the one who seems anxious to assume the worst, when the post doesn’t indicate a time frame one way or another, although what I described was clearly a past event. Was I a “raging anti-Midwestern bigot” with a “snarky attitude”? Sure, I’ll admit that. No doubt — because I grew up in PIttsburgh and often longed to escape the stifling conformity I witnessed there — it’s part of a self-hatred tied to many other facets of my life that I wanted to escape before I could accept.

    You on the other hand seem to be filled with a level of angry disdain and unduly harsh judgment that — ironically enough, given your criticism of me — seems to infuse your view of the present, and leads me to wonder what you have yet to escape, much less accept.


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