Welcome to Damn My Vagina! I am your host Michelle Patterson, and we are going to explore a plethora of subjects. But first things first. Damn My Vagina is about venturing into a personal journey of life as a woman. In this podcast, I will talk about the difficulties of life as a woman and the unique struggles endured along the way of becoming the woman I am today. And since we cannot, nor should not be serious all the time, this podcast will also cover various topics such as movies, music, books, and television series, but the focus will be on the female characters and artists of our times and the decades before us. Damn My Vagina is aimed to inspire, educate, and most importantly, remind the world that women are more than our vaginas.
So let’s get started, shall we? In this week’s episode, I will discuss workplace follies, my blunders and proverbial societal failures as a daughter, and why names are important.
Let me start by stating one hard truth. The truth is that one of the hardest things about being a female is being treated lesser than because of my sex. This does not occur with every person, but it does not strictly come from men either. Other women are just as bad toward other women in this regard. Sexism is beyond ridiculous. Yet all women I know have encountered it at some point in their lives. Women on women hate is all too real. This idea runs rampant in films geared to us as well. And I was so relieved to see this spoken about in Isn’t That Romantic and the notion squashed ultimately by the end.
However, it makes me wonder one thing. Why do we continue to discriminate against each other? Especially when men are still doing this to us on a grander scale, so our voices remain silenced. I remember when I was working my first office job, a woman was on the phone asking me for a piece of information. As soon as I told her I did not know, I was going to follow that up with, “Well, let me find out for you.” She cut me off immediately. She demanded to speak to the man in the office.
The man of the office was not in that day. In fact, the only person who knew the answer to this question was my female co-worker. I’m not going to lie and tell you I did not take great joy in putting her on the phone that day because I did. While we worked there, we encountered sexism from everyone. And some of the drivers would even get angry when we tried to assert our authority in our roles. The worst part was becoming undermined by them because they would go behind our backs to our boss at times to get their way. A way that we had been told and taught not to give into in the first place.
And this raises one question for me. Why is it when rules are put in place by a man, it’s okay for him to break them, but then when a woman tries to enforce them, she’s suddenly the bitch? Why does he get to break them and come off as the good guy in every scenario? Ultimately, so many drivers knew by going to our boss that they could get their way, and yet when we gave in without asking him, he would say we gave in to the drivers too much. We gave in because he taught us that our voices did not matter there. Our opinions, no matter how great they were to improve upon things, did not matter there.
And because I always try to give the benefit of the doubt, I wanna believe in my heart that he didn’t mean that and that he didn’t want us to feel like our voices did not matter. But regardless, we left there feeling that way. We both did, and it was such a pity.
However, that wasn’t my worse encounter with sexism by far. During my time with Blockbuster, right after I got promoted to shift lead, I had a talk with our store manager that shocked me to my core.
Let me digress for a moment if you will. Ah man, I knew this would happen, but I’m not gonna apologize for it because it goes with the story.
To my boss, I was a mostly model employee. So one night, during a lull during a shift, I sat down at the computer to request a day off. A day off need mind you, a month in advance away. She immediately asked me what I was doing? It was very much frowned upon if we sat down there. I replied, “I wanted to take a second to request a day off next month while we aren’t so busy.” She asked me what day.
When I revealed it was her birthday weekend, you would have thought I smacked a customer’s child. She went on and on about how she wanted that whole weekend off, and now she was going to have work that weekend just because I wanted the day off—one day. I was stunned. Because the agreement that we had made and the arrangement that she had worked out was that I worked Monday-Thursday, and my weekends were mine. So when I told her I had already bought the tickets, she informed me I needed to ask her before I bought any tickets in the future from that point forward.
I hit the button to request the day but was visibly angry. Other people besides me worked there! There were other employees she could ask to work that weekend and still have her birthday weekend off. As I headed over to check the dropbox, she said, “Just because you request a day off does not mean I have to give it to you.” And I’m not gonna lie. Her words were even more disheartening to hear for me at that moment because I rarely requested days off. Hell, most of the time, I was coming in on my days off whenever I was needed. Although I probably should not have said anything back, because of my anger in the heat of the moment, I said, “I’ll remember that the next time I’m requesting something a month ahead of time. However, this time I have already bought my ticket, so I don’t know what to tell you.”
I felt baited. I felt discouraged. And soon thereafter, I felt like I was someone who just needed to slow my roll and shut my mouth and that I really did not matter there. Unfortunately, the one thing I have taken away from all my jobs is that no one likes it when you stand up for yourself. Your managers do not want you to stand up for yourself if you feel you have been wronged. You can be as respectful as humanly possible, granted I’m not saying I was respectful that day, but most managers I’ve worked for want people they can treat like doormats. They want, yes, men and yes, women. Later that evening, I was floored even more when she took me aside in the front of the store, that’s right the in front where everyone could see. So if a customer came in, they were going to see me getting this talk from my manager. Not in the back where this conversation should have taken place. She explained I had gone on a power trip since getting promoted. She also brought up how I had bossed around a fellow employee the other night during inventory.
My face must have had the confusion I felt written all over it because she explained to me that I asked a fellow employee if he minded putting three films up for me. Let explain why this is, just, insane. I was the only person working close that night, and I knew I had to get everything done for them to set up for inventory. Them being her and our assistant manager. She explained these actions shocked them because I was not technically officially a shift lead yet, but somehow I felt confident enough to boss him around anyway. And I’m not claiming to be perfect, but I kept my explanation simple for her.
At the time, I asked him because out of all the store employees, that weren’t them because he knew the layout the best. I knew he would be able to put those films up in a hurry, whereas the two new hires would not. She then went on to tell me that I never talked back to her and merely did whatever she told me to do before I was promoted. I said, yes, but outside of tonight, and even still, I’m doing what you’ve told me to do. My work ethic has not suffered. She then proceeded to inform me that I was not the perfect employee and I did do things wrong.
When asking her what I did wrong and receiving no feedback or criticism, and I realize now she said this to get under my skin. She said this to make me feel lesser than, so I would go back to being that yes ma’am, no ma’am employee. To this day, I’m still stunned by how instead of looking at me taking charge that night during inventory to complete all the closing tasks, she looked at it and made me feel like crap for doing the same thing she had done a thousand times before. She had asked for help. She made me feel like crap for asking for help. And maybe this is where part of my mentality comes in, where it is hard for me to ask for help.
Oddly enough, and on a funny note, all of this takes me back to when Ross on Friends was trying to answer the question of what occupation a woman cannot partake in, and the only answer Joey could come up with definitively is be a penis model. So yeah, okay, I’m not gonna be penis modeling anytime soon. Or vagina modeling, for that matter. Why I felt the need to clarify this, I don’t know.
While that is typical of what you will hear in this podcast, I knew there were so many places I could start and so many stories I wanted to tell. So let me momentarily shift gears, if you will, because I think including this story is the perfect addition to introducing myself to my listening audience. My mom hated my first name. She hated the name Christina. Now, I already know what you’re thinking. ‘Didn’t she say her name was Michelle at the beginning of this?‘ And you’re right. You also probably don’t sound like a chipmunk. The name I go by is Michelle, but it’s not my first name. My parents compromised that Christina could be my first name when I was born, but only if I went by my middle name, which, as everyone knows now, is Michelle.
For years when people ask me my middle name, I have said Michelle. Everyone gets a good laugh, and they tell me to stop fooling around. Only I’m not kidding. I even have friends that are so used to me being Michelle that they frequently forget my first name is Christina. One of my favorite comments ever was a person I’ve known since elementary school admitting to this. And I think it’s even harder for those of you I’ve met online over a decade ago because everything I have says Michelle next to it.
If you’re wondering why my mom hated the name Christina so much, it’s because typically, the shortened version of Christina is Christy. And of course, she knew and hated a girl named Christy, and I guess in her head, if I went by that, I’d be just as awful as this other female. However, she never thought about people calling me Chris, though, which makes my inner Joey Potter smile just a little bit to think about. I don’t know if she would have necessarily enjoyed that either. Maybe that is because I somehow got stuck with the nickname Mitchell in middle school; she didn’t quite understand that one either, nor did she care for it. I think this nickname stemmed from the fact that I would get called Michael by various students passing back papers my whole life too. I considered this strange, and I also thought that people didn’t have the time to read correctly that my name was Michelle. IOr they were making the fact I was a tomboy–either could be the case at this point, but honestly, I’ll never know.
I say all this because a name is important. What is in a name? And now I can’t help but think of the quote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” from Romeo & Juliet. I feel like a Michelle. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a Christina. All of this has always made me wonder what my names mean. So I took the time to research it. I’ve read that Michelle is the feminine version of Michael and started French in origin. Fancy that, right? Maybe I should not have accused peopled of needing to open their eyes and read earlier on this podcast. Then again, I didn’t really say that; I just said they didn’t have the time–never mind. There is also the Hebrew meaning of Michelle, which is close to God. Then there is the name Christina. Christina is Latin in origin and means a follower of Christ.
In many ways, this makes me feel like I was born to believe in something bigger than me. And I wanna believe that despite not being an avid churchgoer. I believe in a higher power, and I believe that some sort of diety is looking after me. Whether God is a man or a woman, I do not know. Although Kevin Smith did teach me that God is Alanis Morissette, so there’s that. And I also believe in guardian angels, and unfortunately, I have a slew of them—one of them is my mother. And I’ve thought a lot about her recently. Honestly, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and the strength she gives me. The strength she gave me. However, I feel like I haven’t really been living up to that potential or how she saw me.
Here’s where my tide turns. I’m writing again. I’m focusing on myself and discovering my strengths as well as understanding my weaknesses. I’m going to let my mom be my cheerleader from above. Not that I really have a choice in the matter because she’s gonna do it whether I wanted her to or not. I’m going to believe that now more than ever. And mainly because she was my biggest cheerleader when she was here. So why wouldn’t she be now? It brings me great comfort to know my mom is still cheering me on from the sideline up above.
I’m not going to play a victim card anymore, not that I really think I have. But I feel the need to acknowledge I deserve more in life, and I know I haven’t been doing that. And I’m also not going to pretend that I don’t deserve my dreams to come true in some format. So I’m scheduling my days now. I’m checking items off a list. The majority of my day will be spent doing those things and completing projects that ultimately will make me a better person and feel more fulfilled than ever.
So I come back to the same question I asked earlier. What’s in a name? A lot more than I’ve been producing. I think there’s potential in my name that hasn’t even been discovered yet, and I look forward to taking this journey once more and figuring out my way in life as well as the world. I feel like that’s some life lesson that we should have learned from Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World. Only I think we did, and in my case, it’s Girl Meets World. A show that was canceled all too soon. I am, however, going to let you hear a word from our sponsor, Anchor.fm.
Ad for Anchor.fm read by me.
Welcome back to Damn My Vagina, and a huge thank you to Anchor.fm for allowing this dream to come true. And now, let’s jump back into the deep end of the pool, shall we? One of the biggest problems in this world is the self-doubt we have as women and believing all the expectations that society has put on us time and time again.
Because of those societal expectations, we are constantly far too hard on ourselves. What occurred recently with my father is a prime example of being too hard on myself. I felt like I was in one of those television episodes where the day keeps starting over. You know the ones. They begin with the main character’s perspective of the day’s events, but then they start over and allow you to see the other three characters’ perspectives of the same day’s event. Except this wasn’t even a day in my case. It was all within twelve hours! I took one of my uncles and my father to urgent care at the same time. This is how all this started. And I thought once I got home that evening, that would be it. This was my drama for the next couple of days, weeks, whatever. The dramA WAS OVER.
Boy, was I fucking wrong. It’s like life essentially laughed in my face and yelled, “HOLD MY BEER,” while proceeding to wonder just how much I could endure during the next twelve hours. And let me warn you now that if you are sensitive to hearing about parents ending up in a hospital, you probably need to pause this and come back later to finish.
I woke up around 7:30 in the morning on March 10th to a loud thud. I will digress here for just a moment to say that the older I get, the more I sympathize with my mom. And I sympathize with her because just about any sound could wake her from her slumber. And the older I get, I realize I am one in the same.
Let me get back to the point, though. In this case, I lied there in bed, and I wondered, ‘Who fell?’ And for some weird reason, I assumed my father for some reason. So I called out to him. He confirmed that for me. Yes, he fell. He tells me he is not getting up from the bathroom floor. He insists he is just not going to get up. Since he was using the bathroom and no daughter wants to see her dad’s privates, I had my uncle go and check on him. My uncle that lives with us and had gone to urgent care last night. Oh, and I forgot to mention that while we were at urgent care, he got X-rayed, and we did discover that he had a broken arm. Regardless of all this, my uncle did go in there first. I figured that my uncle could pull up my dad’s boxers, cover him up, do whatever had to be done so I could come in and do help him afterward.
Once we were standing in the bathroom doorway, we asked him if he could get up. Once he got up, he dropped once more. It was immediate. The following week, I found out that was the third time he collapsed and not the second. After the collapse we both had witnessed, my dad said it was like he couldn’t feel his legs. So I leaned down and started poking at his feet and asking him, “Can you feel this?” to which he told me yes. This made me think to take his blood sugar. His blood sugar was high but normal by his accounts in the morning.
I was so overwhelmed all I could think to do was call 911 because I couldn’t find the blood pressure cuff. That was the only other explanation I could think of, and I couldn’t even find it. And let me tell you that when you call 911, all your logic continues goes out the window. I say continued in this case because seeing my dad in the state he was in it made me panic. I panicked to the point that I forgot my father’s age.
I just forgot.
I could tell you his birthday, the year he was born, but his actual age was a mystery to me. It was like someone came in, went into my head, and plucked it right from my brain, and decided I no longer needed the information. And let me take a moment to say that I do not remember the name of the 911 operator, but I have to thank her because I went through a moment with her on the phone. I kept repeating, “I can’t believe I don’t remember his age.” And once I stopped repeating that phrase, she assured me at that moment, the only thing on our minds is getting our loved ones help. And she was right. She is right. She will forever be right.
He could have been 587 years old, and I would not have cared as long as I knew someone was making their way to our house to help him. It was terrifying to discover that his blood pressure was 73/58 that morning. To hear him cough the way he did and watch his eyes glaze over and not speak to me was traumatizing. At that moment, I thought I watched him take his last breath. I thought my dad fucking died. Not remembering his birthday, considering I thought the man died, is NOTHING in comparison.
The only other time I had to call 911 on him, his blood sugar level was 36, and he was barely responsive. And the only thing I’m thankful for this time is that once my uncle helped him get back into bed, he was responsive. Yes, he wanted to go to sleep, but he was talking to us. Inevitably they had to put him on a chair to roll him through the house and then put him on the stretcher to take him the hospital. And we are all lucky that I had the mindset to ask what damn hospital they were taking him to at that point.
The craziest part is that all of this occurred because my father was severely dehydrated. Drink all the water, folks! I mean, I was relieved to hear he didn’t have a heart attack or a stroke, which is what my aunt Michelle and I speculated was the case. However, once I heard this news, I wanted to throw water bottles at him, full water bottles, and yell, “DRINK THESE, ASSHOLE!” You know, everyday things that you say to your father. Hopefully, you just heard that sarcasm dripping from my voice. Because while the temptation was real that day, I would never actually throw full water bottles at my father.
Unfortunately, with COVID right now, I know that everything is crazy at the hospital. However, as a daughter wanting to know about her father, I kept trying to get in touch with anyone to no avail. So I kept trying to remind myself of this fact. I knew regardless, I was going to stay calm because I know that everything is overloaded. And I don’t want to be that asshole person who puts one more thing on a nurse or doctor or anything else.
However, my cousin was able to get more information about my father than I was. And at that moment, I felt like a failure as a daughter. Sure, I had managed to get my dad the help he needed, but I could not tell you what room he was in nor his condition. And on top of dealing with the fact that my dad was in the hospital during a pandemic and I couldn’t go to see him, nor ride in the ambulance with him, I had to get my uncle to an orthopedic appointment just to discover he needed surgery for his broken arm. And during that process, people were blowing up my phone about my father.
I even took a moment to reply to somebody as I was getting into my car to take my uncle to the doctor, “I’m gonna have to call you back.” And by the time I checked it again, they were demanding information from me. And it was just too much. And despite knowing it was too much and knowing I was just one person, I again felt like a failure for not being able to juggle all these things at once. Clearly, I should be able to find out about my dad, drive my uncle to the orthopedic, and somehow manage to answer all the text messages under Georgia law that I’m not allowed to text and drive. That’s the magic of having a vagina.
I know you’re probably wondering why I did not ask for help. And the truth is I had everything under control that I could control. And at that moment, I needed to be able to control something. Anything. And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse, it was like the universe inserted maniacal laughter and asked me to hold their beer again. And can I just say that it’s really unfair to ask me to hold your beer because I don’t even like them. I hate the smell of beer. At least ask me to hold a margarita!
So there I was at Walmart after getting the COVID test results for my uncle to have his surgery. I had to get my medicine. So after doing the one thing for myself that I needed to do that day, my uncle realized that the reason my check gauge light came on on the way there was because my alternator had died. And we realized this because when went to crank my car upon leaving, my car wouldn’t crank.
At that point, I started laughing. Because what else can you do? It was laugh or cry, and I chose to laugh. That day tested me in ways I don’t feel like I’ve been tested in a long time. I was drained in every sense of the word. And I learned quickly that caregiving for people is no joke. Seriously if you are a caregiver of anyone in your family, I know it’s hard. You’re not alone. And I probably did far less than any average caregiver did that day, and I still wonder how I got through those twelve hours.
It was then I knew I had to ask for all the help. This started with my friend coming to jump me off, and she had to jump me off again in order to get home. She also took the time to take my uncle and I to his surgery the next day, and she sat with me for the duration of his surgery. I actually thought because of this that maybe things were turning around just a little bit.
Instead, I ended up feeling even more like a failure than I did the day before. When my dad’s doctor finally called, he asked me one question. “Do you know why this happened?” This simple question made me feel like shit. This simple question made me tell my therapist that I thought I needed to protect my father more than I had been doing. Because clearly, I wasn’t doing enough as a daughter to keep him safe. And it’s bullshit. I know now that’s bullshit. But at that moment, I felt like the worst daughter in the universe. While I believe his question was ultimately to ensure my dad’s safety, I’m so tired of justifying people’s actions when they make me feel bad. I no longer want to do it.
He made me feel like shit. It’s as simple as that. I was justified in feeling like shit because no matter the reason or circumstances, that is how I felt, and my feelings are valid. All of our feelings are valid. I wasn’t overly sensitive. I had the right to my feelings. Yet there I was explaining, “I don’t think my dad understands that when he drinks Diet Cokes, he has to drink at least two bottles of water to replenish.” My dad saw it as he was getting fluids. And the thing is, we don’t know what we don’t know! He knows now that he needs to balance it out with water if he has anything with caffeine in it.
Herein lies the societal expectation. It was my job to inform him of this, so this incident never happened in the first place. Who thinks to ask their sixty-something-year-old father how much water he has had to drink that day? I never thought to ask this because he always has a glass of water nearby. This leads me into a false sense of security and thinking that he was fine. He was hydrated. Regardless of if I knew or not, though, what occurred wasn’t my fault. I did the best I could. I got him help. I did what I had been taught throughout my life by the numerous strong women in it. And oddly enough, that wasn’t calling 911. It was letting myself feel guilty despite the fact I knew that I did everything I humanly could.
We have to stop making ourselves feel guilty. We are one person. We cannot control everyone’s lives. The only life we can control is our own because the funny thing about control is that we aren’t even in control of our lives. Not entirely. We cannot control the universe, fate, accidents, or anything else we have not scheduled for the week. Hell, sometimes we cannot even control what we’ve set out to control because plans change, events get moved, events get canceled entirely. I say this because I never thought I’d be unemployed this long. I never thought I’d be laid off in the first place. I never thought I wouldn’t be able to help my dad outside of calling 911. I never saw any of this happening.
Things like this did not happen to Michelle. I say that in the third person to bring up once more in closing the question that I’ve asked twice now. What’s in a name? The answer is everything. They are so many facets of a woman that she allows you to see, and even more that she keeps hidden. There are moments where we are made to feel like failures because we should easily be able to handle everything and do it all. And once again, I’d like to be able to say that’s bullshit.
Oh! And before I close, I also feel the need to acknowledge why Damn My Vagina. I wanted to call this podcast Damn My Vagina because I would often joke with a female co-worker of mine, “Damn our vagina. It makes us powerless to be able to do our jobs. We know nothing.” My words were always laced with sarcasm, just as they were now. The more I wanted to use it for good. After all, I knew that my vagina and all other vaginas should not be damned. Women should be celebrated. Our dreams mean something. We are worthy of all the spoils.
I knew I wanted to remind women to speak out. The Me Too Movement has been great in terms of women wanting to tell their stories. Regardless of the horrific content that has occurred in some of these stories. We all need to tell our stories and normalize women being out in public. Women being more open. We can be just as transparent, if not more than any males. Our equality does not take away from what others have already accomplished. Women want a fair shot in the world and to be looked at as more than someone who is supposed to produce babies. Just because I don’t have a baby does not make me a failure as a woman. This stigma needs to be squashed and for all.
Our stories are SO powerful. There are so many moments and events that we have been through in life that we need to share. Moments and events that should have never taken place. I know the phrase what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger exists for a reason. But in our case, what doesn’t kill us can educate. What hasn’t killed us can inspire. We have to do that for each other. We have to take the time and put in the effort to make each other feel empowered because, hey, if we don’t do it, who else will?
So I guess, in a way, I wanted to take back the power I gave damn my vagina. Although, I’m not naive enough to believe that sexism is going to go away overnight. We have to continue fighting. We have to continue forging our place in the world. If I have learned nothing else in life, we need to focus on what makes us happy and spending time doing what we love rather than settling for the mediocre. That other thing I know is that I’m complicated and I’m complex; I’m quirky, and I’m imaginative. I’m a dreamer, and I’m optimistic. The list could go on, but the most important thing I know, above all those things, is that I’m worth getting to know.
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