I am on a roll! It feels like the end of “coming out at work” is in sight. This may have been the biggest hurdle, because it seemed the most unpredictable – I wasn’t sure how she’d react. Or rather, I could deduce how she might react at different times – I just had to make sure to pick a good time…
She had been out on medical leave for 6 weeks, and I expected there to be a transitional period when she came back. So I didn’t plan / put any pressure on myself to say anything in the foreseeable future. But once she was back, I realized it did seem to be good timing. I dreaded approaching her while she was in her office (if I could even catch her in there). It seemed so daunting to start such a conversation from scratch, but that’s exactly what I planned on doing, since we’d be in a semi-private location.
Last Wednesday, however, I was running the auto-scrubber in the cafeteria, when she came up to me to explain some extra work my co-worker and I would be doing that night. I then turned the auto-scrubber back on, but she came back to me with something else. She had some news about someone who used to teach at our school years ago. She was relating to me as another worker with history in the building, something she has never done before. Sort of, “I knew you’d remember her, so I thought I’d tell you.” It was a bonding moment, as much as seems possible between us. I realized, this is the time to tell her! We were already conversing (not a common thing) and all I have to do is segue, as opposed to start from nothing.
I said, “Oh, I’ve got two things to run by you.” I told her about surgery and needing time off first. She was totally fine with that and didn’t ask any questions. I was concerned she might. I dreaded telling her I was taking off more time, since I took so much time last year. It went so smoothly! Then I added that I have something else that is more of a long-term thing. I told her I’m changing my name and pronouns to he/him/his. That I already have, in fact, except for at work. She said that this must be a long term thing because this is the first she’s heard of it! I assured her she was one of the first people I’m telling. (I strongly suspect that she already knew something, because I came out to the head of the kitchen a couple of months ago, and they talk about everything. That may have been somewhat strategic on my part.)
The rest of the conversation centered around her advising me about what I would be able to do, when. She said I’d have to wait until I’ve legally made changes. Then I should go to the principal, and she will deal with it in her own way. I don’t believe I do need to wait until my name is legally changed (and I’m not planning to change my gender), and I think I have some say about how I come out and when, but I’m not about to jump ahead to the next steps anytime soon anyway. I told her I am going by Kameron, and she even said, “I like it.”
We wrapped up the conversation, which went so well, considering. I turned the auto-scrubber back on and could not stop smiling. I had been dreading this for so long, and it just organically occurred in the moment. I was on turbo charge for the rest of the day. In my mind, I kept jumping ahead to what I would have to do next, and then reminding myself to just be in this moment, and feel this elation that doing this thing had created.
I really can’t envision what I’ll be doing next. Which means I should just wait for a while until it seems clear. (It would be talking to the principal again – something I can tell I’m not ready for right now.)
For now – WHEEEEEEE!
Other related posts:
*Back to school is in quotations because as a janitor, I didn’t actually leave school. We’re just gearing up for everyone else coming back.
I spent this summer waking up at 5:20AM every day, working to get the school ready for students and teachers. We are winding down from that (we’ve been wound down for a while – we started out really fast and got done early). I’m back to late nights (2-10:30PM) without much to do other than dump the trash of the few teachers who have been coming in to set up every day. It’s been nice that the cleanliness of the school is at a standstill. We can just look around and say, “we got all that done.” And we don’t yet have to work to maintain it. Kids start back on Wednesday, so that will all change in a couple days.
While we were busy though, we were rushing through things. We scrubbed every desk and chair. We cleaned surfaces in the rooms, shined the sinks, dusted. We scrubbed the old wax up off the floors. I single-handedly waxed every floor. 3 times over. I’d like to know how many square feet that was. Tens of thousands? Maybe even a hundred thousand? Or a lot more?
It has been a relief to drop back to the later shift and not feel like I’m stumbling, half-awake, in the mornings, just to come home and start dreading about waking up early again. I had been going to bed at 8:30PM! My mental health has been better overall, but not great. I’ve been mildly depressed all summer.
Going back to late nights has been lonely, and strangely, a lot of my worries have centered around what to eat before work. I need to fit in breakfast and lunch. I don’t know what to eat. I also don’t really know what to do, all by myself, other than oversleeping. I’m forcing myself to do some things I don’t really feel like doing, as of now. I guess the hope is I will grow into it; I will like it once I’m doing it. I’m going to be a radio DJ starting pretty soon. I’m also going to take a writing class.
I’ve been realizing that I’m living with a lot of dread lately. Whether that’s residual from mental health issues earlier in the year, or whether that’s just me being me, I can’t really figure out. It’s been helpful to notice it while it’s happening though, and just focus on the here-and-now. Remind myself that I’m actually fine in whatever I am doing presently, so just be more involved in that, rather than thinking about all the perceived horribleness ahead.
For example, I’m dreading going back to doing the exact same thing, at work, every day. But, it really is what I make it, from moment to moment. Unlike most jobs, I don’t have unpredictable things pop up daily, or new challenges to tackle, or people to deal with. It’s just me, in my head. I need to remember that it’s important to change what’s on my iPod frequently – new music, new podcasts… And to talk to people on the phone. And although I don’t believe her, my therapist keeps telling me that I’m actually in control of my own thoughts. So I can choose to keep obsessing about something negative, or I can move on to more interesting topics. In my mind, I am powerless to whatever my brain ends up dwelling on, and I get stuck feeling whatever feelings those thoughts conjure up. I should work on that…
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about work. During my depression, I was in and out of work a few times, totaling 8 weeks of sick leave. It’s been difficult to get back into the swing of things. Some changes were made, and I wasn’t in the best place to acclimate to new routines. It’s starting to get a little better, just in time to get disrupted again for summer cleaning (switching from an afternoon/night shift to a day shift starting the week after next.)
But this post isn’t really about that work stuff. It’s about something that brightened my day yesterday. A parent of a student saw me as male, and it made my day. I know the term “passing” is problematic because it connotes a deception is taking place and it sets up a discrepancy amongst those who “pass” and those who don’t – it shouldn’t be about that! We are who we are. Despite all this, I really like the word and feel like it describes my experience.
Here’s a few past posts where I talk about it:
Recent instances of passing
Passing as a teenager yet again
Thirty-one year old kid working as a school janitor
Rumors flying around the kindergarten classroom
I feel like people generally see me as female. I gotta say I’m even (very pleasantly) surprised when I’m seen as male; I feel I am not masculine enough. When I am seen as male, “passing” accurately describes the experience, because I am not male (I am definitely not female either).
Yesterday, a dad and his son approached me while I was cleaning. The son forgot his spelling homework and had to get access to his classroom. I said sure and which room and we went there. I unlocked the door, turned on the lights, and stood waiting, because that’s what we’re supposed to do. The kid came back from his desk with a book but no spelling homework. The dad asked,
“Where’s your homework?”
The kid sputtered, “I guess when we were clearing out our desks I must have put it in my bag? But I do need this book.”
“So we just bothered this gentleman for no reason?”
I said, “That’s totally fine. At least you got your book!”
The dad continued, “Tell him you’re sorry.”
“Not a problem. You guys have a good night.”
I was conversing with these people and spending more than a second in their presence. And the dad saw me as male!!! And whether the kid knows I’m biologically female (I’m not out at work… yet!) he didn’t say anything one way or the other. It felt really validating. I held onto that feeling as long as I could.
In other news, the NY Times is giving trans-people an opportunity to tell their story in 400 words or less. It’s totally awesome! Here’s the link to what’s out there already, and a chance to share your own story: Tell your story. I already told my story!
This blog is largely about working as a janitor and about living as a non-binary person. I’ve struggled with the chronicling-of-my-job side of it, and with melding the two aspects of my identity. Largely this is because I am not out at work. It’s hard to write about work if I feel a block. Also I’m not always sure what to share about work… I feel tentative about it.
I am out in other areas of my life – friends all use male pronouns; relatives at least know I prefer male pronouns. In new situations, I plan to let people know about male pronouns whenever I feel like I comfortably can. But work has been a challenge, in my mind.
A big part of that is, what would I be asking for, exactly? Male pronouns, and a name change down the road. What about bathrooms? What about my appearance? I won’t be looking any different, as opposed to other trans-people who transition from one gender to the other. Is this too much to ask for? And what about kids and parents? Where do they fit in? I see teachers getting on board (Maybe? One day?), but how much can I hope for it to trickle down to students and their parents? Does it matter to me that much?
Right now, this is hurting my head. BUT, a couple of weeks ago, I took a first step! I had been wanting to fill the principal in about my recent hospitalization and absence. At the time it happened, I was vague and just left it at I was hospitalized. I did want to let her know the nature of the occurrence and just touch base about where I’m at. I figured it would be a good time to also give her a heads up about my trans-identity. I didn’t plan to ask for any accommodations or change-overs at this time – just wanted to let her know.
So I waited for a good time after school when she was still in the building. I’d been psyching myself up for a few days, so the day I decided I could do it, it was definitely going to happen. It wasn’t perfect – I knew she was getting ready for a kindergarten registration event that evening, but it kinda had to be NOW! I kept it short, knowing she had other things.
I just popped in her office, said I’d like to touch base about where I’m at – she asked me how I was doing and I said, “Much better.” Which was kinda true in the moment, but not true later on. I’ve been on a roller coaster with new med adjustments and things, but I didn’t get into all of that. I just told her that the reason I went out was that due to personal stress and work stress, I could sense my thoughts getting extremely confused and disorganized. I sought out help from my therapist, and she’s the one who brought me to the hospital. I’m on new meds, for now at least (the principal asked about side effects) and seeing my therapist more often for the time being. The principal was open and supportive.
She started to wrap things up by talking about cleaning for tonight (with the event), so I knew I had to jump in with my other purpose before the moment passed. I said, “I do have another thing to bring up, about where I’m at. I wanted to let you know that I identify as transgender.” I went on to specify that most people who ID this way transition from one gender to the other, and I don’t feel that – I feel like I am in the middle. That I’ve been in this process for years, and work is the last place. That I’m on testosterone but such a low dose that my appearance won’t be changing. That I prefer male pronouns and plan to change my name at some point. She listened intently and asked what I needed. I said nothing right now, just time to maybe talk to other people within the school and come out on my own terms. Maybe at some point an email but nothing right now. Just eventually a name and pronoun change. I asked her if she had any context for knowing about trans-people, and she said yes. And that was about it. I wrapped it up really quickly and told her thank you. She said thank you to me too.
I don’t know what this means other than one tiny step. Right now everything has felt so hard, this feels like nothing. I think in time, it may feel like I opened doors up to take further steps, but as of now, it just feels like something I got out of the way.
Here’s to happier days ahead. I should be happy about this, and hopefully it will sink in later…
This is pretty much the best type of leave of absence anyone could ask for. Last week, I was in the hospital, but I wasn’t sick or incapacitated in any physical sense. And being out of work for this week, I’m able to get to some stuff I’ve been putting off, in some cases for years.
– I’m getting my car inspected.
– I’m going to therapy Mon. and Fri.
– I’m meeting with my new psychiatrist.
– I’m having lunch or dinner with a couple people.
– I’m working on finally finishing this blanket I started 2 years ago.
– I’m finishing a piece of writing, a collaborative blog post with Michele Witchipoo.
And the big thing I’m finally getting around to: I am cleaning my room.*
My room has been a disaster area for mostly my entire life. I mean, I guess there were periods of time where I kept things organized throughout my childhood, but largely, it’s a watch-where-you-step zone. There is a method to the madness, but it doesn’t work all that well, and there have been times recently where I can’t find something. I have a tendency to not unpack bags and also a tendency to not want to touch things because they have sentimental value and are buried somewhere down there. It’s like an archaeological dig. This room has not been cleaned in probably 2 years – lots of dust and hair and just grossnesses. At least no food or stuff like that – I’m good about that.
I guess I have a confession: I am a janitor who is a messy person at heart.
I have a fair amount of anxiety about returning to work next week. I have never been out of work for this long, ever. People might be asking me questions that I need to be prepared to field. Although it may be tough to believe in my line of work, I was temporarily experiencing quite a lot of stress, and many changes were under way, leading up to being out of work. I think I can manage it better once I get back, but I won’t really know until I’m in it. Either way, I know I’ll be ready to go back – only so much I can do with huge swaths of unstructured time. (I’ve also been playing thought experiments about how hard would it be to come out as non-binary at work? Everyone really likes me there – I think they could get on board. We’ll see…)
*When I say “my room,” I’m referring to the room where my partner and I sleep, and where I store a lot of my personal belongings in big disheveled swirls. We don’t hang out in there or watch TV or anything because it’s not all that aesthetically pleasing, at least for my partner. Also, it is the attic of our house, so it is very cold in the winter.
My co-worker just retired on Friday. This is someone I’ve seen almost every day for the past 8 years – not many people in my life I can say that about! (My partner, and others at work, basically.) I will miss him a lot. Some people have a lot of co-workers. I really only have just one. I have one supervisor, one co-worker, and one other person on the cleaning staff who is only there for 4 hrs a day (more of a higher turnover. A co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same).
We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked the same hours and we were still a team. I clean the first floor, and he cleaned the second floor. We probably only saw each other for a total of a half-hour every day. Still, I felt very connected with him. We commiserated together. We listened to each other. If I needed anything, I knew I could go to him. I knew if I helped him out with something, I was being highly appreciated for it.
I’d have to say he taught me more than any other person, in my journey to becoming a janitor who is very good at his job. He always had an opinion about how things should be done. And he had a lot of tricks-of-the-trade up his sleeve. He always wanted to pass those on to me (and anyone else who had the patience to learn from him – most didn’t). He was really difficult to understand. He’s from the Caribbean and has a super thick accent. He also has a speech impediment (I believe) on top of that. Over time, I began to be able to understand every word out of his mouth. Most people – teachers and other people in the building – could really understand roughly half or less of the things he was saying. Even after interacting with him every day for years and years and years. Sometimes I felt the urge to be his interpreter, but I think he might have felt insulted, so I really only did this if it really seemed necessary.
One of my favorite word-disconnects he uttered, was anytime he was talking about someone with Alzheimer’s, it would come out sounding like “Old Timers.” How great is that? I’ve pretty much started using that in my own lexicon. There are plenty of other neologisms and intonations I’ve adopted from him. Just one way I will always remember him.
There was a party for him after school in the library (this is the first “library party” I’ve attended – usually I haven’t felt like I was welcome / I haven’t gone). We ate cheese squares and broccoli & cauliflower. We drank Pepsi and had sheet cake. He made a brief speech and he cried. I was touched. He was presented with a few gifts, including a scrap book the Social Committee made for him. I contributed two pieces for it. This is what I wrote:
I think that he saw me as male. Or at least as not female. He always referred to me as “Man,” or, more like, “Mon” (the Caribbean thing). He was old-school in a lot of ways, but he never once tried to do something for me (unless he was showing me a better way to do it) or told me I couldn’t do something / lift something. I always appreciated that. There’s no way I’ll ever forget him. He impacted my life in ways he may never know…
I recently was at an LGBT film festival and specifically planned ahead to catch a film from Finland called Open Up To Me (Kerron Sinulle Kaiken). If you want to see it, this blog post is going to contain details you might not want to read about in advance, just a heads up!
Super highly recommend this film. It follows the life of Maarit, a transwoman, for a few months, starting at the point of her last appointment with her gender therapist – the tone of that first scene, the therapist’s farewell message, is: now spread your wings and fly. Maarit had been forced through a lot of sacrifices in the process of becoming who she is. She is separated from her wife and estranged from her teenaged daughter (we get the sense the daughter is open and figuring this out for herself; it is the mother who is standing in the way.) She has moved away from where she once lived and worked as a school social worker. She now leads a lonely existence and works as a janitor within a huge office building.
There are only two or three scenes where she is depicted at her work (and it’s just her coming and going. Loading a van, pushing a cart full of supplies). The story is not about that work, other than utilizing it as a plot device for somewhere she has landed and is unhappy about. She (understandably) yearns to get back into her chosen profession of helping people as soon as possible. She wants this so badly that she ends up posing as a therapist (through a series of misunderstandings) while on the job.
Which brings me to a reason I loved this film… It falls back on some unpleasant tropes common to trans characters in the media, but it ends up twisting them and rising above those ideas, to portray Maarit as a very human, very real, complex, well… person.
Transperson as deceitful: Although Maarit deceives someone about her profession (and she quickly comes clean), she never once is attempting to deceive anyone about her transgender status. She is proud, self-assured, and upfront with those around her (on an as-needed basis), even in the face of speculation and slander, discrimination, and violence.
Transperson as hypersexual: Maarit is not portrayed as a hypersexual person. It is clear that she is looking for intimacy, emotional connections, and a long-term partner. Instead, some of the characters around her are hypersexualizing her, and that seems more about them and their own issues, rather than who she actually is as a person. The film makes this very clear.
Transperson as dangerous and/or tragic: Maarit is in a very difficult place (there are other aspects of her life that have fallen apart. I won’t give away every detail!) and there are certainly scenes where she is in over her head, where she is compromised, where she seems desperate. It feels realistic – it very much seems that some choices she makes are due to (and only due to) being pushed so far into a corner, and she’s just trying to find her way back to where she can live her life. Those choices are not about who she is, inherently. It’s circumstantial. Some of these scenes, although hard to watch, feel triumphant at the same time. For example, at one point, she is attacked by an ex-lover. She ends up punching him in the face and ending the attack. Awesome.
I’m so glad LGBT film festivals exist – opportunities to get out there and see films I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise. This year, I saw this one, and another trans-specific one (52 Tuesdays – sadly, I didn’t enjoy this one all that much. It felt overly melodramatic, the characters didn’t feel believable.) My partner and I have gone to other films over the years, and it’s interesting that it always seems like there’s films for men and films for women. We’ve been to films before where we’re the only ones in the theater who are not cis-men (that’s an assumption, of course, but over and over again, it has been very much divided, and it is so bizarre to me.) At these two films (which were both well attended), there was a very diverse cross-section. I liked that.
Also, the film festival puts out an annual literary anthology, and this year’s theme was personal pronouns. I submitted, and my piece was accepted! I’m now officially published, in an actual book with an ISBN # and everything!!!
The piece was a re-working of these two blog posts:
While I was “out,” part 2 – partly out of the closet, fully out of the loop
While I was “out,” part 3 – coming back
I’m not complaining; it’s not a bad thing! My surroundings sort of facilitate this, which is fine by me. As a janitor at an elementary school, I spend most of my time, during the work-week, with women and children (if I’m with anyone at all). Every teacher I interact with regularly is relatively feminine in her attire, mannerisms, and speech. (There are a handful of men who teach / work at this school; I just don’t happen to see them on a regular basis.) Every child running around me getting ready to head home for the day, is tiny. I wear a work uniform which is super masculine by default. (Like, we don’t have “women’s uniforms” and “men’s uniforms.” We just have uniforms.) In addition to the uniform, I wear men’s pants and men’s hiking boots. I imagine my movements are relatively masculine. I’m working, I’m using big, sweeping motions. I saunter around slowly, sometimes with my hiking boots untied.
I am surrounded all day long by tiny furniture. The classrooms I clean are for kindergarteners through 2nd graders. (My co-worker cleans the bigger kids’ rooms.) Some of these table tops are seriously 2 feet off the ground. I have to essentially bend in half in order to spray and wipe them all down, daily. (My poor back!)
I’m only 5’4″ (or maybe a little shorter than that. I like to think I’m 5’4″ – I’m at least that with my hiking boots on!) but I feel like a giant! Sometimes I sit down in the teeny tiny chair at the teeny tiny table and just catch my breath / think / relax. It’s sorta like I’m in a fun house, where my self-perception is distorted because of my surroundings.
I like this feeling a lot. It helps me feel more like the way I see myself. The only tough thing about it is when I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror (this happens at home too, it’s not just a work thing) and I realize how tiny and feminine I actually am! I seem to especially hone in on my neck, for whatever reason – it’s so dainty and slender and like it could snap right in half so easily. My wrists too; it feels like my hands could snap off at any time. These feelings don’t really translate into me feeling like I should be taking more testosterone and becoming more masculine. They’re just sorta… fleeting, at least for the time being.
Another thing that’s going on at work that’s somewhat related is: age. The kids stay the same; the parents stay the same. (Not really of course. Kids grow up. I just mean I’m perpetually surrounded by kids and parents around the same ages, they cycle through, while I get older and older.) I used to be the youngest person who worked at the school, for years. Now, there’s a teacher who is younger than me. When did that happen?! (It happened last year.) Also, parents keep looking younger and younger. Many of them are, in fact, younger than me now, which is a shift. In fact, just yesterday, a parent recognized me from high school. She was in a grade below me. It was super weird!
It’s just not the same as it used to be: kids and parents these days!
This is a 2 fer 1 blog post! Join me for these two ongoing series. The point at which these topics collide is: Kurt Cobain. No, Kurt Cobain was not a drag king, but he was a janitor. And when I started doing drag, one of my earliest ideas was to portray him as a janitor, singing / screaming into a dust-mop handle like it’s a microphone. (And also using the handle as a pole vault to propel myself off of the stage, super dramatic-like.)
I went back to his journals in order to glean some details from his janitorial career. He dropped out of high school 2 weeks before graduation, turned right back around, and worked as a janitor at his old school. He also later worked at Polynesian Condominium Hotel Resort, and for Lemons Janitorial.
On page 43 of his journals, he drew up a mock flyer for a janitorial business he apparently was dreaming up with Chris Novoselic (bass player) called Pine Tree Janitorial Service: Basic Commercial Maintenance. He claims, “We purposely limit our number of commercial offices in order to personally clean while taking our time. We guarantee $50.00 lower rates than your present janitorial service. You see, other services usually have too many buildings assigned to the individual’s route. So in turn they end up running thru buildings trying for time. But at Pine Tree ——” The page ends there and so does the thought process. His band was really starting to take off anyway by then, haha. Most of the journals are devoted to band-related thoughts (and thoughts about drugs, guilt, politics, fame, etc.), not janitorial dreams.
On page 160, he’s starting to plan out the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He wrote out a list:
1. mercedes benz and a few old cars
2. access to an abandoned mall, main floor and one jewelry shop.
3. lots of fake jewelry
4. School Auditorium (Gym)
5. A cast of hundreds. 1 custodian, students.
6. 6 black cheerleader outfits with Anarchy A’s on chest”
Not sure what became of the old cars (gold mercedes benz?), mall scene, and fake jewelry, but the gymnasium scene, cheerleaders, and custodian ideas did come to fruition.
The cheerleaders are wearing black uniforms with anarchy symbols on them. The custodian plays a much more prominent role in the video than he would at an actual school. He is rocking out with his mop handle – in multiple cut-away shots. Great music video moments!
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my performances doing Nirvana songs, as a janitor. But I remember some details! The two songs I did (at two separate times) were “Aneurysm” and “Sliver.” My hair, at the time was bleached blonde, and I pulled it in front of my face in stringy clumps. I wore work boots, navy blue Dickies pants with a lot of keys hanging off the belt loop, a light blue work shirt – not tucked in- with epaulets, and a thermal shirt underneath that. I brought a dust mop to dust mop the stage / use as microphone stand and pole vault. Once off the stage, I continued dust mopping all throughout the audience. I don’t know whether anyone got into these performances or knew what I was doing, but it felt pretty cathartic.
Just like Kurt Cobain, I worked at my old high school – er, technically it was my middle school, but it is now a high school (although unlike Kurt, I managed to graduate first, and to also graduate from college before returning). It was weird. Maybe I’ll write about it more in depth at a later date. I also have rocked out with mops many many times, just like the janitor in the video (often, I’d be narrowing down drag songs, listening to my mp3 player and lip synching into the mirror in the bathrooms). I’m actually currently doing this while at work! I have a Halloween drag show coming up and I’m trying to decide between Bauhaus, Skinny Puppy, Swans, and a few others.
I’d like to think that Kurt Cobain wrote some of what’s in his journals while he was working as a janitor. Although I don’t write in a journal, I do have a little notebook on my cart where I write out lists and jot down thoughts about music, mostly. I also often utilize the time to think about stuff I might write about here, on this blog.
If you’re interested in what else I’ve written for these series so far, here they are:
The day before yesterday was my first day back to cleaning up after students. It was terribly hot and humid (more so in the school than outside) and I promptly got a gross warm-weather cold; all stuffy in the head! I’m back to working late nights. Overall, it will be good to get back to it; right now it feels awfully lonely.
As an ode (of sorts) to my co-workers, and working all together this summer, here’s a partial list of the most frequently talked about topics:
– basements / sheds / generators / dehumidifyers
– cell phones / provider plans
– donuts and other snack foods
– grilling food / alcoholic beverages / being a host
– “got any weekend plans?” / “how was your weekend?”
– teacher quirks
And not a whole lot else…
The cool thing about having been writing here for over a year is I can go back and find out what I wrote, at this time last year. Here’s what it was.
I’ve been thinking lately that I’m writing lots about trans and queer identities and experiences (awesome!), but that I’ve been ignoring the other half of my moniker. So, I’m going to start a new series, from time to time, that highlights portrayals of janitors in movies, TV shows, books, whatever. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while!
First up: Good Will Hunting. 1997. Directed by Gus Van Sant. Screenplay by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
In this movie, Matt Damon plays a bad-ass boy genius working as a janitor at MIT. He solves an impossible math equation (in secret). He then is “discovered” by a professor, is forced to see a therapist in order to avoid jail time (for assault – he likes to get into fights), and is trying to find a balance in his life between love, his natural talents, and what he actually wants to do. (Writing out this summary from memory, the movie sounds so outlandish and absurd. It’s actually pretty gripping; look out for Robin Williams in one of his more serious roles, as Will’s therapist. Also look out for an awesome soundtrack by Elliott Smith.)
The first time we see Will, he is mopping a hallway floor. The movie people might have wanted to get a janitor-consultant for this movie (haha), because he is doing it all wrong. Will is pulling the mop straight out of the bucket and slopping it all over the floor (without wringing out the excess water ahead of time.) Completely unrealistic. Also, the hallway is full of students, which is not an ideal time to pull out the mop. Talk about slipping all over huge puddles of water en masse!
Later on in the movie, Will is talking with his therapist, Sean, about careers. (I’m condensing the dialogue a little, for efficiency.)
Sean: I mean there are guys who work their entire lives laying brick so that their kids have a chance at the opportunities you have here.
Will: What's wrong with layin' brick? That's an honorable profession. What's wrong with... with fixing somebody's car? Someone can get to work the next day because of me. There's honor in that.
Sean: Yeah, there is, Will. There is honor in that. And there's honor in, you know, taking that forty minute train ride so those college kids come in the morning and the floors are clean and the wastebaskets are empty. That's real work.
I could be reading too much into it, but the tone of the therapist’s voice, while delivering that last part, is complete, total snark (his character plays up the snark quite a bit though – to match Will’s tone.) Basically saying, “just keep sticking to what’s ‘honorable,’ and see how far you get.”
Sometimes, I too talk with my therapist about being a janitor. She has said, “you are probably the smartest janitor.” She must not have caught Good Will Hunting, haha. I’ve conveyed that sometimes I find it totally absurd that this is my job. (I may not be a bad-ass boy genius, but still, in a lot of ways, “janitor” is a strange fit for me.)
In spite of this, I can easily see myself retiring from this job. (Retirement at age 55, here I come!) There is absolutely no “career” I can envision pursuing (I’ve always felt this way. Maybe that will change with time; I won’t hold my breath.) I mean, I envision pursuing lots of other endeavors – writing, radio DJ-ing, volunteering in myriad ways, but “janitor” seems as good a way as any to actually make money…