In Her Words
Woman Versus Recession
Unexpectedly starting from the bottom
By: Mirlande Jeanlouis
“Could you make three copies of this?” My hands hesitated as my supervisor/taskmaster passed me 300 pages of 11-by-17 manuscript for a less-than-fascinating quilting anthology. My nerve endings wouldn’t hiccup if I weren’t visualizing the impending woman-versus-machine battle to come, but the paper-crushing fight is my everyday reality as an intern.
When I was an undergraduate, interning and working at a store made sense, because I considered those jobs a means to an end – experiences that paid for books and necessities while I studied to put my fancy liberal arts degree at the top of my résumé. However, eight to nine months after graduation, I’m still interning. What went wrong?
While removing my fifth paper jam, I contemplated the betrayal my friends and I feel because of the recent recession. Did we not study, write and claw through undergraduate school to find our American-dream-approved job waiting on the other side of our podiums? Where do I place my debts until I find the perfect cubicle, with its brimming basket of health insurance, a 401(k) and my very own stapler? I finally understand the scene in Office Space when the disgruntled co-workers beat a fax machine beyond recognition in an open field, where – even if someone wanted to – no one could hear the metal and ink scream.
Let’s broaden the picture with the added detail of living with Mom and Dad. Unlike some undergrads, I lived at home while I was in school, but like most, I didn’t want to continue doing so afterward. It’s comfortable, but I don’t appreciate eyes darting to my laptop screen whenever I’m working on my résumé or the familial sarcasm I’m lucky enough to have soundtrack my breakfasts: “So, are they paying you now?” and “Having no job must make apartment hunting difficult….”
My lack of employment wouldn’t make me feel so impotent, if a person’s job weren’t his or her social definition in American society. I’ve never asked anyone what they do, but the answer to the question is readily given: “Hi, I’m Bob the Builder.” The recession has caused a generation of undefined, highly skilled workers – and now I am one of them.
Perhaps the copiers are on to something with their passive-aggressive work stoppages.