A Parable: In Which Our Heroine Learns Something About What Really Matters

block-1-may-2016Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, on a planet far, far too much like this one, there lived an idealistic young fat lesbian feminist with a quandary. For you see, the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist had always wanted to dedicate her life to making her planet better for women. However, she wasn’t quite sure how to do this, given the myriad problems women faced on her planet; and so things being what they are, and the paths of life twisting as they do, our story begins as the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist accepts a position in the scullery department of a huge castle on a big hill overlooking the airport. The scullery department supervisor was Associate Underprince GQ, who was very fond of hair gel, Armani ties and the latest scientific management theories. Now, despite how it may sound, this was not a bad position. It paid quite well and had an attractive fringe benefit package. Associate Underprince GQ, though he had the bad habit during staff meetings of making everyone share something nice about the person to her left, and though he often said unintelligible things like “Pursue the WOW!” and expected everyone to understand what he meant, was also eager to give the appearance of evenhandedness and to reward diligence and initiative. Among the other scullery workers were several women of good character and pleasing temperament, who had things in common with the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist–though not her idealism, her youth, her fat, her (out) lesbianism or her feminism–and these women appreciated her brains, good cheer and work ethic. So despite the daily aggravations of working in a large castle and difficulties with co-workers like bossy lazy Spam, who spent half of every shift on the phone with her adult children but somehow couldn’t remember to answer the phone when it was her turn, and the smug Mormon Nozzlehead, who didn’t like lesbians or feminists for obvious reasons, the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist was content for a time.

However, one day not too long into her scullery tenure, the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist learned that a position had become available in a cottage in the valley. This brightly painted cottage was a refuge for women, a place for rest and healing from mistreatment, where they could gather their wits and their coppers and get back on their feet again. The idealistic young fat lesbian feminist’s heart danced for joy when she thought about helping women in this way, and she determined right then and there that if she could be accepted to serve in the cottage, she would turn her back on the castle, regardless of the kindness and appreciation of her fellow workers, the benevolent indulgence of Associate Underprince GQ, and the bulging bags of coppers she received there every two weeks. For what, she thought to herself, matters kindness, appreciation, benevolent indulgence and bulging bags of coppers, compared to the opportunity to help women?

So, as things go, very shortly thereafter the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist reported for duty at the brightly painted cottage in the valley. Her overseer, a woman named Biddy, drove up in a SUV with a Marines sticker on the bumper. The idealistic young fat lesbian feminist was a little confused, for somewhere in the back of her mind she thought she’d heard that there might be a link between sending young men to other countries to kill the inhabitants, and the mistreatment which women came to the cottage to escape??–and something about large petroleum-guzzling vehicles and the need for Marines in the first place??–but she quickly put such conundra from her mind, as the task of learning and remembering the rules of the painted cottage required the focus of every one of her brain cells. There were rules about everything at the cottage–what kind of women could stay there, how long they could stay, where they had to stay while they were there, what they could and couldn’t eat, and most importantly, how the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist and her sister workers could and couldn’t help the women. The idealistic young fat lesbian feminist tried her hardest to follow all the rules. She tried to get women to fill out five pages of forms about all their private business, so that the cottage could receive coppers from the village council. The women didn’t always want to fill out the forms, and the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist tried to help them, but sometimes they refused, and she couldn’t blame them. The women had to be responsible for their own children, so even if they had a job interview the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist wasn’t allowed to babysit for them. She had to answer the phone and tell women who weren’t being mistreated, even if they didn’t have a place to live, that they couldn’t stay at the cottage. Since she had to answer the phone, she couldn’t give a ride to a mother of three children under eight, who therefore had to take those three children walking all over the village to look for permanent lodgings. Her coworkers Cinderella and Sharona weren’t much help; Cinderella was too weak from eating only Powerbars and too preoccupied with the McMansion she and her husband had recently purchased, and Sharona wanted to be just like Cinderella, even though she wasn’t, yet.

Our heroine therefore struggled valiantly onward, trying to help women despite the cottage rules which seemed to outlaw every possible kind of help the women actually needed or that she might actually be able to provide. Biddy wasn’t around much, and Cinderella, Sharona, and the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist sat in their office and answered the phone and filled out forms and told the women “No” whenever they asked for help. That was their job.

You see, unbeknownst to our heroine, the workers and the management of the cottage in the valley had been brainwashed by nefarious trolls. These trolls go by various names and they take different forms when it suits them, but in that place in that time the trolls in power were known as Professionalization, Bureaucracy, and Scapegoating. Other workers in other cottages in other villages had ferreted out the presence of these trolls and analyzed their role in twisting and perverting the original mission of such cottages, but this information had not yet made its way to the attention of our heroine. So unfortunately the influence of these nefarious trolls ambushed the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist all unawares.

One morning Biddy came to the cottage in her semper fi SUV. The idealistic young fat lesbian feminist was actually glad to see her, thinking this might be a good chance to ask some of the many questions about the work of the cottage that were beginning to crowd her mind. But Biddy was busy and preoccupied; it seemed a group of wealthy nobles from the House of Phillip Morris were going to tour the cottage that afternoon, to see what the poor cottage women might need that the House of Phillip Morris could provide for them. Biddy thought there might be enough coppers in the offing to build a smoking deck on the back of the cottage, so that the women would no longer have to crowd themselves onto the narrow cement steps to inhale carcinogens! A fine improvement! Biddy asked the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist to answer the phone while Biddy, Cinderella, and Sharona had a meeting in the next room, and the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist was pleased to oblige.

Shortly thereafter, Biddy returned to speak with the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist. “I have to tell you something difficult,” she said. “Some of the staff,” (who could it be?) “are having trouble working with you.” The idealistic young fat lesbian feminist was mortified. What could be wrong? She was trying as hard as she could to follow the rules. “No, no,” said Biddy, “It’s not that. It’s that, well, you smell.” The idealistic young fat lesbian feminist was too shocked to speak. No one at the castle (where they were fanatical about cleanliness) or at any of her previous posts had ever suggested such a thing! “So you see,” Biddy continued, “that’s why I have to ask you to leave for the afternoon. But, come back on Monday, and we’ll all sit down and talk about how we might solve this problem.”

The idealistic young fat lesbian feminist went home in disgrace. After she cried and cried, she thought and thought. She thought about wanting to help women, which she still believed was A Good Thing. She thought about all the help the women at the cottage needed that they weren’t getting. She thought about Cinderella and Sharona and fragrance layering and plain soap and why they thought she smelled and what else they might think about her that they weren’t saying to her face–despite the Agreement for Ethical Communication they had all signed. She thought about her colleagues at the scullery and how sad they’d been when she left. She thought about Associate Underprince GQ and how his door was always open. She thought about the elusive Biddy and her SUV. She thought about the 10,000 coppers-per-year pay cut she’d taken when she left the castle for the cottage. She thought about idealistic young fat lesbian feminist cottage workers and the opinions of major donors. She thought about kindness, appreciation, and benevolent indulgence versus insensitivity, professionalization, compliance with funding source requirements, and complete lack of guidance and supervision. And she knew what she had to do.

“Of course,” said Associate Underprince GQ, “We’d be delighted to have you return to the scullery.” Only the tiniest wrinkles of strain showed around his eyes at the thought of the resulting paperwork. “Hooray,” shouted her co-workers (except The Nozzlehead) when they saw her. “We think you smell just fine.” And so the idealistic young fat lesbian feminist, a little less young and a little less idealistic, went back to work at the castle for a brief time, enjoying the benevolent indulgence, kindness and appreciation, and sharing the contents of the bulging bags of coppers with organizations that really helped women, which she concluded was as good a way to serve as any.”


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