SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2011 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Joking with Gender
In 2006 when I was 15 years old I decided it was time for me to get my first job. I was not old enough to get my driver’s license, so I applied at a pizzeria that was within walking distance of my house. I received a phone call one week later asking me to come in to Sammy B’s Pizza for an interview. I was ecstatic when the day arrived of my interview I went in to the restaurant with confidence and some general background information about Sammy B’s that I researched earlier that week. I sat down with the store manager, Sean, for about thirty minutes. He asked me a series of questions about myself and quizzed me on different types of Italian food. At the end of the conversation Sean had hired me to work part time to be a waitress and take to-go orders over the phone. Before I left, Sean briefly showed me around the store and introduced me to one of my new co-workers Josh.
I have been working at Sammy B’s pizzeria for eight years. I started this job during my senior year of high school. I started out washing dishes in the back of the kitchen and I eventually made my way up to a cook/server. I have always enjoyed working at the pizzeria; the employees were like a second family to me.
Josh immediately told me I reminded him of his younger sister Sara he mentioned we talk the same way and we even physically resemble one another. I thought it was nice Josh was trying to make conversation and make me feel welcome to the job.
Right when I saw Amanda she reminded me of my little sister Sara, they both had similar mannerisms and resembled one another physically, both petite with long brown hair.
After my introduction to the store and Josh I was starting to feel pretty confident about my new job. I started the following day; the first thing I noticed when I walked in for my first day of work was that I was the only female employee. There were about eleven employees altogether, ten out of the eleven were men, but any initial nervousness I may have felt about this was put to ease by the second thing I noticed which was the aroma. We only served Italian food and the delicious aroma of the hot pizzas and mouthwatering pastas filled the air. The smell gave me a sense of security. I am full Italian and would often cook Italian dishes with my grandma, the scent made me feel like I was at grandma’s house, it was comforting. The restaurant was very small and only seated about fifteen people. Sean immediately started training me on how to take to-go orders and how to be a waitress.
I loved working and I felt as if I was really starting to get good at my job. After about three weeks of working at Sammy B’s things began to change dramatically. I started being asked to make the pizzas and cook the pasta dishes. As I was cooking with Josh I asked him why I was now doing kitchen work? Josh replied, “You’re a girl and girls work in the kitchen.” For a moment I thought he was kidding and I laughed it off.
I said it without thinking, but Amanda seemed to find humor in my comment and she let out a giggle.
Later that night I was asked to clean the dishes. Without hesitating I walked over to the sink and began washing them. Sean my manager had asked Josh to help me, but Josh replied, “That’s a woman’s job” right in front of me.
I noticed Amanda wasn’t laughing this time and she appeared to be upset. I did not bother to say anything; I couldn’t imagine her getting mad over something that was true.
Although Josh did help me do the dishes he complained the whole time saying his dad and brothers never wash the dishes in his household. I quickly began to realize that my co - workers thought of me as someone who should just cook and clean my whole life because “that’s what women are for.” As I scrubbed the dishes, I remember feeling sadness and anger all at the same time. I wanted to speak up but I was so afraid everyone would laugh at me or I would even possibly get fired. I went home that night feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, thinking I never wanted to see these guys that I worked with ever again. As I sat at home contemplating if I should go back to work I began to think of the dishes I had cleaned that night. The faucet in the kitchen where we did our dishes had a slight leak. It would drip water 24/7, the sound of the water splashing on the pots and pans piled in the sink. The sound of the water dribbling made me feel anxious. I thought as time went on I would grow to ignore the water or find it soothing. Instead, It became more and more excruciating as time went on. Next, I began to think of the three clocks throughout the restaurant, one on the computer, one in the kitchen, and one in the dining room. The clock in the kitchen hung on the wall right next to the oven. It’s faint ticking noise was easy to hear when the restaurant was empty. The ticking would often catch my attention and I remember watching the clock all throughout the night, in hopes of it speeding up so I would be a minute closer to going home. After thinking for quite sometime reliving the anxious dripping faucet, the interminable shift, and the sexism that had subtly realigned my job responsibilities, I then realized this was not the job for me.
The next day I called my manger and quit over the phone. He didn’t seem too happy about it but I immediately felt like a cement brick was lifted off my chest.
At my next shift Sean told me that Amanda had quit and we needed to find someone new to replace her immediately. Sean told me that Amanda said she was quitting because the job was too stressful. Looking back on the days I worked with her I couldn’t help but think I was a factor in Amanda quitting. I had made some pretty rude jokes about her being a woman and how she is supposed to be the one to cook and clean while us men sit back and watch. My sister and I always made jokes towards each other that we never actually mean; it’s just our way of bonding with one another. Amanda had reminded me of Sara so much that I thought she would joke around with me the same way I am used to doing with Sara.
After leaving Sammy B’s I was nervous to search for another job because I feared I would be treated the same way. As I look at society today it is clear to me that many positive events are happening for women all around America. When I was being teased at work I was shocked because so many powerful women around me were being praised for being independent and making a living all on their own. Hillary Clinton became the First former lady to be elected to a national office in 2001 and in 2005 Condoleezza Rice became the first African-American woman to be appointed Secretary of State. Women have really come such a long way to prove that they are able to work and provide for themselves along with their families. Looking back five years later I realize that other women out there are making a positive change in American society, it really gives me a sense of empowerment. Although Josh may have just been teasing with me there is always a little truth behind a joke. I am no longer upset or angry; after this incident I am now more open minded to the way that others grew up and I have learned not to take things so personally. Working at Sammy B’s was an eye opening experience and I feel that I have grown as a person, and as a woman, because of it.
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