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30 songs in (almost) 30 days: day 28

June 26, 2011

day 28 – a song that makes you feel guilty: Dolly Parton: “9 to 5”

This was the one category that gave me no ideas right off the bat. Things that make me feel guilty usually succeed only by reminding me that I really should be doing something else. Is there a song that makes me feel like I should be working? Or that lures me away from duty? The thing is, in my line of work I can justify (or at least rationalize) most music-listening as work related. That’s one of my favorite things about what I do.

I will admit that there are a couple of CDs I play on which a former boyfriend is singing. They are great CDs and I’m not prepared to get rid of them. I use one of them when I teach. But I do feel a little guilty about it. Or maybe not so much guilty as disloyal. But that’s completely about my history with the performer and not about a song at all.

So I opted to think about songs that talked about working, which I usually feel like I should be doing more often. My first choice was Sloan’s mournful “Life of a Working Girl,” which, as it happens, I’m teaching myself on guitar. But there don’t seem to be any easily accessible recordings of it on the web that I can find, and I don’t want to risk copyright violations by uploading it here, so you’ll have to seek it out on your own. But it’s a beautiful song with an ostinato acoustic guitar part – one of my favorite things to play. But I am still lousy at it, so you won’t be hearing my cover of it here anytime soon.

But then as I’ve been thinking about returning to office culture, I started thinking about my fascination with the film 9 to 5, which came out when I was in junior high. I thought it was hilarious and watched it many times. It introduced me to the new age of sexism in the workplace – my previous informants were mostly movies starring Katherine Hepburn.

Films like 9 to 5 were largely the basis of my understanding of the adult working world. Misguided, but true. For much of my life, my dad got on a train every morning and went to his office in “The City,” (the city changed periodically but the basic format stayed the same). I didn’t know much about what he did there. We’d go visit him every now and then, usually during the holidays. I’d get to check out all of the toys he had in his office, some of which now live in my son’s room. There were secretaries and cubicles and offices with windows. There were coffee machines and phones with a lot of buttons. But I didn’t really know much about what went on there.

I started working as a babysitter when I was 12 and as a violin teacher when I was around 14 or 15. I worked at a discount clothing shop for a while in high school. In college, I held a lot of jobs, including weekend housekeeper, tennis court monitor, and director of and driver for the campus shuttle service. I also played a lot of weddings with assorted instrumental ensembles and worked as a dishwasher in my dorm. A friend of mine worked at the faculty club, which paid better than dorm work. She got me a job washing dishes there when another student worker quit, leaving them short. I was promoted to waitress after a while. My second day on the waitress job, when I showed up to work in my required waitressing uniform – a white shirt and a black skirt with black tights, my boss, who was easily 20 years my senior, put his arm over my shoulders and said in my ear, “You know, you should wear skirts more often. You’ve got great legs.” I felt sick to my stomach. I’d always thought he was creepy, but that proved it. I stuck out the night, but did tried hard to steer clear of him, which was hard, because he was everywhere. At the end of the evening, when I was clearing up things in the kitchen, he walked by and slapped me on the ass. That was my last day working at the faculty club.

Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” doesn’t make me feel guilty exactly, but it does remind me of my foray into the sexism of the catering kitchen. And it does make me regret that I didn’t do anything about it – tell him off, talk to someone else, anything. At the women’s college I attended, that kind of behavior was, if anything, even less acceptable than it was in other places. But I was too embarrassed by it to say anything, too shy to stand up for myself. The following year, I heard that my faculty club boss had been fired. Someone else had been less shy about his behavior. I was glad to hear it, but I beat myself up about it how I’d handled it all over again. 9 to 5 the movie is about women banding together to stand up for themselves against their sexist boss. It’s not serious. It’s closer to farce. But it’s got a serious point that I could have taken more seriously. Dolly Parton’s song is an anthem for women surviving in a man’s world that reminds me of my own weakness.

Is there a song that makes you feel guilty?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2011 6:59 am

    You’ve reminded me of the job I held (cough) years ago – one of my duties was to train all of the temps, and Heaven knows we burned through them pretty quickly. I’d explain the computer system, help them figure out what they had to do all day, show them the bathroom, explain the dress code – and then, if they were female, I always had to pause. “Never be alone with x. That’s him, over there. He will grope you. The company will not fire him. Just stay away.”

  2. freshhell permalink
    June 27, 2011 8:21 am

    Ugh. In a former job, years ago, there was an old-school guy like that who would practically stalk the younger females (me being one of them). He was the most objectionable man I’d met up to that point (in the workplace) and we did complain. But because he was the CEO’s buddy, nothing happened. He recently died and I was happy to see his obit. Glad he’s gone from the planet and no longer able to accost women.

  3. June 27, 2011 10:59 am

    I’ve mentioned this song before, but And the World Spins Madly On by the Weepies makes me feel guilty. It makes me think of all the failings of my last relationship, all the hopes I had that somehow went astray.

  4. June 27, 2011 7:45 pm

    I’m sorry about that Violet, because since you introduced me to that song, it’s become one of my favorites. I play it in my car almost every day. And it makes me think of you. Freshhell and lemming, there are just way too many asshats in the world.

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