The Good Ole Boys Club

My father once told me, “Mi’jita, business is made on the greens, not in the boardroom. Remember that. Business is made on the greens.” That was my father’s way of telling me at the ripe old age of eight that business was made on the golf course. In other words, I needed to network and cultivate relationships to be successful in any field. It was also his way of telling me that I should be at the table. From my father, who could be misogynistic in other ways, there was never any mention of what I could not do because of my gender. I was raised in an environment where gender was not, and should not, be a barrier. I was told to be on the greens.

Fast forward about 20 years and I am at an out-of-town arts gathering with a handful of other artists from my area. Social hour begins and a group of whom I would consider to be peers and colleagues walk down to the area of the late night art happening to socialize. It was a small gathering of fellow performing artists and/or artistic directors, most of us working with the same populations or themes in our work in the same geographic area. Did I mention all of these colleagues/peers are male?

Later on into the evening, the alcohol and the testosterone begins to flow. I see my colleagues demonstrating more and more aggressive, almost college “Bro”-like behaviors: bumping their chests together, headlocks, the occasional punch here and there. I grew up with two brothers, I can recognize male bonding when I see it. Soon, this group of men and I, along with two female colleagues, an arts administrator from a neighboring state and a dancer from a nearby city, are all walking back in the dark to the area where we are staying. I had just met the female colleagues that night; I had known the male colleagues for years; and worked with most of them. Together, we walk back and as we walk, the men being to pull away from the pack and start walking faster and faster until they leave the three women behind. It isn’t subtle. It isn’t on accident. They don’t stop or slow down. In fact, the look over their shoulders as they hurry on to make sure we are falling behind. It is obvious they wanted to ditch us.

And there’s the thing: there went Tucson’s Chicano (emphasis on the “O”) performing arts scene. There they went to the arts version of the “green.” And I was not invited. Excluded. I am almost certain the primary reason I was excluded at moment was because of my gender. My dad didn’t teach me about gender exclusions on the green!

The next day, I sit next to one of these male colleagues and I am very vocal about my displeasure about how male dominated the Chicano performing arts scene is in Tucson and the events that happened the night before. Perhaps he feels bad or knows that there is validity to my observations because he and one of the other male colleague invite me out for a consolatory beer that afternoon. I go. Maybe they felt bad. Consolation prize.

Deals are made on the greens. Collaborations and projects are born out of those moments. The greens my father talked about were not going to exclude me because of gender.

What happens at that time when I am excluded from the greens, not invited to the greens, experience barriers – like lack of childcare – that may prevent me from being on the greens? Do I look for other greens? Do I create my own greens? Well, I tried that with my dance company and it is hard. There are so many barriers and people who don’t “understand.” Too much patriarchy still exists in the Chicano communities in Tucson and this patriarchy is consciously and unconsciously reinforced every single day.  What do I do when my generation of the good ole boys club does not see me because of my gender?

Shoulding All Over Myself

The morning is a bit of a mad dash at one point, but not too much different than when I was working at the University of AZ. I get the kiddo and I dressed and ready and out the door by 7am. I am headed to day one of a 3-day seminar for the EmcArts Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators fellowship being held in my town. No dance clothes for me today. I actually get dressed and put on makeup. But it is relatively stress free and all is well. My hubby is taking off the next three afternoons to pick up Buddy from the bus stop and take him to his various after-school activities and help him with homework until I come home. Very helpful for me.

The seminar ends at 5pm and happy hour begins immediately right outside of the conference room door. I stick around for a while to discuss the material for the day and to (re)connect with some of the out of town fellows, since this is our last convening as a cohort. Tuesday nights is when I usually dance. I have a technique class and rehearsal tonight and though I let the teacher/choreographer know I’ll miss this evening, I’m still debating what to do.

My dance clothes are in the car. I really should leave by 5:30 to make it to class on time. Maybe I can push it to 5:45. I’ll see how it goes. Given that I literally sat all day, and sitting is the worst thing anyone can do for their body, let alone an (ageing? aged?) dancer, I should really go to class. I am just going to be sitting and eating the next three days. And I missed class last Tuesday for a grant panel, where I just sat and ate for like 8 hours counting the driving and the dinner. I haven’t been taking a lot of classes since my dad passed because I want to cry when I dance. I am not going to be dancing over the holidays because we are going out of town. I am really going to get out of shape. I really should go to class. I should leave in 30 minutes.

Time passes. Interesting, meaningful and important conversations are happening. Sharing ideas, building relationships. Politics, gender roles, cultural competencies, the arts. Suddenly, I am the only seminar participant from Tucson left. I get invited to the dinner that was originally intended only for the out of town fellows.

I should stay for the dinner. It is a great networking opportunity. And it is good food, free food.

All of these thoughts fly through my mind in half a second.

A few years ago, I would act on “should” without hesitation. The internal dialogue in my head about what I should be doing, especially in regard to dance and my company, dominated my decision making. But I am slowly learning to stop “shoulding” all over myself. It is a process.

I pause. Take a deep breath. As an INTJ personality type (the seminar participants are all given the Meyers-Briggs test), I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and turn off the internal monologue: “Shoulds” are calling, no shaming me into going to class/rehearsal; they are talking me into staying. I silence my thoughts and listen for my intuition. It tells me to leave and go home.

Without hesitation or regret, I do. Yet there is one more “should” on the ride home.

I really should drive the 40 minutes round trip to my best friend’s house to pick up the chocolate chip cookies she offered to give me because Buddy’s teacher’s birthday is tomorrow and I don’t have time to make or get a present.

But I don’t go. Instead, I join my husband and son at his elementary school’s holiday house. When I get there, my son has a present for me. Later, I have dinner with my family. Silencing my “shoulds.” I’ve made my decision.