Bye, Felicia!“Others—as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders—serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God.”- Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
-When one has been wronged by an organization, where are the gatekeepers?
-At what point is it the final straw to make a club member quit for good?
-Don’t confuse staying busy with being a socialite.
-Minimalism is walking away from a toxic organization that brings you pain, freeing up your time.
-Being frugal is quitting a bad club and counting the money you’ve saved.
Once upon a time while the economy was crumbling in 2008, I started a new job. I cannot tell you what I do or where I work specifically, but the occupation can be unionized. That same year I began my work, I joined an organization, a union with collective bargaining abilities. But more than anything, it was a social club. Henceforth, I shall refer to it as “the club” so I won’t blow the cover on the true organization for legal purposes.
The only truly active member from my office on the local level was our since-retired geriatric transgender coworker I’ll call for all intents and purposes Odin. I had been warned to turn down Odin’s advances on joining the club, yet I eventually succumbed to peer pressure with a group of others my age.
By 2009, Odin had talked me into attending the national convention of the club in Long Beach, California. The trip was planned for August, and I brought my new fiancé along with me to make it a working vacation. I would attend meetings and seminars by day; by evening, we could explore LBC and even L.A., a train ride away. That trip probably cost me a whopping $1,500.00; my fiancé, who is now my husband, was a fresh-out-the-gate lawyer without much income. We scraped together funds to have an amazing trip anyway! We even met a few celebrities, and SoCal proved to be exactly how we had imagined it.
Back to the grind, the club realized they had done right by making me a delegate for the convention, and in October, they voted me in as the 2nd Vice President for 2010. This meant I would attend the first Monday of the month meetings, pay attention, recruit new club members, attend community events by manning the club table, attend state conventions each spring, and attend national conventions on odd years.
Dave and I made it the first year of marriage with the club sneaking its way into our schedule and pocketbooks. Those hotel rooms for conventions didn’t come cheap, and the airplane tickets were out of pocket only, never reimbursed.
The drive to the club meetings wasn’t so bad at first, yet I still had to buy supper out first for both of us. The meetings started at 7 and rarely fed the clan. Also, club membership was about $50 a year, a price I paid, not Dave.
Fall of 2010 rolled around, and I became pregnant with our son Sam. This didn’t stop me! I attended every meeting except for the one in May of 2011 in which I gave birth. We even went to the state convention with me pregnant and uncomfortable. Dave played cards and drank while I did prenatal yoga in the hotel gym and dipped in the pool. By this time, I was our local club’s Vice President.
Once Sam was born, we still went to meetings, infant in tow! Dave became involved in the auxiliary faction of the club and had his own meetings next door on first Mondays. We became heavily entrenched in the team spirit and doctrine of the club. Sam came with us to the summer 2011 convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Everyone in the club statewide expected to see me with my two hunky sidekicks, husband and son.
In 2012, my family bought a newer, larger house and our budget became tighter; we still hadn’t sold the previous one. (Stupid, rookie mistake!!!!! I would downsize in a heartbeat if I could back into the smaller, cheaper house, but it has renters in it now. This topic is for a future article.) Yet, we still went to the spring state convention and almost never missed a monthly meeting. I had a panic attack when I went with my parents to the beach during the October election meeting. Someone dared run against me! She ended up losing by one vote. I stayed Vice President by the skin of my teeth.
None of my coworkers attended meetings anymore except for Odin. They all thought I was so weird to be travelling with such a social outcast across the country during my free time!
Not only did we upgrade our home in 2012, but I also became a yoga teacher. This new skill I had invested in gave me confidence and multi-dimensionality that I wasn’t getting from my day job or the club. And all the old heads of the club expressed that I was strange for taking such a liking to yoga!
To break it down, the club on a national level is not very diverse. It’s all old white men who are pretty much retired; there’s only one black man in an office in the national club level. Females are forbidden as a written rule. So are other minorities and gays.
In our local club level, I was the only true female with an office. All were white, as they had gotten rid of the only African American guy, much to my chagrin. They were all retired or over 50. I was in my 20’s, working, and female.
On a state level, to this day there exists no females on the board as officers and no minorities. All are retirement age or older. All are Republicans and Christians. I am not going into a religious or political diatribe, just showing the statistics.
During the state conventions, I found myself talking to the same people statewide, and mostly members’ wives. Dave had to be by my side or the male members would think I was flirting. We drank quite a bit and usually Sam would spend the night with one of his grandmothers, or he would be with us at the hotel, being watched by some of the older ladies. All of the parties were at the hotel’s conference rooms, which made it awfully convenient to party on the club’s dime.
But that’ s not why I joined. I wanted to belong. My sorority days ended in 2005 when I graduated from college. I felt the need for a club of like-minded individuals to accept me into their tribe.
Having a small child, a day job, a husband with a day job, and a yoga hobby, I found it suddenly unbearable to motivate myself to attend meetings. We still trucked on though, the three of us, eating out dinner and drinking beer before each first Monday meeting. The drive from my new house to the civic center where the club rented a monthly room was a 45 minute drive. And it was getting very late at night when we returned home! Poor Sam! Small children shouldn’t be just coming home at nine o’clock at night from the hustle and bustle of club meetings.
When 2013 rolled around the corner, the national convention was in Cincinnati, OH. The three of us had a grand time, especially at the zoo event where the club rented the whole zoo and had live music! But that trip was especially expensive. My purse strings were starting to feel the burn by then.
After the trip, I came back home and realized how dissatisfied I had become with the club on a local, state, and national level. Something just ate away at me, and it wasn’t purely the financial aspect.
Meetings were getting worse; one of the main officers in our local club was interrupting a lot. He was over 70 and getting senile; he could not control his outbursts during the meetings. Every. Single. Meeting. I began to completely loathe his existence. He had a cane and tried to hit Sam with it once. I told him if he ever touched my child, I would take his cane and shove it down his throat. You don’t mess with my baby.
My position as VP made me sit at the head table before the club members at each meeting, to the left of the President. He would never ask my opinion, never call me, never take me seriously. He and the other 3 members at the head table were all war vets over 60. He didn’t believe I belonged in my chosen profession in the first place, let alone in the club as VP!
He was absent a lot, touring junk shows with his wife in an RV, so I was left to run the meetings frequently. Having to initiate new members into the club after drinking a pitcher of beer at the pizza parlor before the meeting was SOOOO MUCH FUN! Beer was the only thing to numb my hatred towards the senile cane member, the president, and several others. I was not in their old boys’ club!!
Something had to be done. Over Christmas break, I penned a letter to my state’s ACLU chapter about the gross discrimination and conspicuous disparity in gender/age/color in the club. However, I NEVER mailed the letter. It was just to vent and to share with a few unaffiliated friends. I saved a copy though for fun and to serve as a reminder of how sick things had gotten on a local and state level.
To quote myself, “Throughout the week [at national conventions], one can stand at the front of the large auditoriums and count just a handful of blacks and females present at the meetings. And if any members are LGBT, they have to keep it on the hush….A transgender, Wiccan veteran member was nominated for member of the year at the state convention, but was blatantly voted against by the majority. She lost to a white male officer who had only been in the club for a year. The local lodge of which I am a member/executive officer is very obviously xenophobic…The President makes snide comments aloud during the meetings to target me, the only female on the executive board. He refuses to let me sign any formal document and never asks my opinions or updates during officers’ reports….”
I also referred to the senile cane-carrying member in my letter, outlining how he recounts awful pre-Civil Rights era stories without sensitivity to those different from him.
I ended the letter talking about how the club doesn’t take to change very well, locally, statewide, or nationally. I said I was afraid to report the sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic allegations of abuse because of the repercussions I would face. And that it felt like a bastardized branch of a Masonic Lodge, especially with Big Brother watching out for favorites and damning the diverse member of the body.
Then 2014 happened. I told my local club I either wanted out or to run for office on the state level. They put me up to it. I raised campaign funds, had t-shirts made with my name, pens made with my name, and other gimmicks to pass out before state convention meetings. I made signs, took publicity photos of myself, and even had Sam and Dave campaigning for me.
I lost by like, 10 votes out of 200. The incumbent who won cried. I made a grown man cry! He knew he could’ve lost to me. This campaign was a wakeup call to the officials in the club!
Instead of wanting to be more inclusive of different people, the good old boys club grew stronger and more powerful to beat. They banded together and we got excluded.
Simultaneously, in mid-2014, I started teaching yoga on Monday nights and could not break away much from first Monday local club meetings. I was making money instead of spending money on gas and expensive dinners before meetings.
I started dis-branding myself as a member, and held myself out more as a yoga teacher. Surprisingly, I was voted on as Member of the Year 2014 in the local club.
When I was presented as a candidate in 2015 at the state convention in March against 5 other people for the same spot statewide, I lost to a man. To several men, actually. I didn’t even get runner up or honorable mention!! No female did. No one of a diverse nature did. Just older white men.
I got pissed off too at the 2015 convention by the friction between those actually running against each other for offices. They played nasty and ran dirty campaigns. I also started noticing cliques emerging statewide and wondered, WHAT DO I HAVE IN COMMON WITH THIS PEOPLE?! Then one of the auxiliary cows (wife of a club member) asked if I was pregnant because I was wearing a sundress over leggings. She asked it very loudly while I was holding an obvious beer can. I was like, NO!! NEVER HAVING ANYMORE CHILDREN. MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN FIXED. DIDN’T YOUR MOTHER EVER TEACH YOU THAT’S RUDE TO ASK ANOTHER WOMAN?
I was livid. I was tired. I was quitting. Our local club treasurer was also trying to charge me extra for registration that he did not charge the male members from our club who had attended the state convention. Why me?
The final straw came by mail in October of 2015. I received a letter in the mail from the state president telling me I was kicked off my two state committees because I had not been attending local club meetings. Never mind the yoga. Never mind the small child. Never mind how hard work had gotten by day. Never mind my budget, or that my hubby had taken a corporate job over running his own law firm.
I was sick with anger. I remember lying in my front yard on a yoga mat while my husband was inside watching college football. I was on the phone with my mom. She told me it wasn’t that important. What was I trying to prove? Why was I trying to be so involved? I did enough. I had enough. Let it go. Move on. Minimalize my time.
Dave agreed. My best friend Beth agreed and told me straight up the club was toxic. “Cut out the toxic!” she said over and over like a mantra.
I did. And I never looked back. I unfriended hundreds of club members on Facebook, which was freeing!
I added up all the money I saved from membership dues, monthly meetings in gas/food, hotel rooms, plane tickets, and other expenses. Dave and I saved $5,000.00 by quitting when we did!
Being frugal is being a steward of your finances and cutting out unnecessary organizations.
Being a minimalist is letting go extra clutter that takes up space and time.
Being a yogi, I focused on teaching yoga every Monday night, LOVING my trade, and NEVER missing the first Monday meetings.
Being wise, I learned to let go of the toxic.
But I still wish there had been a watchdog to report the club to for justice…..Nah. I’m just going to forgive them and continue moving on.