Episode 71: I Have NO Proof

Published December 2, 2016. 

Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman.

Gina: And I'm producer Gina Delvac. On this week's agenda we're dealing with being tired and cold and extra long-distance. We answer listener questions about office politics and a family business, a sisterly dilemma, and the crazy capitalist idea that women should have it all.

[Theme Song]

Aminatou: Oh my god.

Ann: Where do we even begin with this week? I am . . .

Aminatou: Oh, that I just woke up when we were supposed to check in an hour ago? Yes.

Ann: Yeah, and I am sick and we are many hours apart and navigating the time difference has been impossible.

Aminatou: It's the worst.

Ann: Completely. Hi from Berlin. I'm in Germany this week.

Aminatou: Hello from Brooklyn where it's disgusting. It's not Germany but, you know, it feels like Germany.

Ann: [Laughs] You mean weather-wise?

Aminatou: You know what I mean.

Ann: This is a very intense place to be right now. I feel like doing a lot of . . . I would say a good 50% of the public museums and institutions have to do with reckoning with repressive and/or genocidal regimes and it's like you don't want to ignore all of that stuff. I'm like I've never been here; I should probably see some of this. But it's also having a negative effect on my general well-being I think.

Aminatou: [Laughs]


Ann: To be like engaging with some of this terrible history and trying to maintain a sense of perspective and a sense of urgency about . . . I don't know. Anyway, I'm rambling. But it is also a lovely and fun city in many ways, but it's sort of -- it's intense.

Aminatou: Yeah, that's fair. But at the same time it's like the whole reason we're in this mess is people don't reckon with history, right?

Ann: Exactly. I'm not saying I'm ignoring . . . I'm definitely doing all the stuff.

Aminatou: Yeah, or they don't realize that peace and prosperity is hanging by a thread and we're the luckiest generation in history. But who knows? Now we have a Twitter-addicted maniac as our president so don't worry, by the time you come back everything will be awesome here.

Ann: Don't you actually think  that like if previous generations' despotic leaders had Twitter they would be super into it?

Aminatou: Oh, 100%, you know? That's fair. That's like step one on the tyrant checklist is bypass traditional media.

Ann: Exactly. And in the past it was leaflets only, and now . . .

Aminatou: Yeah, right? It's totally crazy. I was talking to someone the other day who was like maybe social media would've prevented some of the worst genocides that we've had or the holocaust or whatever. And I was like have you heard of the Rwandan genocide? Literally enabled by shortwave radio.

Ann: By radio.

Aminatou: By radio.

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: I was like no, no, don't put the technology in the mix. Technology can be good and it can be bad. But it's all about how you use it.

Ann: Yeah. I mean that's kind of -- I don't know, I'm always shocked when people think that . . .  like yes technology changes a lot, like radically changes many kind of smaller life things. Like yeah, being a tourist or me being in a city I don't know, Google Maps, very helpful. It's a different experience. But in terms of changing the course of, I don't know, someone trying to topple a democracy, that seems a little less proven to me. [Laughs]


Aminatou: Yeah. It's a little nuts but, you know, we're all adjusting to this new world order. [Laughs]

Ann: I know. How are you doing?

Aminatou: I'm doing okay. I just am in the middle of a move and I'm generally very distracted and not on top of my game so I'm the reason that this episode sounds weird today. [Laughs] It's not what we were supposed to be doing, but at the same time you know what? I felt bad for exactly 17 seconds and I was like no, I do not feel bad. I am tired and I'm glad I slept in.

Ann: It's fine. This is a podcast rooted in reality and right now our realities are we are cool and under slept and navigating time zones and slip and a little bit chaotic.

Aminatou: Totally. Also I need to tell you my last sublet in this move is so sick, it's so nice, that it's like I slept in then I woke up in this very nice apartment and I was like where am I? This is great. This is great. Then I was like oh, I shirked all my responsibilities this morning. Snap out of it.

Ann: Oh my god, I'm having this opposite experience where I'm staying in an Airbnb. You know how sometimes they have a professional photographer come and shoot the place. It looked very nice on the Internet. And it's not that it's not nice but it's like once you scratch a level beneath the surface everything tends to fall apart. Like the kitchen sink, the tap literally fell over.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Are you living in construction right now?

Ann: Listen, I know. Okay, so not only that, the apartments on either side of me are undergoing what appears to be major renovations and every morning at 7 a.m. a team of very loud men speaking very loud German and banging on the walls has been my wake-up call, which when you couple that with the museums . . .

Aminatou: Did you know this when you rented this apartment?


Ann: Oh no, trust me, I've already gotten a steep discount for every night because this was not disclosed. And I'm like I'm only staying here out of laziness because my bags are so big I don't want to move again. But it's kind of like going back to being in my really early 20s where all the knives are dull and there's not enough furniture. [Laughs] There's like -- literally right now there's a hula hoop hanging on the wall. I'm like I don't even know.

Aminatou: Oh my god.

Ann: This was not pictured.

Aminatou: Berlin, it's like being in my early 20s when all the knives were dull. Accurate.

Ann: [Laughs] So I'm trying to roll with it but in truth I'm a much more particular kind of grumpy old lady than I usually care to admit and this is drawing out all of those tendencies.

Aminatou: No, I'm living in the height of like Brooklyn condo luxury right now and I'm very happy.

Ann: Oh my god, I'm so jealous. I'm so jealous.

Aminatou: It is ridiculous. Oh my god. There's a part of me that's like can we just walk away from recording anything right now? I want to jump back in bed. Being lazy is its own problem. Oh boy.

Ann: I mean being able to jump back in bed is a great luxury to be appreciated whenever you can.  However it's a weekday.

Aminatou: It's a weekday. But you know what? When you're your own boss every day is a weekday.

Ann: It's true, but also every weekend is potentially a weekday too. That's the problem.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: It's funny. And yeah, to your point about not especially wanting to be doing this today, someone was asking me -- I went to this journalist conference last week and someone was like "What is the real secret to the success of your podcast?" And I was like honestly I think part of it is we just fucking do it every week. Like we don't -- you know, we don't really . . . I mean yeah, we do some things in advance or whatever, but mostly it's like we just show up.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: And I think this is definitely we've shown up week.

Aminatou: Oh my god, yes. This is not a cute look. Okay.


Ann: Do you want to use our favorite content crunch and take some listener questions? [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yes, oh my god, the best. Okay, to be fair to the content, some of these questions are flames right now.

Ann: [Laughs] I know, you're right. I'm sorry, that was an insult to the very difficult and thorny questions that we get sent regularly. All right, do you want me to read this one?

Aminatou: Yes please.

Ann: Okay. All right. "After a rough week for all of us I have a question regarding politics in the office. I work with my parents in our family business, dad president, mom vice president, me biz dev director which is . . ."

Aminatou: [Laughs] I would stage a mutiny. I'm like I want to be king of this. If we're working with family this is ludicrous.

Ann: It's 100% true. I'd be like how do I take over the presidency? Anyway, okay. Sorry, now back to the actual letter. Sometimes it's difficult to tell when we're reading the letter and when it's side commentary. So, okay, and she continues "Which is in a male-dominated field, plumbing and construction. My mom and I love Hillary, donated to the campaign, spoke with neighbors and friends who like the cheese fart trying to get them to change their minds, etc. Almost everyone else in the office/business loves the giant orange toddler including my mom. Don't get me started. They're all white, 50 years or older, trash-talking Dems and Dem leaders, raving about him and his people, and it's driving me and my mom up the wall. These people also see a customer name who they see as different and they call them terrorists. Any time they hear of a shooting they say was the shooter a black kid, etc. I don't know if I can handle four or hopefully not more years of this. Any advice on how to navigate this? It is hard enough being one of the only young people in the business, especially being a woman who is one of the bosses with people who don't take me seriously b because of my gender but now I have to deal with this." Oof. "I hope this email makes sense. I'm losing my mind."


Aminatou: I'm just like hmm. I look like that thinking face emoji right now.

Ann: [Laughs] Chin stroke emoji?

Aminatou: Yeah, totally chin stroke emoji.

Ann: One thing that leaps out to me about this is this is not . . . this is clearly based on the specifics and the examples she gives here, not a new problem since election day.

Aminatou: Right. Like it's not like Trump has brought to the fore these new problems you used to have with these people.

Ann: Like it seems like some of these things are pretty timeless, racist, xenophobic stuff, you know what I mean? Not exactly . . . which I guess . . .

Aminatou: Slippery slope, Ann. Slippery slope.

Ann: I know. I know. I mean I was just about to say though that's a lot of . . . she doesn't actually say whether this is something they've been saying aloud in recent days or whether they always said this stuff aloud but it seems to me like regardless these are the people you work with and the new president has not changed that.

Aminatou: I know. You know, I'm going to sound like a broken record on this podcast but questions like this are really hard for me to hear from white women specifically because -- and this is not to blame anybody in particular -- I just think there is always a price to pay for standing up. That's just how life is, you know? Whether it is standing up to the VP of your company which is your mom or the president of your company which is your dad or it's standing up to people who are bullies at the playground or whatever. It's you have to do the hard work of doing that. And so it's not me copping out from answering this question but there is a part of me that is just like eye roll. The reason that we are in a lot of these situations is because people don't see early warning signs and they don't speak up and even after they see them they're very reluctant to just say this is bad behavior and say it no matter what the price is.


Ann: Yeah, and I think the thing to me . . .

Aminatou: Sorry, not to sound like a broken record on the podcast about this particular issue.

Ann: No, you don't. I mean it's important. It does sound broken but that's because what you're addressing is broken but to continue to say it is necessary because obviously this is a woman who listens to our podcast and didn't make the connection between things you said earlier and her own situation so keep saying it. I think it's really interesting that she identifies herself as one of the bosses even though she's worried about people taking her seriously. Clearly she's in a leadership role here. And so, I mean, a lot of this seems like maybe feelings, like I feel like they don't already take me seriously. I feel like I shouldn't have to deal with this. It's like actually if you're in a position of power and people in your office are saying things that are, I don't know, openly racist, maybe you are in a position to change that. Not just in terms of complaining to them as a coworker but clarifying that as a company policy it's not okay to say that stuff. Like that's an okay thing to do in a private business. I know in this era that is a controversial thing to say to people who love our new president but you can in a private place of work be like yeah . . .

Aminatou: Right? It's like maybe if all of these so-called terrorists stop shopping from you let's see where that nets out for your business.

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: It's like do you want your customers knowing what you call them? Is that an okay thing to do?

Ann: Like in many ways I think this would be a trickier question if she's like oh, I'm a low-level employee and I've already said something and no one listens to me. She's like I'm one of the bosses, you know? And one of the other bosses, her mom, presumably agrees with her. So to me that's like -- you know, unless President Dad outweighs them all which, hmm, I don't know what the situation is there in this family business . . . but it seems like . . .

Aminatou: Listen, I'm not trying to talk shit about family businesses but it seems to me like that is usually the dynamic.


Ann: It's true, but I'm like two of the three bosses actually taking a stand and being like this is not an okay perspective to air in our business seems 100% reasonable to me. And maybe you're losing your mind because you know what you should do and you're not doing it right now. That's the other thing.

Aminatou: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I was like there are very clear things you could do and I'm not going to tell you what they are because I'm tired of educating people but mostly also these things are not rocket science. You know exactly what you should be doing. If you don't know, do a Google. It's like what do you do when people say offensive things at work? I'm sure there are many strategies there.

Ann: Oh my god, there's going to be a million bulleted lists on Medium telling you how to deal with this.

Aminatou: No, totally. It's like people already know what the deal is. People have to stop counting on other people to be brave for them. You have to do what you're supposed to be doing. We are living in this very pivotal time right now. It's very critical that everybody pulls their fucking weight otherwise we're going to be in really very weird history documentaries and everybody will be trying to rewrite what their contribution was to this time in history.. This listener is situated in a very unique position in that even if she can't talk to the employees she can talk to her dad. I have taken a lot of heat on this show for saying if your families are trash you should tell them to their face, but I will keep saying that. It's like this is not an okay thing to do and it's not an okay thing to say and you are the frontline and the firewall for that and you should take the heat. That's just how it works.

Ann: You know, the other interesting thing that's happening as we move out of election mode and into this new dystopian reality is she mentions in here that she and her mom tried to get these people to change their minds, like presumably during the campaign. And I'm like this idea that you were somehow convincing people to not vote for a candidate anymore is not correct. Our rule is to now allow the ideas that that candidate espouses to become normalized or accepted and I think actually in a weird way this is an easier thing to do than persuade someone to vote differently. Like all of this data says you can't persuade someone who is deeply entrenched on the other side to vote differently. Probably not. But you know what you can do as a boss in an business is say you are not allowed to speak that way in this business otherwise you're fired. You can do that as a private business owner.


Aminatou: That's right, or you can also quit and you can tell your local paper about the shit that's going on at the company you used to work at or you can . . . you know what I mean? There is like many, many, many -- that is obviously the nuclear option but there are many things you can do. [Sighs] I'm like this is . . . these questions just break my heart because I'm just like white women, you've got to do your part. You've got to do your part.

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: And there is no evidence to me right now that things are happening so it's very concerning.

Ann: Right, and set a new bar. The bar is not how can you get these employees to change their minds? That's not the bar you set. Like how can you get your racist dad to change his mind? That's not the bar you set. The bar you set is what do I communicate to these people is acceptable? [Laughs] Like that's what you have to do. It's like do these people understand that none of what they're doing and saying is acceptable? That's the bar you should be trying to cross. Not can I change minds? Like seriously.

Aminatou: Totally. I'm like I'm not trying to change hearts and minds; I'm just trying to change bank accounts.

Ann: [Laughs]

[Music and ads]


Aminatou: But you know what I was going to tell you that this also reminds me of? It's kind of a tangent. I've been watching all of the videos of these people who have been going on these racist pro-Trump tirades like there was the woman in the Michaels store who . . .

Ann: Oh my god, I saw that.

Aminatou: You know, she's the new "I was told by AppleCare" but she was mad about a dollar in a bag in a Michaels store. And then she's like "I voted for Trump so they're going to kick me out." And then the guy who was in the Delta plane. And I'm like so you're telling me the last eight years I could've been yelling about Obama this whole time? These racist people are crazy and they live in a very . . . like they just live in a different reality than we're living in. [Laughs]

Ann: The victim mentality is real.

Aminatou: The victim mentality is very real. I'm like you guys have everything now. You have everything. It's fine. What are you so upset about? You have the Congress. You have the presidency. Probably the state you live in, the governor is a Republican. What are you so mad about?

Ann: If I could answer that question I . . . well actually, I don't know. Weirdly I am resistant to actually finding out the answer to that question. It's like the Upside Down. It's like what happens if you so fully understand -- like go to a world where that mentality makes sense. I don't know. It's tough.


Aminatou: Yeah, it's crazy. But I'm like now I have 25 days to yell about Obama so I plan on fully taking advantage. [Laughs]

Ann: Oh my god, yeah, like ultimate victim mentality. Like any time anything goes wrong like your Wi-Fi is down you're like "Is this because I'm an Obama voter?" [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah. I'm just like uh, this is what's going to happen. I'm going to be like I'm sorry, an extra dollar for avocado at chipotle? I don't think so.

Ann: You can't. You can't do this to me because I voted for Obama.

Aminatou: This is ridiculous.

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: This is ridiculous.


Aminatou: Okay, I don't know that we're actually going to answer this but I think that we should read this question anyway. [Laughs]

Ann: Because we've been privately LOLing about it.

Aminatou: Yeah. It's like the minute we read it we just didn't know what to make of it, so here, let's read it. "Hi girlfriends! I would love your take on my predicament. I have a suspicion based on gut instinct and a few odd/random conversations and situations that leads me to believe that my sister's husband is either cheating on her or has in the past. I have no proof." [Laughs] Key sentence, I have no proof. "My sister and I are very close about most things but have lived in different cities for the past ten years on and off so I don't know their day-to-day." [Laughs] "She has recently moved back to town and I again am picking up on a gut instinct. How do I approach this? Should I ask her outright if they're okay? I don't want to give her something to worry about if it's nothing but I do want to ask her if she's okay."


Ann: Oh my god, I can't even.

Aminatou: This question has been stressing me out for weeks.

Ann: I can't even with this question. [Laughs]

Aminatou: I think that this listener answered her own question when she said I have no proof.

Ann: Also based on a gut instinct? Can you imagine sitting down with your sister and being like "I have a gut instinct that your partner is cheating on you?" What?

Aminatou: Based on a gut instinct I'm going to blow up your marriage and all of our relationships. Here's the thing I'll say is clearly this thing is vague and we don't know what the actual conversations are that she's had with the husband. You know, so there still needs to be a little bit of context. But I will say this: if you have no proof, you cannot go accusing people. And also it is not mutually exclusive for you. Like you can find out if your sister is okay without blowing up her marriage. [Laughs]

Ann: Right, without being like "So, are you and your husband okay?" Like you can ask that question in a way that is not leading or weird or implying something that you do not know.

Aminatou: Totally. Yeah, it's like what is going on with you? And allow her to open herself up to you but just know that if you go fishing . . . [Laughs] There's potentially really big trouble, right? And it's also just putting a doubt in someone's mind where maybe it shouldn't be. So I think that if you want to catch up with your sister, catch up with your sister. If the husband has said some things that are shady to you you can ask him directly to elaborate for you. Talk to that person. You have a relationship with them. But, you know, I think that the way you approach it is really important.

Ann: Yeah. Hmm.

Aminatou: I just love the I have no proof part of it.


Ann: I also think we should say for listeners who can't read this that "I have no proof" is its own paragraph.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: Like it's set apart from everything else. It's like yeah, it's kind of important.

Aminatou: No, it's true. And also I don't want to minimize the gut feeling of something is wrong because a lot of times there is something there. But I don't know that that something is specific. I think that clearly there is a lot of wanting to reconnect with her sister in this and knowing what's wrong with her and confirming that everything is okay. I just think that there are ways to have this conversation and there are ways to not have this conversation.

Ann: Right. Just be a friend to your sister and not try to like sniff out the truth.

Aminatou: Totally, because here's the other thing too, maybe they are having problems. And if they are it's like, you know, you have to give people space to tell you how they're doing instead of pouncing on them and thinking that that's a story for you as well. So I think that the best thing you can do is being there for her, listening to her, and constantly checking in to see that she's okay. You know, in regards to her whole life, not just her marriage. And if there's something there she'll open up to you.

Ann: Truth.

Aminatou: Okay.

Ann: We have one more question?

Aminatou: Yes.

Ann: Okay. Question is "I was wondering if you have any tips for balancing life and work, and to bring up the age-old question can women really have it all?" Ugh, sorry, I'll keep reading. "Some background, I'm a senior in college trying to balance a full-time class load, a part-time job, me time, a new boyfriend, time with my family, current friends, new lady friends, and an internship. Just typing it is overwhelming. Is it even possible or does something have to give?" Wow.

Aminatou: I rolled my eyes all the way back to space. [Laughs] I'm back now.

Ann: Having it all is a lie, as you would say from the pit of hell.

Aminatou: Yes!

Ann: Sold to women so that we'll feel bad about ourselves all the time and work harder for capitalism. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Totally.

Ann: That's how I feel.

Aminatou: Yes, that's exactly how I feel. I'm like can women have it all? No, because that's the bullshit capitalist construct. Can you have everything you want in life? Maybe if what you want is realistic. [Laughs] 

Ann: Having it all is what happens when market forces combine with powerful, outdated gender norms to say you should really want to fully devote yourself to both of these things completely and do it without failing and perfectionism isn't a lie and, and, and. Like that is -- oof, I see those three words together, have it all, and I'm just like run. Run.


Aminatou: Here's also what I will say: all of life is a balancing act, you know? You're a senior in college. I know that this work load seems overwhelming. Just wait until you get into the real world and dynamics shift and it gets even more. It's like I totally understand that you want to be present in all parts of your life and whatever but, you know, it's just like life can be overwhelming for seasons and in some seasons it's okay. One of my favorite answers about this work/life balance thing was Shonda Rhimes when she said that you just basically have to accept that you're going to drop the ball at some points in your life. And she's like "Listen, when I'm killing it on the set of Grey's Anatomy it means I'm not watching my daughter swim, and when I'm playing with my kids it means I'm not getting back to Ellen Pompeo about X, Y, Z." [Laughs] I'm like heavily paraphrasing.

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: But that was basically the gist of it and I was like you know what? Thank you. This is just real. It's that sometimes you have to be more present in some areas of your life than others, like you're never going to have full equilibrium. Like literally nobody has that, not even in the romantic comedy fantasy garbage that having it all comes from. You just have to be okay with the choices that you make and be present for the things that matter to you.

Ann: Yeah. And also just feel comfortable -- or find a way to get comfortable -- with the fact that probably you are never going to meet your aspirations in every corner of your life at all times, and so that feeling of oh my god, my to-do list is full of stuff and I feel like I'm neglecting these three relationships and I haven't had any time to myself in a week, that feeling of oh my god, all of it is falling apart is like, yeah, that is a life feeling.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: It's like a perpetual feeling. And so the sooner you can be like okay, yeah, but I'm going to do this thing right now, or yeah, because I haven't gotten to these six things yet, or I haven't hit inbox zero ever -- oh my god, I'm so . . .

Aminatou: Oh, I haven't hit inbox zero since 2013.

Ann: Exactly.


Aminatou: That's when I let go of that goal. It's fine.

Ann: It's like it's all a flow. As long as there's turnover in the inbox I don't worry about it.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: And that's how I feel about all these pressures, right? As long as there's turnover, as long as you're kind of making progress on all fronts, it's okay. And I think also like -- it was not Shonda but another power lady when posed this question was like you can have it all; you just can't have it all at the same time. And so I think . . .

Aminatou: I think it was Shonda.

Ann: Oh my god, thank you Shonda for everything. So yeah, just being like okay, well right now I can't have that thing but maybe I can have that tomorrow or in three weeks or in three years.

Aminatou: Totally. And also all of these questions are always borne out of comparison and comparison is a thief of joy. It's like don't assume that you know from other people's lives that they have it all together or they know what's going on. Everybody struggles with this stuff and the more that you move on the adulthood ladder the more you will actually struggle with this.

Ann: Right. So what we're saying is it doesn't get better. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah, it doesn't get better but also that's totally okay.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Aminatou: Just do as much as you can. Have fun every day. Live your life. Everything will be okay. There was a really good tweet about this, like a meme -- I have to find it now -- it was some girl who just . . . it looked horrendous and the gist of her tweet was like ugh, this is me trying to pay my bills and talk to my parents every night. [Laughs] It's like college student drama. And I was like this is so real. I will find it and put it on the CYG twitter but it was hilarious.

Ann: Please do. Please do.


Aminatou: Ugh.

Ann: Okay, so in more posi news we have an exciting merch update. There are a few new things available for preorder that are up in our shop which is just at callyourgirlfriend.com/shop. We have re-upped on shine theory buttons so preorder as many as you want. We've also got brand new laptop stickers with the shine theory logo. They are very, very cool and would look so good on your laptop or notebook if you're analog. And we also have The Bleed stickers. You know, solidarity with free bleeders everywhere. Super cute. And finally we have these amazing cozy sweatshirts with the CYG logo. They're in a heathered evergreen. They are like the perfect Christmas gift. And if you preorder them quickly, like within the next week, we can have them to you in time for Christmas. So mega stocking stuffers if you do that/really easy little things to send your besties and tell them that you care about them in this period of difficulty. Anyway, that's callyourgirlfriend.com/shop and get your preorder on.


Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts, or on iTunes where we would love it if you left us a review. You can tweet at us at callyrgf or email us, callyrgf@gmail.com. You can find us on Facebook -- look up that link for yourself -- or on Instagram at callyrgf. Please don't send us Instagram messages. We don't look at them. And yeah, [Laughs], you can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.