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January 21, 2011 9:02 AM   Subscribe

How do you deal with not being taken seriously at work? Why don't my teaching colleagues take me seriously?

I'm a late-20s single, straight, male German teacher in a huge high school with six faculty members in my department and 150+ teachers in the building.

I am the only male in the department and there is only one other teacher who is single: a female in her mid-20s. We are on very good terms and I sometimes have the impression that she would like to be more than friends, but I am not at all interested in inflicting that kind of drama upon my colleagues. She is always included in the women's outings and usually sends me an SMS saying something like "why aren't you out with us?" as if she were surprised I wasn't invited out. She is not usually around the rest of us before school/at lunch because her schedule is slightly different.

The other teachers are all 26-35 and married with two income-earners (none have children). Incidentally all teach Spanish or French. I should add here that I speak French, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish as well. No one else besides me in the department speaks anything other than Spanish or French.

Whenever we are discussing/debating anything, teaching-related or otherwise, in any situation/context my opinions are often immediately dismissed by one or many of my colleagues. They roll their eyes, discount my experience teaching German and French, or explain that because I worked in IT before teaching that I am not being realistic about people's basic understanding How Things Work. I'm not one of those obsessives who constantly talks about his iPhone or MacBook Pro (or Google Android/Chrome for that matter). I am laid-back and always in a good mood. I'm never late or unprepared for anything and I stay in shape and dress well. In short I am not regarded as "one of the guys" as they view the other male teachers on the faculty--I am an anomaly for some reason.

I can't think of anything that would make these women not take me seriously, aside from the fact that I am living "the single life" and that I rent downtown instead of own in the suburbs. They all teach five classes and have two free periods and lunch--I teach six classes and just have a lunch. I never bring this up and never ask them about their free time at work. I am not a complainer and as far as my personality goes (ENTJ) I'm an asker, not a guesser.

Here are a few of the latest barbs:

"Of course you drive a manual," "no one eats that" (referring to hardboiled eggs, grapefruit, turkey sandwiches, and pretty much anything else I might have for lunch), "well not everyone has all the time in the world like you for (insert anything I do that is different from them)," "there's nothing you'd like there," (when explaining why they forgot to invite me to a departmental outing), etc.

Are there any personal behaviors I might be missing that would cause these women to treat me like this? What have you done to get along better with your colleagues? Is this more than a simple in-group/out-group situation? I want to be friends with these people because I see them everyday and probably will for quite a while.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! to Human Relations (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
They are intimidated by you.
posted by milarepa at 9:10 AM on January 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


How long has this been going on? Like, are you still the FNG?
posted by jeb at 9:14 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


This may be too simple of a response but have you tried showing an interest is what they are doing? For example, entire department goes (I don't know bowling) when you hear about it later specifically mention to the alpha teacher that you really enjoy bowling, their outing sounded really fun and ask to be invited/if you can come next time. Don't tell stories about times in when you bowled in the past. Just make it clear that their activities sound interesting and fun.

Maybe they think you are, "too cool for school" with your many languages, downtown living, stuck shift driving lifestyle and think you might be bored or make fun of them for the types of things they do. Or worse suggest that they do something new that they "don't have time for".

In short make it clear that you don't want to change anything, you are not a threat to the current order, you just want to come along.
posted by saradarlin at 9:15 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sounds like straight-up sexism to me.
posted by xingcat at 9:15 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even shorter, what milarepa said.
posted by saradarlin at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2011


A well-timed "What makes you say that?" with genuine earnestness can help you at least start identifying their motives behind your list of latest barbs. It will steer you towards one of several possibilities: they are afraid of you, they have uninformed assumptions about you, they believe you think you're better than them, they don't believe your background qualifies you to share the same job title as them, they are desperate for exclusivity, etc. Not all will have the same motivation; take note of the differing motivations of the group, when asked directly in the company of others versus alone.
posted by juniperesque at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


For several years, my wife was a special education and math teacher at what started as a brand-new elementary school. The first year, everything was just ducky -- everyone loved everyone else. On Year Two, the turf battles started. Fiefdoms were created. The long knives were unsheathed.

There's a saying in academia -- "Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."

I think this is what you're dealing with. You're the outsider with "new" ideas -- regardless of their relevance (e.g. lunch), accuracy or usefulness, you'll be treated with disdain.

Unfortunately, I think this is just something you need time to just get over, and recognize that for some people, you'll never get over.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:21 AM on January 21, 2011


It sounds like you're a fairly worldly, well-traveled, sensible, intelligent individual surrounded with just the sort of small-brained, narrow-visioned teachers that our society of know-nothing don't-give-a-shits can thank for their worthless, uninspiring education.

I think their passive hostility is due to jealousy. You have every possible advantage they could desire: You're single. You're male. You work harder. You are in better health. You have traveled further and learned more, and can "prove" it with your language skills that easily trump their years of effort.

Just work on your own excellence. Some of the haters will eventually come around when they inevitably require your help with something, some of the haters will never change their minds. Stay true to yourself and ignore them.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:22 AM on January 21, 2011 [19 favorites]


How long has this been going on? Like, are you still the FNG?

I have been there longer than half of them.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! at 9:25 AM on January 21, 2011


They're excluding you because you're male. I would say it's also because you're single but you say that the single woman is being included. So, I wouldn't say it's a question of being taken seriously, per se, it's a question of being respected. The eye rolling is so incredibly rude, I'm dumbfounded. Constant exclusion, eye rolling, being talked down to, passive aggressive comments...I feel for you. It must be miserable being treated like that all the time.

Just because it's rattling around in my brain I have to ask (although I don't think this is the case) - is it possible that you've done something and don't even know it? That you've been dismissive? Could it have something to do with the fact that you aren't hooking up with the woman who likes you?
posted by iconomy at 9:26 AM on January 21, 2011


I disagree respectfully with Cool Papa Bell about the issue's being academic politics. It doesn't sound like there's anything at all at stake here. They sound mean.

The "what makes you say that?" question is a good idea.
posted by vincele at 9:30 AM on January 21, 2011


It could be that you just don't fit in with the people they typically interact with. They assume that your rejection of their lifestyle means that you look down on them. From the description of them in your question, I'm not sure that their assumption is very far-fetched.

Remember, the typically male-pattern communication styles that thrive in the IT world will almost certainly cause you to be a pariah in a female-dominated environment like this. Communication that can be interpreted as one-up behavior or self-aggrandizement (I speak four languages, they only speak two) won't make you any friends, and certainly won't get you invited out to social events.

The only reason I could think to make the comment "of course you drive a stick" is if I thought you were a bit conceited. It may be nothing, but if I were you, I would become more self-aware about my communication styles with these people and really take note of how people react to what you say and how you say it.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:37 AM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Maybe get some feedback from your most "mainstream" friend about your general affect? Your colleagues sound unkind, but maybe you're speaking in ways that trigger their unkindness and could make some changes that would help.

I say this because I was once in a very difficult teaching situation (abroad) where I felt isolated from the other teachers, never got included in things, etc. I was lucky enough to have a very, very frank conversation with two of my friendlier colleagues in which they told me that I came across as very judgmental and snobbish--two characteristics I certainly never intended to convey. I was horrified and upset, of course. They gave me some useful feedback about specific speech patterns I had, and I worked really hard to seem friendlier. This fixed the problem with all of the nice people in the program, and I could write off the others in good conscience.

Also, maybe see who is the friendliest of the unfriendly women, and try to get on good terms with her. Once one woman is friends with you, there won't be a united front and you'll probably make friends with a couple of the others.
posted by Frowner at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


This may be too simple of a response but have you tried showing an interest is what they are doing?

I actually ask them about their weekends/lives pretty often and I avoid saying "oh, I would have done that" or "I never do that." I ask and genuinely listen to what they have to say, but their questions to me are usually more like interrogation or delivered mockingly.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! at 9:44 AM on January 21, 2011


My first thoughts were along the lines of "they are intimidated/jealous". Seriously... the barb about what you eat... who does that??

I agree with being direct the next time they say/do something. My phrasing would be different, but the intent is the same. "Is there a specific reason you feel that way?"

And I also think that being earnest and saying something like "oh nice, that sounds like it was a lot of fun. I'd love to join you next time you... (do that/go out/get together, etc)"

Finally, if none of that works, I'd consider inviting the colleague you get along with to do something. Get her commitment first then invite others. Or have her invite others?

It's also entirely possible that one of them has some very specific issue with you and has a hold over the others as a result of some screwy pecking order.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:46 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only reason I could think to make the comment "of course you drive a stick" is if I thought you were a bit conceited.

One said this to me when I was driving three of them to lunch during our exam week a while back. I didn't comment on my car, but they said it as soon as we started going. And no, I don't speed or drive recklessly.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! at 9:46 AM on January 21, 2011


"no one eats that" (referring to hardboiled eggs, grapefruit, turkey sandwiches, and pretty much anything else I might have for lunch)

This points to a basic culture clash, the sort of thing an American Southerner might say to say to someone who has moved from the West coast to the South.

Part of the puzzle is that you're different and that you seem to be dealing with close minded people. Try and make an effort to do somethings they like or let them know you'd be interested, but otherwise, it's more their issue than yours. They're being petty, small and unwelcoming.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:49 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Communication that can be interpreted as one-up behavior or self-aggrandizement (I speak four languages, they only speak two) won't make you any friends, and certainly won't get you invited out to social events.

I didn't actually officially tell them this about me, but they have seen/heard me speaking in those languages with students in the hallway (especially Russian and Romanian). When we hired a new teacher this year, I was introduced in the most humiliating way (I think): "This is Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird!, he speaks a bunch of languages and can fix your computer or un-jam the copier."

What can you even say after that kind of an introduction? The student teacher (Spanish) asked to observe my German class and afterwards her only comment other than "thanks" was "they were right about you and your class" without further explanation.

German is very popular where I teach and I my students tend to talk about me all the time to other teachers. This is not something that I encourage them to do.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! at 9:52 AM on January 21, 2011


"they were right about you and your class"

This is the perfect opening to find out exactly what this means. I think asking why these people are saying such strange things would be a good start.

Personally, it sounds like they might feel threatened by you.
posted by grouse at 9:55 AM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thinking it over some more, it sounds like they made up their mind about you before you even showed up. Were you foisted on the department because of parent demand for a German teacher? That would probably create tension, as the French and Spanish teachers might feel threatened by their life's speciality being ignore or dismissed. Was another teacher forced out in order to make room for you? I could see that pissing off the established guard.

You also might unknowingly be giving off vibes of arrogance. Your tone in writing is confident and assured and seeking to solve a problem. Those who aren't confident or deal more with feelings might perceive that arrogance.

Either way, you need to identify who the ringleaders are and try to make nice with them. If you've been at the school longer than half they teachers in your department, then one or two among the old guard have taken a dislike to you and are spreading that dislike among new arrivals. Find the ringleader and attempt to make nice, even if it means helping with their computer. Winning them over could help turn others to your side.

But yes, the other teachers do sound like petty, immature jerks, almost like children. How would win over a kid who dislikes you? Maybe a variation of those tactics would help with adults?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 AM on January 21, 2011


Damn. Sounds like these folks have some sort of issue with you that is all about being intimidated, basically. Question: have you tried talking to them sincerely about this? Like, "you know, I feel like there is something I'm always doing wrong, because I don't feel like you respect me. When you introduce me as 'the computer guy,' or roll your eyes when we're talking, or criticize what I do in my free time or what I choose to eat, I feel tremendously disrespected. I would never criticize how you spend your free time, and I want to get along with you, and be friends, but I don't know how even though I've tried. Can you help me? If I'm doing something that is offensive, will you please tell me so I can correct it?"

What a bunch of jerks though. People can be so lame sometimes.
posted by dubitable at 10:07 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't think of anything that would make these women not take me seriously, aside from the fact that I am living "the single life" and that I rent downtown instead of own in the suburbs.

Just living downtown in cleveland is enough, honestly. Ohio and Indiana are not known for being open-minded. Are you from the "mid-west"? Are any of your colleagues interested in the difficulties of translating Celan? Do they even know who Celan is? The point is that as a young, single, straight, male with intellectual interests you don't fit in and you're not going to fit in.

Do you really want to try to fit in to the cultural norm of the cleveland suburbs?
posted by ennui.bz at 10:11 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I might be way out of line, but I have run across some Germans that come across as cold, arrogant and/or overly formal just because of their speech patterns. For instance, among academic peers, they would use words and phrases that seemed too long and intended to obfuscate more than clarify, though the speaker certainly didn't intend that. It might be something as simple as that, though you'd think other language teachers would be used to looking past speech patterns.

I'm remembering one German person (academic) who was accepted immediately instead of having to wait until people figured out it was only speech patterns that were the problem, He got there by being outrageously cheerful and enthusiastic about everyone and everything. He was just sort of a goofball and liked everyone and it overcame everyone's suspicion of arrogance or snobbery.

I don't have an answer for you, since it would be hard to start being silly in an obviously already hostile environment. You might ask your one ally what's going on though, if you have a good opening for doing so. And yes, asking "what ARE they saying?" is completely reasonable and maybe would even get you information that would help you reach your students better.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:13 AM on January 21, 2011


"This is Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird!, he speaks a bunch of languages and can fix your computer or un-jam the copier."

What can you even say after that kind of an introduction?


You can laugh at the attempted humor.

Is there a chance that these people have a pretty jokey atmosphere, and you are coming across as a stiff?
posted by General Tonic at 10:13 AM on January 21, 2011


You can laugh at the attempted humor.

I understand your point, General Tonic, but this is a really, really rude thing to say, and as someone who has done a lot of various types of computer work and is working on a much different level than I used to, I would be really offended if someone dropped this kind of line about "un-jamming" the copier. They really need to cut that shit out, IMHO.
posted by dubitable at 10:16 AM on January 21, 2011


What can you even say after that kind of an introduction?

They need to understand how insulting they were being with their ignorance. I'd probably just throw it right back in their faces, but I'm childish.

"This is Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird!, he speaks a bunch of languages and can fix your computer or un-jam the copier."

"Yeah, I can also breathe and count to ten. So as you might imagine, my skills are in high demand around here."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:37 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I interact with teachers and work in schools. This sounds like turf squatting. I guarantee at some point one or more of them have asked why you are at X school and not "off teaching at some college or something since he knows so goddamn much." **

Either wait for new and more interesting colleagues or just treat this as your job and nothing else.

**HS, MS, and El Ed teachers can be just as intellectual as college teachers can be, no matter what anyone in the equation may think or try to say. In fact, the de-intellectualization of teaching as a profession (state; federal) is a huge problem where we need to push back and push back hard to prevent all sorts of continued dumbing down...so Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird, keep up the good work! Keep knowing so goddamn much!
posted by oflinkey at 10:44 AM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think their passive hostility is due to jealousy. You have every possible advantage they could desire: You're single. You're male. You work harder. You are in better health. You have traveled further and learned more, and can "prove" it with your language skills that easily trump their years of effort.

I wouldn't necessarily be that uncharitable to them. It sounds like the you are "different" in some ways compared to most of your coworkers, and differences tend to create these kinds of social rifts no matter who is involved. A married woman with less experience could just as easily be ostracized from a group of single male worldly coworkers.

Your basic problem seems to be that you are not fitting in. Have you tried to fit in? I know the usual advice is to just be yourself, but honestly in a lot of situations you are not going to fit in with people who are different than you if you just do whatever you normally do and don't make an effort to bridge the gap. You mentioned "discussing/debating", do you normally take an adversarial approach when you're interacting with your coworkers? Do you respect their opinions or are discussions just about proving yourself right? Is there anything that can help you connect to your coworkers on a personal level (hobbies, etc.)?

I understand your point, General Tonic, but this is a really, really rude thing to say, and as someone who has done a lot of various types of computer work and is working on a much different level than I used to, I would be really offended if someone dropped this kind of line about "un-jamming" the copier. They really need to cut that shit out, IMHO.

It probably depends a lot on tone and context, but as a programmer I get these kind of "He can fix your printer!" comments a lot when non-techy people introduce me to other non-techy people. It's annoying but I don't think the people making those sorts of comments are generally trying to be rude or dismissive of what I do. Again I could be misinterpreting it because there's not a lot of context.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:47 AM on January 21, 2011


You can laugh at the attempted humor.

Is there a chance that these people have a pretty jokey atmosphere, and you are coming across as a stiff?


I laugh at their jokes, including when they introduced me that way.

So far from everyone's comments I think the best option now is to take a lot of their comments as jokes, even if they aren't obviously intended that way, and just smile and laugh along with them.

I try not to dwell upon the unfairness of being pigeonholed, but it's entirely possible that the department was different before I showed up (all female). This could just be their way of dealing with it.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! at 11:04 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


It certainly sounds as though your colleagues are intimidated by your skills and life experience. My SO is a teacher and, from what I've learned, many teachers (especially those without graduate degrees) started when they were young and have never had another career (as opposed to college or retail-level jobs). You also sound almost over-qualified for what you do which only adds to that.

I would befriend your friendly female colleague without mentioning her (possible) attraction to you. At some point, you might solicit her advice on being included/accepted by your peers more than you are. I would also suggest that at some point you ask her what you might be doing wrong to create that kind of friction or hostility. By accepting the mere possibility that you might be the source, it will be more difficult for others to perceive it as an attack on their own rudeness.

Part of me also wonders whether it's possible that the other teacher's potential romantic interest in you might be part of the issue, e.g., your peers are snubbing you because of your lack of interest in one of their friends. I do think you're wise not to get involved with her if only because this problem will be even worse if things don't work out.
posted by Hylas at 11:24 AM on January 21, 2011


Whatever you do, don't fix their computers or unjam the copier.

or change gear next time you take them for lunch
posted by cromagnon at 11:28 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It may be best to just retreat and do your thing. When I taught high school, I found the teachers to be incredibly clique-y... It was just like being back in high school!

If someone says something to you that you think is rude, why not behave as though you were a teacher dealing with a rude student in class. "Just a minute... what exactly do you mean by that?" Cross your arms, and stare, waiting for an answer. If they reply with a smartass remark, just, say "I find that remark to be pretty rude." And then change the subject. Just like you would in class. Just like teaching, it's unwise to reinforce negative behaviour, and it's also unwise to go to war - don't back yourself into any corners.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think your follow-up was great and your attitude sounds good. Just a couple of points.

First, I think you may be being a bit oversensitive. For example, the "he can un-jam the copier" thing would only have been insulting if it hadn't been preceded by the "he speaks multiple languages" part. You ask "what can you even say after that type of introduction?" But think about it - what could the person you were being introduced to have said if it had been left at "he speaks multiple languages"? "Oh, um, I don't, that must be nice for you, ummmm"... rather than something like "oh, I hate photocopiers, nice to have an ally in the war against them." Seriously, the introduction sounds perfect to me - a nice blend of the complimentary plus the casual.

Secondly, you can subtly call them on some of these and if you do so with a sense of humor, it could break the ice a bit and show them they're not denting your confidence. For example, with the stick shift comment, you could turn to them and say with a big smile "oh, is that bad?" The person who said it would then have to explain herself and would end up feeling a bit silly.

Thirdly, you could try increasing your social capital within the school. Try to make friends with teachers who aren't in your department. Something I've noticed - people tend to want to make friends with people who already have friends.
posted by hazyjane at 11:46 AM on January 21, 2011


I teach middle school, and most of the teachers are women who are the secondary breadwinners for their homes, who are focused on their families and their teaching and not much else. I don't fit in. At all. I don't have much in common with them, frankly, and it would be weird to hang out with most of them because our interests are so divergent. They are not interesting to me, and I am very likely not interesting to them.

So: I've found the couple of people on staff who are nerdy and friendly and interesting to me, and I hang with them. I have made a lot of connections with teachers in my subject at other schools (I'm one of only three music teachers at the school, which is a fairly isolating thing as well) and they are the primary people I hang out with and discuss teaching with.

Do you *need* to fit in? Are there other groups of teachers who you can connect with? Does the mean clique have to have anything to do with you? Do their opinions affect how you do your day-to-day job? Because, honestly, if you can function without interacting with them I would just disengage. Teaching is your job, do that and do it well and don't worry about being friends with people who are acting ugly for reasons you don't understand. Hang out with the woman you are friendly with, ignore the rest. If she texts you "why didn't come?" text her back that you weren't invited but would like to be next time (if that's even true).
posted by charmedimsure at 11:49 AM on January 21, 2011


I don't have a solid opinion on why they are treating you this way since it could be any number of things but I do have advice on how to change things. You should definitely befriend your friendly colleague. Having more friends is good and having an ally is also good. Once you have a closer relationship with her you can confide with her on things like, "Why did Sally think that eating turkey sandwiches is so unusual (or whatever the latest odd dismissal is)?" That perhaps will give you some insight.

Lastly, plan your own outings for the department. It could be to do something social or something work related. Why don't you be the bigger person and be inclusive to them?
posted by mmascolino at 11:50 AM on January 21, 2011


I think "what makes you say that?" is incredibly gentle. I guess you could use that the first time, but I think the second time should simply be "Why do you talk to me like that?"
posted by Lyn Never at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am originally from the Midwest too, and there's a pervasive attitude there about what being "one of the guys" and "normal" mean. It's the reason I left.

You're obviously an intellectual with somewhat upper-class, hipsterish tastes in things. Driving a stick shift, eating healthily, speaking multiple languages, and living downtown are probably all adding up to you appearing effete and pretentious to these people, and possibly gay. The Midwest is pretty homophobic.

You wouldn't stick out in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, or Austin, but in the suburban Midwest "real men" drive Fords, eat burgers, and love sports.

I can just imagine these women getting together and when the younger, single one sighs and says, "I wonder why Es ist Zeit won't ask me out," the older ones roll their eyes and say, "Oh, he thinks he's too good for you. Either that or he's gay."

They think you're "too big for your britches." They subconsciously feel stupid and lower-class next to you and that's where their attitude comes from. What they're doing is bullying the way the mean girls do.

Personally, I have very little sympathy for people who choose to behave this way. However, there are things you can do if you want to get along a bit better with them.

If you like baseball and football, talk about it. If you ever do eat junk food, do it in front of them and even offer to buy it for them. If you can be a little rumpled instead of neatly well-groomed, go for it.

If these things are completely foreign to your nature, tone down talking about books and other intellectual-hipster type stuff and let them lead the conversation. Appear to be interested in their lives. Offer to be helpful and do them favors, and ask them to do you favors after you do a few for them. Have a conversation with the woman you think likes you in which you mention that you don't believe in dating colleagues to erase the misconception that you are stuck-up toward her.

When the interpersonal ice melts a little, invite them to do stuff like bowling, miniature golf, and attending hockey games. Anything popular with Midwesterners where people get into a group spirit is a good way to build camaraderie, and can be fun.
posted by xenophile at 12:20 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


hazyjane: First, I think you may be being a bit oversensitive. For example, the "he can un-jam the copier" thing would only have been insulting if it hadn't been preceded by the "he speaks multiple languages" part. You ask "what can you even say after that type of introduction?" But think about it - what could the person you were being introduced to have said if it had been left at "he speaks multiple languages"? "Oh, um, I don't, that must be nice for you, ummmm"... rather than something like "oh, I hate photocopiers, nice to have an ally in the war against them." Seriously, the introduction sounds perfect to me - a nice blend of the complimentary plus the casual.

I get this somewhat - "this is geek anachronism, she's the YP librarian but will totally help you out with Excel and any computer dramas". It's their way of marketing my skills, even though it kinda dismisses the stuff I'm here for. I take it as it comes and depending on the new person, talk up one skill set or another (i.e. "hey, I'm good for reference too!" or "if you need a hand with reading lists, give me a call").

That said, it's not coming on the back of jerkwad stuff like you're talking about.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2011


Seconding xenophile, plus I think this attitude set goes along with jealousy/bitterness. Also, as a popular, extra-educated, energetic person with no family obligations, you are more likely than they are to have the ideas and energy and popularity to be promoted. Some of them are bound to be acutely aware of this, and, try as they might, without something larger to command their attention, they almost can't help but be jealous.

Someone once told me that if you're going to be different (even if you can't help it), you just have to make an extra effort to be friendly and welcoming to other people. I guess that's your personal burden :) I know your life may not have prepared you to be an expert party-thrower, lunch-inviter, and hall-talk stroker, but obviously you can learn. Just do it, and the rewards will be great. You can make their lives better by making the extra effort, and then you can secretly enjoy having overcome this challenge.
posted by amtho at 1:09 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The are jealous. As others have said, you might want to try to kill them with kindness and be super courtly and gentlemanly. I work in a all female academic unit and we then we had one male. He went out of his way to be the lovable brother. If that is not your thing, then try to not let the ladies bother you.

If it were me, I would act clueless about their mean girl behavior and be super sweet guy-like. Eventually they will leave you alone or fall in love with you.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 1:43 PM on January 21, 2011


I used to have co-workers like this. Basically, they were housewives with jobs. I was married but childless, lived downtown, ate sushi and didn't go to fucking church. They hated me, even when I *tried* to fit in. So I breezed out every day la la la la la and went on with my fabulous life. I might have even rubbed it in. just a little.

In your shoes, I'd call them on their disrespect, per KokuRyu, talk about my upcoming sexy international vacation, and leave the poor cows to their petty bullshit.
posted by cyndigo at 3:19 PM on January 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


You're obviously an intellectual with somewhat upper-class, hipsterish tastes in things. Driving a stick shift, eating healthily, speaking multiple languages, and living downtown are probably all adding up to you appearing effete and pretentious to these people, and possibly gay. The Midwest is pretty homophobic.

You wouldn't stick out in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, or Austin, but in the suburban Midwest "real men" drive Fords, eat burgers, and love sports.

I can just imagine these women getting together and when the younger, single one sighs and says, "I wonder why Es ist Zeit won't ask me out," the older ones roll their eyes and say, "Oh, he thinks he's too good for you. Either that or he's gay."

They think you're "too big for your britches." They subconsciously feel stupid and lower-class next to you and that's where their attitude comes from. What they're doing is bullying the way the mean girls do.


Yep. Came in to say about exactly this. They think you're a snob and a fancy-pants and Not-One-of-Them. Fuck them, they sound horrible to hang out with anyway.

Embrace your fancy-pantsitude.
posted by tristeza at 6:49 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The teachers may be ignoring your ideas for the department just because they're coming from you, for the stupid reasons others have outlined above. If you're going to build your influence in the department, you need to introduce them by stealth. Talk one-on-one with the female teacher you're friends with about your ideas. Hopefully, she will then pass them on without them ever knowing they came from you.
posted by ultrabuff at 12:26 AM on January 22, 2011


I can just imagine these women getting together and when the younger, single one sighs and says, "I wonder why Es ist Zeit won't ask me out," the older ones roll their eyes and say, "Oh, he thinks he's too good for you. Either that or he's gay."

I can totally imagine this happening all the time when you're not around. I like the idea of making friends with teachers in other departments.
posted by vincele at 10:34 AM on January 22, 2011


I'd try and see if you could make friends with either teachers in other departments at your school, or other foreign language teachers at other schools. Are their professional development activities that are district wide? Are there ways that your school gets teachers together for interdisciplinary dialog? (If not, can you start something? Organize an outing that you would enjoy and invite your dept + english dept or something.) Out of 150+ people, or the $00+ people in your district, there should be some people, that while not exactly like you, will be welcoming. The trick is to be welcoming of others yourself.

I was in a similar situation as a college lecturer (it was the reverse for me, I think I was more conservative and less nerdy than my peers -- but they were still very snobby). And I ended up making friends with other lecturers in other departments through campus-wide teaching seminars.
posted by bluefly at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2011


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