Tonight, the Cinefamily presents 9 to 5, the 1980 feminist, labor comedy starring Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda– and I couldn’t possibly be more primed: Leaving an actual 9 to 5 job, in a male-dominated office space, on the first day of my period.
Pour yourself a cup of ambition.
It doesn’t hurt that this evening’s selection comes to us from the astute Greg Proops, maestro of improvisational wit, and possibly the greatest male feminist I can name. (His introduction will be available as a podcast later this week).
The first time I saw 9 to 5, I held a job as an administrative assistant for a graduate engineering program at a Big Ten college. The position was my first “real job” with salary, bennys, and vacation time, and came after six months of temp jobs, freelance contracts and other stop gap employment. Attaining such a position shouldn’t have been such a remarkable feat– but for a 20-something, 21st century human, the achievement proved uncommon (particularly when compared with the limited success of my graduate school colleagues).
Perhaps it was this scarcity of prosperity, coupled with dissatisfaction with my work, that I collapsed into a depression the like of which I have never known.
Acting as the intermediary between the marketing department and the program faculty, I owned nothing philosophically, made no impact professionally, and found no purchase for new ideas. Staff turnover was high, and roughly half of my employment was devoted to covering the other empty positions. I resigned myself, and became a custodian of paperwork, and a rather unwilling buttress to weak management.
Like Violet, Judy, and Doralee, I knew that the work I did was important– that my skilled efforts kept the program moving– but that I would never attain anything close to respect while acting as caretaker to male bosses.
Unlike Violet, Judy and Doralee I had no allies.
I took little comfort in the humanity around me– an odd duck in a pond of engineers and scientists who could appreciate only the most formulaic of wit. Without conscious motion, and almost against my will, I found myself enslaved to the clock– impossible to rise earlier than the calculated 27 minutes needed to get from bed to desk. No breakfast. No shower. Just unkempt misery until quitting time.
Super-charging my self-awareness with a course of psychotherapy, I took a leave of absence, and plotted my escape to that alternate reality: Los Angeles, California. Today, I help make movies, instead of watching them alone in my apartment– though in all honesty, I still do a lot of that too.