One day, during summer in my small desert city, an older woman enters the place of my employment. She briefly converses with the hostess who informs her we’re on an extended happy hour so she heads to the bar. I greet her; she tells me her name is Abigail, Abby for short. Abby is a white woman in her late 50s/early 60s and pleasant to chat with, which is ideal for me since the shift has been slow and I’m closing.
One of the topics we discussed was healthcare since she noticed the medical alert necklace around my neck. I tell her about all the issues I had before I got (great) health insurance and my thoughts on how it should be a right and not a privilege. Abby tells me she opened clinics in Los Angeles to help working class families. She is a doctor, she tells me, and is appalled at the lack of medical clinics in the desert, especially those that would benefit black and brown people and wants to open up one like she did in L.A. This all sounded amazing and I told her I’d love to be apart of that although I’m not sure in what ways as I have no medical training outside of the babysitter’s course I took in eighth grade. We exchanged information, because at this point it’s been a couple of hours and Abby needs to return home.
We communicate through emails and phone calls. After about a week, Abby invites me over to her (GIANT) house so we can discuss the details of the clinic more in-depth. I’m there for about an hour and a half; she has roughly ten construction workers who knocked out a few walls to expand Abby’s casita. The front part of her house is torn up as well to make way for more parts of the clinic. She takes me to her office where she hands me her CV, her proposal for the clinic that she gave the city and takes me through her step-by-step plan.
She knows what she’s doing and has already talked to a couple of city council members/officials. She was meeting with another person about more property rentals and had set up a few meetings with some important people so she could get the ball rolling. I, a lowly creative with massive student loan debt, raised concerns that I wasn’t sure where exactly I would fit in. It had never crossed my mind that this would be a startup type of place because I don’t live in an area for those. I told her that if we wanted me to write something, I could do that but this seemed like a lot of time and resources that I did not have. Abby assured me that she could train me to write grants and whatever else they needed. We talked some more and then I left.
Now the story I presented to you is how it happened except I left out this one thing:
This bitch would not shut up about how I was going to meet Michelle Obama.
(ICYDK: The Obamas have a house in Palm Springs. I first heard about a few days before the Nazi president’s inauguration. On occasion, I’ll hear a bar guest talk about how they or someone they know did some sort of job for the Obamas but they stay so quiet I honestly forget they live in the desert.)
Anyhow, Abby invoked Michelle’s Obama’s name probably around 50 times in all the times I’ve communicated with her. In fact, I was starting to regret giving out my information to her during our initial meeting because this bitch kept telling me how I’d get to meet Michelle Obama. Just like that: “Oh, you’re going to meet Michelle Obama!” “Get ready to meet Michelle Obama!”
Emails, texts messages, voice messages, phone calls, Abby would just invoke Michelle Obama’s goddamn name. At first it was weird, then distracting, then bothersome and then it turned infuriating. So much so that I didn’t want to even deal with her or the clinic anymore, although truthfully, I was on the fence. I really do not have time for a startup and I told Abby this as much in an email. I told her I graduate next June, I have crushing student loan debt and I need to focus on grad school and getting higher-paying job. She wrote back saying she completely understood and I should focus on school. The email was a bit patronizing but I walked away from it thinking we were on the same page of me no longer being interested.
And then she came into my job (this was two weeks ago.)
And she had a black woman with her. Her name was Brenda.
Abby introduced us and said that since I was black and Brenda was black, we should talk (I’m serious. Brenda used to work with Abby at her clinics in L.A.)
Brenda is 45 years old and has lived in Crenshaw for 20+ years.
Ok, so for non-black people who lurk or are afraid to comment; this move in and of itself is extremely tone-deaf. Abby was trying to convince Brenda to move to the desert to help with her clinic and Brenda wasn’t feeling it. Abby thought if she brought her into meet me and we talked, it would be enough to convince Brenda to move.
This is not how you do it. Would you move to the desert because some random white person you never met told you it was a cool place to live during non-summer months? No, not unless you already had your eye on living out here.
HOWEVER, there was a silver lining to all this because no one, and I do mean no one, on God’s green Earth looks out for black women the way other black women do. It took about an hour but I got Brenda alone.
Brenda said Abby was full of shit, wasn’t really a doctor and the clinics she opened wouldn’t accept Medi-Cal (the coverage that the vast majority of the demographics Abby is trying to save has.) Now, I do know the reason for that is because the reimbursements for Medi-Cal are very small and/or difficult to get and that’s the extent of my knowledge on the subject. But it still seemed shady.
Oh! Before I got Brenda alone, Abby starts asking me about how I would write a grant proposal for Michelle Obama, which led to me, once again, trying to politely (and professionally because I’m at fucking work) tell Abby I’m not interested. I told her about my student loan debt and she waved it off. “I’ll get you funding. How much is your loan debt?”
It’s not about funding, it’s about securing my future with guarantee work and benefits because of my debt. I am the only responsible for it and I certainly don’t expect it to magically disappear. I need steady income.
Abby says “You know this is why women don’t succeed! Because they say they ‘can’t’. Let me tell you: if I was able to leave my six-figure job and uproot my three kids and start a career change, anyone can.”
At this point, I’m done. Abby goes to the bathroom and Brenda tells me what’s up and then they leave. I get home and bitch to ManWriter that now I have to take time out of my extremely busy work week and professionally draft a letter telling Abby all about herself. Which I did two Saturdays agos. She immediately called me and then sent two emails back, which I didn’t read because, as I told her in email, I’m done with all of this.
I can’t believe how much she said “Michelle Obama.” Enough to where I was cringing when I heard her name. I was venting to a couple of my coworkers (side note: My workplace is 80% Hispanic mostly from Mexico and a few from Colombia) and asked them what the Mexican equivalent would be. They gave me a list but I don’t remember the names, just thinking about how frustrating how common this experience seems to be.