Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 10-Pound Ribbon

There's a new blue ribbon in my Weight Watchers kit, the kind of ribbon a prize pig gets at a county fair. "I LOST 10 POUNDS," it proclaims in bold gold lettering. The 10 is inside a gold star.

Stupid ribbon. What am I going to do with a ribbon? Am I going to pin it on my shirt and wear it to work today? (Does the fat lady really want to draw more attention to herself by increasing the resemblance to Babe?) I will probably wind up taping it to the fridge door. Then, every time I think about eating something I shouldn't, I'll see that ribbon and think twice. Still, it's just a dumb ribbon. So why did I care so much when I almost didn't get it?

Last night I went to my Weight Watchers meeting, my third one, and I was a little disappointed when I only lost one and a half pounds. Yes, it's still a loss but, compared to the nine and a half pounds from last week it seemed a minor accomplishment. "Oh, only one and a half pounds?" I said to the lady weighing me. She made a face at me when she was filling in my information. "You've lost 11 pounds in three weeks," she snapped. "That sounds like a pretty amazing weight loss to me."

There are all kinds of rewards at WW; things like star stickers and ribbons and key chains. I can't even tell you what they are because I'm new and I haven't figured it all out yet. At the end of each meeting the leader goes through the reports from everybody's weigh-ins and announces milestones like who has reached their goal; who has lost 5% of their body weight; and who has lost 10 pounds. I thought, I've lost 10 pounds, and waited for the leader to call my name.

She never did call my name. She called many other women's names, but mine wasn't among them.

I felt ignored. Unimportant. And kind of mad, too. I asked the woman behind me, "Did you get that for losing 10 pounds in one week?" She shook her head. "No, it's just for 10 pounds, period." So I stuck up my hand and when the leader called on me I said, with some embarrassment, "So you get a ribbon when you lose 10 pounds?" She said yes. Then I said, "I lost 10 pounds. Actually I lost 11 pounds." And she made a big fuss and came over and gave me a ribbon and I felt my face go red, but in a good way. The leader then proceeded to say that when we reach a milestone we have to let the ladies at weigh-in know so they can write our names down on the sheet and claim our rewards. "You have to ask," the leader said. "You've earned it. You deserve it. Make sure you ask."

Funny how life is. Yesterday I had a similar thing happen at work. Our company is launching a brand new newspaper and I was asked to design it. The whole newspaper. Exciting, right? I know! I have designed an entire newspaper once before and it was the most fun I ever had in my job. And quite an honour. To me it is a sign of respect that I was asked to perform such an important function. I'm also aware that I'm saving the company big money. Once upon a time, a long time ago in a land far away, I worked in the big city for a national medical magazine. When it was time to have the publication redesigned, the company paid half a million dollars for a big-name designer and his crew do the work. That man has designed some of the most prestigious publications in the world. Now, I don't even pretend to produce the kind of work he does and my stuff isn't even close to being worthy of that kind of dough. Still, I produced a good-looking style for the newspaper, a style that was accepted by my superiors with nothing but praise, for only the cost of my regular wage. In other words, cheap!

Today our first issue goes to press so yesterday was all about getting down to the nitty gritty. Part of what I did yesterday was design a two-page spread outlining the 'who we are' part of the paper. The  editor had given me a rudimentary map: he wanted pictures of the big wigs here and pictures of the not so big wigs there, and he divided the paper into three departments: sales, editorial and distribution. There was no composing department. No recognition of my work as the designer and as the ongoing person who puts pages together; no recognition of any of the production team, except for our manager. I felt slighted, to say the least.

Composing is usually the least prestigious part of most newspapers. Composing and distribution. We're the magic elves who make the thing look pretty, who make sure it gets to the press and the ones who deliver it to your mailbox. We don't sell advertising and bring the money in. We don't have the celebrity caché of the reporters, who rub elbows with the big wigs in town. We just hunker down and do our jobs and basically get ignored by everyone else. If we screw up we sure hear about it; but there is no morale-boosting bonuses or recognition. We just toil away in the salt mines and dream about pats on the back.

Last week was kind of bizzare, though. Last week we had a union vote at work. The lines of warfare were evenly distributed between advertising, which is generally company-oriented, and editorial, which is generally union-oriented. The wild card in the mix was production. Nobody knew how we were going to vote. Suddenly we were the most popular kids on the block. People in editorial who barely said good morning to us were suddenly greeting us with smiles at the back door. The company head honcho was sending us e-mails saying "Dear Colleagues" beseeching us to consider not voting for the union. We felt uncomfortable but very popular. I actually took the opportunity to send an e-mail to the head honcho, pointing out that we were generally ignored by the company and perhaps the occasional pat on the back or including us more often as part of the team would be a good idea. I got a great response to the e-mail. I thought my message got through.

And then yesterday. No acknowledgement whatsoever of the part composing plays in the new newspaper. I wondered how to react. Should I just ignore the situation? Should I demand that pat on the back, that blue "I lost 10 pounds" ribbon?

Hell yes. I earned it. I deserve it. I am just as important as anybody else. Every time I allow myself to be treated like a doormat reinforces the idea that it's okay to treat me as a doormat. It's hard to ask for recognition. One most levels I believe good work should stand on its own merits; that my own satisfaction is enough – who cares what someone else thinks? But deep in my heart of hearts I am still that child who seeks approval from her parents, from her teacher, from everyone.

It's just a stupid ribbon.

But it's mine.


  1. I _loved_ this, Cathy. And again I'm in awe of your skill as a writer. Somehow you manage to be funny, vulnerable, wise and kick-ass, all at the same time. Congratulations on your accomplishments, and especially for making sure you received the recognition you deserved.

  2. Recognition just isn't quite the same when YOU have to point out that you deserve it, is it? Good for you for sticking up for yourself anyway, and a blue ribbon/gold medal/feather-in-yer-cap for LOTMR!

  3. Good for you. Sometimes you need to say look at me. It's tough to have your hard work overlooked.

    You know, the first thing I notice about a newspaper is how it is all put together. I can honestly say I have avoided papers/magazines because I didn't like the layout. I think your job is super important. So there.

  4. Absolutely your work on that rag should be noted and appreciated.....and if you just sit there silently and do nothing about it then nothing will be done about it. Speak up...speak out...include your department in the list of contributors and if anything is said just look surprised and say, "Oh, I thought it was just an oversight that we weren't included. Did you really INTEND to slight us that way?"

  5. Hey, I'm dieting right now too! Ten pounds is a HUGE deal. That's like eating an apple instead of a candy bar for months. Ten pounds is like 10,000 healthy decisions. Congrats. And I agree with Laurita, your new job is a BFD too. Super proud of you. Thank you for sharing with us.

  6. You've inspired me, Cathy. Not just on the healthy eating/making choices thing, but on speaking up. This has to be one of your best posts - ever.

    10 pounds IS a huge deal. So is composing and layout. Stick to your guns and be squeaky when no one else is. Peace...

  7. Cathy, I've had a similar experience on the job. I was responsible for making the products that went to the photographers for the promotional materials and advertisements for the company I worked for. This I did In Addition to my regular duties, meaning that those days were super stressful and long. I never received so much as a thank you for this. Here's how I feel about it: they can take their lack of gratitude as well as their thank yous and shove it. Screw politely asking for what is yours. Sign up for the union!

  8. Can you trade in the Blue Ribbon for a slice of choco cake or something? Maybe you should ask...

    (Congrats, by the way, on being you.)

  9. "You have to ask," the leader said. "You've earned it. You deserve it. Make sure you ask."

    I love this, it's so true.

    Well done on your success!

  10. I like Mark's comment...'the man' should learn how to thank the little people for a job well done. It means A LOT more when you don't have to ask for it (I'm talking about recognition, of course...).

    Congrats on the 10lb ribbon thingy. Proud of you. Putting it on the fridge is a great idea. Reward yourself! Here's a Slab O' Cheesecake...ER,...I mean, here's a nice bowl of fresh fruit.

  11. Congratulations on the 11 lbs weight loss! (and allowing yourself to get the recognition for it!) That, took a lot of hard work on your part.

    How exciting that you got to design the layout of a newspaper! I did have to chuckle about your email to the head honcho - way to stand up and speak out!

  12. You know, I think I'd wear a weight loss ribbon. Especially if it was garish.

  13. You are a ROCKSTAR Cathy! I loved this post, and I love that you wanted that ribbon--even if you just wanted to stick in the proverbial "Man"s ass! Will you please move to WA state so we can be sisters?? ;) Hang in there and know that you ROCK!

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