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families and ladders
2004-06-07

so this weekend i worked two catering gigs to make some extra cash for the orthodontic work i need to get done. while both were high school graduation parties they were very different. for saturdayís gig, all the food was already provided and all i had to do was heat and serve. it was my job to bring everything outside to where the food was being served, top things up when needed and clean up afterward. it went very smoothly given that i was the only one working and at one point there were 78 people. sometimes a family member would help by bringing some stuff in and i didnít have to wear a uniform of any kind. at the end of the night i got to sit down with the family and watch the grad open her presents. the family that i worked for were full of praise for my efforts and some of the guest commented on my tireless work. i enjoyed myself and i got paid well.

sundayís gig was very different. i was working for an established catering company, so i had to wear a uniform (just all black and a maroon apron). all the food had to be prepared and setup. there were 4 of us working including the boss and i was told what to do (which is great for me as i only make decisions for myself when i really have to). the atmosphere was different to the day before. i felt like i was the help at this party. i was talked down to by the party givers. my boss was great though. she had done a bunch of parties for this woman and so knew them quite well. she had told my boss that she did a good job, but had not even looked at the three of us. i didnít ask the other two, who have worked numerous parties, if this was typical. i worked hard and was paid fairly but i think i deserved a little more, if only because was made to feel like the help.

when i told my folks that i was going to be doing some catering to pick up some extra cash they werenít very happy at all. they both thought it such a shame that i have spent so many years at school and earned a phd only to have to take on an extra job to pay for dental work. my mum didnít want me to become a slave and my dad asked if the people i would be serving would know that i was a phd.

while i was growing up my dad used a ladder as a metaphor for bettering yourself and your family. he use to tell me that as an immigrant my mum and he were on the lowest rung of the ladder, but as my sister and i were born and educated in australia we already had an advantage over them and so we had moved up a few rungs on that ladder. our education would provide better and higher paying jobs for us and so we would marry Ďupí and in turn our kids would then move up a few rungs of the ladder.

while his metaphor holds true to some extent, it also has many flaws, but my point is, my dad sees me taking on these extra jobs as me going down the ladder. i tried to explain to him that at the end of it all my teeth would be all beautiful and then my smile would be better and maybe then i could snag a better class of man (or any man for that matter) and skip a few rungs. he told not to be smart.

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