I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to the farm workshare I’m doing. A good half the time you see me out there you can count on it that I am filled with a low-grade hate – or at least a smoldering, unresolved irritation – as I attempt to, say, dig a furrow for peas while my child cries and whines and wanders sadly through small seedlings where I then have to drop my hoe and run over to him and try to find some way to entertain him (in a field of dirt) so I can get back to doing my work and other workers are asking, “Awwww… Is he not feeling good?” and I’m thinking, “This is a lame and boring fucking morning for a two-year old!”… um, yeah – just for instance, that’s something that irritates me. Anyway, I am somewhat relieved to find that, although in so many ways I don’t seem to fit in with my chosen part time occupation, at least the leadership is solid. The farmers running the show know what they are doing (for the most part), they teach the ignoramuses (me) well, and they are completely understanding regarding the limitations of workers with young ‘uns (again, me).
It occurred to me today that there may be other benefits – besides the challenge of doing something you dislike and are no good at, and the free vegetables – to my dirt-scrabbling vocation: Men. It took several weeks for this to occur to me because there are three distinct and limited species of men where I work. One: the patriarch running the farm and his boychild; two: gentle, California-transplanted silverbacks in clogs and sunhats (I’m not kidding, this is an actual species); and three: the intern boys. The two interns are hard-working, ablebodied, and friendly (it’s early in the season yet, cynicism hasn’t set in) so they provide a bit of a boost to our work ethic (they are the ones to get assigned the really tough stuff, nail shit together for whatever reason, or drive any kind of land-mashing motorized equipment) and offset a largely female staff. As for any sexual titillation to be had, this is a dubious concept at best, the possibility of which is marginally improved by the adrenaline from hard work outdoors, caffeine-withdrawal delirium (the farm houses only herbal tea), and minor sunstroke. Today as we had our morning break one of these boys* fanned his shirt over his sweating face as he delivered an address to the group and I noticed with a minor interest that he had one of those work-hardened bodies – you know, when you can see the muscles in the area beneath his chest and above his groin (check on it, folks – how many guys you know can you say that about?). I confess, I had a moment of nostalgia. His physique, imperfect as it was, nevertheless told a story of a young(ish) man who still holds down a labor job happily, while the annihilating forces of beer, marriage, (your wife’s) rich food, (your wife’s) pregnancies, and TV are slight or nonexistent influences.
Why would I even notice a man I work with, let alone spend a (brief) moment contemplating him as so much beefcake? Maybe it’s because the only men I ever talk to are A. related to me by blood or marriage, or B. related to my girlfriends by marriage (believe me, you have to be careful on that last count). Getting an eyeful at the office isn’t a bad thing, especially if you haven’t had an office in years. At any rate, not that long ago I was working fulltime surrounded by men in a blue collar environment: men of all ages, all sizes, and a vast variety of lewdness, body hair, and personal hygiene. Men married, single, or in the process of divorce misogynism (curiously concomitant with merciless sexual advances toward their sole female crew member). I guess there’s a part of me that miss those days, and there’s a large part of me that misses them for the XY chromosomes.
I think I had a larger point here, one that got lost in all the mental sexual harassment of an innocent young man. Whoops!
* I have finally arrived at the age where I can reasonably start referring to many males I run across as “boys”. I am 29, and although one of the “boys” at the farm is, I believe, slightly older than me, the term still applies. What makes him a boy? For one thing, he is most likely unmarried, has no children, hasn’t settled down in any way that term means traditionally (living in a tent on a farmstead doesn’t count), whereas in the recent five years I have trucked many of those roads, much to my personal transformation. And frankly, I have waited long to be the type of woman who makes sexually aggressive or knowing comments about men, referring to them in a quasi-maternal manner and getting a chuckle out of it. Now that I’m even close to an age where this makes sense, I relish the practice.