This may sound a little like a Dan Fogelberg song, so bear with me.
I met my old yoga teacher in the grocery store last week. I haven’t seen her in awhile, and we caught up in the produce section, debating which bunch of bananas were the greenest (hers).
She told me that she fired one of her longtime students because the woman was impossible and she could no longer deal with her. As a former yoga teacher, I get it. People can drive you insane on their way to zen. But I didn’t realize it was possible to get fired as a yoga student. I guess everyone should keep this in mind the next time they breathe aggressively, skip deodorant or show up late to class.
As my yoga teacher’s firing of her obnoxious student points out, we’re living in a service economy and the servers now call the shots. I know someone whose cleaning lady fired her. I know someone whose hair stylist stopped doing her hair. I know one local plumber who fails to show up to calls if he drives by a house and doesn’t like the looks of it.
How do I know this? He pulled this stunt on me one Friday shortly before Christmas about five years ago. Though I had tons of things to do, I stayed home and waited for him to come and install a gas line for a new fireplace.
He never bothered to call when he was late, and when I called his dispatcher, I was told he was on his way. Long story short, he never showed up. I later learned that he has a habit of skipping customers if he doesn’t like the job or the house. I’m not sure what this guy’s standards are – my house isn’t exactly a shack – but he lost me as a customer. And I’m quite sure he doesn’t care.
We’re living in a time when we’re thrilled to have people call us back with estimates, and have them show up when they say they will. I’m the service person point person in my neighborhood, referring electricians, plumbers and painters for jobs and vouching for their reliability.
I don’t know how I got this position, but I’ll take it because it means I’m actually getting work done and dealing with quality workers – for the most part.
We gave a handyman a punch list of small jobs two years ago, and he didn’t do any of them. He did take it upon himself to replace a roof on a garden shed that we never use to the tune of $1,000. This item wasn’t on the punch list, but was on his radar, so it got done.
Our lawn guy texted me two weeks ago and said, “I will be over on Thursday to cut the lawn.” I didn’t think the lawn needed it – it was just starting to fill in and look decent. But I hesitated about texting him back and asserting myself. I finally used my husband as my foil: “Steve and I have discussed this at length and don’t think the front or back lawn are ready yet. See u soon,” I wrote, inserting a little smiley emoji to break any tension.
“K,” he wrote back. This was the first time I have challenged him in about 10 years. He pretty much calls the shots on everyone’s lawns and fall cleanups because he’s reasonable and shows up. But there are times when you want a little control, even it’s just about the stupid grass.
I pressed my yoga instructor about her fired student. I tried to guess who had annoyed her to the point of being banned. I could think of plenty of candidates, but she was too gracious to say and honestly, it was none of my business.
What I do know is the fired student must be pretty bad because this yoga teacher is a pro, managing to deal with a room full of personalities and abilities with grace and diplomacy. I was so impressed by her and the changes yoga made in my life that I became a certified yoga instructor.
I was so unimpressed with teaching yoga that I stopped teaching within three years. By the time I quit teaching it, my only goal was earning back the $2,400 in tuition for yoga school. Some people aren’t meant to teach yoga, and I’m one of them.
People who know me laughed when they heard that I taught yoga because I’m a fiercely competitive person. But with its deep breathing, poses and sequencing, yoga mellowed me out.
One of the things I love about yoga is it’s non-competitive. Well, at least in theory. Women are brutal to each other, and yoga is no different. If you instruct them to keep their eyes on their own mats, they will invariably wander to see whether the student in front of them has bat arms or a roll of fat creeping over yoga pants during a deep forward fold. At least this has been my experience.
I don’t know where women’s competitiveness with other women comes from, but I blame my birth order. I’m the second oldest of seven girls born within 11 years. I had an older sister who was always doing things first, stealing my thunder if you will. On the other end were five younger sisters who were smaller, cuter and needed more attention than I did.
So like many seconds in large families – I will not name names in the interest of privacy – I was an inferiority complex waiting to happen. I developed a strong voice and a fiercely competitive drive in sports. As I will tell anyone before any athletic endeavor, I am not going out to lose. I may lose, but it’s not my intent.
It’s not easy being second. By its very definition, it means: coming after the first in time or order/subordinate or inferior in position, rank, or importance. And if that’s not enough, the English language is rife with expressions to make us feel, well, a little less than: second banana, second fiddle, second class citizen, second best, second in command and sloppy, well you get the point.
Someone told me that every second (and successive) child has a complex because they weren’t first going through the birth canal. I’m not sure I buy that, but I do think second kids often feel overshadowed by older siblings, and are driven to make their mark.
Perhaps it’s having to walk in the shadow of an older sibling, to always have someone to be compared with from the moment of birth. Whatever the cause, seconds long for acknowledgement and affirmation, particularly from their parents and older sibling. We love to feel special because, well we just do.
I find it interesting that I am still a “second,” that I married someone five years older than I am who happens to be a first born. I am used to being second, and I’m very good at it. But it doesn’t mean I’m always happy about it. It just means I’m smart enough to keep my mouth shut.