News Flash: I Am Not Your Secretary
Over the years, I have occasionally felt like stopping what I was doing, standing up to gain all attention in the room, and yelling out, “I’m not your f-ing secretary!” If that seems dramatic… well it is, but I can be a dramatic person, and dammit, that’s how I feel.
I can think of a few notable moments where I’ve felt like the secretary.
1) Almost anytime my mom asks me to do something. My mother has what I call “Assistant Syndrome.” She treats most people like they are her assistant, there to do her bidding for things she doesn’t have the time or desire to do. She’s not lazy by any means. My mother is one of the most busy people I know. She would just prefer to keep things from falling through the cracks by giving everyone she’s ever met a to do list. Why learn how to work iTunes when your daughter and son can just load up your music for you? Sounds like a menial job given to an overworked assistant in some summer Primetime TV hit, right?
2) When the husband asks me to do things he should have taken care of himself. We’re working on getting his website up and running now so it will be fully operational by the time of his official CD release party. Helping him is something I like to do, but occasionally he slips into, “why-should-I-even-try-to-do-it-when-I-can-just-ask-the-wife-who-can-do-it-quicker-and-I’m-sure-she-won’t-mind” territory. I have to let him know that it’s not my job to fix the type in the bio I put on his website. Why isn’t it my job? I copied and pasted the bio from his MySpace page, which means the typo is in two places and has been there for years. Also, I’m in the middle of my annual review and don’t have the time to play around with his website fixing mistakes I didn’t make. How long would it take to fix that typo? I don’t know because I’ll be getting my fake work done instead of playing secretary.
3) My brother used to treat me like a secretary when we were younger. Actually, he treated me more like a housewife. I was a sandwich making, clothes ironing, put-this-load-of-clothes-into-the-dryer fool. I don’t really feel like a fool for doing it. Taking care of my brother gave me an appreciation for taking care of men, which in turn gives the husband an appreciation for me taking care of him (he loves my sandwiches). There were moments where it was quite obvious that it was work my brother should have been doing, but why do it when I was there? Starting to see a theme here?
4) Lastly, I really feel like a secretary at work. There are people whose job titles is secretary (or administrative assistant or whatever) who do real secretary work. But they are only in the building 9-5 on Monday through Friday. When they are not here, my office gets treated like an AT&T switchboard. If you want to reach a certain person, why not just call their line? When you call our phone, you are offered a directory to reach people, but I guess that’s too much work. And some people in different departments tend to think that paperwork filing is something we do for everyone. I have had to let more than one person know that it is not my job to retrieve, file, fax, or e-mail paperwork for them. When it’s an occasional request to help someone, I don’t mind. But when it’s every shift, that’s not okay.
As a general rule, I’ll help people out when I know they need it. But when I am treated like a viable replacement for someone’s own work, that’s when I start feeling dramatic and in need of making an announcement to the whole room. I would get strange stares, sure. But it would make me feel better.
Why not just say no when people ask me for help? Believe me I do. I say yes more than no. My rule is to be honest. If they ask, “do you mind helping?”, my answer is usually, “yes, I mind, but I’ll do it anyway since you asked.” If they don’t even ask, but just assign work (I”m looking at you, husband), I usually say no and go back to what I was doing. In all honesty, I don’t mind doing secretary work when I know it’s appreciated. I was just feeling a little vent-y.