|Flock of Beards by Brooke Weeber|
I wish I could say that deciding to move was easy. But, as my note to a friend earlier this week implied, it was not. (Note summary: I would stay longer for Game of Thrones-ing, but it's probably best I can't, since I might start crying and refuse to leaaaaaaaaaaave.)* But what I wanted to hit on was actually the other problems that have cropped up since moving. Namely, the apparent brain drain in the area where we moved that seems to be making my husband Patrick have a particularly hard time. We moved from Richmond-the-Portland-of-the-South to a much smaller city that is not (as RVA is) a super tattooed thirty-something hipster city. Roanoke was voted the Best Retirement City.* The only mopeds I see are the ones I assume people have out of financial necessity, rather than Cool Factor. Virginia Tech is not that far away, but it seems graduates flee the area as a whole, and so...here's how it boils down:
- There's not a huge pool of college grads seeking jobs (much less a guy working on a graduate degree like he is), which is both good and bad; good in that there's less competition, but bad in that the competition there is, is for way fewer jobs.
- My husband's adorable beardy-tattooed self suddenly stands out way more, and in an area that's less populated with these types, it's not the good kind of standing out; it's the "gets interviews, but no offers" types. Even a local pizza delivery place has a policy about not hiring people with facial hair.
- The jobs that are available are either radically low-wage/low-skill so that even when he's interviewed, it seems he's too educated for them to think he'll stick around.
The longer his unemployment continues (he's trying hard, make no mistake) the worse I feel, since after all, this was all my idea in the first place (which we then made a joint decision about, and so really it's not something I can take all the blame for, etc etc). But it feels pretty bad when your husband who loves his beard and long hair (he was once offered money by MTV to cut it when they came to VCU -- he refused, even as they offered more and more)...sigh saying he hates to think he'll have to change his appearance to get the offers that always seem right on the tip of every employer's tongue. I think it sucks particularly hard because it's never been a problem before -- and while the pizza delivery place shakes their heads, Patrick's dad who worked for the Pentagon had/has long hair, making the stipulation bite all the more.
Then there's the social stigma of me being the "breadwinner" while my husband cooks and cleans and takes care of the dogs. That was the thing that upset him the most about leaving his job: the fact that he'd feel judged for something that he did *because he's a good partner*. For us, it makes sense for him to take on some of the chores that before we shared equally, and it is kind of kick-ass to get home each night to a delicious homemade pot pie, or a new soup recipe he's trying out. But it's kind of weird and I try to thank him all. the. time. for doing the chores I always particularly hated tackling, because even though I know I'm the only one working and it makes sense if he's home for him to do them....it still feels unfair of me, anti-egalitarian, sometimes. Like I'm being the 50's dad or something. It also means I have a lot riding on *me* to keep us afloat and okay -- I was the "head" breadwinner before, but more than ever now I'm truly the one it all depends on right now. It feels...empowering, but I'd also very much like for my husband to join the earning side again. ;)
I know complaining isn't really that interesting to read when there aren't any solutions to the problem to relay. We're lucky this was self-imposed (though we often gripe that it'd be great if this were an opportunity for him to be a stay-at-home parent or something that most people don't get the financial chance to take, but that's a small gripe indeed). We're lucky he has a solid resume. We're lucky he's gotten about ten interviews so far (even though none have led to offers). It has to happen eventually, right? *bites nails*
I guess my main point is: damn, it sucks to leave a college city full of hipsters for a non-college city when you very obviously stand out (pointy beard, long wavy hair) because people make these snap judgements (for him, I'm sure it's "pot head" -- even though he doesn't smoke anything, at all, I'm not even kidding I know he looks like he time-warped here from Seattle in the 90's but it's TRUE). Is this a sudden "hey conforming is great, you should do it, hipsters!" post? I don't know yet. I guess we'll see what happens. I'm optimistic that eventually he'll find people who don't look at him and say "lazy grunge hippie" -- he's smart and has a solid work history (dude was sick a grand total of 4 times in 5 years at his last job) and he's NICE, dangit. I'm sure this is just one of those "be patient" situations. I guess it doesn't help that I want him to be happy in whatever job he gets too. A lot to hope for these days, I know!
I guess the lesson here could be, for now: don't underestimate the cultural climate and its impact on job-searching, in addition to the general economy when you're thinking of moving there with someone else who may arrive needing a job.
Roanoke: please start a beardy smart guy....store. Or something.
So, dear reader, here's a question: what have YOU done to stand out when applying online for things? Or in person? How about in a semi-rural or small city situation where maybe you were unusual in some way?
*I truly believe that once we're settled here a bit more, living in a place that is a bit bigger so we're less cramped, and in general just feeling more at-home, that we will be happy here. But it's a cultural adjustment.
*Not that I could just go back. Other people live in the house I own. And then neither of us would be employed. So, not happening. Also, I love my job. The whole "not dreading going into work/coming home griping and pissed off" situation rocks hard-freaking-core.
Related reading (aka, what I have on hold at the library, one of the few househusbandry books I found immediately that didn't sound insulting): One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Polyamory, Househusbandry,Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love -- Rebecca Walker