Here Comes the Bribe

Howdy-do, I’m Mr. Zeitgeist. Here, shake. Ah, firm grim. Short fingernails. You must be a lesbian.

Don’t blush. Mr. Zeitgeist keeps up with the times. He notices the sensible shoes, the boyish bob. Mr. Zeitgeist sees you nervously hitching up your pantyhose, and knows you’re here for a job interview, right? Mr. Zeitgeist may be a straight, white guy, but he’s one of the good ones. Mr. Zeitgeist, he’s a liberal, OK?

Relax. Trust is essential. We here at Zeitgeist Multinational are open to hiring just about anybody, you included. Now, where’s that wage scale? Oh, yeah: You, as a native English speaker with two years of community college, would work 8.5 hours a day, five days a week, at $14.50 an hour. But that means unpaid overtime and a dress code that says, “Though I Prefer Women, I Have No Interest in Being a Man,” OK? Now, what are your qualifications?

Are you punctual? Work hard? Perky under pressure? Know Microsoft Word? Good listener? Fun at parties? Thrifty? Would you be able, say, on our salary, to pay for food, clothes, rent, utilities, transportation, and still have enough disposable income left to bankroll a physician-assisted suicide after your social security runs out? Are you free of any disease or latent virus that might prevent you from accepting a health plan that would cover hospital stays between 1:45 and 2:30 a.m., every other Thursday during a meteor shower?

Yes, yes, and yes, you say? Those are mighty good qualifications, Ms. Lesbian. I am loving this, OK? By the way. Do you hate men?

Relax. Trust is essential. You and I know, Ms. Lesbian, that the world is full of women. Our records show that women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poor, and that 66 percent of the labor women perform is unpaid. Then there’s the wife beating, the sexual slavery, yadda yadda. This represents a lot of unexpressed anger, Ms. Lesbian. So you can see that if Mr. Zeitgeist hires a woman to type, answer phones, and meet John Q. Public, it’s extremely important that she not hate men. Especially if she’s a lesbian, OK?

If you were heterosexual, we’d cut you some slack. For marrying a man, or for waiting decades for the right guy to come along, a straight woman gets to say out loud: “Men are scum. They should all die.” Mr. Zeitgeist figures that’s groovy, see, because she’s paying her dues. But you, Ms. Lesbian. If YOU ever said anything like that, well. Mr. Zeitgeist shudders to think…

That reminds me, in case of emergency, whom do we call? Is this someone your “partner,” Ms. Lesbian? Is this a girlfriend? Is there some woman who holds you when there’s pain, who sees you when you come? Is there a soul in a female body whom you’ve loved long and hard enough to make your life with her? Would you like this person to be on your health plan? Would you like to marry her? Would you two like to be buried in twin plots along the banks of Spoon River?

Yes, yes, yes? That’s cute. Relax, Ms. Lesbian. Don’t take offense. Trust.

We liberals tend to hate the people who make us feel guilty. So it’s not in your interest to talk equal rights, here, OK? I won’t smack you on the bottom at the water fountain. I won’t talk about how ugly the women around here are, or my problem with premature ejaculation. I won’t expect you to run out on your lunch break and buy my wife something nice from me on her birthday, OK? Mr. Zeitgeist can get his own coffee, thank you. Oh, and you and your girlfriend are welcome to get a civil union.

Feeling relieved? Grateful? Good. I’ll tell you a secret, Ms. Lesbian. The trick with Mr. Zeitgeist is to believe deep down, that you and he are equals, see, you’re pals. For even with his so-called straight, white, male “privilege,” Mr. Zeitgeist is just as much society’s victim as you are.

I’m normal, you see. I make sacrifices to be normal. Mr. Zeitgeist keeps America safe with his unhappiness. Respect that, Ms. Lesbian. You may want normalcy; you may want to be married—but where’s the man, Ms. Lesbian?

See, Mr. Zeitgeist can’t be normal unless you are a pervert. Relax. Trust. And know that if you even once bring up the fact that Mr. Zeitgeist has more social clout than you do, Mr. Zeitgeist—who has learned to cry and express feelings—can make you appear very wrong, very strident.

You see what’s at stake, don’t you? What you have to lose? Mr. Zeitgeist says: fill out this form. Mr. Zeitgeist says: sit up and act pleasant. Mr. Zeitgeist says: type. Now, go get married. Ha— gotcha! Mr. Zeitgeist didn’t say to do that.

I’m glad you see that was a joke, hon. Because there are 973—and counting — applicants for this job, and Mr. Zeitgeist, he can smell fear. Come here, Ms. Lesbian. Closer. I’m sniffing. Look into my eyes. Look deep. Tell Mr. Zeitgeist exactly what you see there. Answer correctly, Ms. Lesbian, and I will give you this job. OK?

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