Double standards..... Or Not.

I feel like I'm constantly trying to tell myself that racism- or at least, prejudice- does not quite manifest itself (often) in this country or around me but I'm sometimes faced with situations that make it hard to keep telling myself this.
I've had a not so pleasant day at work today, nothing serious by any means, but annoying nonetheless.
I feel a need to share it though, just in case.

So where I live is predominantly occupied by Caucasians and, unlike London proper, Africans are few and far between and so it's no surprise that there are just 3 Africans in my workplace.
One of the us is currently off for a long leave and so its just the two of us very Nigerian Africans present.
Biola*, the Yoruba colleague, and I became quite friendly over a period- perhaps stemming from the fact that it was just us in the business or perhaps because we shared a few interests- whatever it was, we simply got friendly.
She is currently expecting her first child and, I have to own this, I have indeed noticed that she does tend to come by my seat often- say three times in a day in recent times- for a few minutes.
My mapped out work requires that I meet particular daily targets so, of course, productivity is not something to be played with.
I do think her wanting to come over is major-ly due to the sometimes riotous emotions, sickness and lethargy that can come over us- especially in the first trimester- you seek out empathetic and sympathetic company, you seek out genuine care- more so when you are in an environment where you know that the very flowery,
"Oh bless! Have you been sick again dear? Oh! That baby isn't letting you off easy...", has undertones to it which mean,
"I can appreciate that she's pregnant but she's a bit of a liability now, isn't she? Going off every minute to be sick in the toilet, she might as well stay home!".

Anyway, earlier, when I resumed work from maternity leave, I applied to have flexible working hours- to enable me have time to spend with my son as I am working full time.
Almost every mum in the business, correct that, EVERY mom in the business has some sort of flexible hour and so it was only sensible that I apply for this.
It wasn't granted and I can't apply for another, by the company's terms, until the expiration of 12 months.
Pretty dicey, eh?
My working hours are 8:30am- 4:30 PM with a 30min lunch break, my colleagues have an hour lunch break and work till 5, and so, because I can barely find any time to catch up on some midday runs ( I'd love to switch my hours to a one hour lunch break and work till five but the window is closed now. I'd chosen my current hours in the hope that I could get flexible hours like other mums here...) and so I take 1 hour lunches with the rest of my colleagues when I have to do some groceries at lunch and work till 5 and so, I make up my hours.
Granted, I know I probably should be asking permission and I know this for a fact but, in my head, I reasoned that with the type of time shift I've got and the fact that 'tis said that I couldn't apply for flexible hours until a year, extra half hour lunches like this will become a common occurrence as it helps me balance out my work-home routine and so I didn't think it made any sense to be taking permission like 2 or 3 days every week- it just seemed incessant to my mind, especially as I was working my hours up, and so I did it regardless. I can accept that my head did not quite reason it correctly, but then, that does happen, doesn't it?

Anyway, on Monday, I needed an extra 30 mins to the one hour and so I asked permission for this, telling the team manager that I had been taking extra 30 mins lunches which was the reason I'd been working till 5 and this because I was trying to meet up with personal business and she granted the request as a one off and did express that I shouldn't be taking these extra time at my discretion (as I already knew) and that if I wanted it to be permanent, it was probably best I apply for flexible hours.
I didn't bother to tell her it hadn't been granted me because she is my age mate, a mom to one child who is up to school age and attends school and has a day off whilst I had a one year old who needs bonding time at home and yet wasn't granted any flexible hours- I didn't want to draw attention to this- no need to rub salt in your wound, eh?
I had taken the news that I couldn't have flexible hours with quiet dignity, I didn't argue it but I also didn't really like to talk about it- as a general rule, I don't really like implying or the implication that there has been an unfairness meted out to me- even when it is glaring- only because it makes one out to seem different in an unflattering way; lowly, not up-to standard.... You get my drift.

Anyway, today, Biola came by my seat and noticing the two managers staring at her with heads together in a discussion, she quietly and promptly dropped the suya-kilish she'd come to give me on my desk and left.
It was a pointed stare, as though to say, "There she goes again, come now, let's fix our gazes upon her so she knows without a doubt that she needs to leave".
Not quite 3 minutes after, I was called in to a meeting room with the two managers.
They had a print out of my one hour lunch breaks, demanding to know why it was taken since I knew I hadn't been entitled to flexible hours. One manager spoke- the general one.
She talked about how she was "giving me a chance" and I went ahead to take it upon myself to take one hour lunches, fully knowing that their was a pile of work to be done and that I would have to make up all the "hours I owe" and secondly, Biola keeps coming to my seat and that I need to be achieving targets and not getting distracted and also, she looked at the team manager, a thing with a phone on the floor?

I first and foremost apologised for taking it upon myself to take the extra 30 minutes break but reiterated the fact that I worked up and have been working up these extra times within the same day, I owe no hours and I have NEVER had a phone on the floor- that was just the height, pulling fibs out of space to justify your annoyance.
She argued that I obviously knew that I could have asked for permission for extra time because I asked on Monday- I corrected that- I had asked for an exra 30 minutes to the one hour I was taking and I wrote that in the email sent to the team manager.
They argued this, team manager denying and general manager insisting that what I'd taken was a one hour lunch and not a one-hour 30 min lunch.
At this point, it was clear they were picking fibs and so I was firm in my insistence, objecting to all the lies, owning the fact that I should not have taken extra time without expressly asking- for which, I was sorry, but refusing to accept every other thing (I didn't bring up the Biola bit because I totally agreed with their assessment), I took a one hour 30 minutes break which I informed the TM about and for which she advised that I probably should apply for flexible hours, I do not owe any hours and saying that I was ever with my phone is a fib and that I have absolutely no reason to lie as I do not lie.
Kpom kwem.
We reached an agreement though but my annoyance came from something entirely different but quite related.
I work in a very family friendly office, meaning that you would find that an entire family worked in the business- sister, brother, husband, wife, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend.
It was baffling to me at first to meet a colleague and then find out that her sister was in the next department and then that sister's boyfriend was just in the department and .... it just was a family affair really.

Now, bringing it closer to home, right in my department are a couple I will just refer to as the "Conjoined Couple".
So conjoined are this couple that they leave me veeerrrry uncomfortable.
I have noticed that the "real couples" who are working in the business still try to maintain a type of cordial albeit friendly air in the workplace- it' just not that in your face.
Not this conjoined couple.
When we have our daily morning meetings, except for days when you can obviously see that they are having a tiff which then informs the very glaring distance they put between themselves, you were sure to find them sitting so close to each other that they almost seem glued.
This would not be a problem if the boy/guy/lad's hands were not either around her waist in an intimate embrace or his hand was in between her legs, grabbing her lap/thigh in what seemed an unconscious act of possession- whatever it was, it just felt so wrong to be around it and not have anyone say a word.

Or was it the distraction experienced when the lass flits over to her lad like a butterfly- whose work space is directly opposite mine- and feigns talking about work related stuff whilst stroking his face and looking adoringly into his eyes and, sometimes, reaching in for a hug and a quick peck on the cheek- you can clearly see that the last place they want to be is in a room with other people in it.
Was it me also or were they both totally unable to go 30 full minutes on whatever it was either one was working on on their systems without getting up to answer to the unheard siren call of the other?
It's quite a show to watch really and, being the consummate observer, I quietly observe and make notes in my head to share with you should a time such as this arises.
Now, no one talks about theirs as it is understood that they are dating, but the once-in-a-while (ok, make that like... thrice/twice-in-a-day) visits from Biola is a problem, ba?
Double standards or not?
We'll get to that.

Anyway, I have decided to not let the wrong things going on around me inform the way I act or my conduct- to a very large extent, the managers were actually right and so, I set out to right the parts that needed to be corrected.
I've advised Biola about the visits and they've been stopped. I'm achieving and ace-ing my targets  (I hadn't been achieving them before now ) and my time shifts are being kept to the letter.
I have decided to do my very best and leave no room for any complaints or for anyone to pick on me.
I will respect myself and, even though every other person could be sly and have their phones on the floor and be sneaky about it, I will never indulge in such an act.
I've decided that this environment is not one where you give anyone- whose original reaction to you is to view you through suspicious eyes- any reason to debase you, rather, to show them, by your conduct, that Africans are a very professional lot who respect themselves and are honest and transparent in dealings.
So I cannot cry "double standards" if there are a few areas where I acknowledge I have been inadequate. It doesn't matter that A isn't achieving targets and is busy locking embraces with their significant other in the workplace, what matters is that I am not A and I need to focus on me- my own targets and my own general disposition and attitude to work.
So, I do not think it is a case of double standards.
I've set out on a different path I know to be the right path and should I still encounter what may seem to be prejudices, then will I be justified to make such claims- just not in this case.

I apologise for my loooonnnnggggg rant but the good bit about getting this off  of my chest and unto this page is the ability to reason whilst writing until a resolution is reached- sometimes I'm not even sure where I'll end, my mind just keeps turning its wheels.... writing is just my own personal theraphy, I tell you....
Anyway, please leave any thoughts you have about this below as I'm eager to hear your thoughts.


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