Only women, children, and dogs are loved unconditionally. A man is only loved under the condition that he provides something. I never heard a woman in my life say, “You know, after he got laid off we got so much closer.” I once heard my grandmother say, “A broke man is like a broke hand: you can’t do nothin’ with it.” Even right now, Michelle Obama is looking at Barack, going, “What’s yo plans, nigga?”
— Chris Rock
Anyone who’s been tapped in a layoff knows The Look. The Look is a singular human expression combining pity with cold comfort. It’s the look one receives from soon-to-be former coworkers who, stunned and relieved to hear it’s younotthem, approach your soon-to-be former desk and interrupt as you pack your career into whatever cardboard box you managed to dig up from that weird part of the office you never visited.
The Look shouldn’t be taken as an insult; people can’t help themselves. Scratch that. Neurotypicals can’t help themselves. They want to mind their own business but the tyranny of social convention — even lame social convention — gets the better of them: to not acknowledge the shame of the situation is, against all reason, to make things even more awkward. More awkward, that is, for them. Meanwhile, you just want to find room in your dumb box for your Himalayan salt lamp so you can get on with your life.
The Look didn’t bother me when people started learning that my contract was going to expire. I knew, I sensed, that I would be fine, so I couldn’t mirror their discomfort. I’ll write. I’ll speak. I’ll consult. It’ll be fine. “You seem to be taking this really well,” my friend Jamie remarked. “What’s not to take well?” I asked. “Dude, layoffs are the shit! Hand me that salt lamp.”
I couldn’t say that I was stoked about being let go, but we live in Denver, where there is literally no bad time of year to experience a windfall of unexpected freedom. Mountains, sunshine, half a million craft breweries, legal weed. Besides, another role was available to me somewhere, I just had to find and claim it.
“In the meantime,” I told Jamie, feeling a little sorry that his job had been spared, “I’m fuckin’ mountain biking.”