Friday Chatting About Doing, Or Not Doing, What’s “Mandatory”

Nicole: Happy Friday to you! This has felt like the longest week, probably because I was traveling all weekend so I didn’t really have a break. How about you?

Ester: Yes, totally. I was disoriented all week and never had any idea what day it was. Until today, because we’re doing a chat. That means it must be Friday.

Nicole: I have all of these as reminders on my calendar, otherwise I would always forget that Thursday means it’s time to Do 1 Thing and Friday means it’s time to chat.

Ester: I should probably just do that too! But yeah, I too was traveling from Friday through Monday — while pregnant and with a toddler — and it knocked me out. I went to bed last night at about 9:00 PM because I was still recovering.

Nicole: I’ve been going to bed about an hour early every night too, and then of course my body is like, “why can’t we do this every night?” and I’m all, “I don’t know, sometimes I like being awake more than being asleep I guess?” and then my body is like, “SERIOUSLY NO YOU DON’T.”

Ester: Ha! You’ve had great conversations with yourself this week. Right now I’d say that being asleep > being awake. I mean, what’s so great about being awake? I dreamed the other night that I was being wooed by Peter Dinklage. He was a great kisser. In my real life, I have to deal with boring and yet stressful shit like, “How much will a twenty-week anatomy scan cost me, and is it worth it?”

Nicole: Embarrassing fact: before I moved to Los Angeles I Googled whether Peter Dinklage was married. Just … you know, in case I met him.

Ester: AMAZING. Is he??

Nicole: Yes! Also a vegetarian.

Ester: No wonder he’s a good kisser. I feel like men who aren’t traditionally masculine — like, they don’t scarf down red meat and eggs like Gaston every morning — have to try harder and so do better.

Nicole: Um, nothing is not masculine about BRAINS. That sentence doesn’t make a lot of sense, but you know what I mean.

Anyway. Is the 20-week anatomy scan worth it? Have you decided? I saw you got a lot of comments.

Ester: Yes, our readers do not lack for opinions. BLESS YOUR HEARTS, READERS. No, really, I enjoy the feedback; keep it coming.

Anyway, first the midwife told me it’s not mandatory, just very useful. Then I called the lab and got a very confusing answer from the lady in charge of billing. Surprise surprise, there isn’t a standard price — they charge different fees to different insurance companies for the same procedure. The lady, when pressed, gave me a ballpark figure of $230 of which I would probably pay most or all. (“Maybe you’ve already met your deductible!” she said cheerily. I held myself back from saying something profane.)

But, she said, if I paid without going through insurance, it would indeed be more expensive, more like $315. That’s settled, at least.

Odds are, I’ll do it. I have to talk to Ben, of course, and see what he thinks, but $230 doesn’t seem that bad for something the midwife says can be very useful. Maybe I’m jaundiced at this point; I was scared it was going to be much more.

Nicole: I feel like the word “mandatory” is really interesting here because, as our commenters noted, nothing is mandatory — but you also hear all about these things like “pregnant woman arrested for taking half a Valium” and it makes you feel like, during pregnancy, certain things are mandatory or else you might get into legal trouble or something. This is from the point of view of a person who has never been pregnant, of course.

Ester: Totally. Also, I can’t believe you’re not making that up. But to make the conversation more general, are there “mandatory” things you’ve elected not to do in your life? How did those decisions turn out?

Nicole: Medically, there are a handful of follow-up appointments that I’ve just never scheduled because I did not want to pay for them. When I got hit by the car and went to the walk-in clinic, they were all “you might want to come back in two weeks,” and I was all “and I might not.” Same with the time they thought I had mono a few years ago, and then they decided I didn’t have mono, and by then I was like $800 down and I was just “no more checkups, I’m feeling better.”

Ester: Any negative repercussions?

Nicole: None that I’m aware of. At my last Well Woman exam, the doctor said I looked perfectly healthy to him. I feel fine. It’s weird to have to balance your own feelings against what the medical industry says you should do, and then to have to weigh all of that against the cost of what they say you should do.

Ester: MMHMM. And yet, if the medical system wants us to trust it when it says, “You should probably do [X],” it should make an effort to be more transparent about what [X] will cost and whether [X] is truly necessary.

Even in the non-medical world, though, I’ve had some interesting adventures not doing the “mandatory” thing. It hasn’t happened often, since I’m such a rule-follower good-girl type in my ordinary life, but every once in a while I’ve decided to stray from the path. At the end of high school, after cultivating an extensive reputation as a reliable Honors student yadda yadda, I did two things that don’t make a lot of sense in retrospect and didn’t even make a lot of sense at the time: I didn’t hand in end-of-term projects in two different classes. I just didn’t do the assignments and then waited to see what would happen.

In both cases: Nothing. I got an A- minus in one class and the teacher never even brought up the fact that I hadn’t handed in my final paper. In the other class, the teacher pulled me aside, told me she was so sorry but that she must have lost my assignment; she knew she had seen it but now she couldn’t find it. She told me she was giving me an A. And I did the only proper thing, which was to say, “Thanks.”

Nicole: Ester, that is the BEST STORY EVER. I got a few “smart kid rule follower” perks in high school, but never anything like that. I wonder if my teachers would have assumed the same thing; that I must have turned it in, because I always turn things in.

I never skipped my assignments, but I did skip pretty much an entire college class. I just came in at the end and aced the final.

Ester: And it was OK?

Nicole: Totally okay. Of course I’ve heard college has gotten pickier about attendance since then. Can students still get away with that?

Ester: I wonder. Maybe kids who are like we were can. It’s somewhere between #privilege / luck and cultivating the kind of reputation which can then serve you well even if you don’t live up to it — at least once.

Nicole: Well, it’s a total workplace thing too. You do the work of following all the rules at the beginning and you can figure out how to bend them later. Or how to negotiate for what you want, or whatever.

Ester: I feel like that’s just generally good life advice. Make as good an impression as possible in the early days. Make yourself indispensable, if possible. And then, once people have tagged you mentally as a person they don’t have to worry about, you can relax a bit and even, as you say, bend the rules.

Nicole: Because nothing is mandatory. Showing up on time isn’t necessarily mandatory.

Ester: Oh my god, it’s amazing what people can get away with, once they’re filed away in their superiors’ minds in the right folder. And the flip side can be true too. At one job, I arrived ten to fifteen minutes early every morning, hoping to make a good impression. Then, on my evaluation, I looked at “Punctuality,” and saw it was just marked, “Fine.” I realized that no one noticed I was there early because no one else was there early. No one was there to pay attention!

After that, I adjusted my efforts to be “good” in visible ways that would count more.

Nicole: This is another perk that is totally going to disappear with the gig economy, though. Right? Because when you’re using an app and not a supervisor, you can’t… like, the app doesn’t care about your reputation, and the app doesn’t give special treatment.

Ester: Another reason I doubt I would do well in a gig economy. I like trying to build a reputation. That’s why I work with the same editors, when possible. Starting from scratch with each project seems so exhausting.

Nicole: I’ve done the thing where your usual editor goes on vacation and you get an interim editor, and suddenly you’re getting all of these new revision requests from this new editor, and you’re like “but don’t you know I’m already great?”

Ester: Oh yes. At one site I won’t name, the senior editor kept leaving. Finally I was dealing with my 3rd in six months. All the credibility I had built up — gone. On the other hand, I think my Uber rating and my AirBnB ratings are still solid?

Nicole: Hey, the best way to reward someone in today’s economy is to give them five stars. It’s funny how we’re making such a fuss over Peeple when Peeple is already here.


Is anyone going to get that joke? WHO CARES. You all have your fixed opinions about me by now, right? Right.

Nicole: It’s all about your reputation!