I’m not being vulgar; that is what everyone’s talking about thanks to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. By now you’ve probably heard snippets from the recording released Oct. 7 of Trump boasting to now suspended Today Show host Billy Bush how fame meant he could do anything he liked to women.
It’s an interesting conversation. Classy and quite matter-of-fact in delivery. I’m not at all serious – about the classy part. Though I must say its release is well timed considering we’re only a few weeks out from the November election.
But I’m not here to talk politics. Instead, I’d like to tell you a story. I was on the train speculating on whether the Donald had finally cooked his goose – you’re always on the train, girl! Well, yeah. I gotta get to work – and an older woman who works in HR in health care who I see now and then shared this tale with me. This is paraphrased because I didn’t record our conversation:
“When I was young I had a boss who was a grabber. He was a pig all the way around, actually. Always leering and wiggling his eyebrows and leaning way too close, you know the type. He developed a special tendre for me. I don’t know what I did to spark his attention, but for a while he made my work life miserable. I mean, I had two emotions for months, crying or pissed the hell off.
“I wanted to complain, but my mother told me to just deal with it. That if I told anyone about it, it would backfire on me. I’d get a bad reputation, and any chances I’d have for advancement would be gone because I’d be labeled a troublemaker. So, I bit my tongue and endured, but it turned me into a nervous wreck. After a few months of trying and failing to dodge this jerk, I was a mess.
“I couldn’t sleep so my face was a mess, and I was trying not to attract his attention, so I started dressing down. I even tried not to do my hair, and then, get this, I was called into HR about my appearance!
“This stupid woman sat there and chastised me about letting myself go, and how I shouldn’t look any different than I did when I first started.
“Your attire then was appropriate,” she told me.
I burst out laughing. “Appropriate?” I asked her. “What the hell would this company know about appropriate? You wanna know why I look like hell, lady? Because I’m trying not to attract the attention of this f— pervert you have as my boss!”
She was appalled, of course, and she apologized. “Why didn’t you say something sooner? We’ve been monitoring his behavior. You’re not the first woman who’s complained. He’s already on a performance plan. Now we can let him go.”
And not a week later, I had a new supervisor. A lady who was tough, but fair, and didn’t give too craps about my fabulous tits or the fit of my skirts.”
“Man,” I said, shaking my head. “That is crazy.”
“I’m not done,” this lady told me.
My brows met my hairline, and I waited with bated breath.
“Many, many years later that fool crossed my path again. He was looking for a job, and as a senior manager I was in on the interview process. I thought the name looked familiar, but I didn’t want to make any assumptions. But when I came into the room, there he was, fatter, grosser and much worse for wear. Looking at his patchy resume I deduced he hadn’t had much luck in his career after he was let go for being a lecher.”
“Did he recognize you?” I asked, laughing.
“Not at first. I played it cool, but I caught him looking at me a few times. Then after the interview, he stopped me and asked if we’d met before. I said, ‘Why yes. I used to work for you. I’m surprised you don’t remember, blah, blah, blah.’ The look on his face, girl!”
“Revenge is sweet,” I breathed, shaking my head in awe.
Not quite. A better revenge would have been if she could have cussed his rude butt out all those years ago, for making her life hell on the job and forcing her to endure his pathetic Casanova bullcrap. But you know, they say it is a dish best served cold.
Anyway, I asked her about the actual interview.
“You kept quiet about your prior relationship. There was some implicit bias there, no? He could have tried to cause trouble later.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “But for all I knew he could have changed. I interviewed him as thoroughly as I would have any other potential team member. He wasn’t qualified. He was as big a windbag now as he was then. And I was smart because I let the peer with whom I did the joint interview offer her feedback first in front of my own supervisor. Then I added my two cents, which I kept factual and professional.”
“CYA for today.”
She laughed. “Yeah, I guess so. But the bottom line is he wasn’t qualified. Nor would I have felt comfortable having him around the predominantly female staff I manage.”
So, how’s that for a cautionary tale?
I’ve had to check myself a time or two about putting a hand on a male coworkers’ arm or hand. Not because anyone’s ever complained, or because I’m trying anything sexual, but because it’s just not appropriate. It’s natural to touch someone casually with whom you enjoy spending time. But that’s a big no-no on the job. A no-no-no-no-no.
I remember one time I spilled wine down the front of a male coworkers’ shirt at a company gathering. I did my thing with club soda, and he was good humored about it. But when I recounted the tale later to a friend, she was like, “whoah. You should not have tried to scrub out the stain yourself, fool! You can’t be touching all up on your coworker’s chest.”
And she was right! I wasn’t leering or commenting on his pecs, but it was still out of line.
So, the moral of these tales? Be careful whose bits and bobs you’re grabbing without permission. If you wanna pet something, get a dog.
Kellye Whitney is the associate editorial director for Workforce. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.