As a woman in her 50’s, I’ve found that I am the rare bird that has never suffered sexual harassment in the work place, or have I?
Over the last six months, with all of the women coming forward to say #MeToo, I have searched hard and fast through the recesses of my memory to recall if I had been sexually harassed. When I couldn’t recall ever being intimidated or made afraid of losing my job I thought, “was I the victim of sexual misconduct but didn’t recognize it as such?” And if this was the case, can you call it sexual “harassment”?
In my 30’s and 40’s I had female supervisors and started my own business, so my window to suffer such an occurence was limited to only three possibilities. My first job was when I was 15 years old where I worked with my mom teaching children’s dance classes for the Parks and Recreation Department for a city in Southern California. One could say I was protected by my mom, but the conducts of both of my male supervisors were completely professional and beyond reproach. The next two places of employment my male supervisors were known to be “difficult” to work for and very “unprofessional”. Nonetheless, I didn’t mind either of them. When faced with their “teasing” and “inappropriate” behavior, I stood up to them, and in some instances, I put them in their place. I would love to say I was brave or on a mission to blaze new territory for all women, but the truth of the matter was, I am the product of a little sister being teased mercilessly by an older brother. What I thought was sibling torcher was actually the perfect preparation for standing up to older men in a position of authority!
I was about 19 years old, working the front desk for a large fitness chain when the sales manager walked up to me and said “Your butt cheeks are like two perfect butter balls”. I distinctly remember this because I understood it to mean I had a big butt (this was long before JLO or Kim Kardashian made having a “big butt” a good thing). So I whipped around and said, “And your belly is like a perfect beer keg” while flashing my best F#CK YOU smile to let him know I could take a joke as well as anyone. I honestly thought we were just slinging insults at each other the way my brother and I did at the dinner table!
In the end, this manager was fired and the gym was sued by another front desk receptionist, AKA “front desk girl”, for sexual harassment.
I was in my late 20’s, working as a fitness manager at an independently owned gym, when the owner/manager overheard a private conversation. I was on my lunch break talking to my boyfriend (Chad, now my husband) about how broke I was, in fact, I couldn’t even afford to buy a desperately needed new bra. With that, the owner said (quite loudly), “We can’t have you running around without a bra; here’s $100!” Without missing a beat, I snatched the $100 bill, grabbed my purse and said, “I’ll be back in an hour” (I also remember buying a pair of Nike’s). To this day, my husband tells this story as a pivotal point in our relationship; he was so proud that I took the money! Chad thought it was incredibly inappropriate of my manager to offer me cash and thinks it served him right that I plucked the money out of his hand the way I did.
In the end, my manager’s girlfriend tried to say it was a bonus and I would have to pay the taxes on it. I said, “Like hell I will; Chad is my witness it was a gift!”
When I quit working at the gym above, I had a private meeting with the owner to let him know I was putting in my 2-weeks notice because I had found another job. He tried to talk me into staying by offering more money, cutting back some of my duties, and then he CRIED! I said, “I’m not your girlfriend; you cannot manipulate me with tears.” Then he said, “You’re right, this feels like a break-up.” With that, I was so disgusted I walked out.
In the end, he avoided me for the next two weeks by not coming to the gym during my work hours.
I truly believe my brother prepared me for fighting back, standing my ground and not giving respect to those who haven’t earned it. To this day, I always say my brother is more than my best friend, he is my favorite person in the world.