Brace yourself, this post is going to be an honest accounting of my work life. Why am I bringing it up now? Well, if you haven’t heard, the Mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, is in a whole heap of trouble. Although the media is talking about him as if he is a demon, and someone to project spittle on as he walks past (I’ve always wanted to use spittle), I am here to tell you that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of Bob Filners women have to deal with every single day because Bob Filners are everywhere.
In my lifetime, I have been sexually harassed at every single job I have ever had.
Am I special? No. Am I hawt? No. Why does this continue to happen? Because I am friendly to all, approachable, helpful, and kind. Men apparently frequently mistake my friendliness for willingness to get down and dirty with them.
Two men at two different places of employment were fired for their harassment, and another was threatened with dismissal if he ever went near me again. Darryl still could not keep away so the company stopped flying him out to California.
Of the men who harassed me, nearly all were married.
When I was young, like many girls, I was very naive. I didn’t always know when someone was trying to get into my pants. I seriously believed they were being nice. Like the time a supervisor from a different department than mine asked me to go to lunch. I was very confused when it was just him and me at a seafood restaurant. I kept looking at the entrance, expecting our other co-workers to come waltzing in. We normally went out with a group.
It took me years to figure out that he wanted to have some kind of relationship with me. Thinking about this man now, I know he was the least obnoxious of them all — probably because he was married with a third child on the way. I never went to lunch with him again and steered clear of him.
The worst situation was the most recent when I wasn’t so young anymore.
I had at least 6 years in real estate under my belt when I realized I wasn’t ever going to be as successful as I wanted to be. Although it had been my passion, the bloom was off the rose, and I was wondering if I should continue.
My broker at Designers Choice Real Estate knew that I loved to write, so he asked me to write a couple of Craig’s List posts, and create a script for ads on his phone system that people would listen to while they were on hold. I worked tirelessly and nonstop. I thought about the script and the ads all day, and wrote on anything that would take ink, crayon, or keystrokes.
I had found my one true passion: advertising and marketing. I had found the one thing that I could do every single day even if I wasn’t getting paid.
The broker realized I had passion and he thought I had talent, but he also realized he was in over his head with his real estate/mortgage company and brought in a new partner to help with marketing so that he could get back to focusing on his business.
I remember when I first met Dan. I did not like him at all. He seemed fake and a little too full of himself. My internal red alert system was flashing all over the place, but because he was not my boss, and there was never any need to interact with him, I just ignored him.
Every time I saw Dan when I worked at the office, he seemed nice enough so I started to question my red alert, and began to relax.
As the head of the marketing department, his style was different from mine, so he felt my services were no longer needed. I remember being devastated and heartbroken. I had just found my passion, and to have it taken away so quickly was difficult and a giant bruise to my pride.
To make matters worse, when I approached my broker about working on the marketing, the broker deferred to Dan’s judgment and did intervene on my behalf.
I went from on top of the world to the center of the Earth in no time.
And then one day, Dan stopped me in the hallway and asked if I would stop by his office at one.
I said, “Sure,” and then the wheels in my head started spinning.
I thought Dan had changed his mind and was going to start giving me assignments. Maybe I was talented after all! I was so excited and waited impatiently for my one o’clock appointment.
Finally, it was time for my meeting and I strolled into Dan’s office. His secretary came in and asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I asked for a Diet Coke.
Dan and I chit-chatted until his secretary delivered my drink. Before she left, he asked her to close his door.
I waited impatiently for the gushing of my work to begin and the new job opportunity to be unveiled. I could barely sit still!
Dan stated that he and I had so much in common. I didn’t think we had anything in common other than we both needed air to survive, but I let him continue. After all, he was my ticket to my dream job. He went on for a bit and then said that he would like to offer me something.
I waited in anticipation of a job offer working for a company I deeply loved.
The words coming out of Dan’s mouth, however, were something else altogether.
Dan said that he would love it if I became his f*ck buddy (his exact words-although there was no asterisk when he said the real word), and that we would have a really great time. He said that I wasn’t to expect money, clothes, jewelry, or a car, but that he’d be happy to pay for the motel. He also said that I wasn’t to call him at any time — I’d be available at HIS convenience.
Kind of like a prostitute, but unpaid, so more like an intern, I guess.
And, of course, I was never to let his wife know what was going on. He loved her and would never leave her (so don’t ask) – it was just that there was nothing going on in his bedroom anymore.
I sat in stunned silence in my chair with my untouched Diet Coke in my hand, and went numb. I wondered if the guy in the office next door could hear what Dan was saying to me, and plotted my escape. I listened to the people walking down the corridor and wanted desperately to be with them.
I honestly don’t know what I said or how I got out of there. It is as if I blacked out. I do remember walking to the kitchen and dumping my drink in the garbage. I grabbed my stuff and walked out of the office, got into my car, and called my friend to tell her what had just happened.
After telling my girlfriend, I didn’t feel any better like I had hoped I would. I didn’t tell anybody else for a while until my real estate partner noticed that I was letting my work go and I wasn’t the same happy, smiling, cheerful woman he knew. I was falling into a depression.
I finally told Dave what had happened. He was absolutely appalled and told me I had to tell the broker.
Telling the broker was never even an option in my mind. He and Dan were partners in business. It was my word against Dan’s. There were no witnesses. Would my broker believe I was credible or would he side with his partner? I really didn’t want to go through that humiliation to find out. I also didn’t want to have to leave the company. I had been there a very long time, and leaving meant finding a new broker and starting all over with new business cards, new signs, making new friends. I had lots of people I liked where I was–there was only ONE guy who sucked. I didn’t want to leave an entire company because of one small man.
My partner balked at my wishy-washiness at telling my broker the story. He said if I didn’t tell him that he would. That was enough of a threat to get me to act.
Fortunately, for me, my broker knew me well enough to know that I would not make up a such a story and Dan was fired within 48 hours, and legal documents were drawn up to dissolve the partnership.
I am writing about this now because a woman in the broadcasting industry asked on Facebook why the women hadn’t just “grown some balls” and told the mayor to leave them alone. I am here to tell you that each one of those women has a story and sitting in judgment of them without first having experienced something similar, is ludicrous and painful to those who have. Walk in their shoes first, and then tell me how you handled being sexually harassed by a very powerful man.
Bob Filner is still in office while he seeks treatment for his…uh, “condition” although I am assuming that Gloria Allred will do all she can to get him out. I can only hope for the women that it will be swift so that their healing can begin.