In the thirty- yeah, I said it! T-H-I-R-T-Y– years I have spent in the workplace, I have lived the evolution of policies and portrayals, sensitivity and sexual harassment, mansplaining and frenemies. Literally seen it all. In the late 80s, working for a major telecommunications firm, I was told (by a male senior manager) that he loved to visit me because I “have a nice shape. A reeeally nice shape.” In the 90s, I was asked by some models (hired by another firm to “decorate” their trade show booth) what agency I worked for, because I got to wear flats (I owned the firm). Even as late as 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession when I landed deal after deal and won two awards, a peer said- in front of our boss, no less- that I “must be sleeping with the clients to get that many deals.” I still climbed the corporate ladder. I am still an executive. I never let it shake me; rather, I took these annoyances and insults and (right or wrong) internationalized them to feed what I like to call my Inner Bitch. Inner Bitch, or “IB” for short, has not needed to come out too much over the years, though I can say when she did it made for rather spectacular events.
Have items missing out of a gate-checked bag and have the airline tell you it can take up to six months to get reimbursed? No problem. Fill out all the paperwork that the airline requires and submit. While you are at your computer, file a police report for theft. How does someone get into a gate checked bag and take items out of it without anyone catching them? Concern you that can happen in a secure area? Concerned me, too. So IB also filed a complaint with the TSA- against both the departure and arrival airports. IB sent all paperwork via registered mail, fax, and even overnight. IB drove to O’Hare Airport and hand-delivered the same information to the Baggage Claim Supervisor, taking a picture of her holding said documentation, time and date stamped. All of this occurred within 24 hours.
I received my full reimbursement in 48 hours.
But I digress.
The past three decades have shown me that people, generally, suck at being people. What I mean is that I have made a number of discoveries over the years that have not been altered by sensitivity courses or HR driven policies; as such, I have coined these as the Terrible Truths.
- Men want to fix your problem, even if you don’t want them to, and even if they can’t. I don’t know if this is biological or psychological- I just know that it is true. It doesn’t matter if you are romantically involved with them, a friend of theirs, work for them or even if they work for you. If you are pissed, upset, or struggling in the slightest, someone with an organ different than your own wants to step in and help. Even if you put on your most confident face and say, “It’s okay. I’ve got it.” in your most secure, I-do-not-want-your-help-and-I-am-trying-not-to-sound-like-an-asshole-about-it voice, you will almost always get something along the lines of, “Here. Let me do it.” Or, they just want to do it. It seems that no matter what level of achievement you obtain- CEO or Mother of the Year, a man has to save the day.
- Women who say “We need to stick together.” are really saying, “Stand with me or you are a fucking nazi.” Look, I am all for most women’s causes. Yes, I said most, not all. I am all for equal pay for equal work. I am all for equal rights. I have no problem with women who choose to be stay-at-home mothers or those who choose to be trophy wives. What I don’t have a grain of time for, however, are women whose militant, laser focus on the issue du’jour for women completely overlook the fact that by asking for unanimous unity, they are eliminating the freedom of individuality. When you eliminate the freedom of individuality, you create division rather than unity. Women can have their own views on matters and different views than men or other women. Even that pig of a man who sent an unsolicited “dick pic” had a mother (who he is likely hiding this from, of course). Get over yourself. We can have the same set of reproductive organs and not agree. I hate Nazis, too; I am just not going to agree with 100% of your views 100% of the time unless I am trying to clone you, and that is incredibly creepy.
- “Frenemies” are neither your friend or your enemy; they are simply unable to commit to either. I remember giggling the first time I heard the term “frenemy”. What a perfect way to describe those people in your social circle that are closer than an acquaintance and more familiar than an associate, but not someone you would call if you needed help (because while they may choose to help you out, they will tell everyone and their mother how they helped you, and why they had to step in to help you, and how your life is such a damn mess and how you are going to ever get together is beyond them). They are also not someone you would let fail on your watch, either, because they are the asshole, not you. It’s like relationship purgatory. I am pleased to be at a point that I let IB handle these people instead of me. IB has a mean passive-aggressive streak that makes these people crazy.
- Mansplaining is never going away. Nor is the objectification of women. Ever. It’s true. You may hate reading that, but that doesn’t make it go away. Classes, counseling, social media shaming and the meanest memes in the world are not going to change anything. We have dealt with this as women for millennia. Rather than continue to fight a battle that leaves you bitter and sore, learn how to work around it. I know this isn’t a popular answer, but it is the right one. Raise responsible sons. Raise empowered daughters. Tell them the truth about what they will face and give them tools on how to manage it. Do the same for yourself. You will be saner and better for it.
- Political correctness is often mistaken for kindness and vice-versa. The bombastic rhetoric of the 2016 Presidential campaign looked at political correctness like a virus condemning or land to hell. Look- saying “postal carrier” instead of “mailman” is political correctness. Not saying something because it may seriously hurt someone is not political correctness. It simply means you are a decent human being. Don’t mix the two.
- Everyone wants to see you get ahead- just not ahead of them. People are petty at heart. It takes a lot of inner reflection and spiritual growth to be genuinely happy for people without jealousy or regret. By the way, your chief Frenemy will be one of the first to congratulate you. Keep an eye out for that one, as they will also be the first to say you did not deserve it.
- The truth is never fully told. If you work at all, you know that is true. Unless you personally did it, you will never know they full story (or worse, if and how it impacts you, until it does).
I know that some of these Truths may strike you as cynical, but in fact it is the opposite. As people, we need adversity and conflict (internal or external) to learn and grow. Struggles are what make us stronger as individuals and as a collective people. We have lost our willingness to struggle; we have forgotten that pain can help build you up as much as it can break you down. There are elements of our society and our behavior and our viewpoints that can evolve and change; however, some fundamental truths remain exactly as they always were (we just call them by another name or don’t talk about it other than in whispers). By acknowledging the truth and learning how to survive (even thrive!) within the reality, we gain real strength (and I apologize in advance if this offends some- but while I agree that everyone has the right to “feel safe”, how did that manifest from a personal responsibility to ensure one’s safety to a physical “safe space” where no one can say anything to hurt you? How does that translate in the corporate world? Madeline is offended that John called her sensitive, so she leaves the meeting to go to a “Safe Space”? That advances women’s causes for sure.).
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Learn how to use it to your advantage and personal growth.
PS: Indoor garden doing swimmingly well. Tomatoes are growing and it is February in Chicago. Boo-yah. #WinterWin