My mom, the public health nurse talked to me about sexual harassment from the time I started middle school, plainly stating its definition and harshly stating its wrong. She told me stories about the old days at University Hospital when male doctors thought they could do whatever they wanted to and with “their” nurses. It was the season of Anita Hill’s Senate Judiciary hearings, where Clarence Thomas, awaiting confirmation to the Supreme Court stood accused, and it seemed the term “sexual harassment” was repeated on every TV and radio station every hour on the hour. My mom seized this opportunity to educate me not only about how to spot it, but the gender power differential that exists in society, making it politically difficult for women to report abuse, and even more difficult for their claims to be believed. She wanted me, as an eleven year-old, to understand my rights, and how to assert them. You have to be assertive, she often reminded me. Continue reading
Last Friday was my last day at a phenomenal organization, where I’ve spent the last three and a half years helping grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. I showed up at this well-known non-profit fresh from the tech industry, searching for emotionally fulfilling work, a place to land where I might at last grow and develop my career in ways that seemed to elude me previously.
When I told my friends I had accepted an offer at Make-A-Wish, some of them raised an eyebrow in disbelief, and all of them expressed surprise. You see, before I walked through those doors I’d viewed children as an irritation, an ubiquitous and thus inescapable nuisance, my advocacy of the child-free lifestyle well-documented and expounded upon freely. So going to work for a children’s charity wasn’t exactly the next logical step for me. But it was the exact right one. Continue reading
I believe wholeheartedly in the saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. The first time I heard it I was a kid and I remember thinking, ewww, yuck! I would never want those people anywhere near me. Why would you ever want the people you like the least, the ones you don’t trust, those who have hurt you closer to you than your friends? But I get it now. You keep them in close so you can control them. It’s a great strategy, and it works.
It gets tricky, though, because you have to use your powers for good. If you’re going to gather your enemies up into the fold and hold them close, you can’t fuck them over later. Continue reading
I knew I’d blown the interview as soon as I’d said it. My prospective employer asked about my biggest challenges, to which I replied that a therapist once told me my personality at work was like wild horses that needed to be harnessed and brought into line together. I watched as the interviewer blanched and slightly recoiled from me across the table.
Was it my cavalier mention of therapy? My direct and rigorously honest self-assessment? Or was it the image of my wild horses running amok in her shop? Well, I gotta be me, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my career, trying to hide or downplay my outrageous personality doesn’t work. Stuffing leads to resentment, which leads to hostility and acting out, followed by righteous resignation. No, it’s much better for anyone considering hiring me to know upfront who they’re getting–a dynamic, driven, ambitious, outspoken and high-maintenance individual who will work like, well, a team of draft horses for the right boss. The wrong boss, however, can expect to be trampled by the herd. Continue reading
I used to believe simpering was my greatest power, my secret interpersonal weapon. I affected a coquettish persona, donned the mask which I believed was the key to moving through the world. Later, a therapist and I named this simpering mask the “sex kitten”, as we worked to understand the connection between her and my blackout drinking. But before all that, I learned that if I widened my eyes, batted my lashes and ducked my head a little, people melted. I learned that if I asked for things in a singsong tone or a baby voice they seemed to come easier. Especially with men. Men were helpless against the almighty simper. They figuratively dropped to their knees, palms open, anything and everything on offer. They got out of the way. Or let me hide behind them. They handed whatever it was right over. I smiled and giggled in return, to close the deal. I didn’t know another way. Continue reading
My buddy Sam and I have this thing where we like to flip people’s attitudes from negative to positive in our attempts to usher society into the high vibe era. It’s become a game, really, and we enjoy sharing our success stories with each other. The tougher the nut, the more satisfying the crack. When we worked in the dress department at Nordstrom together and one of us had a difficult customer, we’d rub our hands together in anticipation, knowing the tough customer was totally screwed, about to be reduced to a puddle of vulnerability by our manipulative kindness. You see, people want to be seen, and validated, and told where the boundaries are. Sam and I inherently understand this, and use these truths to make the worst act their best. It’s fun for us. Continue reading
Nicki and I ran the back office of the organization, but our shared work station was situated in the front office. We were a crew of 25 crammed into 3,000 square feet on one level, pretty much working at bunk desks and feeling like sardines in a can. While the others had cubicles (though tight) or offices (though shared), we worked at a ramshackle amalgam of used particle board and dusty padded fabric that had been dropped in the middle of the building lobby. If Nicki backed her chair out too fast, she ran the risk of slamming into my legs, positioned four feet away at my stand-up desk. If I leaned too hard on my computer platform, the whole works creaked and threatened to collapse. We each faced a building entrance, and all day long visitors and colleagues streamed through the doors, constantly interrupting and disrupting our space. Our work station sucked, and we had the worst of a bad situation. Yet we were consistently the most positive people on staff. We chose to own that public space and create a welcoming, friendly, upbeat vibe we hoped would radiate through the office and change the culture. We called ourselves “The Positivity Committee” and formalized our program through targeted, strategic acts of kindness. Continue reading