It was a perfect summer evening for a gathering – warm but with enough of a breeze to make it comfortable. Holding onto my companion’s hand, I lead him through the throngs of people to find my fellow co-workers. Micheal and I had dated casually, but it wasn’t going anywhere. He still loved his ex, and I was too fresh out of my marriage to even think about commitment, but I hadn’t wanted to arrive single, so here we were.
There were only three women in my department – Gayle, slightly older than me, a short-haired, no nonsense type; Laurie, our office clerk, a tiny, soft spoken woman; and myself, a twenty-one year-old working her way up in corporate banking. While making introductions, a voice, visibly slurred, broke through the crowd:
“There you are! I’ve been waiting all night. Thought maybe you and I could play Volcano – I’ll lie down, you sit on me, and I’ll erupt.”
It was my boss. The same boss, who in a recent performance review told me he was scoring me low because I wouldn’t put out. (He kept a cot in his office just in case.)
Behind him, red-faced, was his lovely wife. Not knowing how to react, I introduced my date and greeted the wife. Then we moved on.
It happened frequently – comments like this. Every morning the men would parade in a line pass my desk.
“What are they doing?” I finally asked a male co-worker, exasperated. My desk was in a quad, next to a window – it wasn’t like I was in the normal flow of foot traffic.
“They’re looking for high beams.”
“What?” I was so innocent back then, so oblivious to all this sexual innuendo.
He shrugged, “If you don’t like it, stop wearing those tight sweaters.”
I looked down at my sweater – a plain, nondescript turtleneck.
“So did you get your plumbing fixed last night,” another co-worker asked sliding into the cubicle beside me.
I worked in a predominately male environment. I didn’t answer.
Every night, I went home and cried myself to sleep.
“Why do put up with it?” Michael asked once.
I shrugged. “I need the job.” Truth is I thought I’d brought it on myself.
When this job posted, I was a data entry clerk. My co-worker and I decided to both apply. We were the same age, but she was infinitely more beautiful than I, as well as smart, well-educated, and more experienced. Both of us were certain she would be hired over me. As a lark, we decided that I would go to the interview in a provocative outfit (a slit skirt), while she would opt for a more conservative look.
Obviously, sex won out over credentials.
It was a decision I would regret for the eighteen months I held the post, until I was able to apply outside of the department.
A year later, the woman who filled my position filed charges of sexual harassment against the boss. I cheered her moxie and inwardly chastised myself for not having done the same.
The year was 1979. Not many of us spoke up.
We are now, though.
Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.