Thursday, April 8, 2010
"Hey, Bill, must be sexy in here..." Snort, snort
It’s been pretty warm here in Connecticut. I’d thought I’d dress in light clothes for work today, seeing how it’s spring and all, but management decided to blast us with arctic air. Have you ever been so cold at work that your knuckles turn white? I covered myself in paper fresh off the copier just to keep my limbs warm.
I didn’t realize quite how cold I was until I went upstairs to the mailroom and one of the younger workers said, “Must be cold in here.” I looked down and realized my headlights were pointing straight at him. I might have well have had tassels on them.
But that’s the chance you take when you wear a white sweater without a padded bra when it’s -50 degrees, right? So I smiled and said—with all the bravado I could muster—“Indeed!” (Nothing says “Don’t fuck with me” like erect nipples and a chipper, can-do attitude.)
I was annoyed, but willing to let it go. Then, after lunch, the HR head called me down to her office. It turns out one of my co-workers overheard the comment and reported it on my behalf. The mailroom offender had been reprimanded and would have to attend a sexual harassment workshop. Even worse, HR wouldn’t tell me who filed the complaint for me.
I was livid. Who had nominated themselves as the nipple police? I was about to start lighting things on fire when co-worker Michelle stopped by. Michelle is the kind of person who, after having two children, started shitting sunshine. Life is one long Barney episode for her. She gave me a sheepish shoulder shrug and asked if I was mad.
I should have known.
Before I could say anything, she said, “I had to say something to HR! It’s not appropriate to make comments about people’s genitals.”
After I got over the shock of hearing Michelle say “genitals” I diplomatically let her have it. I told her that breasts aren’t genitals. I said that I’m a big girl and that I don’t need people filing sexual harassment reports on my behalf. The mailroom people can ruin you. Packages can disappear or be sent late. You always bow to the mailroom people. Dammit, Michelle!
“But you wouldn’t say anything about anyone’s penis, would you?” she asked.
She had a point, but besides the whole banana-in-your-pocket line, what is there—really—to say about a co-worker’s penis? We don’t have many office flashers. And it’s not like I’d notice if someone’s baloney pony were affected by changes in temperature. Unless it was 50 feet long in 75 degree weather and 2 inches in cold. As far as I know, the turtle effect isn’t easily detectable in dress pants.
I took a deep breath and thanked her. Then I asked her to please stay out of my business. “Okay?” I asked.
She nodded no. “I did what was right. Sorry.”
I have mixed feelings about the situation. On the one hand, I admire her for sticking to her guns. On the other, this isn’t a playground and I don’t need her to intervene on my behalf. They're my headlights, ergo it's my business. Isn't it up to me to decide whether or not I perceive something as harassment?
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