It’s midmorning on a Wednesday and I’m sipping a hot cup of coffee at my desk at the radio station. I hear my name being called, quite loudly, by my boss. He’s telling me to come into his office. He’s an older man, who has been working in this industry for decades. I am a 27 year old woman (girl?) who has been in the industry for about 5 years.
I enter his office and his boss is sitting in a chair. He is even older than my boss and has likely been in this industry for over 30 years, longer than I’ve been alive. They are both intimidating. I take a seat, as instructed. The air in the room lead me to believe I’m not about to hear any good news or receive any accolades.
They glance at each other, as if to silently decide who will address me. The younger of the two begins.
“We think you’re doing a great job here and we like the energy you bring to the office. That said, we need to make some changes. You’ve been handling the Mantis Jewelers account and we see they haven’t yet signed your proposal for next quarter’s advertising. This is unusual for them.”
The men exchange another glance.
I nervously interject, stating that I have a follow up appointment scheduled with Mr. Mantis this week and believe he will sign the proposal then.
“That’s great. The thing is, we’re going to need you to dress differently for that appointment. We know Ricky Mantis and you’ll be more likely to close this deal if you’re wearing a short skirt and a low cut shirt. You know, something that makes him wonder. Know what I mean?”
I nod my head in agreement. I’m like a child listening to their parent and accepting whatever I’m told to do, even though everything in my body tells my this is so wrong.
“Tammy will take you shopping. She’s worked with Mr. Mantis and will know what you should buy.”
I am dismissed from the office and return to my desk. A few minutes later, Tammy appears at my desk. She is very excited about our shopping trip, tells me how hot I’m going to look in my new outfit and how it’s going to help me close this deal and others.
This all feels wrong, but I don’t say anything. I want to keep this job. I want to be successful here. I know there is a lot of money to make here.
It’s a few days later and Tammy and I are shopping. We’re in a store that is way out of my budget as a young professional. Still, I go along with it. I’m not going to tell her I buy most of my clothes at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I look up to her and want her to like me. After trying on what seems like 25 outfits, we hit the jackpot. A short, black leather skirt and a way too tight top that zips down from the neck, to you know, “make him wonder.”
I do feel sexy and confident in these clothes, but I still don’t feel comfortable. With the clothes or the price tags. That doesn’t keep me from heading to the register and buying them.
I wear the clothes to my meeting with Mr. Mantis and no surprise, he signs the contract. I leave there knowing I’ve just closed a major deal for the radio station and I’m feeling great about that. I actually think I could be successful at this! I ride back to work with the windows down, radio loud, celebrating this win!
After multiple offenses from my superiors, I finally decide to leave the radio industry. Several years later, after spending time as a stay at home mom, I’ve decided I’ll return to work. I find what I think is the perfect job. Marketing for an auto body shop, making my own hours, can work from home. interacting with clients, and a great part time salary. I crush the interview and land the job.
It doesn’t take long before I begin noticing similar patterns at this job as I did in the radio station. Men talking about, making derogatory comments toward, and sexualizing women. I’m absolutely disgusted, but I justify it. I’m making really good money for what I’m doing and I enjoy the clients. I don’t have to spend a lot of time at the shop, so I’m not around this behavior often.
One day, I’m in my boss’s office and we’re discussing a client. He switches subjects and begins telling me about a woman who came in for an interview and what a “bimbo” she was. He then goes on to say, “but I’m thinking about hiring her because, those tits were something else!” I’m flabbergasted and not surprised, both at the same time. Did he really just say that out loud? To me? What a fucking asshole! I wonder what reaction my face shows. I excuse myself from the meeting as I can not think of what to say and I’m afraid of what may come out of my mouth if I do speak.
Do I take this as the big red flag that I need to get out of this place? NOPE! I stay and during this time I become friends with the head accountant, who is also a woman. We talk about what assholes these men are and their poor behaviors. We don’t do anything about it. She tells me some very disturbing things about our boss and past/current employees. I still do nothing.
I pack these stories in a box, move them to the back of my mind and go about my business. I stay in this awful job. I want to work. I want to be successful and I believe I can make a lot of money here. (Sadly, my definition of success at the time)
A few months later, he calls me into his office. “Amy, I’m sponsoring this golf tournament on Saturday and I need you to be there.”
I explain how I don’t work weekends and it’s not part of my job.
“Well, I need you there, so figure it out. And you’ll need to wear a short skirt too. I know these guys and they’ll want that.”
I’m absolutely speechless. Or perhaps I’m not. I know the words to say, I’m just too weak and afraid to say them. I stand there for a moment and simply leave the office. I return to my desk, pack my bag and go home, pretending I have a client to visit. I know I need to leave this job. I will not allow myself to be in the same position I was before. I have grown since then and I know that I am worthy of a great job in a safe environment. Later, I email him asking to speak the next day. We meet and I tell him I will no longer be working here. I do not give notice. I do not ask for anything. I just want out. He begs me to stay. He says all the things that would’ve made my 20-something self stay in the job. Not now though.
Enough is enough!
It’s now about 10 years after leaving that job. I’m writing my memoir and am digging through my drawers looking for a particular journal. Throughout writing this book, I’ve struggled at various times, with what some would call “imposter syndrome.” I wonder who will read this book, am I a good writer and will it make the impact I intend it to. While I know I no longer need to dress a certain way to be successful or earn approval, and my definition of success has also shifted over the years, I still find myself questioning my worth and value. As me, simply me.
I ruffle through 4 different drawers containing journals and I do not find the one I’m looking for. Something catches my eye and laying at the bottom of the drawer, is this card. I’m surprised to find it, because this deck is contained in the bag it came in, inside a different desk drawer. Somehow this single card made its way here, to me, now. The Universe knew I needed this message. As I read the card, I breathe deeply as several memories are brought to the forefront of my mind. I forgive myself for allowing these past situations to take place more than once, for not speaking up, for being too afraid of losing my job above maintaining my integrity. I forgive myself and remind myself that I am in fact, innately worthy and brilliant. We all are!
Be you. Be beautiful. The world needs you, just as you are.
(And forgive yourself often, whenever needed. We are human!)