Tag Archives: the 70’s

#Me Too?

The world is abuzz with new revelations about sexual harassment, workplace predators and all-around bad behavior.

This leads me to think about a couple of incidents from my past.  Viewed through today’s lens, they’d probably warrant a call to HR.  But — and this is not to excuse these men — the world WAS different when I was young.

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Incident #1

A suburban-dwelling supervisor stopped by my desk one evening to let me know he was going to “apartment sit” a friend’s place in the city for a few days and encouraged me to meet him there for drinks “and”. Said supervisor was married, decades older, and my direct boss.  Accepting might fast-track a promotion and certainly lead to plum assignments; refusal could turn a cordial relationship into enmity.

Unlike, say, Harvey Weinstein, there was no physical intimidation.  But the message was clear: if you want to advance, here’s one way to do it.

Incident #2

I had a tiny office and a very large, very tall boss.  One day, he came in, closed the door, and proceeded to back me up against the wall while attempting to kiss me. Physical and scary, as this man had total power over me — not just in that moment but going forward if I handled things badly.

Did I tell anyone? No. Because what good would it have done? Men had no hesitation coming on to women at work; it was almost expected and it happened a LOT. So with both bosses I tried to offer a reply that would protect their egos while I rejected them –thereby preserving our working relationship.

With boss #1, I flattered him by reminding him that I was a lot younger and said that if we became involved I’d risk falling for him, which would be a very bad idea.

He bought it.

With boss #2, I flattered him by telling him how much I liked working for him (he was brilliant) and I may have lied and said I had a boyfriend.

Was this brave? Of course not.  Just simple gut instinct that if I didn’t make a big fuss, they’d stop.  It didn’t occur to me that they might victimize someone else or that this could be a pattern; I only wanted them to leave me alone.

My questions are these:  Does every proposition by a person in authority qualify as sexual harassment? And has it become too easy to assign blame without also considering ways in which the other party might respond?

I get that a powerful person like Weinstein can intimidate the hell out of a young woman whose career might never get off the ground if she doesn’t “go along”.  But showing up at the guy’s hotel room might send the wrong signal.  And if he answers that door in his bathrobe, why in hell does she go in? Is she that naive? Or is she a participant in a quid pro quo?

I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of sexual harassment. Men who think “grabbing pussy” is a compliment, or feel entitled to treat women as objects, are disgusting. On the other hand, I wonder whether we’ve gone too far in the other direction, labeling every advance or teasing remark as harassment, which minimizes those that are.

Perhaps we should learn how to diffuse a tense situation before it gets out of control. Plus karate, in case that doesn’t work.

What are your thoughts?

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Aging Gratefully

Lately I’ve been hearing more and more people—and you know who you are—complain, however humorously, about being “old”. This may seem benign, but it encourages a mindset that dwells on the negative and that’s never healthy.

So I’m dedicating this post to my delightful, vibrant and beautiful cousin Helen (shown above), who is 93 years young. Helen has had her share of challenges in life, but she faces every day with energy, enthusiasm and passion. She still lives in Manhattan, where she traipses about the city to museums, lectures and the symphony; she also works and travels the world for the UN, raising awareness of the needs and contributions of the elderly. Check out this inspiring video.

I’m not in denial about the passage of time, but here’s the thing: We may be grayer, wider, gassier and slower, but don’t think for a minute that our best years are behind us! Kiss that rosy glow of nostalgia goodbye and do a happy dance that these (and more) are in the past:

  • Gym class
  • Tie-dye anything
  • Canned spaghetti
  • “Second base” in the back of a Chevy
  • Ironing our hair
  • Avocado and harvest gold appliances
  • Hot pants
  • Ripple, Boone’s Farm, Cold Duck, Thunderbird and Wild Irish Rose
  • Learning to parallel-park
  • Songs like “Feelings”, “I Honestly Love You” and “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”
  • First job jitters
  • Paisley shirts, especially on men
  • The Thighmaster

And let’s look ahead to what the future holds:

  • Legalized pot across the U.S. —who’d a thunk it??
  • Retirement, a.k.a. time to read War and Peace, learn new languages or binge-watch every episode of The Real Housewives
  • Space travel (Can I book a one-way ticket for my ex?)
  • The Rolling Stones’ 75th Anniversary tour
  • Seaweed that tastes like bacon
  • Your daughter acknowledging how hard motherhood is
  • Finally being considered “wise”

Of course we’ve all got stuff to worry about, but it’s easier to cope if we keep reminding ourselves of everything good in our lives: friends, family (well, perhaps not all of them), pinot noir, music, and the roof over our heads—even if it needs to be painted and maybe leaks a little.

Life wasn’t perfect even in the “good old days”. Besides, if you think you’re old now, just wait another ten years.