I’ve wanted to tell it for a long time, so today I will. I wish I could say this is the only “me too” story I have but, sadly like many women, I could fill a month’s worth of blog space with just the worst of them.
Before becoming a hypnotherapist and author one of my of my first professional, grown-up type job was as a sales representative for a vitamin company. I traveled around the country to events set up for medical doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, and the like trying to get them interested in our wholistic line of vitamins. At the time, I saw very few women doing this, and at certain events, particularly medical doctor shows in the south, I met very few female practitioners. This posed some interesting problems; but, that’s for a different set of blogs.
Because I was starting to get a lot of very technical questions at these events that I didn’t have the knowledge to answer, my boss decided to send our new technical director with me to some of the bigger shows. He had a PHD in bio-chemistry and could pretty much answer any question that came our way.
I had met him previously on several occasions, as before he was hired he came to our events on a “try-out” basis to see if it was a good fit. It seemed to be, so he got the job. Initially, I really liked him and his wife, whom I had gotten to spend time with at one event.
That all changed when we were sent to a medical conference in Hilton Head, South Carolina at the beginning of summer. The first day it went well, we were a good team. He knew when I said, “Dr. Smith (not his real name), this Doctor has a particular question for you,” it meant I was being aggressively hit on, and he was to help me get rid of the person bothering me.
As it turned out, he believed our rapport meant something to him that it didn’t to me, so one day he said he “had a particular question for me.” He wanted to know if I would like to go up to his hotel room with him and discuss his loneliness problem.
“I’m lonely. You’re lonely. Let’s get together tonight; I am really discreet.”
I was stunned. I refused and found myself wondering what I had said or done to make him think I would be interested in his offer.
If he had stopped there, I would have been sort of okay; but, he didn’t. He spent the rest of the day and all evening trying to sell me on this idea, then telling me story after story about all the other coworkers at his last job that he had affairs with over the years, and all the woman he had met online that he “played” with. So much for “discretion.”
He was bragging, and I could only say, repeatedly, “not interested,” “not going to happen,” “stop, I’m really not interested.” I even reminded him I knew his wife well and considered her a friend. “Oh, she knows not to ask questions…” Oh boy.
I still had to work with him, have an evening meal with him and a client, and spend the next day working in our booth. At dinner, I watched my drink like a hawk and discretely asked hotel security to walk me to my room.
Sadly, they are used to this request and gave me the number to call them directly in the morning, so they could walk me from my room to the trade show as well. For that I am very grateful; but, sad it had to come to that.
The next morning, I told him again I just wanted to work and if he insisted on bothering me I would be forced to call the owner of the company myself and report him. That did it and he stopped, leaving me with a very awkward rest of the show.
Now I will say, unlike most women, I was in the unique position of having a female boss who would have gotten rid of this guy before I had even finished telling my story; but, like many women in this position, I felt a bit torn.
Had he specifically threatened my safety? No, but I felt very threatened by his refusal to take “no” for an answer 25 or so times.
Did he threaten to have me fired? No, though he did have a bigger title than I did. We weren’t in the same department, so he couldn’t have gotten me fired.
Did I want him to be fired? Did I think what he did was worth losing his job over? Maybe. I wasn’t sure; but, I was very sure that I didn’t want to spend the rest of the summer going from trade show to trade show afraid and telling him to stop acting like an ass.
This may sound odd; but, the worst part for me was the fact that this person I had previously respected and admired had gone from being a friend to just another creepy guy with no warning what-so-ever. This made me question my judgement because I had never picked that up about him. It honestly made me a bit afraid of all men for a time.
When we got home and while I was still debating what to do about this situation, a small miracle happened. He was inexplicably fired. We never found out why; but, considering the lengthy lecture and memos sent to the traveling team about what you could and could not expense, I am going to guess he had been watching porn in his hotel room and it showed up on the bill. Again, that’s just speculation.
I hate to say this; but, I do understand why women don’t report these problems. Woman are socialized to believe that if something like this happens, we are at least somewhat to blame. Not true; but, that’s what we are taught, and in many cases, there is the threat of losing a job. Because many women are already making less than men and having a harder time getting the good jobs in the first place, it can be a serious concern.
So why don’t I share his name? Well, perhaps a bit of cowardice on my part, or perhaps I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Frankly, I’m not completely sure myself. He now owns a company, has a family, and in the 20+ years since this happened, perhaps he has changed. Who knows? But, if his name does end up in the news having committed a crime, you can believe I will be one of the first people to stand up and yell “ME TOO,” though sadly probably not the only one.
We have a struggle ahead of us to fix this; but, I am encouraged by the “Me Too” movement and the new transparency. Yes, we will be hearing more stories, and more of our heroes will fall. I am personally still heartbroken about losing one of my heroes, Morgan Spurlock (creator of the movie “Supersize Me”). I also admit, I do miss Bikram Yoga; but, things need to change, and I am encouraged by what I see.
But…is it wrong that I still want to see “Supersize Me 2?”
Treat your coworkers with kindness, love (but not too much love), and most importantly, respect. Together we will all make the world a better place. Namaste.