When I was in the work force, I would often flirt with my co-workers.
However, I did not make the mistake a lot people are guilty of when they engage in office flirtations. Most people will only flirt with a select few people in their inner circle and will remain ultra professional with everyone else. This is a quick and easy way to inspire jealous gossip among your peers. The next thing you know, there will be a rumor going around that you’re sleeping with so and so and the only reason you got promoted was because you were engaged in liaisons with the boss.
I’ve learned that if you’re going to flirt at work, you’ve got to flirt with everyone…including other women. Hell, especially other women. If you very obviously treat everyone the same, you can make as many sexual innuendoes as you want without being whispered about or resented. No one will start any rumors about you sleeping with so and so in the broom closet. Instead they will just giggle and say, ‘Oh, that’s just how V is! She doesn’t mean anything by it!’ When you play to the egos of your peers in a nondiscriminatory way, you’ll find that it’s quite easy to climb up the corporate ladder.
Nevertheless, I drew the line at flirting with the teenaged interns. My theory was that if someone was too young to partake of an alcoholic beverage at the bar, then they were too young for me to sleaze all over.
This was an established part of my personality when Claire began working for the company. Claire was the youngest intern we had ever employed at 18 years of age. Claire had also taken a page out of my book in that she was attempting to flirt her way into a full time position. But, like most women, she was flubbing it up by only flirting with the attractive men. This infuriated the jealousy prone women in the office and she quickly became prime gossip material.
Even though I was in charge of the department, I pretty much ignored the entire scenario.
One day, I was sitting at my desk thumbing through some papers when Claire approached me.
“Can I ask you a question?” she asked.
“Sure…” I replied, still thumbing through my paperwork.
“Do you think I’m pretty?”
I looked up at her sharply and was shocked to see that she was close to tears.
Dumbfounded, I quickly reassured her, “Of course I do, Claire.”
“But…” she continued, “You never flirt with me. I notice that you flirt with everyone, but not me. You don’t even flirt back when I flirt with you….” She trailed off.
“Claire,” I answered, “The only reason for that is because you are so young. It would make me feel like a pedophile to flirt with someone so young. But trust me, if you were of age, I’d be all over you.”
She beamed with pride and hopefully asked, “Really?”
Then, when Claire left my office, I put my head in my hands and thought to myself, ‘What kind of world are we living in when a smart and capable girl like Claire can feel inadequate because her boss isn’t sleazing all over her?’
I thought back to when I was a young, smart, capable teenaged girl and the answer became clear to me: The world I helped to create for her.
When I was 16 years old, my boyfriend wanted to introduce me to his best friend, Rick. I agreed and he brought Rick over to my house one summer afternoon.
With great flourish, my boyfriend presented me to Rick as if I were a contestant in a beauty pageant. Rick shook my hand and told me that he was pleased to meet me. Then, he leaned back and whispered something into my boyfriend’s ear.
“Excuse me,” I interjected, “But what did you just say?”
“I said ‘Three beers’” Rick answered.
“Three bears?” I asked him, confused, “What is that supposed to mean?”
Excited, my boyfriend cut in, “Rick rates girls by how many beers it would take for him to sleep with them! He only rated you three!”
Angrily, I sputtered a few choice profanities.
Panicked, my boyfriend tried to calm me down, “V! You don’t understand! Three beers is nothing! Rick doesn’t even have a good buzz going after three beers!”
Even more furious, I said, “You expect me to take it as a compliment that that asshole would need any alcohol at all in order to sleep with me?”
Finally, Rick cut in, “V, that’s only because you’re my best friend’s girlfriend! What kind of guy would I be if I didn’t at least have a couple of drinks in me before I fucked my best friend’s girl?”
Like a total idiot, I relaxed and said, “Oh. Oh. Well, in that case, OK. Thank you, I guess.”
I remembered that day after my exchange with Claire and I remembered how easy it was for me to confuse my sexual identity with my self worth. I remember standing in front of my boyfriend’s best friend and letting him judge my body, my face, and my hair like I was nothing more than a piece of meat. I remember that instead of being horrified by this, I was proud. It didn’t occur to me back then that I was selling myself short or that a man’s willingness to have sex with me was not the highest possible praise I could receive.
Most of all, I realize that every time I allowed myself to be judged strictly by the size of my breasts or the narrowness of my waist, I was laying the foundation for girls like Claire to feel insecure and apprehensive when their nearly middle aged bosses failed to treat them like sex objects.
If you’re reading this Claire, I’d just like to say that for that, I’m sorry.
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- Diary of a Teenage Runaway
- I’d Be Bisexual if Women Weren’t So Goddamn Annoying
- Closing the Deal From a Female Perspective
- Image is Everything