There’s a real person here

I’m guessing the guy who sent me the disgusting message at work on Monday didn’t take a minute to think about how his words, emoticon, and “lol” would make me feel.

He probably didn’t expect me to cry in the women’s bathroom. He probably doesn’t know that I left early and my best friend at work walked me out, gave me several hugs, and was concerned that I was too upset to drive. He probably didn’t expect that I wouldn’t be able to get my schoolwork done Monday night because I was so upset and couldn’t focus. He probably didn’t expect that as a result of not getting it done Monday, I had to get up early Tuesday morning to finish it.

He probably didn’t expect that I would feel so anxious standing in front of my closet to get dressed for work and didn’t know what would be hideous enough that he would leave me alone, so I left my pajamas on and worked from home. He probably didn’t expect that I would end up with my laptop in bed and crying throughout the day because I felt so gross and violated.

When I went back to the office on Wednesday, he probably didn’t know that I would make a beeline for an empty cubicle downstairs. I opted to work without a mouse and monitors, just so I wouldn’t have to see him. He probably doesn’t know that I pinged my friend upstairs asking her to bring me my water bottle, so I wouldn’t have to go to my desk.

He probably doesn’t know that after I saw him sign off for the day, I ran up to my desk to reunite with my teammates and finally put lip balm on lips that had been dry all day.

Thursday morning, in a moment of empowerment, I went directly to my desk and settled in. I didn’t raise it up to stand as I usually do in the mornings because that would reveal too much of my backside to him. Instead, I made myself as tiny as possible and shielded myself with the back of the chair. I smelled the red rose on my desk. It was the sweetest smell. It reminded me to be courageous. Then I opened an email about an interview loop I was participating on that day and saw his name on the email, too.

He probably doesn’t know that I panicked. I couldn’t be in a room with him. I couldn’t make nice conversation with him and a young woman who wants to work here. My eyes filled with hot tears. Luckily, it turned out all right because we weren’t in the same sessions with the interviewee, so I just had to make eye contact with him as I was leaving the interview and he was coming in.

He probably doesn’t know that later in the afternoon, I wanted tea. I saw that he wasn’t at his desk, so I hurried to mine to get my mug and green tea bag. I considered going upstairs to the weird kitchen for hot water, but again, didn’t want to change my life because of this incident, so I went to the regular kitchen downstairs.

He probably doesn’t know that my heart raced ask I neared the kitchen. What if he’s in there? Is that why he wasn’t at his desk? He doesn’t know that I carefully peeked around the corner and breathed a sigh of relief when the café was empty. While pouring my water, I heard someone come in and tensed up. I carefully turned my head and again was relieved it wasn’t him. I hurried back upstairs to my makeshift desk.

He probably doesn’t know that today I’m exhausted. All the crying and panicking has taken a toll. Again, I stood in front of the closet wondering what I could wear on this hot day that wouldn’t encourage him to stare. I also have the feeling that it’s going to be a hard day because most of my friends at work who know what’s going on aren’t there today to run interference.

I just wanted you to know that there’s a real person on the receiving end of your words and actions. Next time take a minute to consider that.

I’m not whispering. I’m screaming

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On Monday a colleague who sits behind me felt it was appropriate to send me an instant message telling me he was bummed that I wouldn’t be sitting in his line of vision anymore.

He basically told me he looks at me from behind while I work. Disgusting. For context, this is NOT a friend of mine. He’s a guy I’ve barely said more than good morning to.

I left the office with tears running down my face. I tried to shield my red eyes with sunglasses, but anyone who encountered me saw me crying. I cried much of the evening and the following day. I felt violated and ashamed. Had I done something to provoke this? Were my heels too high or my jeans too flattering? I have been crushing it at the gym  lately.

The same guy pinged me a couple weeks prior to tell me he noticed that I’m always working really hard. I said thank you and that I appreciated that he noticed. Did that somehow open the door to him—a married man with a baby on the way—feeling it appropriate to let me know he likes looking at me?

Tuesday, I felt so nauseated that I couldn’t bring myself to go to the office. Instead, I played a video my sister-in-law posted of my niece, 4, giggling as she innocently drove her toy car around the yard. All I could think about in that moment was my sweet girl growing up and having a slime bag stare at her ass while she tries to do her job.

Oh, hell no! Not on my watch!

So I fired off an email to the slime bag letting him know that what he said was disgusting and it affected my day. I told him not to bother me again. All I want to do is my job–making healthcare work better. A mission I’m very passionate about.

I also took it to the whisper network at my company. Even without mentioning his name, I got responses of “I know exactly who you’re talking about because he’s done it to me, too.”

Well, that got me really fired up. I’m not going to whisper for another second. I’m going to scream and yell.

There is no reason anyone should feel uncomfortable going to their job or sitting at their desk. There is no reason I should be searching my closet for unflattering articles of clothing to wear. There is no reason a slime bag should feel comfortable telling a coworker he (or she) likes to stare at them from behind. THIS IS NOT OK!

So today I held my head high, and I went to work. Obviously I didn’t sit at my desk in his eye line. But anyone who asked why I wasn’t sitting at my desk was told exactly why I wasn’t sitting at my desk. I even spun my laptop around and let them read the exchange (posted above, in its entirety) for themselves.

And I got a ton of support from my colleagues. Men and women promised to report any inappropriate behavior they see. They offered to have a conversation with him on my behalf. One even put a red rose on my desk. “The color of courage,” she explained.

Tonight I’m so grateful to all the supporters. To every man who asked how to navigate in the #metoo era and all the brave victims who are using their voice– who are turning their whispers into shouts. You all inspire me. And if I go home crying again tomorrow, it’ll be for a completely different reason.