Volume 22, Number 34 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 1 - 7, 2010
Sex scandals for the not so famous
By Dottie Wilson
News headlines about work-related romances only come out when it’s about some idiot celebrity — you hardly ever hear about the little people, the average employee. There’s massive coverage about Woods, Letterman, former governors and the like. Yet most crazy “crimes of the heart” go completely unreported. You’d think these kind of affairs only occurred with sports and media stars, or silly politicians, but this nonsense can take place in any field.
It isn’t strictly a female and/or heterosexual thing either. Whether you’re a man or a woman, not only must you be good at your job, you need to “romance” a potentially threatening “love interest” on the side in order to move ahead and stay alive. You’re simply not playing the game, or even in the game, if you don’t follow this rule. Kiss ass, or you will be penalized. Anytime a co-worker took up with the boss — or similar high-level person in power — my life became a living hell, and I suspect I am not alone.
One clue you’re about to become the casualty of another person’s disturbing office affair is when there’s a change in the quality of jobs you’re assigned (for better or worse). For instance, I was once sent out to the West Coast for a really cool film shoot in the middle of a nasty New York City winter, and then later found out that it was only because “the boss” didn’t want my co-worker to be away (snuggle, cuddle, goo goo). Somehow, the employee found out about my primo gig, he was in the doghouse — and so was I! I thought I’d received this work based on my professional abilities. NOT. I felt like crying...
If another employee and your employer hook up, you must constantly walk around on eggshells and stay “buddy buddy” with said dangerous person — who on a full-time basis has your client’s ear, as well as other body parts. At one company, my boss took me and a “special” co-worker to a Midnight Oil concert. He and I totally rocked out, but this totally out-of-touch (and professionally inept) fellow-employee hated our shared enthusiasm, and her resentment was obvious. Another time, I was even made to lower my day rate after a particularly snoopy freelance “love interest” saw my (competitive) invoice on the desk, and threw a major tantrum. I definitely cried after that — yet, ever the professional, waited until unhappy hour was over, and was home in bed.
Of course nowadays, many places have strict or specific rules about office dating, but still, it’s a “sticky” situation. Yet I remember when there were hardly any workplace policies about either staff romance or sexual harassment; you basically had to put up or shut up. At the time, however — and basically throughout most my life — I felt certain credos like this did not apply to me. One busy day on Madison Ave. in the early ’80s, I was (slightly!) bent over my upside-down office chair trying to fix a wheel, when some pompous/pig “executive creative director” ambled by and pinched my butt. I went feral. Tossing the chair aside, I ran after this animal and punched him as hard as I could in the center of his (no doubt very hairy) back. I used to take karate; I made the Presidential Physical Fitness Award twice. (Nixon signed the first one.); Dammit, I had a college degree! Long story short, I certainly made an impact/statement, whatever. Ah, the good old days.
There were no eyewitnesses to what I assume are now “dismissible” offenses (for both parties), not that I needed or wanted them. (Lawyers hadn’t started to specialize in this field yet.) But several months later, I had to deal with this same butthead again on a completely different issue. A sales representative from a major film company/famous director needed a videotape cued up for a presentation with my boss, but for some reason our department’s screening room was locked.
I got the key, opened the door and a loud porno was playing on the monitor for a small group of employees on their lunch break. (I believe some of them might even have been doing lines/’twas the season). I immediately figured out who the ringleader was — butthead — and went ballistic, totally Krakatoa. His audience scattered like rats, while I continued with the riot act. Several of my co-workers even started chanting “Go Dottie, Go!’
And just then, several major agency bigwigs and their high-profile clients started to come back from some really important/stupid luncheon and “experienced” the entire fiasco. The amused and shocked looks on their normally stoic/millionaire faces were hysterical, so out of character. They simply didn’t know what to make of me. Yet this incident actually ended up making my boss look good; and the “pain in my ass” was eventually fired for an even more egregious crime, and escorted from the premises by security.
Though I’ve worked for many different corporations, dysfunction and madness of this nature was never the norm, thank goodness, but a horrible and extremely stressful exception. Yet I can attest to having suffered both emotionally and financially. And anyone who’s ever experienced this type of hostile work environment knows full well that it can feel be like spending a day at Willowbrook.
To my knowledge, there’s no cure for abused employees dealing with a creepy office affair, be it large- or small-scale — yet taking matters into your own hands sure does feel good! As Kathy Bates said in the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Sometimes bein’ a bitch is all a woman’s got left.”
I’m tired of hearing salacious details about celebrity scandals exclusively. Surely, there must be other, more important stories besides theirs, and mine (that aren’t as violent/insane). Because even if it doesn’t involve a famous person, there’s no excuse for bad behavior in any business.
Note to one pizza place and a certain newsstand in the East Village: Don’t call me Honey!
Dottie Wilson is a freelance writer Downtown.