Hey, Sexy!

My friends just left the bar for the next and I hadn’t closed my tab… so I was about 5 minutes behind them, heading out solo. Its cold. Its dark. I pause just outside the door to look at my phone and I can feel the looks and smiles being directed at from the cigarette-smoking guys just outside the club.  It feels kind of flirty but also makes me feel uneasy, I’m not looking for a guy tonight (or ever, really) I start up the sidewalk to the next destination that was just texted to me by my drunk boyfriend-clad friends. I’m away from the loud club in a quiet stretch of darkened windows and closed businesses and… alleys.

“Hey Sexy!” this phrase is shouted at me, and I am suddenly very aware of what I’m wearing. Wondering if it is really me this man is shouting at. I’m feeling naked now in my not-too-short sequined skirt with black tights and ankle boots. My hair is curled. My hands are deep in the pockets of my Pea coat, and I’m looking straight ahead trying not to make eye contact with this group of men standing against the outside wall of a sketchy little downtown drinking establishment.

“Hey SEXY! I’m talking to you!” I pick up my pace a bit and become frightfully aware that this is noticeable by the sound of my heels against the cobblestone. My heart feels like it is now keeping time with my quickened walking pace. I’ve noted now, that I’m afraid.

“SEXY! Why won’t you at least come talk to me? COME ON, SEXY!?” He’s yelling, offended now, and leans out from his wall in disbelief that I’m not acknowledging him. I ignore him with every fiber of my being. His bros are laughing and whistling. I am now walking passed these men and I am nearing the safety zone of a well lit establishment with a bouncer and other people who would hopefully defend me if these guys decided to do anything.

“Whatever, fucking BITCH…Go home and just be a lonely cunt forever!”

That is the last thing I hear before locking eyes with a couple walking towards me, I’m desperate to be engaged with anyone other than those men shouting at me, but they show no interest in my existence. I’m alone, on the street, and I feel like I have been undressed, degraded, and personally singled out and attacked… for being a woman? Wearing a skirt? Walking alone? I feel guilty, and angry, and confused.

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This weekend was the first time that has ever happened to me in IRL. I have had the misfortune of being completely degraded and harassed on dating website message services, but never in person.  I have heard the stories of friends and other people living in bigger more diverse cities, and on other people’s blogs and articles, so I thought I would be intrigued when this finally happened, I thought it would be interesting, maybe I might even like it… I never knew that this is how it would feel to be “cat-called”. This weekend was an interesting learning experience. When it happened, it was not welcomed. It was not a compliment. It was not friendly.  Even now, just typing this, I feel the heat creeping up my neck to my cheeks. I’m so angry that I feel helpless and victimized. In that moment I wanted to turn around and yell something like “Does your mother know you talk to women like that!? Do you ever get girls like that!? Is your dick really that small!?” But I didn’t. I didn’t, because I was afraid, afraid that I would get harassed further, that he and his bros might threaten me or hurt me, or worse… rape me.

I was afraid of being raped.

When I got to the next bar I casually told my friends what had just happened, someone replied “Well that’s what you get for walking alone.” (That’s what I get for… existing?) Later that weekend, someone else I told immediately inquired about what I was wearing. I described my classy winter going-out style and got: “Well, yeah! What did you think would happen!?” (So I shouldn’t wear skirts or exist?) Only ONE of my friends immediately replied with disgust saying, “Wow, what a bunch of douchebags, I’m glad you’re ok, that must have been scary.” (THANK YOU!)

No one wanted to really talk further about this, it was uncomfortable for them, some of them admitting that they actually wished that it would happen to them, because it would be nice to be “noticed.” Some of them (men) didn’t seem to care that this happened at all and just said “Huh, weird.” Yeah, REALLY WEIRD, and by weird, I mean unacceptable, disgusting, degrading, and perverted.

Why are people not appalled by this? Do I really live in a world where a person (woman) can’t walk down the street alone without expecting to be harassed? Do I live in a world where people shame others for being surprised that this happened, and try to make them feel guilty and somehow responsible for their own harassment because they chose to wear a skirt in public? Is it really accepted that being called “sexy” (or mami, baby, big-tits etc) as a “greeting” by strangers is OK and should be welcomed as a compliment? Should I be obligated to stop and talk to every sexually-driven male who calls out to me in the street? Do I deserve to be called a lonely cunt when I don’t reciprocate?

  1. NO. NO.

But no one thinks twice about this usually because “it’s just the way it is.”

Why?

Because we live in a society where women are told their whole lives:

“Dress modestly so you don’t draw unwanted attention.”

“Don’t walk alone at night.”

“Just ignore them, and don’t provoke them.”

“Don’t get raped.”

Men live in a society where they aren’t told to do anything… they hear what women are told and they assume:

“If a woman is showing her legs or shoulders, ‘she is asking for it’.”

“If a girl is walking alone, she is a weak target.”

“A woman knows better than to say anything or fight back to a man.”

“Women are responsible for not getting raped.”

Am I mad at men?

No.

It’s not anyone’s fault. But it is EVERYONE’s problem… and it is a problem which is part of a very large crazy-scarier problem: Women are still oppressed. We are still the “lesser sex”. We are still viewed as objects existing in a Man’s world.

You’re thinking…. “No, that’s bullshit, women get to vote, and work, and wear whatever they want! They get to hold public office, and are allowed to do everything men can do!!  You’re just a crazy whining feminist on her period.” It’s ok, I’m used to that response, no offense taken, you’re not there yet and its ok, you can’t change your mind overnight.

But here is what I have to say: Women shouldn’t have to “get” to do anything or be “allowed” to do anything. We just are, We just do. We are people and no one should be in charge of what we “get” to do.

See? It is subtle, it is ingrained, it is taught and it is perpetuated DAILY and goes unnoticed by people who don’t realize they are oppressing or being oppressed. No need to be defensive, or guilty, or angry that you’re being “called out” because everyone does it. I do it. But does that mean its OK? NO.

Can we all try and see it and fix it and change it? YES.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~“

An hour after this incident, I decided to walk a few blocks (by myself) to meet my brother at another place. I was feeling confident that this stretch of city was a little safer than the last, so off I went. A block from my destination, I saw a man coming towards me. His stance seemed confident and he was tall and strong-looking, and I began to feel the fight or flight mechanism gearing up. I replayed the earlier events and words in my head and I felt a sudden urge to run across the street so as to avoid him and any possible harassment he may offer. Was this how I was always going to feel from now on when encountering men alone? Should I?

Now only feet away, my heart was racing, I’m feeling afraid and regretting not taking a cab. I look up trying to stare right through him as if he does not exist.

“Ma’am, be careful up that way, it’s really icy…have a good night.” He says, never slowing down, with a polite nod and genuine smile.

“Thank you… you too.”

The NH Secretary.

Just a quick share:

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/03/05/the-most-common-job-in-every-state-1978-2014/

This is very interesting. There are a lot of truck drivers these days… and secretaries are not as prevalent now as they were back in the 70s, unless you live in NH. it seems I’m in the right place.

1978

2014

The Farmer is a dying breed, however, and this makes me very sad.

“Oh, Sweetie…”

“What did they mean by that?” ever find yourself asking this question?

the answer? “Probably not what you think they meant.”

ready?

So here’s the scenario: You’re talking to your mom about your recent online-dating streak and you rant a little about the beard-obsessed dude, and the guy that never texted you back after a charming first date, and if you’re like me and my mom, you tell her about the guy who asked for tit-pics and called you a bitch for ignoring him (more about this another time). After you cynically and sarcastically finish cursing the dating pool, your mom sighs heavily and says something along the lines of: “You know, you’ve always been a handful, that might be why you’re single.”

Ouch. That stings.

But you laugh it off and say something like “yeah, I know, but the right guy will be able to handle me!” (which is true) and then you change the subject or if you’re me, you’d make a joke about your double-Ds being more than a handful, and any guy’d be lucky to have you. But there is that search party for truth gearing up in the back of your mind, nagging, “Why’d she say that? Am I THAT bad? I told the guy I liked his beard, and I didn’t even get drunk or opinionated on that charming first date.”

Sucks, right?

You know those little digs, or “tips” or “oh hunny”s. You’ve heard them, and I bet it hurt worse than when you realized you were never going meet and marry Leo DiCaprio or Tom Brady. We all say them sometimes with out thinking, sometimes they are said out of concern, and meant to be a tip, or helpful hint, but they are oh, so misplaced so I have learned.

So here is another one… if you’ve ever been rejected, this one is going to bring back some terrible memories of college boyfriends and stupid crushes, so if your current mental state has been weakened lately from an endless winter and unrequited OKC likes, you might want to sit this one out….

back in college I started talking again to a guy I used to know and had a crush on in my high school days, we were always friendly and in the same circles, and after high school we just sort of didn’t ever see each other until one day something came along that changed the world forever: AIM and Facebook. So we reconnected through the interwebz and it went on for a few months and one night he had said that he was attracted to me and I was always attracted to him so I then casually told him I had been enjoying our talks and suggested that maybe we should go on a date sometime when I was back in town if he felt the same. He did not respond with “That’s nice of you to ask, but I’m not looking to date right now” or “Sorry if I gave the wrong impression, but I really just like being friends.” Hell, I would have preferred: “I can’t, I have to help my friend move, and then I have to take my dog to the vet, and my mom says I can’t date until I’m 40, also I’m moving to Australia and the time difference might be a problem.” but instead I got this:

“Heather, don’t be one of those girls who thinks too much, guys don’t like that.”

Should he have dated me? No, it’s ok to say you don’t want to date someone and I respect that, and I have even got quite good at it myself. I know now (after getting a better understanding of what college age guys want) that he was never looking for a relationship, only someone to flirt with and talk with and…other-things with. He never meant to hurt me with saying that but he did whether he knew it or not. That little sentence fucked me up worse than the 3 Twisted Teas and shot of Schnapps I used to drown that college-age misery.

Is rejection a part of life? Absolutely, and I can handle that and understand that it is inevitable and you get over it. However, his words made me feel ashamed. I was sure that I must be a crazy person and had done something wrong, that maybe he was right. Was asking someone to go on a date because we enjoyed talking and laughing together “thinking too much”? It made me feel like I was discrediting my gender. It made me feel like I was not worthy of his, or any dude’s attention. It made me feel silly for ever thinking “a guy like him would ever want a girl like me”. fucked up, right? Shit, where’s the schnapps?

I have long since then, ditched the naive, low self-esteem, no-one-will-ever-love-me mindset, and I know now that I’m fucking awesome. I don’t need a guy to tell me what I should change about myself to be more appealing to them. I know now that not everyone is looking for the same things in relationships, sex, life, love, and that is ok, heck, I even celebrate differences like that!

using that revelation to look back at that interaction, He was just disappointed that I wasn’t just DTF and had feelings that he didn’t understand and I misread his “advances” for something more romantic. That is all. nothing more, nothing less. I’m at peace with stuff like that now, and I wish I could go back and slap my hopeless-romantic self out of clouds.

I think sometimes those little sayings, and “tips” are a reflection of someone’s own insecurities and skewed perception of beauty or what is acceptable in society. (or maybe they are just jealous of your dashing good looks.)

Ladies, ever go to Char Russe or H&M and find that perfect dress or body-hugging sweater, or jeans that make you shake-it shake-it in the dressing room? Yeah you do it, don’t lie. Feels good right? Made a decision, looking good, feeling sassy, so you wear it to a family function or to your best friend’s dinner party and they say something prefaced by “oh, hunny/sweetie/guuuurl…” and it usually goes something like this: “Isn’t that kind of tight? what size did you get?… I bet it would look better in the next size up.”  I bet, instead, you heard: “Just because you lost 15 lbs doesn’t mean you’re ready for a swimsuit modeling career, damn bitch, cover yo’ shit up, you’re giving yourself too much credit!”

Damn.

now, now…before you slap a bitch, you have to believe me when I say they were really trying to protect you and make you aware of how people might perceive you based on how they perceive the world.  They assume that, like themselves, you care what other people think. Your mom/sister/friend is saying that they don’t want people thinking you look “fat” or don’t respect yourself or that you have bad fashion sense (god-forbid). They said it to help. They said it hoping that you would consider SOMEONE ELSE’S opinion because that is what society tells us to do. “Be skinny, be tan, do your makeup, buy the newest clothes, dress to impress!”

It took me FOREVER to learn that most people (especially the ones you care about) don’t mean to say things in a way that leaves you mentally crumbled on the floor sobbing and looking around desperately for any remaining shards of your shattered dignity.

Is it hard not to take things personally? So hard. But is it freeing when you finally grasp the concept? 100%, life changing-ly, YES.

What is the best way to change your attitude? think before YOU speak and then see how hard it is to not say something snotty, rude, or downright assuming. We are all guilty. I’m a bitch, (really!). Sometimes its because I’m so caught up in my own feelings I forget others have feeling too.

Here it is:

The next time you feel the need to offer unsolicited fashion advice about what your friend is wearing, don’t. Or try, “Hey, I love that color on you, where’d you get it?” and the next time you want to tell your sister that she is freaking crazy and that she will die alone if she doesn’t knock off half of her 58 point checklist of the perfect husband, (even if you’re probably right, because lets face it, she’s looking for no kids, nice car, own house, good job, 6’2″, funny, smart, AND good looking and we single ladies know that he’s already married.) JUST DON’T. Instead say “It must be so hard for you to wait for the right one to come along… lets drink wine.” Then… you drink all of the wine and drunkenly Tinder.

Then maybe, just maybe, the next time your mom/sister/friend says something that makes you want to wear an over-sized burlap sack for the rest of your miserable existence as to hide any flaws you’ve been made to believe that you have, rewind, find your shake-it-shake-it place, be there, stay there. Maybe you’ll even have the courage someday to say “I like the way I look in these jeans, and sweetie, that is all that really matters to me!”

Just a Secretary

A few months ago I was on lunch and found myself at Shaw’s so I could grab a salad and a bag of chips. I’m at the checkout when the young-20-something male bagger noticed my work name badge and asked what I do for work. “I’m a secretary.” So begins what I’m sure he meant to be a cordial interaction.

“Ooooh, so you’re a secretary huh?” he says with a creepy smile and smugness.

“Yes, I work up the road at a medical practice.” I say to him trying to show as little interest for this conversation as possible without being rude.

“So like, what? You bring the doctors their coffee?” He says, laughing and looking around to see if anyone thinks he is as funny as he thinks he is. Usually in years past I would have quipped with something like “No I just answer the phones.” and then laugh at myself with him. This time however, I felt that sting, and heard the degrading connotation and it fueled a need for a response that would rendered him embarrassed, speechless, or maybe even angry.

I looked him right in the eye, and pleasantly proclaimed, “No, actually the doctor buys me coffee, and I manage his schedule, and his patient’s insurance claims so that he gets paid. I also work 10 hour days and make sure that we have all the supplies needed to run the practice, as well as answering phones. Oh, and I don’t need a bag for those.” I then curtly smiled, took my receipt and walked away feeling somewhat proud of standing up for my position and worth.

that feeling lasted a few seconds because then the questions start rolling in my mind: Is that what people think a secretary does? Bring people coffee? (as a side note, coffee is not a joke or something to take lightly, so if there is someone bringing/serving you coffee, they are an important person and deserve your respect!) Maybe the title he was looking for was a “waitress.”  That brings up a whole different issue of political correctness, which I will save for another post at a later date. Quickly though, I’m technically SUPPOSED to be called an “Administrative Professional” and Waitress/Waiter should be “Wait Staff” or “Server”, and the bagger that assumed I was a waitress should be called a “Customer Service Associate.” (side note: I used to be a bagger when I was in high school. It’s not an easy job and it is more than bagging groceries, so I am in no way, downplaying the importance/need of his job.)

Was I threatening him in some way that he felt the need to try and belittle me in front of others to feel bigger, better, faster, stronger? Did he think that he was God’s gift to women in that green polo and apron, and that I would be flattered by his interest in my lowly career? Did he truly just not understand that a secretary isn’t a personal servant? I don’t know, and I only slightly care, because I get that response a lot when I tell people, especially men, that I’m a secretary. (I tried telling people that I was an administrative assistant for a while, but they would just laugh and say “So you’re a secretary?” [eye-roll]).

Do I KNOW now that I’m more than just a secretary? Yes. My actual title with my company is Secretary Supervisor Senior. I know the job I do is important to my staff and to our patients. I understand the demand for someone who can answer phones, book appointments, and deal with a belligerent patient who doesn’t understand why their insurance isn’t covering the cost of their services. Do I wear a pencil skirt and heels? You bet.  Do I supervise others with compassion, and order Office-Max like a boss, and file faxes in a perfected folder system? Of course. Do others see it this way? Rarely. Because “I’m just a secretary.”

I used to be guilty of saying that phrase when I first started as a secretary with out supervisor skills. I don’t know if it was my own confidence lacking, society’s view on women in the work place, or what I let others tell me I was subconsciously, but I referred to myself as “just the secretary” when people asked me about what I did. Sometimes if I was on the phone with a patient and they would ask me a clinical question, I would respond with “I wouldn’t know that, I’m just the secretary.” I never found any harm in this and I never thought twice about this until one day my Practice Manager was visiting and overheard me say this. After I hung up with the patient, she poked her head around my desk partition and gave me a very stern look. I could feel myself shrink, knowing I was about to be “talked to” about something… but then she said something that I will always remember, and I credit it as a turning point in how I view my own and other’s worth and value.

“You are not JUST a secretary! So you don’t have medical knowledge?  That means you’re NOT a doctor but you ARE a secretary, and that is JUST as important.”

coming from a professional, powerful, confident, woman, her words really spoke to me. It made me think about what that phrase really conveyed to others and how I let them view me and how I viewed myself before. I was basically saying, “Heather, lets be serious… you’re a secretary, you do the most cliched women’s-job there is, you sit around answering phones, taking messages, and filing papers all day, big deal? No one cares. You’re not a nurse, or a teacher, or a business woman… you’re just a secretary.”

Now I know that I’m more than my job title. I’m more than what society thinks I should be, I decide what I do, and I choose to be a secretary because I love my job. I get to help people everyday and those people respect me and I respect them. I’m lucky to have a great office to work in.

I’ve decided to “take back” the word “secretary.”  I decided to name my blog “I’m Just a Secretary” because it reminds me of what state of mind I came from, and maybe others will identify with it and read something that changes their minds about the way we think about others and ourselves.

We are all not JUST anything. You ARE. I AM. And that is important.

But what do I know? I’m Just a Secretary!

What do I know?

I’m Heather.

I’m a single, 28 year old, woman, working as a full time secretary. I am a taxpaying renter in a one person household living in NH. Those are my stats according to the US government.

According to me: I’m a sassy, cynical, educated realist, who can find the humor in any situation. I am emotional but aware. I give great advice but can’t seem to apply it in my own life. I love wine, my cat, the sound of crickets, and stupid TV dramas. I don’t like being told what to do, unless it is someone’s job to do so. I argue and love with the same level of passion. I’m inappropriate, not “lady-like”, and blunt. I don’t care if you don’t like me. I like me enough for the both of us, and if you think that is conceited or bitchy, go back to the part where I don’t care.

So without further ado, lets get into the nitty gritty here: I’m entitled to my opinions here, because I believe that out in the career and social world, you should keep most of your opinions at bay, unless someone’s opinions are also being directed at you in an offensive manner, but lets be serious here: No one likes a hostile work environment or a ruined dinner party. But this is the internet… it’s all fair game, right?

I often find myself needing to write, or hypothesize, or at least record what I see or hear on a daily basis. So, I decided to do what every “crazy bitch who has an opinion” does…

I’m writing a blog.

This is for me mostly, and, if along the way, someone finds it (somehow) and it makes them laugh, think, or click [x] with a disgusted look on their face, then that is fine too.

You will find here anecdotes, ideas, thoughts, opinions, and jokes from and about daily life that may or may not include: Dating adventures and the single world, feminist humor and insight, things people say to me, current topics and pictures I find funny, entertaining, enthralling, disgusting, terrible, or annoying. I swear sometimes, because sometimes “fuck” is the only thing appropriate to convey my feelings… I have feelings, and I will occasionally talk about my cat, the weather, and what wine I’m currently obsessed with…because I can, because ‘Murica and freedom and girl power!

But, I’m just a secretary, what do I know?