I work in the beauty industry and every time I go into the office a man tries to hit on me. As if it’s not enough insult that a woman’s field is dominated by men, they also feel the need to make their presence known. Before you tell me to take it up with HR, let me tell you what happened at one meeting right in the presence of HR.
Our Managing Director is a short, stubby man with a kitambi from here to Nigeria. He loves to hold impromptu team meetings in his lavish office just to be surrounded by beautiful women who would do anything for a promotion. Me, on the other hand, I work in sales which keeps me out of the office most times and could care less about office drama. I had met him once or twice before when he came around gifting every woman with chocolates on Valentine’s Day. I must say, he is a modern-day Casanova.
The second time, Mr. X’s secretary called my desk and asked me to come to her boss’ office. That had never happened to anyone. At least not to anyone from the 2nd floor. I was stunned but played cool only to get there and be told she called the wrong person. Here I thought all my dedication to making sales had paid off. I got to meet the secretary, though. She turned out to be a really interesting person. As we chatted, Mr. X came out of his office to escort his visitor. He looked at me for a hot minute then said hi. I said hi back and then left to my lowly 2nd-floor desk.
Weeks after talking to his secretary, I invited her for drinks with some of my other colleagues. It was ladies’ night and we all loved bottomless sangria. As we talked, Rita, the secretary, disclosed how her boss spends most of the day making calls to his lovies in the office and if there is a new girl he would be the first one to “assess” her. She told me how the day we met he hadn’t realized that I was technically an old staff member until he checked my data. He then instructed Rita to cancel the call. I was shaken by this information and the fact that this still happened in 2018. I guess I must have slipped from his radar.
When I saw him for the third time we were having a meeting. His suit was exquisite, his watch stood out under a crisp white shirt and I could tell he had gotten a fresh haircut. Remember, I work in the beauty industry. As he talked, his eyes occasionally wandered to a group of ladies all huddled together at a particular section of the room. These were the cool girls in the office. They carried designer bags from China, they wore 6-inch stilettoes and none of their skirts touched their ankles. As for their looks, they were pretty, I must say. They all smiled when he looked at them and you could tell he was feeling good about it. Every man in that room wanted to be him at that moment.
The meeting went on smoothly. Every department had a chance to articulate its achievements, concerns and overall performance. Since I hadn’t attended any of these meetings, I didn’t know what was about to go down. All of a sudden, the MD looked directly at me, smiled then started walking towards me. He stopped exactly where I was standing and then said, “How have I never seen such a beautiful person around?” Everybody laughed so I assumed it was all in fun.
“I’m barely in the office since I work in sales,” I replied.
“Then we should give you a job that keeps you in the office.”
You would think this is a private conversation but his mic was right next to his flapping mouth. Things went from fun to creepy in a matter of seconds so he decided to change the subject.
“If you get this answer correctly, I will buy you dinner at any restaurant you want.”
Now, I’m not an HR expert but I’m sure that was harassment since these comments were unwarranted. Regardless, I smiled as if I was excited but I really wanted to punch his bulging stomach.
“Are you ready?” he asked then shoved the microphone in my face.
“Yes, I am.” There was applause. I don’t know how people enabled this kind of behaviour from anyone but I wasn’t the one to start a revolution.
“It’s a hard one so get your thinking cap on.” Maybe it was just me but I was getting a serious sexual vibe from him.
I smiled again. Why was I smiling so much? I noticed I hadn’t really looked around the room to see if people were genuinely having fun at my expense or if it was just as awkward for them. They didn’t seem to care. Although, the group of girls sized me up.
“Why is six afraid of seven?” he finally asked. I had the most surprised reaction so I asked him to repeat.
“I told you it was a hard one. Why is six afraid of seven?” he repeated.
I didn’t know if he was serious but everybody was dead silent so I assumed he was. “Because seven eight nine,” I answered. Again, everyone burst out laughing in unison except me.
“I like them smart.” He said while everyone was busy picking their dignity from the floor. “Dinner’s on me. I’ll have my secretary set it up.”
He then closed the meeting and I was ready to run out of the building and into traffic. Not only did he blatantly flirt with me in front of the entire office, but he also humiliated me by making it seem like I was his object of entertainment. He also didn’t care that I was a mother and a wife-to-be. That was one of the lowest points in my career that I hope to never happen again. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t show up for dinner. I called and explained that my child was fussing.
The next day at work was awkward. As I walked into the office, everyone wanted details about the dinner that didn’t happen. you can imagine their disappointment when they realised there was nothing to gossip about.
Right before I left for my sales errands, Mr. X casually strolled in and I could see him from the door. He walked straight up to me, said good morning and handed me an envelope. I knew I was about to get fired which was something I was sort of prepared for. As soon as he left, I opened the envelope and saw a generous amount of money with a note. it read, “For your child, quick recovery.” It turned out the misogynistic guy wasn’t so bad after all.
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