A fairytale just for “been there…” to take us into the long weekend. A long time ago in a newsroom far far away….
He was an older guy. He’d been around. And I was a sweet young thing with short skirts and high heels.
This was his newsroom. Or… at least it had been at one time. But times had changed. The paper had changed hands, frequently. His old cronies had moved on to other things. Still he remained, the newspaper’s brand name, the columnist who everyone in the city knew on sight, who everyone both loved and hated at the same time. He’d been around long enough to be a living institution and, maybe, he kind of hated himself for it.
They warned me about him early on. He was an old-fashioned kind of guy, old school, from a different time, they said. Don’t pay any attention to anything he says. Just roll with it.
So I let him call me sweetheart. At city events, to the people who would be my sources, he referred to me as a pretty young thing. That was only in my hearing, of course. Who knew what he was saying behind closed doors, at the bars where the old pols hung out.
But it gets annoying after a while to have a colleague carry out entire conversations with your breasts. Did he think they were talking back to him? Did he really think, when he said I had pretty eyes, that I thought he was talking about something on my face? And why was it, when he held the door with much exaggeration, that he always managed to get close enough to just brush up against me? Did he think I really believed that it was accidental, that his apologies actually meant that it wouldn’t happen again?
Maybe I should have talked to my boss. But that seemed kind of whiny. Human resources, same drill. I talked to other women in the office. They agreed it was annoying, but what could you do? It wasn’t like he was in the office all the time. Just a few times a week, to drop off his column and pick up his mail, and surely I could manage to duck him at City Hall functions.
And it worked, at first. But then he kicked it up a notch. He started remarking, during press conferences, how remarkable it was that such a pretty little thing could manage to string several sentences together and actually make sense. He started to disparage my writing.
That made it personal.
He walked into the office and I looked him up and down, slowly. “Hey there, lover boy, aren’t you just a sight for sore eyes,” I purred. And I stared. I carried on an entire conversation with his belt buckle.
I was an attentive little thing at a City Hall press conference, curling myself into a seat next to him and crossing and uncrossing my legs repeatedly, making sure they brushed against him just so. He wasn’t in the greatest shape. His face started to flush. I wondered if he was on heart meds. As he practically leaped from his seat in a panic — who was this crazy woman? — I took it just a step too far.
I grabbed a handful of old man butt and said with astonishment to the mayor, “My god! He’s got a firm ass for a guy his age!”
He was practically purple. He tried to save face and laugh it off. But I’d engaged in dirty pool — it wasn’t so much the ass grab as much as the qualifier: “for a guy his age.”
Back in the newsroom, my editor tried to keep a straight face as his columnist took me to task for sexually harassing him in front of the mayor. I was unprofessional, he said. I was too young. I didn’t know the history of the area, the relationships of the various councilors, and I’d somehow managed to confuse Chapter 61A with Chapter 70 and who the heck mixes up zoning with education funding?
“So why don’t you just teach me?” I finally asked. And I reached out and touched his face. And yanked his chin up to stare at him full on.
“You can start by looking me in the eyes. Up here.”
And he did.