The news of Bill O’Reilly being sacked from Fox News this week brought up a lot of memories from my own dealings with what I came to know (not fondly) as the Good Old Boy League.
After moving from New York City to Nashville, I was sitting in a business meeting and one of the men looked over at me when I spoke and said, “and who are you? Honey, why don’t you go get us all some coffee!”
I didn’t get anyone coffee and ignored the request altogether.
You can imagine what I wanted to say back as a retort! Instead, I figured I would get a lay of the land and see if this was an isolated incident. I learned quickly that there really was this undertone of men who simply thought women were meant to create life and had no other value, and certainly had no business being in business. Up until this point in my career, I had never dealt with anything like this. Granted, it wasn’t the majority but they do exist.
Meetings among the “card-carrying-members” were always interesting and reminiscent of teenage boys in the locker room. I would silently sit laughing in my head, wondering when we would finally get to work and stop trying to “one up” each other. I heard more stories of smoke-laden cigar bars and conquests than I care to recall. The same people screaming that women had no business in leadership or that marriage equality would somehow destroy the sanctity of marriage.
I would typically go back to my office after sitting through one of these mind-numbing exchanges and vent to coworkers, “Mine is bigger! Will you listen to me now?” This usually included me pretending to toss a little something on my desk (use your imagination) for theatrics.
We joked about it quite often. I even considered buying a little desk prop for those moments but I could never quite bring myself to actually go through with it.
A few years ago, one of my team members took up gardening. One morning, she came to my office with a bag full of zucchini, which ironically resembled a very large version of the male anatomy.
We laughed uncontrollably that day, tossing it around on the desk.
For the most part, these incidents were far and few between but just when you start to think the days of the “good old boys” are long gone, one will come out from the woodwork and catch you off guard.
Just a few months ago, someone insisted he would only take a meeting with me if my boss (a man) were present because he needed someone with the authority to make a decision on the call. My boss had already explained to him in a previous email that I was the person he would need to speak with.
I sat for a moment, processing. I was speechless.
After drafting a dozen different versions of the response I wanted to send, I made it short and simple:
This meeting has been cancelled…indefinitely.
I suppose I should take offense that I would later be called (interchangeably) “ball buster,” “bitch,” and “ice queen” but considering the source, found it to be quite the compliment.
Moral of the story: never apologize for who you are or for being strong. Someday the good old boys will die off and strong little girls and little boys who were raised to believe in equality will be making all the rules.
Start the Day with Coffee. End the Day with Wine. Life is what happens in between.