My first job confrontation explains how I learned the value of a pause. This has some serious bits, some potty-mouthed bits and a daft photo of me.
I have never been officially qualified for any job I have had. It may also make you feel better to know I have never practiced as an accountant, (can’t do math) or as a brain surgeon (can barely find my own).
I have touched on my colourful career before with such refined articles as ‘Confessions of a Heineken Girl’ and ‘Yes. I Worked for Playgirl Magazine’. That’s right…both of those jobs were just like working for the UN or the Red Cross.
It is not that I am not well educated, but being tertiary ‘qualified’ as a politics major back in the recession ridden 90s, left me somewhat at sea. My choices were, seek a career in politics and become a dickhead, or, not. I chose not. Maybe I should have gone to Canberra? Considering the current Australian political climate, I could have been PM by now. New law…no dickheads allowed.
I was a, ‘Person Not Formally Qualified for Anything’, but after 10 months I talked my way into the marketing department of a glossy magazine publisher in Sydney.
I knew nothing more about publishing than what I had gleaned printing my final year dissertation on my dot matrix printer at home. What else was there to know?
I packed up the Holden Barina with all my worldly possessions to a city where I knew virtually no one, for a job I knew nothing about. What I would soon learn was that the stench of misogyny was far more pungent and harder to get out of my clothes, than anything the printing presses could expel.
It was one hard-core meeting with the ‘The Publisher’ that opened my eyes and gave me an insight into myself. This ‘Publisher’ fancied himself as Kerry Packer except he was Liliputian in stature, so we will call him ‘Little Kerry’. On this day, Little Kerry was peaking and ready to rip us all a new one from the moment we walked in the board room. Being a newbie, I didn’t know this, so I didn’t understand why my colleagues were calling loved ones and kissing crucifixes.
Little Kerry immediately launched into a tirade about how our lifestyle boating magazine was a ‘bloody joke’ and if we were going to get the advertising revenue up, ‘you girls,’ (namely me and my other twenty-something counterpart) may have to get the ‘tits out’.
I will give you a moment to re-read that sentence.
My lungs burst but then filled with a surging hot wave. I was a 22-year-old girl in my first professional confrontation….I mean sexual harassment encounter. I wanted to throw up.
I wish I could have seen my face in that moment to consider my reaction. You never know if it matches your feelings. Like when you are running. You feel strong and determined, but then you see your reflection in a shop window and realise you are an undignified hot mess and a danger to everyone around you.
On this occasion it must have been the complete opposite.
Little Kerry held his stare, and purely because I was frozen to the spot, held my gaze back at him. Instead of giving off ‘Send help! I am about to faint,’ I must have projected, ‘You’re busted, I’m ringing mum.’
The pause, with both of us locked on each other, felt like it went on for minutes instead of what I think was a solid eight seconds.
Then surprisingly, Little Kerry shrunk (if that was possible). He checked himself and minded his ‘Ps’ and ‘Qs’ for the rest of the meeting, asking me my opinion about what we should do with the birdcage-liner of a magazine. I somehow managed answers with no real authority on the topic, but I am pretty sure it involved women keeping their breasts covered.
What I learned at a young age and in not ideal conditions, was the power of the pause. In making way for stillness, you do a few of things.
First, you allow what is most likely unreasonable or hurtful comments to hang in the air for a bit, naked out on a limb and covering its ugly dangly bits. The moron who hurled them at you can’t take them back and now they must own those comments as they burn into the memory banks of all who heard them.
Second, you get a moment to collect yourself. There is no deadline on when you need to rebut a comment. So, order a coffee, think of a nice whisky, do some online shopping, whatever it takes for you to steady your breath and stay calm.
Third and my personal favourite. At this point the most ridiculous, stupid or unjustifiable thing hasn’t come out of your mouth but someone else’s. Yasss!
I would love to say that I am in control so much that when I have been affronted by someone, I run steps 1 through 3 with precision. It’s number three that I have fallen over by opening my mouth too soon. I prove my own theory each time when I do that.
***Important and serious bit.*** So that I am clear, at no time would I advocate any woman to hold her silence in the case of sexual harassment. This is not what this is. Little Kerry was dealt with in due course but in the way I wanted to manage, not his. (Please watch instructional video below).
We are in a rush now more than ever the experts say. We know we need to take time for ourselves to meditate, sleep, breath deeply and process carbs from the night before. In doing so we can live life more on our own terms. So when confronted unfairly, why not take time then too?
I have developed a good poker face over the years. On the outside I may give the disapproving librarian look while inside I am having a sook, ‘why are you being mean to me?’. But that’s what loving friends and family are for. After the pause and any subsequent words, emails, threats or reconciliations you get to retreat to your safe places where they gather you up in caring arms and you get to say the things you would really love to. For example,
‘Little Kerry. You pointless, pathetic excuse for a man of no significant height, there are those of us who choose intelligence, wit and hard work to see out our working day, so if it it’s okay by you I will keep my body parts covered while you sit back and play with yours.’
Love Jaq xxx
I publish my column every fortnight (unless book club was the night before, then it may be a day late). You can also subscribe for my monthly catch up here: subscribe .