What had exactly happened? I am a well-educated, rule-abiding, newborn Florida attorney who settled for a corporate career, in hopes of a stable and relatively entertaining future.
Perhaps my own self-profile doesn’t command the respect it deserves. This premise became indisputable, and the basis for this shall be set out in the anecdote below.
I didn’t take a break between undergraduate school and law school. I’ve always enjoyed the learning experience, and even aspired to someday make a mark in it. However, when I was honored (yes, honored) with admission to the Florida bar, it provided me with a sense of pride and accomplishment that was truly unsurpassed…perhaps even unbreakable, until I was reminded of a harsh reality I had— until this very evening–refused to face.
I joined a company, where I was to serve as “in-house” corporate counsel. I was literally the only woman in the legal department, and even in every other leading department, the male race seemed to excel in terms of populous.
I moved my life to where my company was. I remained in-state, but took my first apartment away from my parents, who had consistently been my rock since as far as I could remember. It was rough. I missed my friends, who solely visited because of obligation to do so.
Because I was unfamiliar and lonely, you could imagine how thrilled I was when my co-corporate counsel invited me to watch a college football game. I hail from Tallahassee, Florida, where the Seminoles reign, but I wasn’t about to allow a petty football rivalry keep me from staying home on a Saturday night. I was eager to get to know my colleagues, even if it meant paying attention to a game that didn’t involve my ‘Noles…so for this reason, and this reason alone, I obliged.
Call me melodramatic, I almost dare you, but the feeling I experienced tonight warrants no other alternative reaction. I had been so excited to be included, but as I later discovered, I was only included for the cliché reason of why Elle Woods was invited onto Professor Callahan’s internship. I was literally only invited because I was a piece of ass.
Sure, the other men around me appeared satisfied by my company. I consider myself relatively easy to get along with. However, it wasn’t until later, at which point I was pulled aside by the “Pig Who Quite Honestly Doesn’t Deserve A Name,” when I fully discovered what exactly was going on, gathered my gumption, and escaped with as much professional dignity as I could muster.
Some may say the dialogue is irrelevant, some may consider it to be inconceivable to leave out. All I know, and can say for certain, is the repertoire I had naively thought I had established, was non-existent. Instead, I was doused in lines such as, “I thought we had something,” or “I thought there was something between us.”
Fuck. What had given you that idea? The fact that I was polite, friendly, and above all, professional? The fact that I figured, “Well we will be spending so much time with one another, we might as well get along?” What a grave mistake I had made…and here is exactly why.
Men don’t know how to handle such behavior. You give them an inch and they take a mile. You literally, and I mean literally, cannot be polite to them, or at the very least act in a friendly manner towards them, without sending the wrong signal. It sounds pathetic, but years in a male-dominant profession have solidified my observations.
Letting someone down is easy, but being let down is an entirely different beast. It makes you question every fiber of your being. Admittedly, it made me question myself…but I am lucky enough to recognize a pig when I see one. Even if it’s wearing lipstick or in this case, a licensed attorney in a tailored suit.
For lack of a better explanation, it sucks when we are hit on, especially when we want to be taken seriously in a professional setting. I’m your colleague, not a member of your dating pool from Match.com. Behave accordingly. However, until men do, don’t be afraid to speak out. Women forget they are equals, but perhaps even men forget it, too. I feel confident in my ability to remind them.