It’s 2008, the phone is ringing, and I am standing on the street corner, praying to every God available that it goes to voicemail. I am running the carefully worded message through my head when I hear, “hello?”
The night before I was at a dinner discussing a possible assistant job. I was pet-sitting in his building and this financial journalist asked me to watch his cat while on a business trip. After he came back, he wanted to hire me on as his admin/personal assistant.
The restaurant had been very dark, and he was a bit of a close talker. I was feeling excited about the opportunity when I had the thought, “wait, was this one of THOSE interviews?” Had I naively walked into a situation that would put me in an awkward situation?
Me: “uhh…..yeah, hi,it’s mefromlastnightandIwantedtothankyouanduhhh…..listen I know this is really silly, but I just wanted to make sure that this is just a professional arrangement. There is nothing more to this, right?”
Me: (slowly dying)
Him: “You think I want to date you? I need someone to help me with my files.”
Me: “oh. yeahno! Tooootally. That’swhatIthoughttoobutyouknowIjustwantedtomakesure,forsure,you know? I am glad we’re on the same page. Uhhh…. Talk to you later!”
(end of call)
Instantly I could see the comedy gold of what just happened. It was so cringe, and so hilarious at the same time. I told my roommate later that night and she almost went pale. “Omigod! I cannot believe you did that. I would never have the guts.” I was surprised because I did not have the guts either, but I just assumed that this was what I was supposed to do.
My best friend said the same thing, that she would just pray that he would not make advances and ignore them if he did. I was stunned to see that I had it so wrong. I was trying to emulate them, but I took for granted that their appearance of having confidence did not mean they actually were, as the cool kids say, a girl boss.
At that time, I was but a Family of Women babe. A newbie to adulting and the many tools I would learn in the organization. Over the years, in leadership and from workshops, I blossomed without really noticing. That fake-it-till-you-make-it principle morphed into actual trust in myself and my value. I heard a woman once describe it as a well-fitting jacket and I really love that. I may take it off sometimes, but it fits like a glove when I am wearing it.
So much so, that fast forward to when I was dating my then-boyfriend, he did something that upset me and embarrassed me. He did not intend to, and I knew it at the time, but he had crossed a line.
A wave of calm knowing came over me. Incredibly – I kid you not – I put my hand on my heart and I looked him straight in the eye and said, “the man that I am going to marry will love me, cherish me, and respect me. I know you love me, and I feel cherished by you, but I do NOT feel respected right now.”
He got quiet and I let him digest it. About an hour later we talked about it and why it happened. A year later we married, and he has cherished and respected me ever since. By valuing myself, I showed him how to do the same.
That young woman on the sidewalk praying for voicemail sure has come a long way.
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