Why Didn’t She Say Something?

{This Ain’t No Bandwagon Part III}

A few weeks ago, I decided I needed to go all in with #MeToo. Not necessarily for me. I’ll get nothing out of this except maybe a feeling of catharsis. But … my daughters might need to understand why I feel so strongly about it.

Did you miss me? The holidays struck, I fell and buggered up my wrist, had to go out of town a time or two for work, and doctored pneumonia and bronchitis. At last, I’m resurfacing. Happy New Year!

Greeneville

And now: The News

When the Harvey Weinstein thing broke – really broke and wasn’t just covered over again – my husband said: That man is a pig.

I thought to myself: You say that like he’s atypical. As though he’s the exception. “Harvey Weinstein” has been the symbolic casting couch archetype for half a century.

He was one of the most powerful men in the Hollywood scene. If you wanted to be in movies, if you wanted to be a star, he could make it happen.

Weinstein

Of course he thought he could get a little extra something something on the side.

Here’s what I’m having trouble understanding: What is it about these men (or people in power, but you have to admit that it seems to mostly be men in “positions of power”) that they feel compelled to somehow exercise their dominance? Do they know they can’t get laid legitimately, so they have to utilize whatever leverage they think they have?

And then there are people like me who let them. Who, at that point in their lives, honestly do not know how to not let them.

Hell, my first job at The Burger Chef had the shift manager assigning me my uniform, and telling me I had to french kiss him before he could give it to me. I was seventeen! A fast food shift manager!

I had not even found anyone I enjoyed kissing – much less kissing a perfect stranger for fun and profit. Was there a way to talk myself out of this? We were alone in a closet and it was before hours. Even if there had been other people around, no one could’ve seen us. I thought I had to kiss him. One kiss, no biggie, right?

I thought I’d messed up somewhere in the application process. I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I could fix this. Whatever it was. I’d figure it out between college and my next job.

Once college graduation was behind me, I felt the pressure to get a job and be on my own. A friend asked if I wanted to move in with her and share rent. I said sure. My parents had just gone through a messy divorce, I didn’t really want to stay with either of them, but I was still in town and had that safety net. I worked at a radio station on weekends so sharing rent and groceries would be no problem on minimum wage, right?

Nope. After a couple of months, I’d gone through all of my paychecks and all of my savings, and had to make hard decisions like was I going to pay my half of the rent, or help pay for groceries, or live off GrapeNuts™ again like I had in the dorm.

Rent usually won out. But I liked eating, too. It forced me to take another part-time job through the week filing at the courthouse. Then the radio station made me an offer. Would I be the weekend news anchor and the fill-in reporter for nightly meetings?

Of course I would.

I had a world to change!

Once I got noticed for my amazing news and editorial skills on an AM Radio station in middle Appalachia, I’d move on to television and then before long it’d be NBC.

And if I’d had a mentor in the field, instead of an unprincipled, immoral, depraved, lying, two-faced hypocrite … Who knows?

You’d describe him is short, dumpy, mild. Inoffensive. Harmless. His father-in-law was a preacher. He had three little girls under the age of five. He didn’t even go by his real name but an innocuous nickname which added to his modesty and wholesomeness. I was fresh and shiny from my charmed college life and my bright future of dreams. I was irrepressible. What could he do besides help me on my way to new, lofty heights?

First, he would come in with his eldest daughter and leave her in the studio for me to look after while he puttered away in his office. Despite the fact that it was my shift, and I was on the air.

Even then I knew it was insulting. I just didn’t have a word for it.

She didn’t even like me.

He called me “babydoll.” His babydoll. Like it was an accusation: Why do you have to be such a babydoll?

Somehow, it became my fault.

Him:     There’s three meetings this week. They’re yours if you want them. I know you could use the money.

Me:    All right! Where at?

Him:     First things first, babydoll. One story, one breast. Two stories, both. And for all three, I get to touch them.

I laughed. I thought he must be joking. This was a professional broadcaster, known in news and sports over much of the state; news director for the town I lived in. I was starry-eyed from my sparkly college career. Who did he think he was?

So my paycheck that month did not allow me to buy groceries. I went to Mom’s and ate chicken sandwiches.

Well, hell. In my naiveté, I thought maybe if I just showed my breasts (which were nothing to ogle, I assure you, as I was still a pre-babies A cup) then he would laugh, and I would laugh, and we’d go about our lives like the professionals we were.

Pretty soon, breasts just weren’t enough.

The height of my disgust came when he started buzzing me to come and see him in his office. (Yes, this was back when offices had legit buzzers.) And it was still on the weekend so there wasn’t anyone else in the studios. I’d put on an extra long song so I could get my week’s assignments, or fix edits before the next news break, to find him buck naked. And he’d hand me a bottle of lotion.

I thought I would vomit then and there.

And it kept happening.

No one will believe me.

That’s what kept me up at nights. I was gullible and unchallenged and I couldn’t think of one person I could go to, who would believe a single charge I made against this warped and pudgy douchebag.

And he knew it.

I despised the feeling of being utterly trapped.

My “self” hadn’t grown much, buried beneath the College Imposter. Still an awkward, insecure, self-doubting, uncertain girl who’d led some sort of charmed college existence. Seriously. I was seriously lucky.

This #MeToo “tweet” says it all:

61e

He was the first person I remember hating.

There was never anything that would be considered assault. There was coercion, intimidation, bullying, harassment. He was positively brilliant at getting in my head. It went without saying but he knew that I knew that he knew he was untouchable.

I played through scenarios in my mind:

I’d go to the station manager. And I’d get fired. Couldn’t have some fresh-faced intern casting shade on his respectable radio station and the upstanding renowned and well-liked news director. Or worse, I’d get called in with the news director so we could work out this “misunderstanding” like the professionals we were.

I’d go to the police. Surely this was illegal, somehow. No, now I was an adult. He would plead consensual.

My mother? She was up to her neck in her own neuroses. My dad? Brother? Possibly. But I was more afraid the jerk would end up missing or dead and they’d be indicted.

My friends? I risked it and a couple believed me. Enough that when they could, they would come to spend time at the station with me when I had to work, so I wouldn’t get harassed when he came in. Which was every weekend.

Until he told the station manager that I wasn’t taking my on-air position seriously because when he would “happen by” the station on weekends, he would find my friends there, too. I was told I couldn’t have anyone else with me during my shifts.

I didn’t tell my friends at the radio station. They were all his friends.

Nobody had ever come on to me. I had no idea how to handle it. Obviously!

I didn’t tell my roommate. I was afraid she’d think I was being conceited; vain; bragging. Bragging! That this dumpy, twisted asswipe was coming on to me!

What if I had? What if I had said something to somebody?

My friend said to me more than once: You could own that little one-horse station.

But that was only feasible if anyone believed me. And that wasn’t going to happen. Not then. Not there. Not with him. He was very, very good in his duplicity. Besides, the station was tainted now. I didn’t want it.

I loved my job. Loved it. Loved getting on the air, loved cutting commercials, loved working with the other on-air guys, loved being recognized for news stories. No, I wasn’t making a good living at it, but I was getting by with the courthouse filing option.

But apparently someone was noticing. Though I had no idea who or why or what to do with it. I was offered a fast-track to weekday noon news anchor. That was huge. It was. Second only to being the director of something.

I would’ve been fabulous.

I just couldn’t stand the thought of working with him on a daily basis. He would’ve been my boss daily. Not just weekends. It’s depressing to recall I had no way of knowing how I should have risen to the occasion; made the opportunity; turned all of this around. This was way before the internet exploded, and I only had a sheltered farm life and a charmed college career to call on for no help whatsoever.

I compromised myself and my hopes and dreams. Again.

And again.

And again.

I convinced myself that I needed a “real job” (my dad’s words), one that had weekends off, I could pay rent and buy groceries in the same month, promotions weren’t dependent on the rate of minimum wage or the perkiness of my breasts.

That was the American dream, right? That was really out there somewhere, right?

I told the station manager I’d think about the offer he was making. It was a good one, honestly. I think I could’ve learned to love it. But I settled. Obviously I’d – somehow, somewhere, once again – made a serious error in judgement early in this broadcasting career that brought on his type of debauchery. I wouldn’t do that again. I could fix this. So I interviewed at television stations in the larger towns nearby. I sent applications all over the place. For everything.

I was offered a job at a television station in Knoxville.

I was offered a job with the government.

The Federal Government!

No one could touch me!

They wouldn’t dare.

Right?

Seg

{ Next week: “Sexual Harassment: A Study in 25 years” }

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