So it was around 1999 and I was working for a small company that hosted three big retail conferences annually. It was my first time to work at such a big event. We had a few things go badly wrong.
When we got back to the office on Monday, our boss asked us to all share our thoughts on what worked, what didn’t work, and how we can make it better next year. He said to share it in a group chat since “We’re all big boys and girls.”
I was on a huge deadline, so I didn’t get to send my thoughts until late afternoon. But I had taken notes during the event on suggestions for improvement, so I included a long list.
Side note: I’m starting to think I’m on the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum. I sometimes miss social cues that others seem to know instinctively. In hindsight, I should have read through everyone else’s comments and deleted any of mine that overlapped.
The event’s organizer within the company had a FIT online when she read my post. For some reason, she was fine with everyone else’s comments (some of which were harsher than mine and didn’t contain remedy suggestions), but she flipped out in the group chat about me “nitpicking” and “beating a dead horse” (AKA, doing what the big boss said to do).
Bitch, what? Did I call your baby ugly? Then simmer down, Karen.
I would have been OK (and humbled and mortified) if “Karen” had just talked to me privately and explained why she thought my comments were insensitive.
But the public beatdown was a last straw for me, frankly. The job had multiple problems.
I slapped my hand on my desk, grabbed my purse, told my immediate supervisor (let’s call him “Chad”) that they didn’t pay me nearly enough to put up with disrespectful shit like that, and they could just get someone else to fill my chair, effective immediately. Tah-tah.
It’s the only time I’ve ever quit on the spot.
The big boss called me that night and talked me down. So I went to work the next morning, and he made the event organizer come apologize to me. It was a seriously half-assed and clearly forced apology.
Whatever. I was cordial, with a forgiving smile that never, ever reached my eyes. It wasn’t long before I left for a better job anyway.
But let me come to the whole point of why this incident is permanently imprinted on my brain: What has stuck in my memory in all the years since then was what Chad told me the previous day, right before I stormed out — when my jaw was dropping from the event organizer’s hissy fit.
He said, “Well, you know she can’t stand you in general, right?’
I must have looked poleaxed when my jaw dropped even farther.
No, actually, I didn’t know that. But I tend to fear that everyone around me secretly feels that way. It was sort of like a nightmare moment.
It was one of those painful moments of clarity when you get an instant glimpse at the painful and negative self-image you carry around in your sub-conscious.
“Well, doesn’t everyone hate me anyway? Isn’t contempt for me kind of a universal thing?”
Fuck. That. Noise. Fuck that Karen.
(She was the same Karen who told me at a meeting during the disastrous event to put my knees closer together when I was sitting. I told her that I was sitting as close as my knees go unless I wanted to clamp my thighs together tightly and visibly strain. I’m fat, duh. So I also told her that my thighs were already touching, but knee touching wasn’t in the cards. I wanted to add that no one’s retinas were going to be scorched by a peek at my mysterious magical pantaloons, because squishy thighs were already blocking views of the sacred ground.)
Fuck bitchy bitches. And fuck contemptuous self-talk. It’s just hard NOT to believe it when you get a real-life tea-spilling about how someone really detests you.
It was a similar kind of adrenaline-flowing-through-my-veins moment when I picked up my husband’s phone years later (2012) and realized he was sexting with an old girlfriend … the one that I soon learned he’d had an affair with for at least four years. Betrayal. Contemptuous things said and done out of my earshot. Nice, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth behavior when near me. But still a snake in the grass.