I know that I promised to get back to my regularly scheduled articles after I wrote Part Two about my co-worker Rivky, but I can’t. Something has happened in the last week, and I feel that if I didn’t write about it, I would be doing a disservice to all. Think of this as a Public Service Announcement. This article is for everyone, whether you’re single, in high school, retired, married for several years, divorced, etc. But, yes, at the end I will tie it all up in a nice bow and relate it to dating.
In June, I wrote a column titled, “In Other Words.” In it, I provided readers with different inspirational songs (that work for me) that they may want to listen to when going through a difficult period in the shidduch parshah. In the past week, I have had to listen to some of those songs, as well as others. I’ve even screamed out the lyrics at the top of my lungs in my car on the way to work. If you don’t believe me, you can ask the crossing guard on Eastern Parkway and Brooklyn Avenue, because she stared at me as if I had lost my marbles, but I didn’t care. I did what I needed to do at the time, and “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor needed to be screeched at the top of my lungs (with all the windows up).
“What could have happened?” you may be wondering. I will very briefly share what happened, as the details of the actual event aren’t important. But what is important is what can be learned from the event and my reaction to it – how you all must stay true to yourself and stand up for yourself. As many know, I commute from Queens to Borough Park every day, and I have been doing so for close to 20 years. I like the work that I do and the team that I have chosen to work with, five days a week. That is why I was blindsided when my character was attacked. Basically, it was a character assassination. Out of the blue, I was told by someone within the organization what an individual outside the organization thinks of me, and let’s just say that his opinion is one that many would disagree with, including me. I understand business and I know: “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” But this was personal. I wasn’t told that I am lousy at my job and my performance on the job was subpar. I was being reprimanded for my personality!
I listened and waited patiently to hear the person who was addressing me say, “After I heard what he had to say, I told him he was wrong. I know you, and this was not you he was speaking to me about…” But that sentence or any sentence like that did not follow.
All I kept thinking was, “And you didn’t defend me? I have worked here for almost 20 years and you believed it, hook, line, and sinker.” Right there I felt the flicker of a flame ignite inside of me. I have written many times that my parents raised my sister and me to believe in ourselves and our abilities. They were always there to support us, no matter if it was talking to our elementary school principal when we thought we were treated unfairly by a teacher, or helping to put together the funds to self-publish my book, The Best of My Worst. I believed in the book, so they did, as well. My parents didn’t raise a child who would accept this unwarranted personal attack. Did this person (who was outside the organization) think that because I was hearing his opinion of me through someone within my organization I would feel intimidated, that I would be reduced to tears? Well, if he did, he was badly mistaken.
I calmly waited for the character assassination to finish and then asked if I may speak. Truthfully, I don’t think the fellow was expecting me to say anything other than, “I’m sorry and promise to change.” I was able to tell by the expression on his face, when I started speaking, that he was not expecting me to defend myself and disagree with what was just said. (I wonder why?) I will not go into detail about what I said, but I will give you some tasty quotes:
“You believed him without question?”
“Do you think it matters what someone else thinks of me? I know who I am!”
“I will be nobody’s punching bag, not his and not yours.”
“None of this has any bearing on my job; it’s a personal attack on my character and it is unprofessional.”
When I defended myself, I was told, “Let’s not get into a he-said-she-said discussion.”
I quickly retorted, “You just did. You believed what he said but you won’t even listen to what she is saying.”
I think you all get the picture of what went on during the meeting. I said my piece, defended myself, and then got up and walked from the office with my head held high. And then I marched to my friend’s office and broke down from the shock of it all. After explaining what had happened to my friend, she said, “You did it!” In her words, I went up against a lion and went head-to-head with it. I stood up for myself and I should be proud.
I was proud of myself. I was proud that I stood up and defended myself and my character. I know who I am inside. I know my true self and I was not going to let this man (or whom he was speaking for) let me feel bad or to doubt myself. I have always conducted myself in a professional manner, and I stand behind my work, my record, and all that I say.
I won’t lie, telling you that the hurt I felt wasn’t enormous. As I mentioned before, “business is business. It’s nothing personal.” But this was a personal attack on me. I do not know, nor do I care to know, the reason why someone decided to speak ill of me. Even if I was given hours to think it over, I can’t tell you why this other person readily believed it and reprimanded me like a child in the principal’s office. I was shattered for a few hours as a result of lies that were easily believed about me.
I didn’t want anyone to know how those words affected me, how I tossed in bed that night, not able to sleep, and hearing those words repeated over and over. But then I was reminded of how I stood up for myself, how I wasn’t going to allow someone to have power over me to make me feel bad or to cause me to lose sleep. So, the next day, after putting my daughter on the school bus, I headed into work, listening to “Eye of The Tiger,” “You’re the Best Around,” the theme from “Rocky” – a lot of ’80s music. I screamed along with the lyrics (hence the funny look from the crossing guard). I walked into my office with my head held high, knowing the truth of who I was and not letting what happened the day before affect me. No one saw the crack in my veneer. I have only gotten stronger over the last few days, and that is due in part to my strong family support system.
The lesson for all of you: I want everyone to be able to stand up for himself or herself, whether it’s with a boss, co-worker, neighbor, friend, bully, or date. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. Do not let anyone make you feel that you are not good enough or that you should be ashamed of something! Do not allow anyone to make you feel that you are less than what you are! Do not let anyone have that kind of power over you!
The dating tie-in: I wrote that there were a few times when I felt uncomfortable on a date, and I was not shy about letting my voice be heard. No one should be forced to stay in a situation or be afraid to speak up when he or she is made to feel uncomfortable or bad. In one instance, I did not like what I felt were the intentions of a date. Within ten seconds of getting that “creepy feeling,” my date understood very clearly that I wanted to go home, because I firmly told him so and I did it with authority in my voice as well as my actions. When another date made an inappropriate remark and gesture, I told him how rude and disgusting he was. I then told him to take me home (no Uber back then). And when another date insulted me to my face, not once or twice but a few times over the course of the evening, I finally told him I wasn’t going to chalk up his comments to him suffering from stupidity because he was dropped on his head more than once as a baby. I told him that I can confidently say that he is a rude person without any consideration for another’s feelings. I then ended the date. I was not going to be intimidated or forced to do something because I didn’t want to cause a scene or because this person thought he had authority over me.
My new favorite quote is from Ms. Patricia Altschul from Bravo’s Southern Charm: “She’s ill-equipped to get into that kind of warfare with me.” Yes, these boys (and men) were and are ill-equipped to verbally spar with me. I was and am a strong person who isn’t afraid to stand up for what I believe in and what’s right. Just like the time I defended a disabled woman to an MTA bus driver who openly was making fun of her and her disability to the small gaggle of old “bitties” that take his bus every day. I spoke up for the disabled person. I also told those women how foolish they were to not think the bus driver wouldn’t speak ill of them when they are out of earshot, because this is how he speaks of people who can’t defend themselves!
My hurt is easing. Yes, I will get over what happened at work. But I am going to use it as a lesson for my children. Never let anyone put you down or make you feel bad, because you are a beautiful person inside and out, and their opinion is just that – an opinion. It’s not the truth. Not everyone is going to love you. Once you accept that, you will be much better off; but that doesn’t mean that you must roll over and accept what they have to say. I know in my heart that I would never have been able to live with myself had I not said what I did during the meeting (and remember, I said much more that I didn’t write of). It would have eaten at me. I know that my words went in one ear and out the other of the person I was speaking with; I’m not foolish enough to think I changed his opinion of me. He had his agenda, he said what he said, and for some reason it had to be said to me. My words were probably forgotten, about five minutes after I left his office; but in my heart, I felt victorious. If I wasn’t going to stand up for myself, then who would? It was just proven that no one else would. And like I said, my parents didn’t raise me to just accept it.
If you are ever in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, or if someone is putting you down or doesn’t listen to your opinions, say something. The longer you remain silent is as if you silently agree with the person, even if you don’t. If you are remaining silent only because you don’t want to get into an argument, that’s not what the other person is thinking. He is thinking that you are giving him permission to continue treating you this way. Say something! Yes, you may have to face the consequences of your words and take action. It may not be pleasant. But can you live with yourself if you allow someone to assault your character or any part of you and not do or say anything to stop it? When you look in the mirror every day, you should like the person who is staring back. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that my reflection has gotten better over this past week. And my confidence has had a boost, as well.
That is all I have to say. I felt that I would have been doing a disservice had I not told people to stand up for themselves in whatever situation they are in. Face the lion. Climb the mountain! “Baby, you’re a firework; c’mon, show ’em what you’re worth…”
Hatzlachah to you all. I mean that.