Mean Working Girls*

22 Oct

*This post is not about sadistic prostitutes, so you perverts need not read on. I was inspired to write about this when I read an email from swampmusic about a crusty and difficult co-worker and after my cousin came home and vomited after a vicious verbal attack by female co-worker left her with a lasting migraine.

I’m probably not the first girl to experience this, and I know I won’t be the last, but sometimes being one of the few single or childless women in a work setting dominated by an older self-important and self-righteous female co-worker can suck. I will preface this by saying that I don’t have issues with the majority of the other women I work with. In fact, there’s a sort of sisterhood at my workplace because of that perceived or real common evil we all face. Sometimes having an older and wiser female co-worker to mentor and inspire you can be amazing. I’ve been fortunate to have that happen to me on numerous occasions.

However, when I speak to my friends, cousins and my own mother, I constantly hear stories about “this one woman at work who makes life miserable for everybody else”. “This one” isn’t usually a boss or in a position of authority. “This one” is usually a colleague who by virtue of seniority or sheer weight of her personality has deemed herself the office expert on any and everything and the one to be consulted and deferred to on all matters pertaining to the women at work. She’s like the shadow-boss. “This one” is not terrorizing her male co-workers in the same fashion. “This one” seems to relish singling out younger and single female co-workers for abuse. “This one” is so cartoonish and extravagant in her proclamations that no one within a one-mile radius of her can get any serious work done when she has a problem. It’s like I never graduated from high school.

How many times have I heard, “You know, Nibby, you just don’t get it,” or “You wouldn’t understand,” or “You don’t have any real responsibilities at home,” or “Oh to be so clueless and oblivious to the strains of the real world”? Too many times to count. When did being single and childless equal living in a fairy tale? Look, I know I don’t have to go home and prepare a meal for the kids, nor do I have to wake up at the crack of dawn to pack school lunches or argue with my husband about spending too much money on something. I am beholden to God and myself. That’s it. Still, I have to pay my bills on time, help my mother out from time to time and meet deadlines like everyone else. If I lose my job, there’s virtually no one for me to lean on financially or emotionally. So stop excluding me from so called “adult conversations” because I apparently don’t have a care in the world.

Once I walked into the lunch room to microwave my lunch and there were a few women sitting around the table involved in what seemed like idle chatter. While waiting for my lunch to heat, I considered the pros and cons of staying in the lunch room and chatting with colleagues over lunch versus eating at my desk. One of my colleagues seemed to sense my internal debate and signaled another to pull up a chair and make room for me at the table. Instantly, “this one” proclaimed that I’d be bored stiff with their discussion since it wasn’t about on-line dating or The Hills. Her daughter apparently watches that show, so apparently that’s all women my age must be interested in talking about. Mind you, she had previously interrupted a conversation I had with another colleague lamenting the pitfalls of on-line dating to say that she could never imagine meeting her husband that way, so she had me there, but seriously The Hills is the limits of my conversational interests? I could probably talk extensively about Lauren, Audrina and Lo but I could also talk about the Iraq War and Sarah Palin’s highlights (a popular topic of “this one”).

I ended up opting for lunch at my desk. In fact, most days I have lunch at my desk. Eating lunch at my desk usually results in me wolfing down my food and drink and getting heart burn in time for the commute home. I would have preferred a leisurely lunch with the ability to enjoy and digest my food properly but the indigestion and headaches I get from a single confrontation with “this one” is much much worse.

All of this is on my mind as I prepare to head back to work after a short medical leave. I am not looking forward to her comments. I made sure not to let her know I was taking sick leave, since she spread that pregnancy/abortion rumor about the last woman who took one. My absence of course will not go unnoticed. She’ll probably accuse me of faking my illness to get a holiday. Having surgery on my lady-bits is a high price to pay for a vacation.

So, what can I do?

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