A few days ago I got a phone call from an unknown number. As usual I answered in my most professional tone. And on the other end came a voice I didn’t recognize. A woman I’d met once, accusing me of “being with” her boyfriend, a man I’d worked with months prior and not seen since.
Now, since this woman and I are not friends and in fact we have nothing in common except this co-worker/friend of mine, I was quite surprised to hear from her. And even more surprised to be verbally reprimanded for “doing things” I didn’t do.
I’ve been pretty upset about this since it happened. The co-worker in question is really important to me and I don’t want to lose him as a contact/mentor. And when I tell people the situation they often say
“Bitches be crazy”
Which I find particularly unhelpful.
No one has ever had a feeling that wasn’t warranted in one way or another. This woman isn’t crazy. She’s jealous and insecure for reasons.
Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another.
Jealousy occurs when something we already possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by a third person. [x]
Because my presence in her life brings up memories of other times when a person in my position did something worthy of being jealous about. That’s my assumption at least.
So I don’t want to dismiss her as crazy. That isn’t helpful.
But what I do keep thinking about is that if I were a man, no one would be concerned about this. If she could separate me from my gender in her mind and look at every moment of interaction we’ve had, then nothing I’ve ever said to her would be problematic. She would look back on every topic I’ve brought up and seen how non-threatening they were. She would be able to look at the moments when I asked her boyfriend a question and see me asking a serious question, not just angling for his attention.
And so I can’t help but feel like in this way my vagina is going to hold me back from furthering my career.
Working in my field, I’m often the only woman in a room. And that rarely bothers me. I can forget about it completely. Until I’m literally, verbally reminded.
The other day I went to do some work out of town. All morning I was being introduced to people who were working on my project and getting up to speed with it. At lunch the guy who is heading up the project while I’m in NY and I got pizza and he told me that absolutely nothing got accomplished that day. Everyone was too busy walking by, introducing themselves, asking “who’s the girl?”
When it happens I think of it as my own personal patriarchy tax. If you leer, then I’m going to make you do something useful for me with your time.
But this phone call makes me wonder, how many jobs am I not being called for because some guy is brainstorming ideas for who he can hire out loud and when he says my name his wife makes a face, and then I never get that call. Even though I pose no threat to their relationship.
So my request is this. Please think about me as his colleague first and a woman second. Because in our interactions that’s their order of importance.
And for your own sanity, and for the sake of your relationship, which I wish you the best of luck on. My friendship with him isn’t going to ruin your relationship, but eventually your jealousy will.