Sometimes, It’s You

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You know how people like to ask, “Is it just me, or…?”

Well, sometimes, yes.  It’s you.

I became aware of this at my first professional job, in sales.  My office mate — let’s call her Sharon — was a tall blonde with porcelain skin, blue eyes, a great figure and a taste for the finer things in life.  We were both young, pretty and liked to party, so we hit it off immediately. 

The men in my office loved Sharon.  They perked up every time she walked through the office in her tight skirts. 

Problem was, Sharon complained incessantly.  She had worked in sales for a different company, and loved to point out all the things that were wrong with our office.  Our manager didn’t know what he was doing.  Our territory made no sense.  She wasn’t about to put all that mileage on her vintage German luxury convertible.  We didn’t have enough support.  We couldn’t be expected to learn and demo all these new products.

Every time Sharon complained, the men moved heaven and earth to accommodate her.  “Whatever Sharon Wants” was the rule.  Sharon didn’t want to drive all day, so she was given an easier territory to handle.  She didn’t want to have to learn all those technical details, so the systems engineers did her product demos. 

None of it stopped Sharon from complaining.

Because Sharon and I were buddies, everyone assumed I felt the same way she did.  I was taken out of the field, even though I drove a Volkswagen and didn’t mind driving.  The systems engineers tried to do my product demos, but I wouldn’t let them.  I preferred talking to them and learning how the products worked.  Out of the blue, senior sales guys would lecture me about office politics.

One of those senior sales guys told me that my close relationship with Sharon was affecting how I was perceived on the job.  If Sharon couldn’t or wouldn’t do something, people assumed I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it either.  In sharing her friendship, I was also sharing her performance failures.

Thanks to that advice, I began distancing myself from her at work.  Sharon’s complaints grew more bitter once things went from “Whatever Sharon Wants” to “You Better Work.”  We remained friends, but I spent as little time as possible, in or outside the office, listening to her bitch about how horrible our jobs were. 

I also didn’t let on that the senior sales guys were giving me outside coaching.  They told me they’d tried to tell Sharon the same things they were telling me, but she didn’t want to hear it.  I tried to drop a hint or two, but let it go at that.  In a sales office, sales matter more than anything else.  Unless your cute blonde game is selling products, no one cares.  Sharon kept complaining about the job, but it was her.

Another friend wonders why she can’t find full-time employment. She is a highly skilled professional.  Her work is top quality.  But she is caustic.  She has almost no filter.  She says whatever is on her mind, often in strident tones.  She blames the economy for her job predicament.  She has no idea that her lack of tact is keeping her from getting a job.

Bad attitude and body language kills dating prospects, too.  I used to complain that the only guys who looked my way were fat bus drivers.  It didn’t occur to me that walking around in cat hair-covered fleece, refusing to make eye contact with members of the opposite sex, might also play a role. 

At one of my daughter’s soccer games, I noticed one of the dads staring at me.  It irked me so much, I hissed at my daughter during a timeout, “Why does that guy keep staring at me?” 

My daughter, who was 11 at the time, shrugged and said, “Maybe he thinks you’re cute, Mom.” 

The lightbulb clicked on.  I tried smiling back at the guy, but it was too late.  He refused to look my way and hustled his daughter off the field as soon as the game was over. 

It wasn’t that men found me unattractive, it was me.  My body language signaled, “Leave me the fuck alone.”  And men did, until my body language became more inviting. 

So if there’s something you feel you deserve that you’re not getting, it may be time for an honest self-assessment.  Sometimes it’s your boss, your spouse or the neighbors…but it just might be you.

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7 Responses to “Sometimes, It’s You”

  1. Sheila Daidey Says:

    I have been in an on n off ugly rltshp for 2 n a half yrs n i kept goin back to this guy coz i thot he was the only 1 whom i could be with. My friends kept telln me 2 move on bt i couldnt n kept blockin out all guyz coz they were not him! I realizd the reason i wasnt happy was me tying myslf down 2 one loser. Since then iv stopd bein a barrier 2 my own happines n thngz r lukn up! Carolyn nyc 1

  2. natashawilliams Says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Oftentimes we fail to see that we are the common denominator. It’s everybody else but, you.
    I passed your post along to my husband. I told him to email it to his project manager’s, who oftentimes blame their over budget, or behind schedule projects on the customers. Maybe they will get the hint, and get their act together 🙂

  3. Tiffany In Houston Says:

    I realized very early on that perception is everything and sometimes the only thing in my dealings in Corporate America and as a black woman I had to take extra special care to avoid the minefields that line the aisles. Seems that being blonde and white will only go so far and after a while you really do have to put in work.

  4. NoNetTennis Says:

    “…refusing to make eye contact with members of the opposite sex…”

    This insidious behavior/attitude seems to be prevalent in more than a few Mid-Westerners. It’s close verbal cousin “Do I know you?” or the even more distancing “I don’t know you.” still remains one of the distinguishing characteristics of same. How are people supposed to meet in this catch-22 environment?

    New Yorkers in general catch hell for their stereotypical lack of public eye-contact, but their aloof, “eyes-ahead” fixations aren’t the same as the pseudo-shy, wall-flower avoidances of which you speak. Instead, these are responses conditioned through family “training” (typically mothers protecting their daughters), but you can actually trace their history back just a bit further…

    It irked me when I encountered the “Do I know you?” types, surely in part due to the rejection they confered, but mostly because I could see the cutting-off-nose-despite-face behavior. “Your loss” became my mantra back then. It has since morphed into a less vengeful, simple and all-encompassing, “Keep Smiling” which, when used in this specific circumstance, translates to “I will not let your lack of basic human civility bring me down to your level.”

    As for “Maybe It’s You?”, if more parents taught their children the art of self-introspection(redundant?), then the question would now take the form of “Maybe It’s Me?” And THAT would go a long way toward correcting these shortcoming(s).

    Keep Smiling

  5. TKOEd Says:

    Needed to be said. Often. Thanks Carolyn.

  6. Brown Babe Says:

    Oh Gosh – its me…*hangs head*

  7. Diggame Says:

    Diggin this post!! Its all about self-accountability at the end of the day!! We can only blame our surroundings so long before you have to look at yourself and take issue.

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