I’ll never forget the moment because it is seared into my memory the way his fingers seared into my upper arm – leaving a five point bruise mark almost immediately. It was around 1997 and I had relocated to California to work for a popular entertainment show. I was feisty – always have been – always will be, but on this day when I went to get my copy approved by the boss – my feistiness got me into a physical situation with a man who I thought was a respected producer. He told me he hated what I wrote – every word – and he had been telling me this for weeks. This was not how the job had started. In the beginning I was practically a savior to him. They had tried many writers and I was the first one that seemed to “get it.” It was not an easy job. We had a female host who was so incredibly mean and hurtful it was difficult to deal with. I remember sitting in the conference room every morning going through what was basically a “table read” for the copy I had written that day. This was entertainment news – there’s no need for a table read. But there I sat every morning – listening to this woman berate my words – if that’s possible. She would say things like – this is terrible!!! – no one would say this!!! – and then scribble like a crazy person all the thoughts she thought should go in the show. And she would scream… often. Who wrote this???!!! – I’d hear on the regular. Uhm I’m sitting right here. She once took me to a set visit and said “don’t tell anyone you’re my writer I don’t want people to know that I don’t just make it up.” She was fired pretty early on. After a couple of weeks of this – my boss decided it was pointless and finally ended those meetings. He was protecting me from this nightmare because he respected my work. That was amazing. But it changed.
I’m not quite sure what happened or when it happened but he had somehow decided that I was no longer as perfect as he had told me I was over and over again. He started destroying everything I wrote and yelled at me often. I wasn’t used to this and I’m a very tough girl but the first time someone screams at you in an office its difficult to know what to do. And so I did nothing. And that was me telling him – you can do that anytime you want. And he did. Over and over again. But one day when I walked my copy into his office I fought back – with my words. He said he hated my copy and I said “Well I’m pretty sure you just hate everything I write now. In fact if someone else walked this in here with their name on it – I bet you’d approve it.” Boom goes the dynamite. He grabbed my arm and told me the way he wanted it written and then shook my arm and through clenched teeth yelled “now do you get it, now do you get it.” I don’t remember exactly what I did but I turned and walked out and immediately the bruise started to pop up. Why didn’t I report him? I didn’t even think of that? It didn’t even cross my mind that this was wrong. He went on to be replaced by another man – who never yelled at me. But I was well on the road to being an alcoholic and I chose to move on to a job with a woman who screamed at me on a daily basis. Again – I allowed it.
I went on to many other jobs and many other people who have screamed at me and I accepted it over and over again. Maybe I thought my big mouth deserved it for having an opinion? I’m not sure actually but today reading about Arrested Development and Jessica Walter it actually reminded me of this incident and the others that followed and I just wanted to say two things – I forgive myself for not speaking out at the time – and I urge anyone out there to confront someone who screams at them in the workplace WHEN IT HAPPENS. Be brave, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s not cool to be harassed in any way – verbally or sexually. I’m sure since I’ve become a boss I’ve been far from perfect. Sometimes you scream at someone right after you’ve been screamed at. We used to call it kicking the dog. You got kicked and then you went and kicked the next dog in line. It’s shameful really. We are only starting to realize and scratch the surface on what women have been through in the workplace but we really have to teach girls (and boys) that it is not okay to be treated that way.