So I seem to have gotten myself into some pretty hot water. It’s not without a couple ironies, but it’s making my life pretty difficult and unpleasant…and a little scary, as I have a job and a living situation to worry about protecting.
The problem is sexual harassment. And, before y’all start thinking that I got busted for sexually harassing someone (think of the way that crazyass Brontë Dinosaur Woman reacted when she first saw me), it’s the reverse. Someone is sexually harassing me…and it’s become quite a big kerfuffle (as Joyce would say.) I only hope that people believe me, since – y’all may not have expected this – the person harassing me isn’t a dude. It’s a chick.
A dude I can handle. If a gay dude gets too close to me, I can always beat the fuck outta him. Maybe not the smartest thing to do if you’re a public figure, but it’s always an option.
You can’t do that with a chick.
Keaton was pretty clear about how I shouldn’t name names if I blog about the situation, and Joyce agreed with him. (And Keaton and Joyce don’t exactly agree on most things to do with women.) But I do want to write about it, since it’s kind of become the big event of my summer and I like keeping y’all up to date with what’s going on in my life.
So there’s this woman who works, not with us at the house, but for the network I told y’all about. I don’t think she was the one who said I wasn’t tan enough, although it could have been her, come to think about it. I don’t think a straight guy would ever have said that.
So she came over to the house one day to have a meeting with Maya, Robert and Jean-François, I don’t know what about. I was cleaning out the pool when she came out of the house. I reckon I know now why she came out the back way. She was dressed in a super corporate look – suit and heels and the kind of stuff I didn’t think TV people wore to work. She introduced herself and then got straight to the point: she said that someone who looked like me could get a lot further in the “business” than just “flexing my abs in a bathing suit” like I’m doing now.
And, of course, she could help me get there.
Now y’all know that I have no ambitions in the ‘business’ beyond what I’ve already achieved, and that’s a whole lot more than I ever expected or even wanted. I’m a baseball player, not an actor. I’ve met lots of people living in Southern California who are dying to break into the business (it seemed like everyone who worked at the Gap wanted to be an actor or actress), but I’m not one of them.
It’s also not like I haven’t been told before by people that they could get me into the business. But I’ve never taken them seriously. I figure they’re just trying to get into my pants…and they think “are you in movies?, you’ve got the look” is a good come-on line. (In case y’all were wondering, it isn’t.)
Now it’s one thing when someone who says he’s an agent gives you a card and tells you to call him, but it’s another when someone who’s got some authority over your job tells you the same thing. I was a little taken aback by the “flexing your abs” comment and wasn’t sure what to say. So I decided to pretend it was a joke as best I could.
“No thanks, ma’am,” I said, “I’m happy doing what I do here. I was in a high school play and I learned from that that I don’t want to be an actor.” (That was kind of a lie…doing Midsummer Night’s Dream with my girlfriend as my Hermia was kinda fun. But I didn’t get bitten by any kind of acting bug. The baseball bug got to me first.)
“Someone who looks like you is wasted cleaning out pools.”
“I do more than take care of the pool,” I said. I really do do a lot, both onscreen and off. And I’m proud of how well I do it.
She took a step back and looked at me in a way that was just downright creepy.
“They need to get you into a Speedo. Those shorts you’re wearing cover too much.”
Ok…she could at least have known they’re called boardshorts. And that probably the only thing I insisted on having in my contract was a No Speedo Clause. It’d be one thing if I was a competitive swimmer, but I’m not, and boardshorts are plenty comfortable. Plus they, um, leave some things up to the imagination that I like to be left that way. I can’t even begin to think how gayass it would be to do what I do in a Speedo.
“No thanks,” I said. “I’m not a Speedo kinda guy.”
“Are you sure?,” she asked. “I know I’d like to see you in one.” She looked me up and down and around in my boardshorts, and she couldn’t have been more obvious. Then she added, “I wouldn’t mind seeing you without one, either.”
Ok, that was a step too far, but she wasn’t blushing. Only I was, probably all the way down to my abs. No one’s ever spoken to me like that…and it wasn’t something I was enjoying. I suddenly understood why something like that would justify an HR complaint if it happened to a chick, but, well, I’m not a chick…and we don’t have an HR department. All we have is Maya’s open-door policy, and I didn’t want to take advantage of it, at least not yet. Besides, it would sound ridiculous coming from a dude…or so I felt at the time.
So it turns out this chick wasn’t going to let it go at her comment about seeing me out of a Speedo. She somehow got my cell number and started calling to tell me about the opportunities she could set up for me. She told me – of course it could have been total bullshit – that she knew about a movie role that would be great for me and that she could get me an audition.
“But I’m not an actor,” I said. “I tried to tell you that. I’m a baseball player and that’s what I’m interested in.”
So that got her to tell me that she knew an acting coach and that there was an acting class especially for athletes trying to break into the business that she wanted me to take. She said I was a “natural” given how at ease I am on camera on the show. (I reckon I am comfortable on camera; I never would have lasted this long in my job if the camera bothered me. But that’s no reason to become an actor.)
“We’ll have to do something about that accent of yours, though,” she said, clearly not listening to me. Ok, that’s not the way to get on my good side. Yeah, I’ve been in California for getting on 5 years now, and there are a lot of southerners who lose their accents in that time. That, I reckon, is mostly southerners who want to lose their accents. I’m dang proud of sounding like I come from Tennessee, and, while it’s not like I do speech exercises at night to keep sounding Tennessean, I am conscious of sounding like where I came from and keeping it that way. Ok, maybe I have gotten a little Yankee: I’ve started calling buggies shopping carts, but, on the other hand, I still call a Sprite a coke. (The boys think it’s hilarious when I ask what kind of coke do they want – that’s on the rare occasions when they get soda.)
“But I like my accent,” I protested.
“Yes, bit it’s going to limit the roles you can play. An all-American boy type like you has to sound All-American.”
Last time I checked, Tennessee was in America, but I didn’t get into it with her. Mostly I wanted to get her off the phone, so I finally lied and said that I had to go and check on the boys’ homework. Luckily that worked and got rid of her for the time being.
The next time I saw her was a couple days later, when she came out to the house again. I don’t know why she was there – we almost never get visits from people from the network – but she cornered me in the gym while I was working out. It was very awkward: I was lying on my back doing bench presses, so, when she came in, she was looming over me. Plus I was all sweaty and in no condition to have a serious conversation.
“So this is what you look like in the gym,” she said, looking down at me as though I were a NY strip in the butcher’s case at the Kroger. “You look great all sweaty, although those shorts are a waste. They should get you something tighter.” I was wearing basketball shorts, like I most always do. True, I don’t have a no tight shorts clause in my contract, but Maya and the other producers have always been cool with me in basketball shorts. (Basketball shorts are the only things I like about basketball lol.)
“We should get sweaty together one night,” she then said. Yeah. She out and said that. “Open a bottle of wine” (y’all know I’m no fan of wine) “and get to know each other.” She totally wasn’t smooth, but she was definitely insistent. It’s also the kind of thing that, if a dude said it to a chick in the workplace, he’d be out on his ass faster than you can say ‘jackrabbit’. (That’s one of Meemaw’s expressions.) But it’s not the same thing with a chick says it to a dude.
First of all, us dudes just aren’t prepared for something like that. I think chicks are all on the lookout for sexual harassment these days, but it’s not the same if you’re a man. You totally don’t expect it, and, therefore, you have no idea what to do when it happens.
“Do you have your phone on you? I’ll give you my private cell number.”
My phone was sitting off in a corner of the gym with a towel covering it. I reckoned she wouldn’t see it…but she did, and, without asking me, put her number in among my contacts. (Keaton: “you realize that gives you some evidence of what she’s been doing, right bubba?”) Then she did that “call me” thing with her fingers and walked out of the gym.
I leaned back on the bench just as she came back in the gym, and took a long look at me.
“Maybe those basketball shorts aren’t such a waste after all,” she said, “I didn’t realize at first how easy it is to see up them.” Then she left, before I could say anything. Like that I have a serious girlfriend. And that I’m not interested. Y’all may remember that my number one turn-off from a chick is her pursuing me. I like being the one who comes onto a chick and, yeah, I enjoy the seduction process. I know that’s not how it happened with Joyce, but there always are exceptions. And the thing about Joyce kinda pursuing me was that she did it so badly it was cute. And she didn’t really push all that hard. This chick who was harassing me was pushing as hard as anyone – dude or chick – has pushed me…and I totally wasn’t into it.
She, however, wasn’t getting the message.