After an executive from the network gave me an ultimatum – sexual favors or she’d report me for sexual harassment of her, all I wanted to do was get as far away from her house as I could, so I literally ran to the shitbox and drove home. I waited until I was there to make calls…with the bedroom door closed, just in case. (The boys were in bed by the time I got home, but they do every once in a while come to see me if they can’t sleep or something.)
So I called Dad, and then Keaton. I wanted to talk to Meemaw too, but I didn’t want to wake her up. (True, I did wake Dad up, but it was important enough for me to have done it.) Joyce called while I was on the phone with Dad, but I didn’t want to talk to her, so I lied (badly, probably) and said that I was tired and wanted to get to sleep early. The last thing I needed was a jealous girlfriend to add to my troubles.
Dad and Keaton said the same thing: I had no choice but to go forward with the truth if she started something with HR. Keaton said something about situations like this being where being willing to be a whore can be helpful, and it got a little laugh out of me. He offered to come over, but I figured I was gonna be better off with a couple beers and going to bed. (Since I won’t drink light beer, I’ve kind of been limiting myself to one beer a day now that my waistline matters to so many people, but, if this wasn’t an excuse to ‘cheat’, nothing was.)
I didn’t sleep at all well, and looked like shit in the morning…which was a problem as I was supposed to go out on a walk with Gechitzik and the cameras later that morning. I guessed I could pull the visor of my ball cap down and wear a pair of Oakleys to cover how lousy I looked. Apart from how I looked, everything was fine in the morning, though: the boys were up on time, we had a nice breakfast and I drove them to school, just as usual.
So far, so good.
Ethan came with me and Gechitzik to shoot some footage of me walking him and him sniffing around. Admittedly (we are a reality show), Ethan also wanted to get some film of Gechitzik going bananas when he saw another dog and then some of me trying to calm him down. We got something of that: another dog passed us on the other side of the street and started barking, which started Gechitzik. I did my best to calm him down – Nancy wants us to get him to sit and then be quiet – but it didn’t work. So we got film of me shrugging at the camera and telling Gechitzik we’d try again. That was the only dog we passed, so there wasn’t another chance that day.
When we got back, Gechitzik wasn’t my only problem. Sandy came to tell me that Maya wanted to see me in her office. I think Sandy knew what was going on…and I think tried to give me an encouraging look.
Sure enough, I was in trouble, and y’all can probably guess why.
Maya asked me to sit down, which suggested that I was gonna be there for a while.
“I’ve received an HR complaint from the network, and I’m afraid I have to look into it, although I’m having trouble believing it. Someone’s accused you of sexual harassment. A woman,” she added, I guess knowing that there are men who find me attractive too.
“I guessed as much,” I said, with a sigh.
“So you didn’t harass her?,” asked Maya. “I know you pretty well by now, and you’ve always been a perfect gentleman to every woman around this place, so I’m likely to believe you. I’m just not sure how the network is going to handle it. They know her personally…while you’re just a pretty face on a TV screen to them.”
I shook my head and told Maya, no, I didn’t harass the woman in question.
“Now,” Maya said, “knowing that it’s logically impossible to prove that something didn’t happen, do you have any evidence in your favor?”
“It’s a little more complicated than just that,” I said. I took a deep sigh, since I wasn’t looking forward to having to discuss this. “Not only did I not harass her, but she harassed me.”
Maya didn’t look surprised.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” she said. “I suspected it might be something like that. Maybe we’ve had you running around shirtless too much. It was bound to get us in trouble.” She was kind of talking to herself more than to me. “I’ll level with you,” she said, looking real serious, “it’s not easy being the object of people’s fantasies. I’m used to it by now…and I’m getting a little old to fuel fantasies…” I started to interrupt her. “You don’t have to be nice and tell me I’m not. You take care of my almost teenage son. But it’s not easy having people look at you…well, looking at you the way a lot of people look at you. You’ve seen some of Instagram feedback your account gets.”
“Yeah…but I’ve never taken it too seriously,” I said. “Those people say shit like ‘woof!’ and I figure they don’t really mean it.”
“Ah,” Maya said, “but some people do. And it can get real…and get really messy really fast. Like it has.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but this isn’t someone who’s seen me shirtless on Instagram. This is someone who knows me in the real world.”
“That only makes it worse,” Maya said. “I think she must have taken the good-looking pool boy as an invitation to…let’s call it a dalliance. Did she offer you anything?”
“An agent. A bigger career in Hollywood.” Then I remembered. “And a better haircut.”
“She may be right about the third one” – what was it with my haircut? they should see Keaton! – “but, all kidding aside, that’s real sexual harassment. Only it’s backwards, and that’s not going to make life easy for us.”
“Yeah…but I don’t have any power over her in the workplace…and she does have power over me That’s got to count for something. It wouldn’t make sense for me to harass her.”
“She says you offered yourself to her if she’d help your career along.”
I literally put my head in my hands.
“But you do have a point,” Maya said, “about not being the person with power, when sexual harassment usually comes from the person with power over the other person. I hope they’ll understand that at the network.”
Then I thought of something. “Maybe there’ve been other complaints about her from other guys she’s worked with. She didn’t come on to me like it was something she never did before.” Then I thought of something else. “Do I need a lawyer for this?”
Maya looked pensive.
“I don’t think so. Unless she gets one, of course. But the network will let us know that before there’s a hearing.”
‘Hearing’ sounded to me like something you’d need a lawyer for.