Hunter Gets Harassed (part 4)

Turns out I didn’t need a lawyer for the ‘hearing’ about the sexual harassment complaint that was launched against me after I turned down one of the network executives’ (a chick) offers to get me an acting career if I’d sleep with her. They didn’t even call it a ‘hearing’, but, rather, just a ‘meeting’. It wasn’t legal and shit at all: it was just me and the head of HR…and Maya, who told me she was coming along so I’d have a witness. (She didn’t give me a choice.) Maya told me that I should wear a jacket and tie (Maya: “they’re used to seeing you in a bathing suit…you’ll be taken more seriously if you’re dressed like that”), so I did.

What I didn’t know until I got there was that the head of HR was a chick (it’s apparently a job that chicks get a lot), and I took that to be a bad sign. A woman would be more likely to go along with the idea that you always believe the woman in cases like this, cases which could end with me out on my ass and reduced to…it’s not even funny to joke about.

I also don’t think the woman was pleased that I brought a witness, but I was glad Maya was there. I felt like I was gonna need moral support as I waited for the woman to tell me to sit down.

Finally she realized I was waiting for her, so she signed for me to take a seat in front of her desk. No “please sit down, Mr. Block” or anything like that.

I got the feeling that this wasn’t going well. And it was getting sweaty in my buttoned collar.

“Just so you know – may I call you Hunter?” I nodded. “Just so you know, Hunter,” the HR woman said, “this isn’t a trial. I just want to hear your side of the story. In situations like this, it’s most usually one person’s word against the other’s, and this isn’t any different. That makes it very hard to get to the truth of the matter.” She paused. “So?,” she asked, “what is the truth of the matter?”

Maya looked at me encouragingly.

“The truth of the matter, ma’am,” I said, “is that she started coming on to me a few weeks ago, offering me things I didn’t want, like promoting my career, getting me acting lessons and finding me an agent.” Both women were clearly waiting for me to go on. “That is…well…that is if I’d sleep with her, I guess.”

“You said ‘I guess’?”

“Sorry, ma’am. I don’t guess. She made it very clear that was what she was interested in. And she made a lot of comments about how I look. And not the kind of thing I’m used to. She said things that actually made me blush.”

“Such as?”

The first thing that came to mind was one of the first things she said to me: “I was cleaning out the pool one day and she said ‘you look good in that bathing suit; I’d like to see how you look out of it.’”

“She said that?”

Didn’t I just say that?,” I thought. But I just said “yes”. I could feel myself blushing, by the way. Not as bad as I did when she was saying shit like that to me, but, still…she probably noticed. She was looking at me a lot, I reckon to tell if I was telling the truth. I wasn’t trying to make myself blush – I don’t know how you’d do that – but I did think that the blush wasn’t going to hurt my case.

“And she said things like that a lot,” I added, trying not to look down, which is what I usually do when I blush.

“Can you give other examples?”

“She told me I should wear a Speedo on the show. And…she looked up my basketball shorts when I was working out one day. And told me about it.” I stopped, then realized the HR woman was waiting for me to say something else. “She was never very subtle.”

“Now she says you invited yourself to her place?”

“That’s not true,” I said. “She’s the one who invited me.”

“But you went to see her. If you weren’t interested, why did you go?”

“Because I wanted to tell her I wasn’t interested and there was no chance of having a serious conversation around the house while I was in boardshorts or working out, which is how I was every time she came to see me. It’s not very private, with people coming and going.”

“We’re a reality show, remember,” said Maya. “You need to be ready to be on camera 24/7 practically. That’s just how it works.”

The HR woman didn’t look like she liked it that Maya was making a contribution. But she did make an important point.

“So what did you do when you got to her place?”

I told her the whole story, as best I remembered it: the wine, the weed, the playing with my hair and the hand on my leg, my moving to the chair to get away from her, and then her threatening to report me to HR if I didn’t give her what she wanted.

The HR woman listened patiently, then said: “you realize her version of the story is the exact opposite of yours. She even claims that she considered calling the police for the way you treated her physically.”

“I never touched her!,” I said, jumping up automatically. “She did the touching. I kept trying to get away from her.” I realized that sounded kind of weirdass, but it’s what happened. “Look,” I then said, sitting back down, “this may sound conceited, but it’s also my best defense: I’ve never had to force myself on a woman, largely because…well…there’s never been a shortage of women who are interested in me.”

The HR woman looked amused as well as interested.

“Like I said…it sounds conceited, I know. But, if I have a problem – and I don’t really think it is a problem – it’s that more people want me than I want them. You get used to it, and if you’re smart you learn how not to be a dick…a jerk about it. But, trust me, if I wanted to sleep my way to a Hollywood career, I’ve had plenty of people offering to ‘help’ (I made air quotes) me since I moved to California. Both men and women. I do my best not to take them too seriously and usually can laugh the whole thing off…but, in this case, she was way too insistent. And then decided to get back at me for turning her down.”

“What I think Hunter means to say,” said Maya, who was probably no stranger to the ‘problem’ I was trying to explain to the HR lady, “is that, if you look like he does, people are always going to want to get something sexual from you. Moreover, they think that if you’re exceptionally good-looking you somehow owe it to the world to sleep with anyone who expects it. And I know whereof I speak.” Maya gave a very gracious smile which I think helped my chances with the HR woman. (Usually women don’t get along with Maya – think of Joyce – but I think her being so candid was standing her in good stead…and me with her.) “And,” Maya continued, “if Hunter did want to sleep his way into an acting career, he could do it with people who had a whole lot more power than a middle-level cable network executive.”

The HR lady looked over at me. I really didn’t know what to answer, although I did start thinking back to some of the business cards people have handed me since back when I was working at the Gap. I didn’t really know who was important and who was trying to seem important so they could get into my pants, but I reckon Maya was right. This woman who was harassing me wasn’t exactly an A-list Hollywood producer who could get me work right then and there.

The meeting didn’t go on for too much longer, which was a relief, as I was extremely uncomfortable. My job – my entire livelihood – was on the line and I didn’t enjoy having to say things that made me sound like I thought I was too sexy for my shirt. (I really don’t.) But I had to say something in my defense, and that was the most logical argument I could make, especially in the face of people’s knee-jerk reaction being to believe the woman.

“Like I said to you at the beginning,” the HR woman then said, “this wasn’t supposed to be a hearing or anything like that. I just want to hear both sides of the story before I take any action…or even if we need to have a formal hearing…which I still hope we don’t. You’ve been most candid, Hunter, and I appreciate that. I’m just sorry things got to this point in the first place, but, then,” she said with a sigh, “there we are.”

And what was I supposed to have done? Complained that I was being sexually harassed when it all started? I reckon that’s what I should have done in retrospect, but it made no sense at the time. And, besides – and I was still stuck at that point – would someone like the HR woman believe me over another woman?

Finally we got to leave, although Maya made a sign to me not to talk about the situation until we were in the Maybach. I didn’t ask her anything until I’d pulled out of the garage.

“Did that go ok, do you think?,” I then asked.

“As well as could be expected,” she said. “I think she liked you. And I don’t mean that way, although that never hurts…even when you’re being accused of being a sexual predator. You have that…earnest quality. You come off seeming like you’ve never told a lie in your life.”

“I’ve tried lying before,” I said, “but Mom and Dad saw to it that I’d be the worst liar in the world. So I don’t even try anymore. Sometimes I wish I could tell a lie with a straight face, but I can’t. That’s really just me…the part you called earnest.”

“What we’ve got to hope for is that they won’t escalate the matter to a full-out hearing. I think she believes you, and it would be good if you didn’t have to repeat the whole story all over again to someone else who might not be so quick to believe you.” Maya pulled down the visor to check her makeup in the mirror. “Now all we can do is cross our fingers and wait. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this. I had it happen to me a few times when I was coming up in movies…I even went along with it a couple times, since we didn’t talk about it then the way we do today. It’s a lousy feeling, having someone try and use whatever little power they have over you to get you into bed. And it usually is the ones with only a little power.” She looked into her purse for her make-up things. One of the weirder things about Maya is that she can retrieve anything from her purse in a matter of seconds. Most women I know dig and dig and dig for whatever it is they’re looking for; Maya doesn’t seem to have that problem. That she carries a smaller bag than a lot of women probably helps, although Joyce doesn’t carry a big bag either, but she’s one of those women who take forever to find what they’re looking for. “I could tell you stories,” she said, hesitating before she continued, “but maybe it’s better you don’t know. Suffice it to say that you’re not the first person to have gone through something like this. Now tell me about the boys.”

So I did. I don’t usually have that much time to spend with Maya, so I got to go into some depth about how they’re coming along. Jacob’s back to playing little league after a longer-than-necessary hiatus for COVID, and he’s doing as well as y’all would probably expect him to be doing. Matteo’s not going in for organized sports like that, but he’s definitely hating sports less than he used to. He’s turned into a good swimmer, and I wish he’d get more chances to play baseball so he can realize what a good hitter he’s become. I used to have to pitch to him like it was Tball. Ok, I still can get a ball past him if I try, but sometimes he surprises me with what he can hit. I knew I was never going to make a jock out of Matteo, but I think he is turning into a competent athlete.

And that’s a pretty satisfying feeling.

We managed to keep the conversation going until we got home, which was good, since driving in silence would have been super awkward. (Maya sat in the passenger seat, unlike the boys who, for safety reasons, sit in the back when I’m driving them.) I realized when we got onto the 110 that this was the longest span of time I’ve spent with Maya since I started working for her. I was glad that we were able to talk, and I liked, not only the vote of confidence from my employer, but also the way in which she sympathized. I don’t think I’m as hot as Maya Bedrossian was when she was starring in movies, but, well, clearly some people think I come close…and it was good to have someone talk to about the problems that come with that.

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