After we got to the network’s office building for the hearing into the sexual harassment complaint that was hanging over my head like a Sword of Damocles, they sent someone to meet us in the lobby. She took us upstairs to an empty conference room. I was lucky to have a lot of people on my side, and there was barely room in the conference room for all of them. Keaton, Bryce, Michelle and Matt were all there already, all dressed in suits, even Keaton, although, true Texan that he was, he had on his dress cowboy boots. There was some bottled water on the table, and y’all can probably guess how dry my mouth felt. I took a bottle of water, but then got scared that I’d have to go to the restroom during the hearing if I drank it. That’s when I realized my head was swimming…and all I wanted was for it to be over.
It felt like we were waiting in that conference room forever, but finally someone (not our original guide) came to say that they were ready for us. We arranged that Michelle and Matt would come in with me, while Maya and Robert would wait where they could be called in if it became necessary. Bryce and Keaton remained with Maya and Robert: although Bryce’s statement had been taken over to the network by messenger first thing in the morning, we didn’t know if anyone had read it and knew that he was going to appear at my hearing.
The room they took me, Michelle and Matt to was another conference room on the same floor, only it was much bigger, and it was almost packed with people when we got there. There was a dude with salt and pepper hair sitting at the head of the table wearing a grey suit that must have cost a lot more than the one I was wearing. He clearly was Gavin Blanchard, the network vice president who was going to decide my future. I didn’t know who anyone else was, and me and my ‘legal team’ (I reckon you can call Michelle and Matt) were told to sit on one side of the table, down by the far end. It was only then that I saw the bitch who created this whole mess for me, dressed in another super corporate-looking suit, and sitting next to her own lawyer who, kind of ironically for someone making a sexual harassment complaint against a dude, was a dude himself. He was probably 40 and wearing a charcoal gray suit that also cost more than my blue one, but definitely less than the one that Mr. Blanchard had on.
The only thing on the table was a digital recorder, and there were microphones in front of both me and my accuser. So I guess there wasn’t going to be a written record like they do in law firms.
“Are we all here?,” Mr. Blanchard asked, kind of in general. A young dude with blond hair sitting a little down the table from him said they all were. “So we can begin.”
Both Michelle and Bryce said that Blanchard was going to make big drama out of the hearing, and it turns out he was right. He was getting to be judge and jury and I could tell he was determined to get the most out of it. But, then, this was a TV network, and it probably attracted executives who like drama, both onscreen and off. At least that’s the feeling I got as he paused for absolute silence before he started talking again.
“I want to make it clear to everyone here that this isn’t a trial. It’s a hearing for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that’s to get at the truth as set forth in your contracts with the network. We have two people telling conflicting stories, and deciding between them has escalated to this hearing. You are both represented by counsel,” he continued, looking at me and my accuser for the first time, “although, since this isn’t a trial, we won’t have opening or closing statements. Counsel are strictly here to advise, and there’ll be no cross-examination. If something is unclear, I or one of my colleagues here will ask the questions. Is that understood?”
We both nodded. I caught her glance as we did…and really wished she was a dude so I could kick her ass.
“Now we’ll hear the original complainant tell her story.”
So she did. It was my first time hearing what she had to say, and it was just one lie piled on top of another. Matt was sitting next to me and could tell that I was fixing to stand up and tell everyone how her whole story was fuckin bullshit, but he put his hand on my shoulder to steady me. That wasn’t the last time I was glad to have Matt next to me.
I won’t give you her whole story verbatim; it’ll just annoy the fuck of me having to go over it again. Basically, what she said was that I kept pursuing her every time she came to the house, and doing shit like “flaunting my abs” in front of her and making sure I was “barely dressed” every time I saw her. She said I was the one who approached her about moving my career beyond At Home with Maya and I allegedly told her that I’d sleep with her in exchange for her helping me get an agent and all the shit she said she would get me. As for the meeting in her house, that was something I forced her to set up, and she agreed because she wanted to tell me to leave her alone in no uncertain terms. And, oh yeah, I was the one who supplied the weed vaping thing.
Ok, that’s pretty much the exact opposite of how it happened: she basically projected onto me exactly what she did. It also made me sound like a whore, which I really resented.
When she finished, Mr. Blanchard asked her a few questions, “to clarify a few points.” She whispered to her lawyer before she answered the questions, but what she said was more of the same fabric of lies she’d created to cover up her own behavior.
“Ok, Mr. Block,” he then said, “what do you have to say for yourself?”
So I told my story all over again, I hoped for the last time. I kept calm and did what Michelle and Matt told me to do, and felt that it had come out ok when I was done.
Then it was time to ask me questions. That started out pretty badly when Mr. Blanchard asked two of the women up towards his end of the table whether they thought I was as good-looking as I was supposed to be. The two verdicts were “he certainly is very good-looking” and “he’s not really my type, but he’s pretty much a gold standard all-American boy.”
That got me blushing wildly, and I had to wheel my chair back so I could look down. Matt put his hand on my shoulder again and whispered “it’s ok, dude”, which was real nice of him but which didn’t solve the fact that I knew I looked like a blue-eyed tomato.
His next questions were more to the point and got me over that huge blushing attack. He did ask me why I had my shirt off when she first approached me, and I explained what I thought was obvious: I take care of the pool, and what else are you supposed to wear when you’re fishing half-dead bees out of the pool with a net? He then made me explain that we don’t get my shirt off on the show gratuitously…it’s just something that happens when I’m in the pool or about to get into it. Even the gym segments have me in a tshirt, since the only people who work out shirtless have got to be gay. (Ok, I didn’t say that last part, but I did think it lol.)
Then he asked me why I went over to my accuser’s house. I said I knew now that was a mistake, but I didn’t know that I was going to be accused of sexual harassment at the time. I repeated that I went so we could have a serious conversation in which I was going to tell her in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t interested in her or what she had to offer and it was hard to have a serious discussion when I was cleaning out the pool or in the gym and she was looking up my shorts. “Maybe I should have arranged to meet her someplace neutral, sir, but I wasn’t thinking too clearly. I’ve never been in a situation like this before.”
I didn’t know how I was coming off and if he was believing me or not. I so wanted to ask Matt what he thought, but I obviously couldn’t do that.
“This is a difficult situation,” Mr. Blanchard then said. I could tell he was enjoying being in the spotlight again. “We have two stories that are practically diametrical opposites and we have to figure out which version corresponds to reality. In short, the problem before me is to decide who is telling the truth and who, unfortunately, is – not to put too fine a point on it – lying. Since we’ve had no cross-examination and no one has been tripped up like happens on True Justice (the court show that the network produces), I’ve got to decide between someone who’s been a trusted employee of this network for over ten years and another trusted employee who, for two years, has been an asset to his show and who comes glowingly recommended by his superiors and co-workers.”
I was starting to get nervous about when Michelle would mention that we had Bryce waiting in the other conference room.
“I have to say that neither of you looks like a liar liar pants on fire type,” Mr. Blanchard continued with a snorty kind of laugh. “so I have nothing to go on there. On the other hand, the rule they set up not too long ago was always to believe the woman in these cases.”
I thought I was sunk. And wished Michelle would hurry up and get Bryce before it was too late.