I can’t even LOOK at her.
She’s The Other Woman.
The one who causes me to lie awake nights, wondering what went wrong, and when, and is there still time to mend things?
She’s the one who is quite a bit younger, of course, less likely to blare out her opinions unless asked, less likely to have opinions, a quality that some men seem to find desirable.
A girl really, just barely out of her teens.
I can see her sipping cocktails with her Generation Y girlfriend, their faces glowing over the phosphorescent green of apple martinis.
“Why should I feel guilty,” she would say, “I didn’t do anything.”
That’s the part I find amazing. No guilt whatsoever.
The Other Other Woman.
It began innocently enough.
I was working as the Executive Assistant for the president of the largest executive search firm in Manhattan.
My boss, Mr. P, was an impatient, frenzied, self-important man prone to sharp delusions of grandeur.
A loathsome creature who’d made too many millions at too early an age to smooth off the rough edges.
A. Freaking. Lunatic.
His Super Power was hurling inanimate objects at me when he became upset.
“I’ve been waiting on the confirmation email for an hour now, and – ”
*whistling sound while a stapler flies just past the side of my head*
I learned Duck and Cover in the corporate world.
Assisting him was a Herculean task.
Supporting his department – a group of 20-something young men designed in His image – was impossible.
And so it was decided I would hire an assistant.
I let the candidates know the boss was “difficult” (a human resources euphemism for deranged fucksqueak).
During my interview, the human resources director had failed to mention that Mr. P behaved as if he’d ingested a psychotropic drug designed to make him believe he was God.
The first job candidate sent to me was Rose.
I was underwhelmed by Rose’s lackluster demeanor and her disheveled appearance.
But I was in need of an assistant – ASAP – and she was available.
I was thrilled.
I finally had another female to help me balance all that sweaty testosterone.
The young men who inhabited my department had adopted a machismo that served as a façade to cover their insecurities as relative newcomers to the Manhattan corporate world.
They were in their douche canoe primes; the sort of 20-something men who eagerly consult Zagat’s to ferret out the trendiest restaurants.
They worshipped my boss, and were creating themselves in His image.
Which meant they were part “Corporate Bottom Feeder,” Part “Tool Box Yuppie.”
The office had the decorum of a frat house.
Unfortunately, I was disinterested in being their den mother, and at 31, too old to function as their groupie.
I grew fond of Rose.
She alleviated my workload and laughed at my jokes.
I re-invented her as quiet, not lackluster.
Working so closely to one another, it was only natural that our relationship would expand beyond work-related matters.
I was delighted to finally have someone to bond with at work.
A much needed workplace ally.
True, I was 12 years her senior but our age difference was transcended by something much stronger.
We were bonded together by gender in a male-dominated environment.
My age and experience enabled me to function as her mentor, and I fell into the role easily.
I helped refined her image, taught her how to dress for work.
Explained to her that casual Friday meant cute cargo pants – not slutty club clothes.
I was an expert at disguising my true persona and pretending I was normal.
I coached her on every aspect of her performance.
Helped her with her grammar.
Taught her how to sound professional and approachable at the same time.
One afternoon Rose struggled with the head of IT to have her computer set up a particular way.
Afterwards, I let her in on my secret weapon – Finesse.
I patiently explained the finer points of finessing clients and co-workers: I made everyone with whom I interacted, inside the company and out, feel like a rock star.
That was the key to my success in the workplace, and how I had risen up the ranks so quickly.
I treated the janitor with the same respect I treated the CEO.
And because of that, people liked me and wanted to get things accomplished for me. Quickly.
Rose listened, she emulated, and she learned.
She rapidly developed into a junior clone of me.
In retrospect, I should have been alert to the signs of my ruination.
I can remember Rose at the Christmas party, hanging on all the men like a slutty elf.
I wrote it off to holiday spirit and alcohol.
I see her bantering with the young men in our department in a way that I found inappropriate but thought too trivial to discuss. I attributed it to her age.
At 20, she was far more likeable a mascot than I ever could have been.
Six months into our relationship, I felt an unpleasant shift of energy.
The guys in my department often socialized together after work, and I was never invited. Why would I be?
But Rose was young, single and a hell of a lot more attractive than when she first took the job.
Suddenly I was no longer her best pal.
True, even if they had invited me, I’d likely have declined.
My boss, the company president, did not want me socializing in trendy bars with the young men in our department.
But I felt abandoned by my new friend, and it stung.
I told myself, “Self, they’re her age, they have more in common, she still loves you, let it go.”
And I did.
Until the situation went from bad to really bad.
My boss’s second-in-command, the Managing Director, had never liked me.
Corporate paranoia made him think I out to sabotage his position and his relationship with my boss.
Which was all him imagination, because unlike him, I gave zero fucks about this job.
Initially, Rose guarded me from his workplace delusions, always defending me steadfastly.
But one day, when he made a crude joke about me (which he did routinely), she laughed. Laughed at his making fun of me.
As she coyly giggled behind her hand, I knew something had changed in the office dynamics.
And then, on a lazy Friday afternoon, I watched her skip around his office watering his plants.
He typed contentedly as she lovingly tended to his greenery.
I knew instantly that they were sleeping together.
She had brought “finesse” to a whole new level.
I’d never done that.
(Well, there was that one time at a different job when I accidentally fucked my boss. Very different scenario.)
Now Rose was a full-fledged member of the boy’s club and barely spoke to me.
I was an IBM Selectric typewriter in a computerized world – old, obsolete, and scorned.
From the beginning, Mr. P strongly disliked Rose, something he made clear to me on a regular basis.
He was even more disgusted with her after finding out about her affair with his protégé.
He still valued me highly, and perhaps that should have been all that mattered.
But I’d had a taste of feminine companionship as a work buffer, and without it, I could no longer tolerate the group machismo.
And I was disgusted by the way I had let myself been sucked dry and then discarded by Rose.
So while she and the boys were out to lunch one day, I faxed my resume to a several recruiting companies, in search of a new work environment.
And then, the situation got even uglier.
For no apparent reason, Mr. P’s attitude abruptly changed.
The icy wind of his contempt was blowing on me- while he fell all over himself befriending Rose.
I puzzled over his attitude toward me, until he called me into his office and accused me of disloyalty.
He knew I was looking for another job, and even had the evidence to prove it – a copy of the fax transmittal sheet to my headhunters.
There was only one person in the office who had been in a position to find this damaging evidence and present it to him like my head on a platter.
My Rose had turned into a thorn.
I never even saw it coming. Or maybe I hadn’t wanted to.
Either way, I could not continue to sit at my desk, humiliated by the betrayal, with a fake smile plastered to my face, hated by my psychotic boss – who mistreated me when he LOVED me.
I immediately gave my notice.
Rose did not slide smoothly into my job, as she probably fantasized while stabbing me in the back.
Mr. P was forced to hire another more experienced, and yes, older woman.
Rose may have been 20, ruthlessly ambitious, without gratitude or loyalty for having been transformed from a waitress into an executive assistant –
but she was not ME.
Have you ever been stabbed in the back by someone you thought was your friend? Or a work colleague?
What crazy bosses have you worked for?
Talk to me. I’m listening.