Friday, October 13, 2006

The happy return of grab-ass

Was it 1991 or 1992? I can’t remember.

Clarence Thomas and his fuzzy little can of Coke were making headlines and changing the face of office flirtations forever.

Well, not quite forever it seems.

I am pleased to announce the Happy Return of Grab-Ass.
“Is your neck stiff again?” asks Concerned Sales Rep.
“Yeah, I woke up this way. Must’ve slept funny,” replies Office Chick.
“I wake up stiff sometimes, too,” says Concerned and Now Jokey Sales Rep.
It’s harmless, funny and fun.

And I would argue that it makes a workplace more comfortable, friendly, and productive for everyone.
Here are two scenarios; you tell me which is more offensive:

Scenario One:
“What can I do for you, Richard?” asks Helpful Office Chick.

“You can start by taking off your shirt,” replies CFO.

Scenario Two:
“We’re twins today,” says Office Chick who happens to be wearing an Oxford cut from exactly the same cloth as the shirt worn by Male Co-Worker.

“Of course I’m much cuter in it,” says Somewhat Jokey Office Chick.

“Of course, but what I like most is the idea of you starting the day in my shirt,” replies Male Co-Worker.
First of all, both of those scenarios actually happened. The name was changed to protect the lecherous.

Did you see the difference? The first one was kinda icky and demanding, especially coming from a senior-level executive.

The second scenario was innocuous and silly and occurred between co-workers.
Boston Legal is my new favorite show. And the law offices of Denny Crane et al remind me a lot of where I work.

It’s fun here. People say exactly what they’re thinking all the time, it’s usually fairly profane, and it’s always exactly what everyone else is thinking.

Rather than creating a hostile environment as the Vehement Feminists claim, playful banter makes all of us want to be in the office more due to the relaxed, friendly and casual environment.

We’re all professionals, of course. But we’re people too. And why can’t work be fun and silly sometimes?
“To the many people who believed Anita Hill's claims or opposed the Thomas nomination on other grounds, Thomas's appointment was a defeat. Yet, the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas controversy had other long-term consequences beyond Justice Thomas's life-term on the Supreme Court. Foremost, national awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace heightened considerably. According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filings, sexual harassment cases have more than doubled, from 6,127 in 1991 to 15,342 in 1996. Over the same period, awards to victims under federal laws nearly quadrupled, from $7.7 million to $27.8 million.”

- From the George Mason Center for History and New Media web site.
So everyone became hyper paranoid, fearful, and tense. And the lawyers got richer. Isn’t that great?

Yes, sexual harassment is real – I’ve experienced the harmless kind hundreds of times throughout my career.

But let me be clear: Never, ever in the you-do-this-for-me-and-I’ll-do-this-for-you sense.
“This one is probably gonna be too small,” says Office Chick holding up ladies’ Calloway logo wear wind shirt to herself.

“Right. Put it on. And wait here while I get the hose,” says Male Co-Worker.
Here’s the key to keeping office grab-ass fun and safe for everyone:

  • Be an equal opportunity offender – never single out one woman for all your jokes. It’s creepy and will freak her right out the fucking door.
  • Know your target – you can usually tell within the first five minutes of speaking with someone if they can take a joke. Steer clear of the humorless uptight twats.
  • Keep it light and flirty, never explicit and/or personal.
  • FYI on explicit or personal: Relating to, describing or commenting on specific body parts and/or sex acts.
  • Groups are best – try to make your comments in a good mix of male and female co-workers, that way no one, even the target of your comments, is likely to take it personally.
  • Good touch/Bad touch – Never touch anyone at work for any reason. You don’t need to, so don’t.
  • Porn – Never send pornographic images via e-mail to a female co-worker. Instead, invite her to your office and watch it together. Kidding! Please keep your porn collection out of the office and in a box hidden in your basement where it belongs.
  • Diversionary Tactics – If you’re a chick and someone takes it too far, take every opportunity to mention your husband/spouse/significant other. It’s a subtle reminder that they have no chance in hell of gettin’ with ya. Exception: If you’re a lesbian, never, ever mention your partner – you don’t need to plant any hope of a sandwich situation in the brains of your male co-workers. Trust me, they’ve already thought of it and don’t need encouragement on that front.
  • And for the love of Clarence, if you’re a manager never, ever say anything offensive in a one-on-one situation with anyone who reports to you.
Now get your ass back to work.
I am listening to: Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record
I am reading: Not a goddamn thing
And I am: Amused