Firing Fred

They say you never forget your first time. Mine was back in Summer 2001.

Fred* was the first person I ever fired for sexual harassment.

I was 25, and a new HR Manager at [Leading Department Store].

Fred was semi-retired from his days in real estate. He sold fine jewelry part-time, mostly for fun and the employee discount. He was at least twice my age, but probably pushing 60.

He took pride in being one of the more professionally dressed employees.

Always adjusting his tie, or primping his hair.

He was a walking Old-Fashioned cocktail in a sport coat, sweater vest, and gabardine slacks that were probably nice in the decade they were originally made.

He kept his gray hair a little long and coiffed, and perpetually on the verge of blooming into a full-grown mullet.

Fred could sell anything, and he loved selling fine jewelry because that’s where the commission was. He was extroverted and gregarious, but he exuded a smarmy, used car salesman-y vibe that I never wanted to have when I worked in sales.

I had only a few friendly chats with him before that day he sat in my office.

Fred seemed more bothered than nervous while sitting across from me. Like it was a burden for him to be talking to HR when he could be at the counter making money instead.

He could probably tell that I was nervous. This was my first case of this nature, and I barely knew what I was doing. I didn’t want to mess up, and possibly make things worse.

At this point I only knew one side of the case, and I needed to hear his.

I was expecting him to deny everything, and we’d end up going back and forth on what actually happened. Classic he-said / she-said.

“Do you know why I asked you here?” I started.

“I think I have an idea.” he said.

“And what’s that?” I asked.

“I think someone came to talk to you about something I said to them.”

This was refreshingly unexpected. I took a quick beat. I wanted to see where he was taking it, so I let him continue.

“I’m listening.” I told him.

He said he gave a compliment to a female coworker, and maybe she took it the wrong way and got offended. And now he’s being called to my office to talk about it.

We agreed on the other employee in question, but not the rest of the story.

I explained to him that yes, I had already spoken to Kayla*.

Kayla was a young woman from Hawaii that worked in the department adjacent to Fred’s counter. She worked part-time while going to college. She was also young enough to be his grand-daughter.

Even though they worked in different departments, whenever things got busy they had to share cash registers.

According to Kayla, that’s when Fred would turn into Super Creep.

He would try to charm her with gems like – “Hey Kayla, I’m planning a trip to Hawaii. You ever been to Come-On-I-Wanna-Lay-Ya?”

He told her he heard it in a movie and thought it was funny. It is from a movie and in context, the scene in the movie is kinda funny!

But it’s not funny when it’s a creepy old dude in a department store saying it to a 19 year-old girl just trying to do a job.

It’s similar to George Bush Sr’s “David Cop-A-Feel” joke that he’d say before grabbing a woman’s butt.

It’s the kind of creeper joke a lot of people simply brush off as “boys will be boys”.

I also explained to Fred that he was being accused of brushing up against Kayla’s butt whenever she was wearing a skirt or tight clothing. It didn’t matter that he tried to make it look “accidental”.

And then I had to ask him about the pinching.

When he would tell her she looked nice, he also half-jokingly warned her that he might “have to pinch her butt.”

And one time he did.

She told him to knock it all off, or she’d report him to HR.

He didn’t, and she stuck to her word.

And there we were.

I’ll never forget his first response.

With a shoulder shrug he said, “I’m Italian. We pinch.”

Then he held up his hands and did a crab pinch like Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, with a look like it was all beyond his control.

I have a pretty good poker face when I need one, but I don’t know how I didn’t laugh in his face and shout ARE YOU FUCKING FOR REAL!?

But I maintained.

I calmly explained that while I appreciated his honesty, what he did was extremely inappropriate, and it had no place at [Leading Department Store], and Kayla had already told him it was inappropriate and asked him to stop.

And because he chose to continue his inappropriate behavior we were now parting ways.

He paused, then let out a sigh with a subtle head shake of disbelief.

“Times changed. Back in the 70’s when I worked in a real estate office we could do whatever and nobody cared. Nobody got mad. We gave compliments. If I saw a gal with nice legs I’d tell her she had nice legs. We’d pat butts, and snap bras. It was all in good fun.”

I know what he wanted me to say. He wanted me to commiserate and be all, “I get it, man. Chicks can’t even take a compliment anymore, amirite?”

“Fun for who though?” I asked. Both of us knowing the answer. “Would you want your wife or daughter to work in a place where she was getting pinched, or brushed up against,  or being told creepy jokes? Especially after she asked it to stop?”

He sat there and realized the workplace changed without telling him (or he wasn’t listening), and now he was playing catch up.

This was almost 20 years ago. To this day I can’t watch Ron Burgundy without wondering if Fred helped inspire it.

But let me clarify, I’m not saying I’m some shining example of anything now or back then.

Yes, I cared about creating an equal and safe workplace for women and everyone, but I was being paid to do so. I was still blind and ignorant to the way women are treated by men (including myself) every day outside of where I worked.

I was still part of the problem.

It took me years before I began to understand the ways I also objectified women. And how it stems from what society teaches boys when it’s deep-rooted Patriarchal culture saturated in toxic masculinity.

I had to learn how to stop objectifying women. It’s a type of deprogramming. It takes time. It’s a process.

I could recognize Fred’s patterns easily as I’m sure most people could.

But it took looking inward, and recognizing my own patterns in order to start fixing them. If someone tried to show them to me I was likely to double down trying to justify ignorant behavior.

When you know better, you do better.

Fred was right. Times have changed.

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are telling a lot of dudes like Fred that they better wake up and catch up.

But some guys haven’t even started yet.

They’re too busy complaining they have to go to a Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, or how they can’t give compliments anymore, or they don’t know how to act around women without worrying about offending them.

In my experience it’s rarely as simple as “I only gave a compliment” that’ll get you a chat with HR. It’s usually a pattern of behavior.

Too many men still don’t recognize their own creepy behavior patterns whether in or outside of the workplace.

Don’t be the guy feeling nostalgic for the good ole’ days when women didn’t have a voice and you could get away with treating them like shit. Those days are thankfully fading away more and more.

Men, we’re all a bunch of Freds.

We’ve all done or said the stupid shit he did to some degree. He was just stupid enough to do it at work, and he rightfully got fired for it.

But if it’s not okay to do it at work – then why is it okay to do outside of work?

If it’s not okay for someone to do it to your [Daughter, Mother, Sister] – then why do it to another female?

We’re all at different points of learning that we need to become better men because our culture tells us it’s okay to act like Fred sometimes. We see it every day.

Women have been telling us for decades, and they are united now more than ever in still telling us that it’s not okay.

We need to fire our inner Fred and listen.

Let’s all do better. Let’s encourage each other to become better men.

Yes, all men.

-AM

 

 

 

*yep, fake names.

A Fun House Mirror of Empathy

TL;DR: The President’s racism is clear and not debatable. I’m trying not to hate in 2018, so what can I learn from him instead? Empathy.
He’s the empathy gauge that America’s always needed.
Only racists, bigots, and people with large empathy blind spots align with him.
Am I one of those types of people? Are you?
Do you want a country with more empathy or less?
We all need to decide and take action.
____

There are many examples of 45’s racist/bigoted beliefs before he said “shithole countries.” I feel no need to debate that here.

And there are many intelligent takes about systemic racism, white supremacy, political language, unconscious bias, etc that are worth your time.
This isn’t one of those either.

I’m trying to live #LOVE2018 within myself. In order to do that I need to find some positive even in the negative, and especially when I want to rage flip a table after watching the President on TV.

He makes it too easy to hate him. But I know hating him will only hurt myself in the long run. I don’t want that feeling of hate and anger living within me.

Trumpito isn’t here to be a President, otherwise he would act like one without being a national embarrassment. He’s mentally incapable of acting like a true President.

So what is he? He is the ANTITHESIS of EMPATHY.

What purpose? What can I learn from his pathetic example of humanity?

He’s a barometer. A gauge.

He’s America’s Empathy gauge, here for us to compare own empathy pot holes against his.

People with low empathy resonate with 45 because he’s not politically correct, just as they typically describe themselves. They’re glad to finally have their POV validated by a ‘successful’ archetype of American capitalism. In their eyes he’s the embodiment of the American Dream, and if HE doesn’t even bother using the right words, why should they?

People excusing his damaging words by publicly (or privately) stating,
“Well, he kinda has a point he’s just not being PC about it” or “this is dinner table talk” have an empathy pot hole in that very same area.

It’s that simple.

Being PC with your words might be one of the easiest ways to show empathy.
It means you care just enough about others to consider how your words will be received. You’re putting someone else’s needs before your own. The President can’t even comprehend someone else’s needs.

Being thoughtful about your own words is literally the least you can do for someone you’re communicating with! And ultimately better communication helps the greater good.

The President doesn’t modify his communication style because he’s an entitled narcissist that’s never had to before. It’s worked for him for 71 years, why start now? If we don’t want to be entitled, self-centered, narcissists then we need to notice the differences, and act accordingly.

I’m picturing a distorted fun house mirror shaped like the President.
When you step in front of it, you’ll only see your reflection when your empathy pot holes align with his.

No mirror reflection: Great! You’re a pretty empathetic person (but we all need empathy work).

Does hearing “Shithole countries” sound okay (just not very PC) to you?
Is that your dinner table talk?
You have a large empathy pot hole towards immigrants, especially PoC from poorer nations. Here’s your fun house reflection.

“I don’t care about being PC!”  = low empathy reflection. Pot hole

“But the stock market is way up! The economy is great! ”
Money > People = empathy pot hole.

“But let’s look at the data…” Numbers > People = pot hole.

I recently read a tweet that said “Facts don’t care about feelings.”
That’s absolutely true. Facts don’t care!
Nice people care about feelings
Decent people care about feelings!
That’s part of our humanity.

If we want to become better human beings, we need to care about feelings.
We need more empathy.

Agreeing with the President in 2018 says more about YOU more than any other President has before.

That’s his purpose.

He’s here to show us what happens when a man so bereft of humanity and empathy runs one of the greatest countries in the world. We must recognize it, learn from it and become better people and a better Nation.

Right now, that is the only good I can see coming from this administration.

I know some people gladly voted for him because of his bigoted and racist views.  Thankfully they are not the majority in our country, and never will be. I know many people who voted for him that I would never call racist.

I think most people who voted for him thought he’d ‘shake things up’ and that’s what this country needs. He’s definitely shaking things up.

Again, our country needs more empathy, not less.

At this point anyone still aligned with 45,
still defending the words he says, his hate, his lies, I’m done feeling anger towards them.

I pity them because they lack empathy in their lives. They’re not giving empathy, and they’re not receiving empathy from someone that truly cares. I know what that feels like and it sucks. I also know what it’s like to feel forgotten, then have someone start listening only to be conned by them in the end.

I hope everyone’s empathy barometer gets switched on, and we all start taking some readings and making adjustments.

Until Trump supporters start showing otherwise, I’ll presume they’re not very empathetic, and proceed accordingly. ✌🏽
-AM

Redefining Masculinity in 2018

This morning I woke up wanting to find a podcast that parallels where I am on my own journey of seeking what it means to be a man in 2018.

A podcast for men who are searching to become better men (and ultimately better people) by dropping the facade of (toxic) Masculinity that we are raised by in our culture. I’m not trying to deny my masculine traits and instincts. I’m trying to bring better balance to them by strengthening the feminine ones that also live within me, and all other living things. And if it happens to help dismantle the Patriarchy that’s been ruling the world forever, I’m totally cool with that too.

I picked up my phone to search the Googles, and saw that I had this text waiting for me from a good friend:

I hadn’t heard of Justin Baldoni, or watched ‘Jane the Virgin’, the tv show he’s on starring Gina Rodriquez. But it sounded like his TED Talk might be just what I was looking for so I watched. Then I watched it again. It really resonated with me.
I was wondering why I hadn’t come across this video during my prior searches, and realized that his video was just released FIVE DAYS AGO.
Justin also has a new website – We Are Man Enough where he has meaningful conversations with small groups of men about:
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A BETTER MAN IN 2018
We’re at the beginning of a movement for change. It gives me hope. And I’m glad to see many other men like me out there that are ready for it.
#LOVE2018
-AM

Jeff and I are switching on the growth mindset

TL;DR: Fun dog video of Jeff learning to “find it”.

I like to learn by doing.

But I used to avoid learning new tech because it was too intimidating and made me feel foolish or out of touch.

I’m quite comfortable with my etch-a-sketch thank you, why fuq around learning something new and get all stressed?

For 2018 I say Chalé that.  I’m trying to find joy in everything, wherever it is.

So today I learned some basic iMovie stuff (super easy and I feel foolish for avoiding it), and I’m still learning messing around here on WordPress.

Meanwhile Jeff is learning how to find what I want him to!

Turns out his adorable doggo sniffer is not just boopin’! Who knew?

And I’m also learning how to train him to find things, thanks to my awesome, animal loving friend Gerri!

Jeff and I had a lot of fun making it this video, and we hope you have fun watching it!

#LOVE2018

What’s your comfortable etch-a-sketch that you’re still holding onto? Toss it aside and learn something new. You won’t regret it!

BTW: I was legit surprised by what he did at the end! You could even say I was FLOORED! #dogdadjoke

Saturday Morning Cartoons and Taxes

It’s early Saturday morning.

Everyone else in the house is still asleep. If it was 1981, I’d be making myself a bowl of cereal, switch on the TV, crank the channel knob over to 7 and watch Saturday morning cartoons.

Then during commercial breaks Schoolhouse Rock! videos would come on and I’d learn about conjunctions, adverbs, electricity, math and even politics.

We Gen-Xer’s still have many of these songs lying dormant in our heads until we hear the proper hypnotic cues.

Go ahead and try it. Find your nearest Gen-Xer and just whisper “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” and watch what happens.

One of the more memorable videos was  “I’m Just a Bill” about how a bill becomes a law.

Apparently members of our Congress never watched this simple explanation of how our government process works.

While we were all sleeping at 2am, the Republican party rushed through voting and passing their tax bill 51-49.

Now, let me reach out to my Conservative friends, because I really want to know – what do you truly think about this process? Not only the Bill but the process?

Most Conservatives I know consider themselves patriotic. Maybe even more-so than the average American. Typically they have immediately family in the military or are Veterans themselves. Just like my family.

I used to be much more conservative until I realized I care about people and community more than money, but I see the importance of a limited government and obviously our tax system is far beyond broken.

But I need help understanding how what happened last night is okay with anyone.

Assuming you love your country, how can voting on a 500 page draft (literally with handwritten notes in the margins) in a matter of a few hours be good for our country?

What happened to your sense of order and process? When did tossing all of that out to give a tax break to the rich become okay with you? I’m listening.

If the bill is really so great for the country, wouldn’t you agree that there should have been more thought, care and discussion brought to the process? The way it should be done as described in the video that even a child can understand.

Look at your Republican leaders right now. Who are they really helping by rushing this bill through without discussion? Their middle class constituents like you and your family, or their rich donors? This is why I’m no longer say I’m  a conservative. Their actions clearly show us who they work for and what they care more about.

I’ve spent more time researching which BBQ Grill to buy, than the time Congress just spent on our country’s future.

And I’m not a fan of Democrats either, and we need to get rid of the 2 party system, but at least the Democrats wanted time to READ THE FUCKING BILL before voting on it. That wasn’t good enough for Republicans.

That’s shameful.

Would you agree the whole thing just feels kinda…swampy?

 

-AM

How a Muppet Became My Personal Trainer…Part 2

When I was a kid I could run really fast.

I was quick and squirrelly.

I had to be. I was always one of the smallest kids in school, or liddle’ as the resident White House toddler calls it.

The bigger boys in my class enjoyed practicing their wrestling moves during recess, and conveniently enough I was the perfect sized 3rd grader to pick up and suplex. Granted we all wrestled as boys do, but I was never the one picking up somebody to suplex. I was always the suplexee.

3rd Grade recess had me like

Honestly, I don’t know how we never broke any bones or worse.

So I learned to sprint to get away, but no stamina. By the time I was in college playing intramural soccer, running also meant shin splints and aching knees. These days my knees feel like old Tinkertoys and bubblegum rather than bone joints and cartilage.

Recently I was cleaning out my closet for donations, and I found an old pair of running shoes that I bought ~10 years ago when was working out regularly at the gym. I only used them for working out, and maybe a few minutes on the treadmill. They’re still practically new, but also pretty fugly as most running shoes are IMO.

When I found the shoes in the back of my closet I asked myself – keep or donate?

“Donate, duh Slothman”.

But then I found another pair of running shoes. I guess I only liked buying the shoes, not using them for their purpose. For whatever reason I decided to keep the newer pair.

Now back to my walk with Jeff the Dood.

The day after we double timed it, I had a giant blister from my slip-ons.  I like how they look, and they feel super comfy while walking, but they’re way too casual for jogs.

I know I need to wear these basic, ugly running shoes- with their giant, floppy laces and weird thick heels.

But at least now they serve a purpose other than holding down the back of my closet. They’re also pretty comfortable thanks to all the cushioning and support.

Our first walk wearing the shoes started the same. Walking. Slow steady pace. Jeff’s sniffing the sidewalk and plants to find out which friends already passed by.

But no podcast this time, and no silence. I need better sound motivation for this.

This time I put on my workout playlist, also from over 10 years ago. Mostly House music with BMP above 120. Remixes like Sinnerman, and Paradise, I Can’t Get Enough and Music Sounds Better.  They keep a good, bouncy pace that I can jog to.

I should clarify what I mean by jogging. My jogging is not graceful like this:

Mine’s more of a rhythmic plodding. If someone filmed me in slow-mo I’m sure it’d be me bouncing up and down at all angles while seeing the Earth move under my feet.

And speaking of my beautiful feet. A pair of genetic blessings passed down from my Grandfather. They’re often confused for adobe bricks due to a condition podiatrists refer to as Flintstonian.

They make running fun and I can always stop on a dime.

So now we’re walking. Cue the Squirrel! Time to move.

I catch the beat playing in my headphones and we’re off. I’m jogging. Jeff’s long legs skitter along next to me and he’s gliding on the sidewalk. He’s barely in second gear. I time my breathing to my steps so I don’t get winded.

We jogged the long side of the block all the way to the end,  then walked up the short side, and jogged the long block again crisscrossing our way back home.

Jeff’s infectious energy is guiding me to do something that I’ve always disliked doing for a number of reasons. And now the reasons (excuses) are disappearing. That’s what a good personal trainer helps you do. They help you empty your bag of excuses.

The Roly Poly Crew Jan 2016

I’m now running short sprints that play to my physical strength instead of longer distances that force my body to do something it wasn’t made to do.

I’m running comfortably thanks to a proper pair of running shoes that I almost gave away. And the pain in my knees and shins has been replaced by healthy muscle soreness in my calves, quads and glutes.

The cannabis acts as a bronchodilator allowing me to breathe in more cool morning air so I can run further without losing my breath. And I’ll save the “Runner’s High…On Weed” for a whole other blog post.

After a jog. Nov 2017

Jeff is pushing me and he doesn’t even know it. He’s just living his best damn life and he wants me to join him. Walking, jogging, running together puts me in the present moment with him.

Our daily routine started as a way to get him exercised so he wouldn’t drive us crazy. Now I’m exercising as a way to help me stay sane in a crazy world.

And we really do have a great time jogging together.

A Yabba-Dabba Doo time.

How a Muppet Became My Personal Trainer…Part 1

I want to tell you about the best part of my mornings, but first let me introduce you to Jeff Lebowowski.

Jeff is a 2 year-old Goldendoodle that we got as a puppy from a rescue (yep, even ‘designer dogs’ can be adopted from rescues!).

As a puppy, Jeff was a cute, roly-poly, teddy bear with the bubble belly that’s just made for rubs and pats. We pictured him growing into a shorter, stocky, furball not unlike yours truly.

We didn’t know he’d grow into a svelte, long legged athletic doggo.

Jeff can stay in bed all morning like an emo teenager listening to The Cure, but once he’s up he’s very high energy. He likes to run. Fast.

More specifically, he loves to run and be chased. He’s got awesome juke moves that’ll make you jump out of your shoes. Yep, this boy’s a runnin’ fool.

Even with all the negativity in the world these days, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life since I retired. I’m grateful for the free time that I now have, and the best part of my day for the past few months has been the mornings when Jeff and I take our walk around the neighborhood.

For the past few months, the first thing I do is wake ‘n bake with a dab of cannabis concentrate. I prefer Jack Herer or some variant of it. It’s a good morning strain that puts me a calm and creative mood, but I can still get things done. Then I throw on a pair of comfy slip-ons, get Jeff suited up in his harness, and we’re out the door. We typically crisscross through the neighborhood for 30-45 minutes while I listen to a podcast, or think about my day, or I don’t think about anything and just enjoy the brisk morning air and sun on my face. The neighborhood is quiet after the morning rush. And we’re not in a hurry, but we keep a steady pace so Jeff hopefully gets somewhat tired.

Jeff does pretty good on a leash, but he gets excited when he sees other dogs and of course…squirrels!

Squirrel!!

But lately he’s been getting more excited at the very beginning of the walk. It’s something that he really looks forward to now, and he’s learned (or I have) when it’s time to go.

One day last week he was really antzy, and was pulling on the leash more than usual shortly after we started.

Then he saw a squirrel, and I knew I had to do something quickly to get his attention back to the walk.

So I double timed it like I’ve done a couple times before. But instead of gearing back down to my normal pace, I kept it up and we went to the end of the block.

That’s not a big deal for most people, but I was out of breath after ~800 feet. I’ve been a sedentary professional for most of my adult life. I can double time it down the block for a little bit, but I max out quickly.

But I noticed something interesting this time. Usually when I’m out of breath I need a few minutes to recover. This time I was able to catch my breath quickly.  And because of the cooler morning air, my lungs didn’t burn as much.

We double timed it for another half block.

Jeff was ecstatic. He looked back a couple times with a goofball look of confusion to see if he should keep running. We did.

We finished that walk more tired than usual.

And I knew what I needed to do…

 

 

Hello

Hi. I’m Adam Miguel. I like to write and take pictures about my life and stuff, so I’m gonna do those here.

Oh and I have no idea how to blog so I’m trying to figure all that out too.

Should be fun!

-AM