Searching for Personal Peace & Celebrating International Women’s Day 2018

Penny S. Tee Article

How many of you know that today is International Women’s Day 2018?  It’s important in case you need a reminder. I often write that I want to work on Peace—internally always spring cleaning, so I can take Peace out into the world. I might not be able to solve the world’s conflicts, but at least I know that anything I am able to do will move us forward in the right direction.

In today’s blog I’m going deeply personal into my life that began in my teens through my twenties. Why? In the hopes that a young girl somewhere might read these words, pause, and make another choice. If it helps her, I’m willing to throw myself on that jagged, honest blade.

In the United States and other westernized countries things are definitely better, than when I was young, but still could be improved. Israel, a country that I write frequently about is also working toward equality just as we are in the U.S., as the number of women in office expand, yet there too there is a long way to go.

Women there are required to go into the military from high school, just as men are—the chicken soup in my veins causes me to have to pause if that is a benefit, before I reconcile it in my mind that of course it is, right? Compared to women’s rights in other Middle Eastern countries, Israel is a star!

As was reported today in the New York Times by Elisabetta Povoledo, Raphael Minder and Choe Sang-Hun, “For many women, there is a keen awareness that there has been a major shift in the firmament when it comes to gender parity, the treatment of women in the workplace and sexual dynamics.”

“But others — scratching out lives in developing countries in Africa, toiling away at jobs with little pay in Latin America, or scrambling to raise children without help in the Middle East — probably have little time left over to reflect on the one day of the year designated to celebrate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women,” as the website says.”

I remember my corporate days, rising through the ranks during the mid-1970s to the 1980s. I went from accounting clerk to years of system implementations in Accounting Management and supervising 100 people for large corporations like Perrier and the Los Angeles Times. I was so proud when after working full-time and finishing my degree at U.S.C. at night, I graduated with my B.S. and got promoted to my first supervisor’s job.

Years later, I was grateful to the Los Angeles Times who paid for my M.B.A. also at U.S.C. I then got a job consulting at Deloitte and Touche. Back in those days a woman in management was much more of an anomaly than it is today—yay, us!

It seems like eons ago, at least a lifetime —so much has changed in my life. Although I still have a penchant to only drink Perrier and if I’d only known that I was working in the wrong department at the Los Angeles Times…it should have been as a reporter, not Accounting Manager, but who knew?

Today, I’m a writer, my book will be out this year, I write blogs, have Writers4Writers, a writing support group that I’ve run at a local library for years and I’m taking online May 14, as well as being a wife and mother — my life is very different from then.

Anyway, being treated equally as a woman has always been important to me. I believe it was a reaction to a number of things I’ll discuss—all extremely personal and some intertwined with disgust and embarrassment.

I was raised in a mostly non-practicing, but traditionally bent Jewish family where unfortunately, it was considered important for my brother to have a Bar Mitzvah—not me. I’m sure our family’s lack of funds weighed into the mix as well, however as a kid, it hurt. Frankly it pissed me off, but the positive side produced a woman insistent on equality.

Years later I would set the lack of Bat Mitzvah debacle straight by sharing mine with my son as we shared our B’nai Mitzvah. It was one of the happiest days of both of our lives : )

My insistence on equality also was a reaction to my father’s less than encouraging demeanor toward a daughter that he hadn’t wanted. My mother’s story about poking holes in the condom to have me wasn’t a story that went over well, and although he was never cruel exactly, he never got over it. I was tolerated and often ignored.

Unfortunately it set me up for something—I don’t believe I’ve talked about publically before. It’s a story filled with shame and embarrassment that only a lifetime can prepare you for revealing. What would my friends who respect me think? Would they worry that I was still inclined to temptation around their husbands, or would they understand I was a confused kid searching for a father figure I never had?

I didn’t mention the firm above where I worked at the time, and you’ll see why now…
I actually lost my virginity and had an affair at work for four years, with the big boss, who was married and thirty years my senior. I was in my twenties at the time. And get this one…my father worked there too!

I remember my previous boyfriend of four years selfishly was mad when I told him I had at last agreed to my deflowering by another. In his immaturity he couldn’t reconcile why it hadn’t been him?

We had been together since I was fifteen. He and I had dated for four years and he was the only positive male relationship I had ever had.  At the time he was twenty-one, apparently ready to sow a few wild oats. He went from someone who often told me he loved me to questioning me, “What does love mean anyway?” It led to our breakup.

I remained a virgin all of our time together waiting for the one. I was a “good girl,” and when later I told him about the affair, he was miffed that I gave it up to that scum bag.

It made sense in retrospect, we’d been together since we were kids. But it was bad timing. The collapse of my most secure relationship was too much of a hit knocking me off of my emotional ledge and into the arms of the sophisticated man with his glittering attentions.

When he first approached me I was confused, yet flattered. The big boss was interested in little old me? Wow! I know, today I would throw up too. But then, I was really an inexperienced little girl who hadn’t had a father show her love. What happened was predictable.

Year after year, we’d meet at fancy restaurants and go back to my apartment or a hotel to do the dirty deed. It was a strange ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ relationship (well he really probably to others wasn’t my boyfriend, but that’s how I looked at our relationship. I was smitten and loyal, never looking at anyone else…you know, stupidly waiting for him to leave her) complete with birthday celebrations except of course we couldn’t take any trips together or spend the night. Oey.

What he was thinking I couldn’t say. Probably just a male fantasy of a fit young woman, with smarts that he could mold to his desires. I don’t know, it was never discussed. However he did keep me with him feeding my fantasy of someday we would be together, right. Such a stereotypical scenario.

I apologize to all of you who’ve been hurt by the other woman. If I too knew better at the time, I never would have lowered myself to his advances.

Was the man, dashing, debonair—irresistible? No, in fact he was ugly, just willing to show a young girl attention that she so desperately needed, to selfishly fulfill his own sordid needs. Today, thoughts of him sicken me for so many reasons. I don’t let myself off the hook, my unethical behavior was inexcusable, yet not surprising—unfortunately it happens all of the time.

Looking back, I have embarrassment and outrage. How much better of a mother I could have been for myself. My parents were of the kind that as Maya Angelou says, “If they knew better, they’d do better.”

Nonetheless, that wasn’t what happened, no matter how much I would have wanted the reality to be different. If I’d had the knowledge then that I could or should have stood up and reported the situation…could I have saved it from happening to another girl? I don’t know that it happened again. When I graduated college I was conveniently transferred to another location and later left the company.

This isn’t a funny story, though in retrospect, life happens and sometimes there is humor in odd places, you’ll see…

One day my dad, had an idea for something at work. He was the purchasing agent. I don’t recall exactly what it was, something about how to improve some buying process. So he thought he would go into the “big boss,” and tell him about it…after all, he knew his daughter had an “in” with him.

I received quite a panicked phone call at my desk…”What does your dad want?” “I don’t know!” It’s not like my father had consulted me that he was going to talk to my married ‘boyfriend’ about his idea.

I’m sure the lothario was sweating profusely when my dad came into his office. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching both of them, two odd men.

I don’t think it ever occurred to my father that the majority of people would think he would be outraged and might be there to defend his daughter’s honor who was taken advantage of. I don’t know how my father felt about our relationship, like most things we never talked about it, but he was clearly oblivious to the impact of his request to see the boss. Where was his fatherly indignation, protectiveness of his daughter? It didn’t exist. It turned out my dad only wanted him to consider his new idea.

Years of therapy later, the best I can say is that I understand my part in it. It was unsurprising given my background and although I recoil at the ethics of my participation in the lurid affair, I understand it.

I sometimes wonder what the others in the office thought. It must have been quite the topic of conversation. I was fairly certain from comments through the years that I wasn’t the first and don’t know if I was the last. The culprit is probably dead now, good riddens.

Now, truly as an adult, I try to insure I’m treated fairly. Has it always worked? No, but you can bet the infringing party heard about it…ask my husband, he’s still putting ice packs on some verbal kicks through the years : )

I’m happy to say, we’ve come a long way baby, yet disappointed that we still have further to go. There’s still sexual harassment in today’s world just more awareness of what it is and defenses to fight against it. Casting couches are being exposed and workforces are more protected. How much more would I have been protected if we had had an International Women’ Day in the 1970s-1980s of my twenties? So yes, I celebrate International Women’s Day 2018. L’Chaim (To Life)!

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