December 17, 2016 at 9:36 pm #1009
Link to Act 1 here.
Act 2: More Adoration, with sprinkles of Devaluation
To my disappointment, in January of the following year (which I will call Year 2), EAC brought up the party incident in conversation. After an initial protest in which I reminded her that I gave her a ride to the train station the following week to make up for it, I let it go.
She had begun taking piano lessons as a New Year’s resolution, and I gave her some of my piano books when I took lessons as a kid. Piano was never my thing because my mom, in her control-freak emotionally-damaged way, wanted me to take piano lessons my entire childhood more than I did. (But that’s another story.) Of course, I shared this with EAC, to which she replied that I should be more grateful to my mom. (Red flag, heh.)
Being that our office area was in a internal windowless room, and with strong internet filters in our company, there was no way to stream music over our computers for entertainment. I had just gotten a smartphone for Christmas, so EAC had the idea of loading up music that she liked (mostly classical, which I liked, and some pop) on my phone. Eventually, she got her own smartphone but with less storage than mine, so she continued to request that I play her music on my phone. She was indifferent to and sometimes critical of my music tastes, however (brass and wind band, ragtime which was piano so I thought she’d like it… nope). (Red flag, looking back.) Once I was singing along to one of her songs, to which she dismissively said, “It’s not opera.” (Red flag, as she remains the only person in my life to criticize my singing; my friends and even complete strangers have complemented my singing voice.)
Near the end of Year 2, she brought her digital music player and some of her CDs for me to load onto my phone. I thought I was special for her to share these with me. (Not…)
With EAC’s birthday rounding mid-spring, I thought it would be nice to surprise her with a birthday cake, bought from a local bakery. I reserved a nearby conference room at lunchtime, lit the cake candles, and waited until she was finished eating lunch, then surprised her on her way in (the rest of my team joined in in singing “Happy Birthday” to her). Her response was along the lines of “I’m not seven” but proceeded to have a slice anyway. I couldn’t remember if she ever thanked me.
EAC also sent me article links about some of the foods I was eating for lunch, which in hindsight was probably her way of testing my boundaries, because there was never a discussion afterwards, only me replying in the hopes of starting one. When I would send her articles (e.g. on mislabeled fish, bacon-flavored vodka, or chair posture) with my comments, they were met with either silence, or comments such as “common sense”, “not important”, or “obvious”. One discussion we had in-person at work was about some bit of identifying information on a driver’s license. When I sent her a discussion link on a popular Web portal over chat, saying that it was more articulate than anything I could say in-person, she declared that she was “showing her mean self”, stopped reading the thread, called the OP and the responses “retarded and meaningless”, hinted that she and I should be “above those kinds of comments”, and said I was attacking her for not being articulate enough to understand the topic. I told her that the thread was more articulate than whatever I could discuss with her in-person earlier that day, and was not implying anything about her. (For perspective, EAC was the youngest of four who moved away from her birth family and to the US after the age of majority, became a naturalized US citizen in-between completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and learned three languages other than English and her native one. Looking back, I am disappointed that such a high-achieving person could be this emotionally immature.)
Tennis eventually came up as another discussion topic. It became clear to me that EAC rooted for the top players, but especially those with the same ethnic background as her, and she cared only if they won. She had little interest in how their playing styles were different, their reputation off the court, or what charitable causes they supported. All that mattered to her was how important their winning would help bolster the reputation of her birth country.
However, when it came to her discussing tech (e.g. recommendations on what to get her niblings), we would have a fruitful discussion with no insults, each sharing technical info from Web pages, and the chat ending in polite “thanks!”.
With the addition from another employee (male) from my boss’s alma mater, the office room was now occupied by four people. The room was large enough not to feel cramped and moreover, no cubicle partitions. The room next door was also occupied by three group members, and our boss was in another building, only checking up on us in-person occasionally. This meant open discussion and collaboration about any number of topics between the seven of us. Once in a while my boss would order food in and have a team lunch. I thought this was a great arrangement. Then, an announcement in summer of Year 2 that we would be acquired by a bigger company, and the close would happen by next summer. I only thought that would mean our benefits package would get better. (Little did I know…) The Christmas holiday party came and went; EAC wound up getting ride to and from there with someone else.
Year 3 essentially started the same way: music requests, online chats, my baking a velvet cake from scratch for her birthday (which she liked with no criticism, thankfully), her getting me an electric mixer for my birthday, and her coming over behind my chair and playfully pushing it into my desk repeatedly with me in it (I should’ve told her to not do this too much, even though I enjoyed it sometimes, especially since she didn’t like me lingering around her desk after we discussed non-work topics). By summertime I was sharing a podcast about personal finance with her and the other male employee (the fourth left our group). It was a great way for us to pass the time this way, and I became the office-room DJ playing music and podcasts over my computer speakers for them, depending on everyone’s workload. I helped EAC with rolling over her old workplace retirement plan, advised her on picking mutual funds for our current one, giving tips on filing taxes, and even encouraging her to pay off her student loan. Of course, my efforts didn’t stop EAC’s attempts at gaslighting me. After suggesting I keep my credit card accounts open and paid-off to better qualify for a mortgage later, she then shamed me for doing just that in early Year 4 when I was about to suggest a financial fitness program to HR, since we both knew the program sponsor was no fan of credit cards. (“What kind of example are you setting?” was what I feld she said. I did eventually close my accounts.)
Alas, in the middle of Year 3 my boss’s position was eliminated by our new management, and so was he. Fortunately he left behind a solid system for us to keep track of our work, and in doing so we impressed our new interim boss, who was also in that same separate building. In addition, we were all involved in interviewing manager candidates and filling an additional vacancy within our team, something none of us had experience with and were good at. (Unfortunately we hired a dud for a team member, and it took management about a year to let him go.) EAC opened up a group chat with her, me, and two other team members to discuss just about anything, which helped blow off steam from work. She talked about her relationships with family and friends, discussed what she did for fun on weekends, and shared TED talks and suggested apps for language learning and mental exercise. With even less oversight, our team lunches went off-site and became more of a regular monthly occurrence; we wound up excluding the dud team member after warning him numerous times to shape up. I honestly thought at the time that we were a healthy, well-meshed team (minus the dud).
This was also about the time EAC began giving the one-fingered (and sometimes two-gun) salute to anyone in response to any comment she found insulting, even when in jest. But she saved a special retort for me. One time as I was driving us back from buying lunch from an ethnic deli, I had to parallel-park and, needing space to look at the passenger-side mirror, I said, “Sorry, EAC, your head’s in the way.” Then, as a playful dig, I said, “It’s not that big.” “F**k you!” was her response, the first of many to come. I have never heard her direct those two words at any of my other co-workers.
Not to say that EAC was the only one with unresolved anger issues. Apparently I had also not yet resolved the emotional abuse from my previous job or my childhood, and the anger would surface on a couple of occasions. (Looking back, perhaps my interaction with EAC made my mood worse.) One was after a meeting, in which I threw my papers against the wall near my desk. Later, at a farewell party for a long-time employee in the middle of Year 3, all the chairs were taken, so I was about to kneel on the ground to show respect to the outgoing employee. A manager commented along the lines of “don’t propose” and I stormed away in embarassment and anger, yelling out “that’s not funny!” to the manager. Even after walking around the hallway, I was still livid when I returned to my desk, and I yelled at EAC (probably along the same lines of “that’s not funny”). After a few days, I apologized to her, the retiring employee, and the manager.
Even by the start of Year 4, I still hadn’t done much to confront my own unresolved emotional situation. (In Year 3 a long-time counselor stopped working with me due to disagreement on the concept of personal boundaries, and another moved out of the area.) Two days after I had driven EAC to buy supplies for Easter, and almost a year after my initial outburst above, our interim boss called both of us to his office to discuss implementing a study on existing materials. I initially balked at the qualitative evaluation, then relented, thinking that no good could come out of my arguing to the boss. When we both left his office, EAC asked me why I didn’t put up a fight. “I don’t know” I probably said angrily. Not only was I seething when we got back to our desks, but I blew up at another team member after he had asked me an innocent question (not good), and demanded to EAC that she stay away from my desk (probably a subconscious reaction). Later, I told EAC that I probably shouldn’t eat lunch with her anymore. Long pause, then a seemingly crestfallen “OK” from her. I spent the next weeks isolating myself from the team and reading books on anger management, no DJing music or podcasts, not talking anything non-work related with my team, just doing work. In my mind I had already blown up twice, and there would not be a third time.
Had my story ended here in Year 4, I probably would have been better off. It would have achieved the same result: an end to in-person contact with EAC (of my own initiative, not hers), and plenty of time for me to reflect by myself.
Act 3 to be posted soon.December 18, 2016 at 2:34 pm #1020
She really fathoms herself a Princess, doesn’t she?December 18, 2016 at 8:10 pm #1021
Pam, at least one other co-worker calls her just that. She considers it a term of endearment. I doubt its positive connotation.December 19, 2016 at 3:55 pm #1022
“Princess” is one of those terms that only the person claiming it sees it as a term of endearment.
Another annoying term of self-endearment is people who proudly proclaim to be OCD. The “D” stands for “Disorder”.December 19, 2016 at 3:55 pm #1023
“Princess” is one of those terms that only the person claiming it sees it as a term of endearment.
Another annoying term of self-endearment is people who proudly proclaim to be OCD. The “D” stands for “Disorder”.
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