There’s more to it than meets the eye

Dreamland IX

I’ve been reading a paper – The Sexual Harassment of Uppity* Women by Jennifer L. Berdahl (Journal of Applied Psychology 2007, Vol. 92, No. 2, 425-437) – that posits that the target of sexual harassment is perhaps the woman who is least identified as being the target: that is, she is not of the ‘attractive woman’ mystique, but rather is more ‘one of the boys’.

Ms. Berdahl did three studies

“to test the prediction that women who violate feminine ideals are most likely to be sexually harassed in ways traditionally identified as harassing to women.”

In other words, rather than testing once again that the victim of sexual harassment is the traditionally desirable, good-looking and attractive woman, she examined the role played by women who take on characteristics more acceptable to men.

Traditionally, harassers were thought to be motivated by sexual desire towards their victim, or were motivated by a desire for power over their victim. Through her testing, the author was able to show that, in fact, the victims of sexual harassment were more likely to be women who were dominant or more masculine in their workplace environment, and in fact the harasser may be motivated by a hostility towards women who demonstrate a seemingly more masculine persona.

Ms. Berdhal does admit that the sample sizes in her study were small, and that much more research is required before any definite conclusions can be obtained.

I find this all rather interesting in light of some of Sonny’s predilections for the women in his life:

  • Lulu, his wife, charges through everything, not letting anything stand in her way. She raised their three children pretty much the way she wanted to, and from what I could see, Sonny didn’t participate a lot. Lulu and her sisters were sexually abused by their father, while their bipolar mother slipped in and out of awareness of what was going on.
  • Celia was pretty much a fast-talking, hard-living lost soul who raised herself and was tough as nails. She was outspoken, too.
  • Although I didn’t personally know the woman who he was chasing on the run down to Mexico, she certainly wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll leave that to you, dear reader, to decide on his motivation for that one.
  • Erin was a no-bullshit kind of woman, pretty yet vulnerable. She had hard edges, but she didn’t appear to be overly tough on the outside, although she could be one of the boys if she had to. She dumped an abusive husband after he fathered her two children.
  • Sonny’s present love monkey is just what the doctor ordered. She’s tough, hard-edged, outspoken and filled with anger at anyone and everyone. She too fits the profile perfectly. In fact, she’s pretty much a mirror personality of Sonny’s father.

Of course, it’s easy to sit back on a sofa – fat, dumb and happy – and pretend to think that any of this might apply to Sonny, but it is suspicious in its relevance to his situation. The fact that he appears to prefer women similar to those noted in the study is remarkable in itself.

* uppity: taking liberties or assuming airs beyond one’s station; presumptuous: “was getting a little uppity and needed to be slapped down” –American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2004.

Just say no and end up unemployed

Dreamland VIII

Erin was divorced from an abusive husband. She had managed to stay in the relationship long enough for kids to arrive, but eventually she saw the light and dumped him. In her late twenties, she had already had her share of bad luck in the relationship department with her ex, but she never whined about it. She just charged forward and dealt head-on with life.

She first came on board some time during the Celia fiasco, had left, and then returned to relative calm in the store after Celia’s departure. She was a good person, easy to get to know, and had a ready smile that lit up everything around her.

The two of us would go riding together every Monday – she on her Sportster and I on my bagger. We discovered that we both had an unhealthy addiction to sushi, so I would search out the best sushi restaurants – of which there were many – and usually we’d arrange to have a quick bite to eat before she had to get home to round up the kids from school.

Erin and I had become friends and nothing more, since she was by far too young for me to have much interest in beyond friendship. At some point, Sonny must have noticed that the two of us were spending some time together. In any case, Sonny and his wife invited her for lunch on one of our riding Mondays, although I suspect that it was mainly Sonny that had invited Erin for lunch, and his wife just happened to come along because she wanted to know what the hell was going on.

Off the two of us went to meet up with Sonny and wifey for “the small family business lunch”. It was uneventful, but I suspected that Sonny was up to his old tricks, and now Erin would be in for a passel of shit from him.

I never said a word to her. That’s not my way. I figured that she could take care of herself with Sonny, having dealt with and dumped an abusive husband. After all, just because she was young didn’t mean that she wasn’t tough.

Finally, Sonny made his move on Erin by inviting her for the “it’s a small family business and we like to take our employees out for dinner” routine. She had the prescience to drive herself down the hill to the restaurant, and, once there, learned that Sonny’s wife wouldn’t be showing up.

It would be Erin and Sonny, alone.

Apparently, most of the meal went well enough, but at some point towards the end Sonny began to feign drunkenness and started running his slimy hands all over Erin, much to her disgust. Once she extricated herself from Sonny and his unwanted advances, Erin drove herself home, dismayed by what had happened.

The next day, Sonny apologized profusely for his misbehavior, and claimed that he was drunk and not himself. Erin and I had a laugh over that. I should have known better.

We had laughed too soon.

It wasn’t long before Sonny was doing his trash-talking routine to anyone who would listen about Erin’s inability to properly do her job. Mind you, if what he said was true, I fully understood why she might be feeling a little down about her job: every day she had to come in to work to face her sexual abuser.

The shop’s General Manager, ever the complicit one in Sonny’s workplace affairs, eventually fired Erin.

Unhappily ever after

Dreamland VII

By now it was pretty obvious that Sonny wasn’t the most faithful husband in the asylum, but his next trick really took the insanity to new levels.

Some of us were standing around shooting the breeze at lunchtime, looking for something to do or somewhere to go, when in walked a teenage girl. She announced for all to hear that Sonny was going to be looking after her and her mom.

We all raised our eyebrows over that one.

Sonny? Taking care of people? That wasn’t likely to happen in his lifetime.

As it turned out, her mom was in another part of the building with her mother and father, announcing basically the same thing to anyone who would listen — and they were all listening!

The bigger question we were all asking was, who was this girl’s mother, and how did the two of them know Sonny?

Being the nosy sort that I am, I wandered over to Sonny’s office and brought him outside to tell him about the episode, and to suggest — nicely, of course — that he might want to be more discreet with his affections. He had the temerity to shrug it off by saying that the woman was a friend of his wife’s, and that he had taken her out to the lake house the day before to show it to her.

Right.

So she assumed from that quick little honeymoon that Sonny would be taking care of her and her daughter in the foreseeable future? I don’t think so. His effrontery was simply amazing.

It was obvious that another relationship had gone sour when mom and daughter discovered that Sonny hadn’t been truthful about his commitments. I wondered if she had called his bluff by suggesting that she and her daughter move into the vacant lake house.

Sonny’s wife and three children would have been real happy about that. Those weekends that they spent boating on the river would find that boat mighty crowded.

Old time radio

Dreamland VI

“Get out of town or I’ll chase you out with a .45,” the voice on the other end of the phone said, and then the line went dead.

My brain went into high gear as my life turned into an old-time radio show.

Familiar voice? No.

Am I sure? Yes.

Then it’s no joke.

Who have I pissed off? Nobody I can think of.

Who hates my guts down here? Nobody.

Wait — the contractor! I had no idea of his name, what he looked like or how he sounded.

Up until that moment, this had been an entertaining experience. Now it was getting serious. I’ve stared down the barrel of a gun before, but never one owned and operated by a jealous boyfriend — a married, jealous, confused boyfriend, with no reason to be jealous of me.

I took his threat seriously.

I walked downstairs and told Sonny what had happened. When I told him that I was going to report the phone call to the police, he thought I should hold off for a couple of days. His sense was that it would all blow over in a day or two.

Yeah, right, I thought to myself.

I didn’t call the cops, but I did get the guy’s name and address for future reference, since Sonny knew all about him.

A few minutes later I walked out of the shop and called a friend and explained what had been going on. Frank didn’t seem too surprised, but he did have a solution for me. He told me to come on up, and when I got there he loaned me a nice little snub-nose .357 and a box of shells. From then on I knew I could depend on Frank.

Sonny, on the other hand, was a complete writeoff.

For five days I walked around armed. Nothing happened, of course, but better safe than sorry. Then, Sonny called me into his office to let me know that the contractor’s wife had called him at home and left a message on his voice mail, thanking him for letting her know about her husband’s affair with Celia.

He dialed his voice mail, and played the message over the phone’s speaker for me. And yup, that was definitely a woman thanking Sonny for letting her know. Sonny hemmed and hawed and then announced somewhat triumphantly that he was going to call the Sheriff’s department and report her.

Damn, but wasn’t I in a worse situation almost a week ago? Obviously Sonny had his priorities, and I wasn’t one of them, even though some asshole could barge into his store and start shooting the place up on my account. Jesus.

I got up to leave, but Sonny asked me to stay, and I was witness to his report on the woman to the police. So much for bravado when he was involved. What a little chickenshit, I thought to myself.

I walked around armed for another three days.

It all came to nothing, of course. The contractor never showed up, Sonny was able to put on a brave face, and Celia calmed down too. Christ, it was about time.

Eventually Celia got the message and she started looking around for a new job. When she found one, Sonny gave a fantastic recommendation to her new employer on the coast. The day of her departure felt as though the roof had been raised off of the building as a collective sigh of relief went through the employees.

Not to be outdone, Danny and I and some of the others started taking bets on which of the remaining women would be getting the Christmas bonus come December.

Mail fraud

Dreamland V

Sonny must have been messing around for a while with Celia’s email courtesy of pillow talk and passwords. I mean really, how else do you find out someone’s email password to their personal accounts? You’re either watching over their shoulder, or they outright give it to you. In either case, it’s not a good idea at the best of times.

For those of you dear readers who are involved in something like this, change your passwords now. I shall leave it to you to come up with an appropriate excuse for doing so. Be assured that it will give you great piece of mind later on when the relationship falls apart.

Regardless, it looked like Sonny had logged in to her account and saw emails to and from her newest boyfriend. At worst, he probably saw emails from a couple of others too. I’m not entirely sure what Sonny did to Celia via his access to her email account, but I knew that she was talking to him about someone stealing passwords and sending copies of email from her account. After all, “it’s a small family business.” How could I not know?

I also knew it was Sonny. Who else could it be? Really, what’s more boring than another person’s email, unless you have a vested interest in knowing what’s going on in their life? Believe me, I had absolutely not one shred of interest in Celia’s little life nor in any of the lives of her pathetic boyfriends.

Why Celia never changed her password throughout this episode was beyond me. Had she been a likable person I’d have had some sympathy for her and would have suggested that she do so, but I didn’t. Besides, I was having fun watching the two of them dance. They were so wrapped up in each other’s lies and denials that they couldn’t see the obvious.

Celia’s email security issues went on for a week or ten days or so. Sonny asked me several times if I was the one doing it, but of course it wasn’t me. I figured if he wanted to put the blame on me, he could go right ahead. My shoulders were broad and I could deal with the consequences. I also enjoyed using the occasions to look him square in the eye and think to myself what a chickenshit little hypocrite he was.

Eventually I became fed up with being dragged into the stupidity going on between the two of them, so I wandered into Sonny’s office and gave him a lesson on how email works. I explained how server addresses, routing, and eventually the real sender’s address was all contained in the header information, which is part of any sent email. It took a while for it all to sink into Sonny’s thick skull. When it did I could practically see the synapses firing and the wheels turning reflected in his eyes.

He must have really put the pressure on Celia after that, because late in the afternoon of the next day the madness really began.

True lies

Dreamland IV

Sonny’s affections were rather fickle. You could always tell when he was drawn to a new victim by the questions he asked: “What do you think of so-and-so?” “Did you see the blonde that was here yesterday?” Or, his old stand-by, “I invited ‘insert female employee name here’ out for dinner last night with her family, but her husband was out of town.”

Sonny was big on, “We’re a small family business and I like to get to know my employees”. In truth, he wanted to get to know only the next employee that he thought he could sleep with. Consequently, the rest of the employee trash was exactly that – something to be let in in the morning and swept out at the end of the business day – an inconvenience that interrupted his desire to spread his goodwill among those he deemed worthy of his hard-on.

During the course of his affectation with Celia, he developed a yearning for one of his customers, a tall, big-boned blonde, and he took an opportunity to follow her on an overnight group ride south out of the country. Normally, he never went on these rides — unless he was chasing something or other – for the rides were beneath his dignity. Sonny didn’t like to associate with the riffraff that was his customer base unless there was something in it for him. This time his chase was short-lived and didn’t appear to go anywhere, for I had seen him skulking around the cantinas late at night, alone. The lucky woman didn’t know what she missed.

Toward the end of year two of the business reclamation project, Celia finally clued in to Sonny’s bullshit and realized that the promises he had been making to her would come to naught. Much to Sonny’s chagrin, she reached out to one of her married customers – a contractor with his own business located in the low desert – and began carrying on with him. Adding insult to injury, she bagged one of Sonny’s employees just for spite. That really knocked the wind out of Sonny’s sails, and definitely ensured that Celia wouldn’t have a future at the shop, no matter how she spread her goodwill.

After that, Sonny took matters into his own hands – not the smartest thing for him to do since he wasn’t the brightest candle in the wind. He screwed with Celia’s email, hoping that would scare her into not straying. When that didn’t work, he phoned the contractor’s wife at home from the shop and revealed her husband’s relationship with Celia to her.

Sonny never heard of call display, but the contractor’s wife certainly had.

And that’s when, through no fault of my own, I became involved.

Business as usual

Dreamland III

Some years earlier, the old boy set one of his sons up and gave him a chance to run his own business over in the next town. Ever true to the family’s sense of accounting, Sonny eventually went bankrupt and left town with his tail between his legs. He tried his luck at a series of loser jobs back in the big city from whence he came, until finally his old man’s name got him a job during which time he was able to practice his customer/employee relations.

In his attempt to retire, the old boy had put the day-to-day running of his business into the hands of his latest wife. Given that she wasn’t too with-it in the sense that she was running the business into bankruptcy, the old boy had second thoughts and eventually smarted up and brought Sonny back into the fold. He offered to let him discover what was going on with his business: namely, that it was close to being insolvent, and that his wife and employees were stealing the rug out from under him.

Over time, Sonny laid off the thieves, helped the old man divorce his wife — who, I might add, got a big fat settlement through their prenup, which she undoubtedly deserved for putting up with his ugly hatefulness — and tried to bring some semblance of order to the dark, dingy, dirty hole that was the building, which hadn’t seen a thorough cleaning in decades.

The floors and walls were dirty and the windows were splotchy. The staff was incapable of putting a clean rag to the cluttered shelves and display racks, while management appeared incapable of giving them direction. If you picked something up off of a shelf it was covered in dust and dirt from the ventilation system.

During the entirety of this rescue fiasco – which went on for the better part of two years — one employee was retained. She was the finance and insurance link in the business. She had remained loyal, and had assisted Sonny through the discovery process as he attempted to uncover the money missing via a maze of accounting errors and loans to employees, both present and former.

Celia turned out to be quite the comfort to Sonny, whose wife and children wouldn’t be joining him until June and the end of the school year. By the time I arrived on the scene, both Celia – who also had a spouse – and Sonny were well on their way to extramarital bliss.

It became obvious that he had used several tired old lines on her to get her help and cooperation with the business. Needless to say, her acceptance of “I need someone to be my eyes and ears for me,” had put her in the unenviable position of employee spy, and that didn’t sit well with the drones since most were aware of her relationship with Sonny. Had she been a nice person, she might have carried it off. Instead, she was very much a spiteful, vengeful harpy who was encouraged by Sonny to think of herself as a shadow for every employee who walked through the door each morning. Everything was her business, and it was duly reported to Sonny at some point in time, either during the day or as pillow talk.

It didn’t take me long to get fed up with this stupidity, and eventually, after spying her in a mirror as she lurked behind a column that stretched to the ceiling, I stuck my head around and invited her to join in our conversation. Her eyes widened as the cloak of invisibility was removed, and she stomped off to Sonny’s office where I’m certain there were some harsh words spoken. I didn’t care. I was there for the fun of it all, and fun it had finally become.

Christmas of that first year eventually came around, and Celia received a substantial bonus for her tireless dedication to Sonny’s undying affection. Unfortunately by that time, her services as Sonny’s chief investigator were over, and she was left with the more mundane duties her regular job entailed, chief among them being to keep Sonny happy in a loving way. The longer the affair went on, the more she became the floor police, scurrying here and there in an attempt to project her perceived power and influence among a bunch of teenagers, some of whom were still in high school.

Celia’s dedication was as tireless as it was fun to watch, but it was also pathetic.