Category Archives: I'm allowed to talk about cancer because I had it

Leadership school dropout

Over my 30-odd years on this planet, I have amassed a wondrous pile of stories that I love to retell over and over. And I have a whole arsenal that is waiting in the wings for me to spit out on to this blog.  However, the old stories will have to wait as I record for you a brand-spanking-new story delivered to me on a platter yesterday, courtesy of the HR geniuses at my esteemed company and the crazy-ass woman they hired to help mold me into the next top model corporate leader of the future.

GAH! That is the only logical place to start.

Okay, so I wouldn’t consider myself the best employee in the world. I’m kind of a smart ass and I checked out mentally months ago, but if I learned anything from Office Space, it is that as soon as you just don’t care anymore, your career will take off in ways you never knew possible.

So I get an email on Monday from my manager that says that the powers that be had identified me as a woman with high management potential and, as a reward, they wanted to send me to a “professional development seminar series for business women”.  I was kind of shocked and surprised by the distinction since I thought that I had pissed enough people off that they would not want to give me any kind of reward for what they would call my bad attitude and general disregard for the B.S. they hand out in large, inedible chunks each day.

However, on paper I am a wet dream for the The Man because I went to top schools, earned top grades and impressive degrees and I sell a lot of shit, which is my official job. Somehow I manage to help my clients spend millions on the company’s crap stuff — and not just because I’m their walking, talking “hot librarian” fantasy. (I’m actually not lying about this – you wouldn’t believe how much my glasses, coupled with a quick and dirty wit,  turn old dudes on. I mean, its enough to make them completely not notice I don’t have boobs).

But day-to-day, I’m the antithesis of a corporate citizen, since I generally make it my other job to counsel coworkers I like to leave the company. I send them job postings all the time.  Because I think they could do better. We all could.  This recession has brought out the worst in corporate America, or at least in my corporate ghetto, and most days I just want to puke that I’m part of it. They kind of treat their employees like beaten dogs, but I don’t quit because I like going to Banana Republic and having Leonardo, my gay BR sales associate, dress me up in today’s latest fashions. Because I can’t dress myself and if I were unemployed, I’d be a big hot mess. I make a pretty good living for someone who mostly just sarcastically mocks all of the corporate drone bullshit while protecting my customers from my company and making my coworkers laugh.

So anyway, I should have surmised that this “opportunity” to go to this “professional development” seminar for “high potential” women was a boondoggle when I got invited on a Monday and it took place on a Thursday. I mean, shouldn’t high potential leaders have stuff on their calendars a few days out that would stop them from spending the morning at this thing? Well, I didn’t. Not really, because I was able to use my powers of persuasion to extricate myself from yet another fruitless corporate exercise scheduled for that day so I was free to learn how to develop my leadership potential.

I’m not really sure how to explain what happened when I showed up to this thing.  It was SO. BAD. that it will be hard to convince anyone on the planet that this actually happened. I am physically wracked with convulsions as I recall this Thursday.  I can usually laugh at anything, but this one was so totally fucking unbelievable that the fetal position is really the only safe, appropriate response. But – I have a blog, and for my own sake — my own truth — I must tell the story of what happened to me and the other inmates high potential talent held captive in a room for four hours while some random woman gave us her take on what “leadership” is.  Please have patience as take off the straight jacket and collect my thoughts.

Okay, so the only information I had on this seminar was that we have to meet four times a year for four hours each time. We have to read books and network and do all kinds of stuff that corporate people value.  And we’re going to meet all these other beaten dogs women from other big corporate goliaths that we can get to know and just network the hell out of each other and steal away talent when necessary. I guess. I’m an introvert, so I’m not really into meeting random people and talking about meaningless subjects, and you already know I don’t like other women that much either, but for all I knew, one of Oprah’s producers may be at one of these things and then I could give her my “elevator pitch” – another darling of corporate training programs – about how Oprah and I are soul mates and she could hook me up.   And I don’t hate all women – I love the smart sarcastic ones, so I was thinking maybe some of them may have been included in this thing too? I would be able to figure out who they were because when they inevitably play those stupid “ice breaker” games, we would probably collide in our desperate dash for the door and we could hide in the bathroom together swapping 30 Rock quotes.

So I show up and find myself in a smallish conference room with a very big table, that apparently we’re all going to sit around.  There was seating for 15, but barely enough room to walk since the table filled the room. There was a woman at the head of the table that kind of looked like Cruella DeVille. Except she wasn’t wearing a Dalmatian stole, thank god. I think it was fox. And she wasn’t smoking a cigarette through one of those long plastic things either. Probably because it was a no smoking zone,  but I was sure she’d bust one out at break time.  I guessed she was our “facilitator” and the founder of this company that was going to be professionally developing me for the next year.  AWESOME.

Okay, so we were told to show up at 8am. It’s about 8:15 and most people seem to be there, because it STARTED AT 8, and then she says “the seminar actually starts at 8:30, but you can’t tell people who or else they’ll be late. So I always tell people to come a half hour earlier than they are needed – and look! It worked!” Oh! So I busted my ass to get there on time and didn’t feed my children that morning because I had to be somewhere so damn early when really, I wasn’t “needed” for an extra half hour. Thanks, bitch.  I started wondering if I could take her in a cage match (and I totally could). She proceeded to say that as leaders we have to anticipate that people can’t follow directions and work around it, just as she had just done. So in other words, we’re fucking idiots that can’t follow directions. Hmm.

Okay, so 8:25 rolls around and she wants everyone to introduce themselves.  Say our name and who we work for and what our job is.  Easy enough. But then she tells us that many women have trouble with this.  We need to speak slowly and clearly and loudly enough so everyone can hear us.  Really? Because as top talent at our companies, this never would have occurred to us and we’ve never done such a unique and bizarre activity before, like introducing ourselves.

With that hurdle behind us, she starts to rattle off the “rules” about our seminar. We are expected to listen to others. To participate. We have to do our homework. We must conduct ourselves professionally. We have to go to these networking events her company does. No exceptions. She gave us a book, but we don’t have to read it.  She wants us to read another one she wants us to buy for the next class. She will hold phone calls every month from 8 to 8:30 where we will “talk about whatever is relevant”. They may last 5 minutes or 30. It just depends on what people want to share.  Whaaaat?! It kind of sounds like I just got brought to the orphanage with a locket around my neck from my company and Miss Hannigan was laying down the law. I did not see an impromptu performance of Hard-Knock Life coming, but I thought I would begin humming it, just to see if I had any comrades in the room.  Not so much.

Okay, so then she gets to the heart of the matter – women as leaders:

“As women, its very hard for us to be leaders in business because we are so much more emotional than men.  One thing you absolutely cannot do – that I do not recommend – is crying at work.  We’ve ALL been there. We’ve ALL cried at work before. Raise your hands if you’ve cried at work.” None of the ashen faces of women around the room raise their hands. “Well, I know its embarrassing to admit, but if you want to get ahead, you have to stop crying at work.” Ummmmm…. “Have any of you ever seen a MAN cry at work? If you have, raise your hand. Exactly.  His career would be over. But you can get away with it because you’re female, but people will stop taking you seriously.”  Ummm….Whaaaaat?!  Okay. There has been a mistake. This woman was supposed to be heading up the red table in my son’s kindergarten class. Yeah, I’m pretty sure there is a mix-up. But nobody gets up to leave. And neither do I. Maybe this will get better…?

“You know why we as women are disadvantaged? It was because as little girls we were raised to be in the home with our mothers — cooking, sewing, taking care of our siblings — while the boys were doing things outside the home like playing sports and making decisions on their own.  So when women get to work outside the home, it’s often hard for us to speak up and make our own decisions and realize that the corporate world is a game that we need to play because we just never learned that when we were little. Only the boys did, so they know more than we do and we have to work harder to learn that stuff.”  GAH! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? I think Cruella may be a little two-thousand-and-late. 1572 called and they want their school marm back.

“Along these lines, you have to learn to stay neutral at all times at work. Don’t be one of those women who is always happy. And don’t be someone who is always crying. Don’t let your emotion show. Because you know what? People don’t care about all of your drama. They care about themselves. And if you’re always talking about yourself and your problems, nobody wants to hear it.  But the people who get ahead in this world –and as women, we’re good at this — are people who ask other people questions about themselves. If you do that, people will think you care about them. And nobody at work does this. You can really stand out if you do.  I mean, think about it. When is the last time someone at work asked you a question about yourself?”

One participant looks around baffled and says, “Yesterday…?” and everyone murmurs and nods. Cruella isn’t convinced. She says, “Well, that is very rare. You must have some very nice working conditions with companies that are ahead of the times. Most people don’t care about you and don’t want to know what is happening in your life.  But that’s really what people want, so you have to be the one person in your company who does that.  I know we have some sales people here. They are probably much farther along at doing this than the rest of you. But we’re going to practice now.  We’re going to go around in a circle and you’re going to turn to the person on your right, shake her hand, introduce yourself and ask her a question.  The other person isn’t going to answer, because the answer doesn’t really matter.  We’re just trying to get you used to knowing how to ask another person a question.”  Someone asks if we all have to come up with a different question and if the question has to be business related.  “No. You can use the same question as someone else. I just want to teach you how to ask a question about someone when you meet them.   After this, we’re going to go around again and then the person can answer with a short answer and then that person has to ask a question back.”  By golly! This kind of strenuous mental activity was really wearing me and the other ladies down. I mean, however could I think of a question so quickly to ask the person next to me? And then answer a question and ask one too? All together!?  Gee, was she asking us to start a conversation with another person? Isn’t this more Level 2 training? I mean, it’s only our first day of training.

Even though I was sweating bullets along with all of the other MBAs and lawyers and executives in the class, we all somehow managed to ask the person next to us a question without anyone bursting into tears. Amazingly. Cruella was delighted and so pleased. She sees why we were hand selected for her seminar and she decided we could move on to the next exercise.

She asked us to name leaders we admire and she was going to write them on the board. I was first. And you know who I said. Cruella:  “Oprah… Yes… Some think she is a leader.” Some, mother fucker?! I almost jumped across the table and strangled her wrinkly throat. SOME?! More like EVERYONE. Don’t talk smack about Oprah or you’re going to get jacked. So she writes Oprah on the board, correctly, and then says “Did I spell that right?”  Yes. “Oh, because it looks so funny written down like that.” For fuck’s sake.  “Anybody else?” Someone asks if they have to be famous. “No. They can be people at your company if you want”. So somebody is like, “Debbie Smith.” and then someone says “Eric Johnson” or whatever the hell and nobody else in the room knows these people, but I’m sure they are probably the people who hired this demented woman from 1572 to teach us about leadership.  So then somebody suggests the mayor of Chicago. (This took place the day before the IOC bitch slapped Chicago for the 2016 games). Cruella writes, “Mayer Daily” on the board. Ummm….

Okay, I need to just put this out there – I cannot tolerate when people misspell stuff. It’s a mammoth pet peeve. I’m a nerd and I expect that if you’re going to get up to a board in front of people and write something, it sure as hell better be spelled right.  I mean, maybe she is dyslexic or something, but then don’t fucking write on the board. Delegate, bitch. Seriously.  But I digress.

MAYER DAILY?

If this seminar took place in Alabama, I might be able to let this slide. But we live in fucking Chicago. He has been mayor for 21 years. He and his shenanigans are detailed in the paper every. single. day. I had to hold myself back from running up to the board, punching her in the teeth and spelling it right. I don’t know if she spelled all the other people’s names right since I don’t have any clue who the fuck they are, but I guess it was really a miracle she got Oprah right, so I just started my deep breathing exercises, so I didn’t lose my shit in front of my new band of brothers sisters.

So then she says, “now that we have our list of leaders, lets talk about the traits that we admire in them.” People suggested traits, and she recorded them on the white board. Here is a partial list of what she wrote:

  • influncial
  • motavated
  • intigrity
  • smart
  • compasion
  • power
  • love to what do

You get the gist. I feel a panic attack coming on. How did I get here? When is Ashton going to come in and tell me I’ve been Punk’d? Because if it isn’t soon, I’m going to have a fucking heart attack.  And if this thing has the power to kill our company’s burgeoning woman leaders, preventing us from becoming the future Commander and Chief, you can bet HR, OSHA  and the ACLU are going to hear about it from me. I take workplace safety and discrimination very seriously.

It is at this point in the seminar that I blacked out. I really can’t remember anything except floating above my body and kind of watching the horror show unfold. I saw lips moving, but I couldn’t make out the words. I think I may have split into several different personalities at that point as a coping mechanism.  But the young 5 year old girl personality named Cassie that was born told me later that Cruella asked if anyone in the room ever read the New York Times because she thought it was a really “neat” paper because it had stories from all over the world in it!  She said we might want to look into it one day so we would have more to talk about with our male colleagues, because chances are that they read it, and it would make us sound very smart. Apparently you can read it even on the Internet.

At some point, I saw my body walk out of the room. And go into the bathroom and light myself on fire wet my face. And get in my car. And drive away. On auto-pilot. I woke up at McDonalds. Only an Extra Value Meal #2 could begin to bring me back into my own body again. And then I went back to my office and told my boss what took place, trying not to hyperventilate.  She thought I was shitting her. No. I am dead serious. Serious as cancer, something both she and I probably have and don’t even know it right now.  Louise Hay (one of Oprah’s esteemed guests, of course) says that if you get cancer it’s because you have some resentment you haven’t let go of, which is why I probably only have a few months to live.  But the bright side is that if I die next month then I wouldn’t have to go back there again. I told her I couldn’t live another minute if I have to complete the program and that I quit.  NO WAY I was going back there.  I was already recognizing the signs of PTSD.

And, God love my manager, she got me out of it. She made me tell HR about the whole ordeal. It was at that point they revealed that we got this leadership series “free” with our corporate sponsorship of Cruella’s company. So I was fucking Punk’d.

HR – 1. Love – 0.

I am a leadership school dropout.  But now I need a fifth of vodka and some major therapy.

Cruella has her own damn business and is the biggest fucking idiot on the planet. And I’m a “high potential” corporate drone working for The Man and getting Punk’d by HR. I’m the fucking idiot. FUCK.

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I (heart) pathological liars. Except when they are oncologists.

Pathological liars are the best. Except if you have one as an oncologist. Then that could suck. Balls.

But I happen to know this girl from high school that has to take the pathological lying cake, so obviously I really liked to hang with her. She is not an oncologist. Lets just call her “Jenny”, because that is her real name.  She would regale me with stories about how she had a friend who knew the New Kids on the Block and could totally get her into their hotel or a concert whenever they came through Chicago.  I was 14 and this was big time currency in 1991.  Donnie Wahlberg and I were totally soul mates from 1990 to 1993 – he just wasn’t aware of it yet – and then I think Oprah took his place in 1994 and remains my soul mate to this day. The only difference is that Oprah knows it and just won’t accept it. Oprah is clearly not living her best life.

I digress.  So anyway, my crazy ass friend Jenny would talk constantly about her friend “Lisa” who worked at Ulta3 and was like, totally BFF with little Joey McIntyre and one day as we were perusing Bop* and Tiger Beat she was telling me how she and Lisa were going to their upcoming show and then hanging out with them afterward, and naturally she invited me along too.

Isn’t it weird that pathological liars always give you a chance to totally catch them lying?  So they’ll be like, “I’m totally Rob Pattinson’s lover, do you want to have a threesome with us?” Now, there is only one good answer for this and that is “yes”.  Not because you want the threesome (even though you know you do) but because if you say “no”, then you don’t even get to find out what kind of additional, outrageous lies they will tell to get them out of having to prove that they are fucking Rob Pattinson.  So I always say “yes” whenever a pathological liar wants to prove to me they aren’t lying, because its so damn amusing.

Curse you, ADD! (Love is looking angrily to the sky) Can I get through one fucking story without going off on a tangent!?

Okay, so of course I’m like, “I would love to go! Can I invite my little cousin who has leukemia because she is totally into Jordan and wants to put her little radiated fingers through his stiff, sticky hair and touch one of his silky vests before she dies.” (pathological liars deserve to be lied to) and Jenny is like, “TOTALLY! Me and Lisa will set it up!” and I’m like, “Awesome. I’ll let her know she can die fulfilled because you are totally going to hook us up.” Luckily I was aware my friend was totally full of shit and this is how:

1) She is of Asian descent.  But not a smart Asian (does coming to America make you dumb?).  I think this is really bad if this happens to you.  I imagine its like if you’re black, but you dance like Elaine on Seinfeld. Its just mostly impossible and completely unacceptable.

2) She is 5’2″ (this will become important later)

3) In high school, she was not that attractive and she wasn’t rich.

4) She is the oldest of three kids and her mom was a working single mom. I don’t know what her dad’s story was, but he was out of the picture.

So the liklihood of her fucking a New Kid was equivalent to John Tesh’s chances of being named People’s Sexiest Man Alive.

Okay, so we’re back in 1991. The NKOTB show is coming to Chicago, and my friend Jenny is like BFF with Joe McIntyre’s BFF, which happens to be a 17 year old named Lisa that works at Ulta3 in a suburb of Chicago. I know, right? So, its the day before the show that we are going to where we supposedly have backstage passes, and front row seats, and all access to the New Kids on the Block, who are expecting us and cannot wait to fucking meet our 14 year old asses (and my cousin with cancer).

Of course, Jenny couldn’t give me and my cancer-ridden pretend cousin our tickets or passes because you have to get those at the show. So the night before she calls me to say that Lisa called her and there was some terrible mix-up and they only had Lisa down for two tickets, so she wasn’t sure if me and my cousin could still go. So I  was like “well, can’t Lisa just call Joey Joe and explain the problem? I’d be happy to meet him at the hotel to pick up the tickets. I’m sure my dad won’t have a problem driving me.” She’s like, “I didn’t even think of that! Of COURSE Lisa could do that.” So she hangs up the phone and sits idlely for 8 minutes calls Lisa to find out and calls me back and says, “Joey has a photo shoot to do right before the show, so they won’t be at the hotel, but he said maybe he could give them to Big Rob (the bodyguard) to give to you.” So naturally I exclaim, “Oh, Jenny! You’ve just made all my dreams come true. And my cancer ridden cousin too.  Where should me and Big Rob make the big exchange?” And she fucking gives me an address and time to meet Big Rob the bodyguard.  There are so very few limits.  So then she calls the day of the concert to say that Big Rob totally has strep throat and can’t make it and yada, yada, yada. She will go on to tell me she went to the show, hung out with all the New Kids and “Donnie is so cool!” and she has pictures. Do I want to see?

Yes. Definitely.

But aw, shucks! She explained a day later that when she brought the film in for processing that everything got erased.  All she can think of is that there were metal detectors backstage and the fucking things somehow erased all the 35 mm film in her camera.  And it totally sucked because she was on Joey’s lap and everything.  I won’t even go there…

“But surely Lisa has photos?” I say. No, Lisa’s photos got erased too.

Fucking metal detectors. (Love shakes fist at the sky)

Okay, so flash forward to a lovely day in March of this year.  I’m trolling Facebook for the 34th time that day and trying to think up a clever status, when suddenly I’m told that someone named Jenny Df wants to be my friend.  Df? Is that a last name? I don’t know who this person is…until I see the personal message accompanying the invite. Ah yes, its my good old friend Jenny. Her last name has changed. To a last name that surely exists nowhere in the world. How I had missed her!! I wanted to know EVERYTHING about what I missed the last 15 years, but mostly whether she was still the biggest-fucking-not-hot-dumb-ass-Asian-liar-of-all-time.

Since we had parted ways somewhere around 1994, she told me that she went to New York and was a Tom Ford model for many years.  Years in which she made best friends with Rhea Durham and Gisele Bundchen. Okay, so admittedly I know nothing about modeling…except that I think you have to be an inch or two over 5’2″ and you have to be good looking and you have to have big boobs, like my sister.  But she did have a profile picture which showed her in a Glamour Shots-like pose with fake boobs and nasty ass extensions. She reported that she made so much money as a runway model and she invested that money so wisely, that she is now retired and now she spends all of her time volunteering to work with animals.  Her husband is an incredibly sexy, extremely talented actor that I just haven’t heard of yet.  They live in Hollywood Hills.  She was currently trying to figure out whether or not she should take the job as one of the “Deal or No Deal” girls.  I didn’t mention it, but I thought that such an intellectual pursuit might actually blow her mind, since she had been retired for so long and all. She must have tacitly agreed, for she wrote:  “The doggies need me more than the pubic (sic) right now”. I am not fucking making this up.  There’s more…

So then as the weeks go by and I’m checking Facebook 234 times a day as usual and I see her statuses every few days that go a little something like this, “Jess, it was so good to see you and Tony the other night. I’m trying to get our schedules to sync so we can be out in Dallas for the next game!”  and “So happy for my dearest friends Tom and G! Congratulations! Give little Johnny a kiss for us” and “Audrina, I’m so sad I missed you last night at the awards. We totally have to catch up again.”  and finally, “Does anybody have a good cleanse? I have a Hawaiian Tropic shoot tomorrow and I don’t want to look too fat :(”  It doesn’t even end there. She started a chat with me one night on Facebook and I swear to God, she tells me that she and Rhea Durham are BFF from their NYC modeling days and she remembers I liked Donnie Wahlberg and her dearest Rhea is with Mark Wahlberg and now its so weird because they hang out ALL THE TIME and Mark is such a sweetheart!

Lest you think I’m a pathological liar, I am not. I would have copied and pasted directly from Facebook and told you guys to go ask her to be your friend so your life would be full of amusement like mine, but when I just went to do so, I realized she is no longer my friend. And no longer on Facebook. Unless I just can’t find her because I’m blocked or something. I would write her little comments like “Jenny, you are SOOOOOO lucky to be friends with Jessica Simpson. I am SOOOOOO jealous”. and “Jenny, you look so pretty and wonderful these days. I’m SOOOOO jealous. See you when I get to LA!”  She was lapping that shit up. But somehow much to my dismay I am either blocked or she left Facebook. I don’t know how I let this ridiculously amusing friend leave my life again because its hard to find dumb Asians who are pathological liars and don’t head up North Korea , but I’m sure she’ll turn up somewhere else. Perhaps as Dean of Harvard Law or as a United Nations Ambassador.

God, wherever you are Jenny Df, I heart you.  Next time you see Tom and Gisele, punch her in the face (not the stomach) and tell her to stop pretending that Bridget Moynihan’s kid is hers. Thanks.

*OMG, I just remember that I was listed (with my picture) in Bop as one of those kids you can be penpals with. How fucked up is that? Now I see that the Bop pen pal pages where were all the future MySpace pedophiles began their journeys.  I got seriously like 200,000 letters one month from that.  Where the fuck were my parents? I would give my right arm to have a copy of that issue of Bop now. I bet it is creepy as all hell.  Good Lord.