Don’t Laugh… It’s for School Girls

I always reminisce about the years past this time of year.  Not only has the previous year wrapped-up, but we are about to embark on a new year (or already have done so in our personal calendars at least–fiscal calendars vary).  I try to think about the missed opportunities, goals that have been accomplished, and all of the crap I tried to bury along the way…  So as to NOT go there again!

This time of year is when my annual convention comes to fruition.  It is a challenging event to pull together.  My clients demand a 4 star location.  5 star is too much; but 3 is not enough.  It is tough to find a 4 star in this state that can accommodate a few hundred people.  And no matter how beautiful the setting is, there is always somebody that doesn’t like it.  We get criticism from the meal quality to the beds being too stiff.  Things way beyond our control.  I mean, do we NEED to tuck you in at night??? 

So be it…  It is the nature of the beast.

One of the shittiest criticisms I have ever received during an annual meeting is totally something within my control (which I actually appreciate for once), but shitty nonetheless.  This little old woman who has to be pushing 90, told me I need to stop laughing.  WTF?!  She said something to the effect of “Stop laughing…  It makes you look like a giggling school girl.  Men will never take you seriously if you keep giggling like that.  You see so & so, (name blocked for privacy), she doesn’t giggle.”

I do have a nervous laugh when I give speeches.  It is a nervous tic.  I am working on it, but it is an ongoing battle.  About an hour after this woman gave me this comment, the woman she referred to that never giggled, broke down crying into a microphone.  Now that is something I would NEVER do. 

That being said, was this old woman a male chauvinist? 

I shared her comment with my Chairman and he laughed.  He said “You have taken some pretty crummy comments.  If you are to take anything seriously, don’t take this seriously.  Because your laugh, is like quintessential you.”

He also went on to say, he didn’t particularly care for my laugh (no joke), but he actually got over it because he liked me so well that he doesn’t even hear it anymore.  I don’t know if that was supposed to be a compliment — I doubt it — but it was his statement.

I am working to get rid of the nervous laugh.  Now my loud, boisterous, “goddamn that was f-ing funny” laugh, that will NEVER go away.  I mean that laugh.  That “did I just piss myself?” laugh…  That I am not giving up because it just feels way too good.  Nobody, I mean nobody, in this nation feels that good anymore.  So why should I give that up???  Screw that!

I can’t help but wonder though, that little old woman, pushing 90.  She was definitely raised during some rough times.  And for that, I am thankful.  I fully recognize that I could not have the position I am in without my female predecessors before me.  But I wonder, was she a male chauvinist?

I think so…  So why bother paying attention?

“If you ever had kids, it would be a ‘travesty.'”

That’s right.  One of my board members told me that, in the early days of this job.  And silly me, I thought male chauvinism was only in a$$ backwards places, like in the South. 

Welcome to California!

When I decided to take this job, it was a tough decision.  The position was to become Vice President of an organization on the brink of folding.  The VP had to train under the outgoing President for 18 months, who wasn’t exactly known for his eternal optimism.  He is the closest human embodiment to “The Grinch” that I can imagine.  I would be the first female Exec of the organization, after a long list of old, white guys….  In a very conservative industry, to boot.  However, the pay increase was substantial and the chance to see if I could grow an organization was risky, but an attractive challenge nonetheless.

When I decided to leave, it was not about the money.  My former place of employment was a place I loved.  But personal & professional growth was pretty much maxed-out.  There were two deal-makers for me:

#1:  When I chatted to my boss about my possibility of leaving, I was told I could be easily replaced. 

#2:  When I spoke to a person on the Board of Directors that I trusted of my current organization, he assured me it was the right decision to move and he vehemently supported the existing Exec…  Amid major concerns about his performance throughout the industry, here was a guy who was supporting him to the end.  His support was immensely attractive to me, especially given the conversation I just had with my previous boss. 

I took the job.  Within six months of becoming President, the same supportive guy in statement #2, told me “if you ever have kids, it would be a travesty.”  I remember the word “travesty” because it is such a dramatic statement, and a word that I never use.  I only responded “well, you don’t have to worry about that in the immediate future.” 

Now here I am, in my late 30s, thinking about having kids.  This comment was made under two years ago.  I am assuming his opinions haven’t changed.  I am scared sh&#less about telling my Board.  This guy (we will call him #2) is on my executive committee.  Puke, puke, puke.

His poor attitude will not deter me.  If I am able, I will have kids.  Screw that guy.  I am just nervous about telling him.  UGH!

This organization is so outdated, that I had to draft an employee handbook from scratch.  I can’t even remember what our maternity leave policy is at this point.  I am guessing it is equivalent to California’s minimum standard, which is six weeks.  I think I deserve more, so I get to negotiate this with my Chairman.  Maybe that is a way to break the ice.  I should figure this out before I get preggars!  What do you think?  HA!

Anyway, I want to list the blow-by-blows so I can remember them as I move through life.  Because they are just as important as the wins in life.  Maybe more important, even.  This is how you grow.