One of my #MeToo stories, the time a man caught me off-guard

Hopefully that helps you understand what I mean when I say, I’m terrified at this moment.

A brown bear walking toward the camera
“karhu_kyrmyniska” by Antti Peltonen, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I worked as an advertising sales representative, selling radio and billboard advertisements.

One of my clients during this time was a male who owned several businesses in the area. He was known for not paying his bills, which meant I had to hound him a lot to get the money.

The business owner had a reputation for liking young women; his girlfriend, who ran one of his businesses, was easily 15 years younger than him, and very beautiful. There were the usual jokes about him, as people tried to explain why she was with him. “Well he does have big hands,” being the most common.

But while I knew he liked younger women, I didn’t think he was a threat to me. I was around 30 years his junior. And, as someone who regularly worked with small businesses that were ran out of back rooms or houses, I took precautions to ensure that I was never alone with anyone for my safety.

One day, he’d gotten behind on his bills, so I showed up to his office to get a payment. There were other people around, as his office was within one of this businesses, so when he said “Come into my office and I’ll write you a check” I thought nothing of it. Looking back on it, I think I was also really focused on getting that check, since it meant getting my commission and he’d lied before about sending in payments.

We went into his office and he sat down and wrote out the check and gave it to me. And then, everything changed in an instant; he stood up very quickly, faced me, and put one hand one each of my shoulders.  This happened so fast, it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds from sitting down to grabbing me.

At this point in the story, I have to pause to emphasize something that I think it’s difficult to understand about these types of stories. And that’s the fear I felt in that moment.

Most people would describe me as small or tiny. I’m a decent height at 5ft 5in, but I’m so thin that most clothing stores don’t carry sizes small enough for me to wear. The man who had his hands on my shoulders in this moment was large, over 6 feet tall, and a trim, but large build.  His hands were indeed large, which meant they wrapped around my shoulders and most of my collar bone. He easily outweighed me by 100 pounds and was much stronger.

Analogies are dicey, but I’d like to try one to help explain the fear I felt at that moment, due to the size and strength difference: Imagine you are hiking in the woods and you round a corner and see a large bear. The bear sees you, and all of a sudden starts walking toward you. You have no idea if it’s just curious or if it means you harm, but you are very aware that that bear could tear you to shreds or kill you. That’s the level of fear I felt at this moment.

Now layer on the potential of rape, which a lot of women describe as having your soul ripped out of you.

Hopefully that helps you understand what I mean when I say, I’m terrified at this moment.

So I gasp, and manage to squeak out “What are you doing?” and put my hands up.  He leans in and I freeze.

Here I have to pause the story again to talk about freezing in fear. At this point in my life, I’d had one year of wrestling training and a few years of martial arts training, so I had some skills beyond the average woman to fight back. And, I have a strong personality, I don’t think anyone would describe me as meek. But yet I froze and was taken completely by surprise. We hear about “fight or flight” but in reality, it’s “fight, flight, or freeze.” This wasn’t a reaction I chose, it just happened. I think part of it was I was so shocked at the sudden change in behavior and personality.

He leaned in and I managed to turn my head just enough so he could only kiss me on the cheek. He said something to the effect of “That’s all I wanted to do,” which I don’t believe for a second. The next part of the story is a blur for me. I just remember leaving his office as quickly as I could.

I immediately drove back to my office and went into one of my managers’ office to tell him about it.

And here I have to put some of the ownership on me; what happened was not ok and I’m not blaming myself, rather I’m also not blaming my manager for his reaction and give him some grace because of how I reported it to him. Any of my close friends would tell you that I have a terrible habit of downplaying my own feelings, especially when I need help or am hurt. I also have a weird reaction of laughing when I’m scared or uncomfortable.

So I walked into this manager’s office, laughing, and said “[name] just tried to kiss me!” and told him the story, but without telling him how scared I was and downplaying the whole thing.  I did manage to tell him I didn’t want to go back.

The manager reassigned the account on the spot….to another woman. I tried to protest and say it should be given to a man, but again, I’m not really conveying what happened well.

I did manage to say to the other woman not to be alone with him but her response was something like “Don’t worry about me, I can handle myself” which shamed me into silence because I felt like she was implying that I should have been able to handle the situation better (for the record, I don’t think she meant that).  I remember watching her walk out of the office after that, feeling like she was heading into danger and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

Later that night, I told my boyfriend the story, but again downplaying it. His reaction was something like “Well, you are very pretty,'” and that’s all he said about it. I felt helpless at this moment. I didn’t know how to convey nor could I admit the level of fear that I felt. I wanted a hug, I wanted to hear affirmation, “I’m so sorry that happened to you, it shouldn’t have. It’s not your fault.”

I wish I could go back and express to my boyfriend and my manager the fear I felt in that moment and ask for more. I can’t, but I can convey it in this post, which hopefully will help others in similar situations do the same and shed some light on the fear element for those who hear these types of stories.

The last thing I’d like to convey about this story is the title, this is one of my #MeToo stories. Not the only one.

Don’t forget packaging

And yet, what people are mostly buying it for is the packaging, the idea of a luxury product, or a personal relationship.

An in-store display of honey in glass jars next to cheese
Yes, glass jars cost more, but in this case, they also communicate “high quality” so they can charge a higher price. Note the placement of this display is near produce to communicate freshness and next to high-quality cheese, to emphasize the luxury of the product.
Honey in small glass jars that's been labeled for specific purposes, such as
Honey for various purposes? I doubt there’s much of a difference. And $4.49 per small glass jar communicates these as a luxury good (and potential gift item)
A round container of honeycomb with the honey still in it.
Honeycomb included in honey takes a gift to a whole new level of interesting and luxury, with a hefty price tag. Question: How many people know what to do with raw honeycomb?

The past few years, I’ve become very familiar with bees, and everyone’s favorite product from bees, honey.

As my fiancé, the beekeeper, would tell you, you can’t judge the quality of honey by the color or what it says on the package, you judge it by “the bubble test,” essentially turning a jar of honey upside down and watching how fast the air bubble moves to the now-top of the jar. The slower the bubble, the better the honey.

And honey supposedly purported to be from only a single plant (i.e. clover honey or lavender honey) isn’t always accurate either, as bees go where they please and like variety.

Now that you know all of this, you can see my amusement when I walk into a food store and see the varieties of honey available and the pricing related to them. The vast majority of the price differential is the packaging.

  • Honey in glass and/or special shaped bottles looks more expensive (and thus can command a higher price)
  • Including honeycomb greatly increases the price
  • Marketing honey as single source means smaller amounts for more money
  • Honey from far away feels exotic and special, resulting in an upcharge
  • Labeling honey for special purposes (such as “honey for cooking” and “honey for tea”) encourages people to buy more for these various purposes
  • Honey that seems special encourages people to give them as gifts

And yet, what people are mostly buying it for is the packaging, the idea of a luxury product, or a personal relationship. I recently purchased from thredUP and received my “used” clothes very prettily wrapped in paper, trying to emphasize their quality (vs. buying from Goodwill). Similarly, when Molly & You (formerly Molly & Drew) sends your order, it always includes a personal note and sometimes even a gift.

I’ve noticed similarly how many products I avoid, not because the product isn’t good, but because the packaging is terrible, such as a greek yogurt that I no longer buy because the lid is cheap and breaks too easily.

An opened shipping box of Molly & Drew bread mixes with a handwritten note that says
Molly & You (formerly Molly & Drew) orders come in a plain box, but includes a personal note from the person who packaged this. And, in this case, a surprise of a free pancake mix. Hopefully they can continue this personal touch as they continue to grow.

My challenge for you: Take a look at your packaging, whether it’s actual product packaging and shipping or packaging of your service.

  • Think about how your messaging is or isn’t extended through your packaging.
  • Do your customers like your packaging.
  • Are you losing/gaining customers due to your packaging?
  • What can you do to improve the packaging experience for your customers?

 

Remember what you love about your work

It’s 7 am and it’s time for me to get out of the pool, I’ve been swimming intensely for an hour, but before I go, I dive, twirl and spin my way down the lane and back, looking like a playful sea otter. I’m remembering that I love to swim.
Rewind to a day during high school when my summer swim coach walked out on the deck one day and told my teammates and I, “Just play, no workout today.” We stood there stunned, not knowing what to do. Eventually, we made up our own workout and did that, much to the chagrin of the coach.
I started competitive swimming at age four and continued for 13 years. My teammates were the same. A day without one swim workout, and often two, was a rarity for us. The games we did play in the pool weren’t really fun, they thinly-masked swimming drills, getting the rings from the bottom of the pool increased breath control, water polo increased explosive speed, etc.
A baby swimming underwater through a hoop
Nicole Finkbeiner at 23 months old, practicing a swimming drill. She would begin swimming competitively 2 years later, at age 4, and continue until age 17.
What that day with the coach showed me is that we’d not only lost the ability to have fun in the pool, we’d forgotten why we’d wanted to swim in the first place.  After that, I vowed not to forget again. And so I end each swim session with a moment of play, to keep me loving what I do, which in turn helps motivate me to do it well.
I believe work is the same. We need to remember why we got into the work we do in the first place (maybe not a particular job, but a field or subject area) and make a point to remind ourselves often why we love our work.

Women as allies is a powerful tool to help prevent sexual assault

A few years ago, I found myself in a mostly deserted pub in Northern Houston, killing time with a few friends before an event. A young couple walked in and sat at the bar and, after a while, the young woman got up and went to the restroom.

And that’s when I saw it happen; the man that she was at the bar with called the bartender over while she was gone and he had the bartender pour another shot of alcohol into the woman’s drink.

I causally got up and walked to the restroom, where I found the young woman. After telling her what I saw, I finished by saying, “I think you need to come with us.”  And she responded with something like “Oh no, he’s just a friend, I’m fine.” “Did you ask him to put another shot in your drink?” I asked. “No, but I’m sure it’s fine,” she responded.

My friend Amanda had been listening to the conversation, and finally lost patience. “I don’t think you understand what my friend is trying to tell you. You are in a potential date rape situation. He’s trying to get you drunk without you knowing it. My friend here is trying to protect you,” she said to the woman. Still the woman persisted that all was fine.  Finally, we gave up and let her go. She and the male she came in with left the bar shortly after that.

Was letting the woman go the right thing to do? To this day, I’m not sure. I personally do a lot of contact sports and have been often pulled aside from someone being concerned for my welfare, so I hope that this situation was something similar, but I’m not fully convinced either. And, a former bartender friend pointed out later, I could have also turned the bartender for an ethics violation, a good lesson in what else to do in the future.

As I listen to #MeToo stories today from the restaurant industry as well as the stories of women warning other women about “creepy men,” I was reminded of the story above. And I realized there is a power we women have in this battle against sexual assault, we can share information, look out for one another, support one another, and pursue action against men who harm us, if not for ourselves, to protect other women.

I’m not insinuating that women in general are to blame nor is changing our actions going to solve the issue, I think in-group pressure (men fighting against and stopping the behavior of the abusive men) is the long-term solution, but until then, the more we can view each other as allies vs. competition, stand-up for one another, and share information with one another, the better our chances of staying safe.

Safe drinking tips:

  • Never, ever accept a drink you didn’t personally see opened or made.
  • Go to the restroom between drinks or take your drink to the restroom with you. Never leave it alone.
  • Always keep an eye on your drink, and even a hand if you can. If you get distracted, don’t drink the drink.
  • If you think it’ll “look odd” not to be drinking, ask the bartender quietly for a “mocktail” or simply ask for a club soda with lime.
  • If someone is pressuring you to drink something you don’t want to, and you feel a “no” is a poor option, get clumsy and accidentally knock it over. Then don’t be around that person anymore.
  • Only drink a little bit while out, drink slowly and rotate between water and alcohol.
  • Eat before and during drinking alcohol.
  • More great tips from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

What’s with all of the Shen Yun ads?

Photograph of women in traditional Chinese attire performing a dance
Image from lyndenj licensed under CC0 Creative Commons license.

If you live anywhere near a large city, you’ve probably seen the billboards, posters, flyers, etc. showing a woman graciously dancing, inviting you to a traditional Chinese dance performance called Shen Yun.

When I first saw these ads, I thought, “Oh how nice, I love cultural events promoting international art forms.” What set-off my skepticism, however, was the volume of their advertising. I sold billboard and radio advertising in the very early years of my career and have bought a lot of mass media as a marketing director. Using that knowledge, I did some rough math for the Houston area: the potential income from these performances in ticket sales (not factoring for any freebies given out and assuming each show is sold out) minus advertising expenses (that I knew of, which is limited since I don’t have TV and don’t travel the whole city), event rental hall prices, and costs of travel and such for the dance troupe.

I couldn’t make the math work where they would turn a profit.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who noticed their seemingly unlimited promotional budget and got curious; The Guardian has a great investigative piece about Shen Yun that is worth reading as does the Los Angeles Times. Both articles claim the goal of the performances is not to turn a profit from selling tickets, but to promote the agenda of a particular religious group, Falun Gong (Falun Dafa), and gain sympathy of their persecution by the Chinese government.

Which “side” is right? I don’t claim to have an opinion on this. But it’s important to highlight examples like their advertising and events where the goal of the advertising and/or event is different than we would originally assume.

The formula for selling viral toys, getting you to buy more

Formula:
Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity)….

Formula:

  1. Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
  2. Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity).
  3. Launch PR campaign, supply media organizations with a few of the toys so they can them away as part of their holiday feel-good campaigns.
  4. Parents promise their kids the toy for Christmas, but can’t get it.
  5. Parents buy substitute toys for Christmas.
  6. After Christmas, toy manufacturer floods the market with the toy.
  7. Parents buy the toy when it becomes available, so now the parents have bought toys twice for the season: the substitute toys for Christmas day, and the desired toy in January or February.

And yet, what do I remember about my childhood holidays?

  • My grandfather building a gingerbread house with me.
  • Seeing and playing hide and seek with my cousins.
  • Putting together my family’s Christmas pyramid and being amazed by how the candles made it work.
  • Candlelight services.

https://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/1107596867748

Sources:

The organized beauty of a Bullet Journal

When I heard that the Bullet Journal was essentially “one notebook to rule them all,” my first thought was, “That’ll never work” and my second thought was, “That’s such a simple solution, why didn’t I think of it?”.

“What’s something that you’ve heard or read lately that caused you to think about something differently?” is one of my favorite conversation-starters. Sometimes I get really deep answers, and sometimes it’s practical. Today, I’d like to discuss a practical one, the Bullet Journal.

I’m a huge fan of notebooks, I have a notebook for work, a gratitude journal, a general notepad book, and inspiring quotes notebook….you get the idea. So when I heard that the Bullet Journal was essentially “one notebook to rule them all,” my first thought was, “That’ll never work” and my second thought was, “That’s such a simple solution, why didn’t I think of it?”.

One of the barriers that has kept me from combining my notebooks is my concern of not being able to find the information I want quickly. And again, the solution was so simple I was embarrassed that I didn’t think of it: an index and page numbers. With a Bullet Journal, every page has a number and you add any information you may want to refer back to in the index with the page number.

Top benefits of the Bullet Journal method

  • It helps you start and stay organized
  • All of your information is stored in one place, making it easy to find and use your information.
  • It encourages planning ahead. Before the beginning of the next month, you map-out the month at a macro level, helping to ensure you don’t miss important things during the month.

Top drawbacks of the Bullet Journal method

  • If you lose the journal, you lose everything.
  • You’re combining personal and professional information. For example there might be times when you don’t want your personal notes visibly showing at work. In these cases, it’s easy enough to just start a new page for work, but it’s something to keep in mind.

How I structure my Bullet Journal

For my Bullet Journal, I combined my work task list, my gratitude journal, my general notebook. and my “book of inspiration”notebook (a book I keep of quotes, magazine clippings, etc. that I find intellectually stimulating or inspiring).

Key components of my Bullet Journal

  • Index in the front
  • Monthly overview
  • Daily log
  • Random notes pages that are indexed
  • Book of inspiration in the back (working back to front)

My daily log

  • 2-4 self-improvement reminders. For example I wanted to increase the amount of eye contact I made with others and so I wrote “eye contact” every day to remind me.
  • Gratitude journal
  • Daily tasks
  • Notes taken throughout the day (with any I may want to refer to indexed for later)

Make it your own

The most important thing to keep in mind with the Bullet Journal is that you can make it your own. I recommend starting with the structured format and seeing what works for you and doesn’t. Then you can modify after you’ve given it a try for a while.  I also recommend subscribing to some blogs, social media feeds etc. related to the Bullet Journal to give you new ideas.

Some people really make their bullet journals beautiful. I admire these people greatly, but I also know myself, I’d spend a ton of time making it beautiful and then get frustrated that it was taking too much time and stop doing it. So mine is very plain. Design it however will encourage you to actually use it.

I also found the 6 month planner didn’t fit how I organize my life; I use a calendar and my budget to remind me of important dates and tasks, so I dropped doing this.

But after I made it my own, utilizing what worked for my needs, the Bullet Journal has really made a drastic improvement to how I organize my life. So pull out a notebook and give it a try.