Diary of an Office Mean Girl: How Exclamation Points Helped Me Find My Voice
Aggressive. Passionate. Bitch.
I’ve been called all of those things in the workplace.
If I had a dick, I’d be called assertive, a bold voice, a champion of his industry.
When the Access Hollywood tapes leaked, I felt sick to my stomach. I spent many years of my early career hiding behind the digital destinies so that I didn’t shine too brightly and attract attention. I never dated anyone I worked with, I never even brought up the fact that I was dating in general at work. I kept my life completely siloed.
And yet, I still dealt with uncomfortable situations.
I’m cute and cuddly, yes, but I do not like to be touched. I have a great smile, yes, and a calm, warm demeanor that makes people feel comfortable but that does not mean it is okay to touch me. I have been in more uncomfortable situations than I care to name and when that tape came out, it all came spiraling back.
And I felt ashamed. I felt “I’m not skinny enough to be sexually harassed.” “It’s all in my head.” “Maybe that skirt was too short.” “Maybe that lipstick was too bright.” “Maybe it was me.”
With the news of Harvey Weinstein and all the women who are now coming forward, I felt it was important to share a piece of my story about this publicly. I have never shared this, except over martinis in dark bars in New York City with feminists like me, with successful women who know how much bullshit it takes to get ahead.
Years ago, someone called me into an office to tell me that my emails were harsh. That I didn’t use enough smiley faces and exclamation points. That I wasn’t nice.
I was horrified.
I never intended for anyone to feel bad from my quick, efficient responses. In past positions, I had been trained to get to the point, give the answer required and keep going. There was no time for pleasantries.
Except now, all of that was being challenged. All of that was supposed to change because ONE person decided that I wasn’t kind enough for their liking.
And when I talked to other people about it? They simply told me to add more exclamation points to my email.
Fast forward a few years, as a solopreneur, I connected with people of all ages, career stages and so on. And some of their advice was, yet again, contrary to what I knew to be true, deep in my soul.
To the fact that emails should not be judged -- they do not have hidden meanings and if YOU are taking them personally, that that is YOUR problem, not mine. That is YOUR insecurity, not something you need to place on a young woman (or man, for that matter). Not something to be placed on anyone just learning their strengths and how to navigate the world with their unique voice.
Moral of the Story?
Today, I am an entrepreneur with a team of four working for me plus brilliant partners for projects that require all hands on deck. I’ve managed brands for Emmy-winning talk shows, worked with the United Nations, helped Emmy-award winning journalists and producers transition and helped entrepreneurs at all stages, ages and phases find THEIR unique voice.
I use exclamation points as I see fit.
If my email feels brisk? I add context and explanations I feel comfortable with, within those beautiful bending boundaries I have established for my life and business.
Exclamation points were the catalyst for me starting my own thing -- because you see, if there’s only one thing I do in this life, it is to help women SUPPORT one another and SPEAK UP in times when the going gets tough. You are not alone. You are not “too” anything to be sexually harassed or otherwise harassed. It can happen to anyone, it does happen to anyone.
On your journey, there will be so many things that just are.
And they may just be but that certainly doesn’t mean they always will be and YOU have a powerful role to play in starting a conversation that changes the course.
Be the voice in the storm. Be the storm. Be the fierce warrior who does what is right even when it is uncomfortable.
And for those exclamation points? Use ‘em as YOU want, now and forever.