The oddity about this rhyme is that mulberries do not grow on bushes. Mulberry tree is a tree. I recently read on an online forum the sad plight of a woman who I suppose wanted a Mulberry bush: “Can you cut off a young mulberry tree low to the ground and have it sprout out to form a mulberry bush? I rooted one and now it’s about 12 feet high and about a year and a half old.”
The reason for this post has nothing to do with mulberry trees but rather the uncanny fact that we go round and round around illusions of mulberry bushes. Ok, let me start at the beginning. This is my first post for 2013. My last post was on Dec 12, 2012. Which makes this my first post. Right.
So, if you can remember, or more appropriately, if I can remember, after uprooting the family in December 2011 and moving to Italy, then coming back in April 2012 for a 2-week visit that ended up becoming permanent, I moved to Dallas in December 2012 for a job (Our ‘stuff’ from Italy came back in February 2013, and let’s not even get into that!). My move to Dallas was supposed to be permanent. Kids and hubby were going to join me in Dallas in the summer, after the school-year ended.
I was hired as a contractor at the Director level (as per the pay grade) and was given the title of a Sr. Consultant. It was a 3-yr contract at a leading telecommunications company that had won numerous awards for its Learning & Development branch. After all, that is what my doctorate is in, so it goes without saying that I am passionate about all things related to learning. I simply wanted to learn from the best. After a slew of interviews – with the boss, the boss’s boss, peers, and everyone else, I was offered the job in November with a start date of December 17th, 2012.
There was a slight catch. My boss, let’s call him Dr. D (yes, he had a Ph.D and rose to the ranks of a Colonel in the army) started emailing me endearing notes, a month before I moved to Dallas. A bit too endearing. The notes slowly got a bit boisterous, elegantly peppered with sexual undertones. Sometimes overtones. Dr. D was 55.
I was undeterred. With a stagnate economy, I wanted the job, I wanted the experience. I wasn’t afraid, and it really can’t be that bad, can it? I moved to Dallas. Slowly, hell began to break loose. The only explanation I can come up with is that Dr. D suddenly got scared. I can think of no other.
After joining the company, not once did I have a one-on-one meeting with Dr. D, whose office was right beside mine. My male colleague, my junior in terms of rank, but a company veteran who was hired into the department around the same time, was an ever-present shadow the few times I met with the boss. The junior colleague however got many-a-meeting with Dr. D – face-to-face, man-to-man, boss-to-report. Systematically I was excluded from meetings and misinformed, with all communications coming to me through Dr. D’s office manager. Soon, I was transferred to work under my peer. There were lies. Deceit. Favoritism. High-nosed hierarchy. Rules that changed per person. It was only a month and I was in a roller-coaster under water. I knew I was being set up to fail so Dr. D could silently get rid of me.
At that point I decided I needed to tell my family and friends. The first reaction from everyone was, ‘Why did you take the job?” Well, there are never any simple answers but one certain answer was this: May the best candidate win. If I happen to be the best candidate, and I want the job, why would I have to let it go to the other candidate, just cause he is male and therefore safe?
So, after much agonized thinking I decided to file a complaint. As I talked this over with friends and family, the advice fell on either side of the spectrum. One half said, “Don’t do it, you are going to lose your job.” The other half said, “Sue them, sue them, sue them!”
With two daughters of my own, I wanted to do the right thing. On Sunday, January 20th, I filed a complaint through the EEO Hotline and met with the internal HR person on Jan 22nd to discuss my case. I was told that it usually takes about two weeks, but since this is a VP, maybe three weeks. I was admonished not to tell anyone. I was scared, humiliated, afraid, unsure. The fact that I was in Dallas and didn’t know a soul made it even worse. From December till April, I went to work, came home, crawled into bed and lay there until the next morning. I slept though every weekend. For a social person like me who cannot go a week without social interaction, I stayed indoors for four long months. I remained in Dallas for Christmas and New Years. In the apartment. Alone. I was depressed a bit. I think.
I came to Raleigh early Feb for a week, to see my kids and also unpack all the boxes that had just arrived from Italy. On Tuesday, March 12th, six agonizing weeks after I first filed the complain, the EEO lady called me. She said, and I quote: “Your complaint has been addressed. As per regulations, I cannot tell you whether any action has or has not been taken. I just called to tell you that the investigation is complete and the case is now closed.”
I sat in my chair, a bit confuddled. It sounded like a disclaimer for the medications I see advertised on TV. Take xyz, feel better, but you may experience, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, liver toxins, hallucinations, psychosis and peeing issues. I called the EEO lady back. I told her I was looking for some sort of closure but sadly, she could not give me any new details. A hell of a lot help that was!
The week dragged on. My boss was strutting. I wanted to go ‘poof’! Following Monday, March 18th at 11:30am, there was a mass email about how Dr. D had decided to move onto bigger and better things, stat. His office was empty by 10am – the other director witnessed Dr. D being walked out.
You’d think that I would be jumping up and down with joy. I didn’t. There was absolutely no sense of accomplishment. In fact, I felt terrible that I cost a man his livelihood. I kept wondering about how he was going to feed his family, not that he was poor by any means. The whole office was abuzz with gossip. My boss was loved and admired by many in the company – or at least all the folks he didn’t find attractive, so there were many sad hearts. I remained quiet and went about my work. I felt depraved and ridden with guilt. Thankfully, a counselor told me to shake out of it. She said I was going through Victim’s Remorse – a common affliction among victims.
On Thursday, April 4th, about two weeks after Dr. D was let go, I came back to my apartment after a long day’s work. I was leaving for Raleigh the next day for a whole week; my second trip home since December. Also, it was my birthday week. I was about to turn a decade. As I plopped down on the couch, my phone rang. It was the recruiting company. They told me that, that was my last day. I was laid-off. What followed was semantics. I turned in my phone etc. One wonderful colleague offered to collect my personal stuff and bring it out as I lived only a block away. The exchange happened within the hour.
The next morning, I flew to Raleigh. My grandparents were visiting from India. It was a big reunion. Everyone was merry celebrating my birthday. I kept quiet the whole week as I didn’t want to upset anyone. As per my return-ticket I was to fly back to Dallas on Sunday, April 7th. So on Saturday, I informed my husband about the latest twist. Once in Dallas, I filed a complaint with EEOC, the federal agency, but have yet to hear from them. It is probably beneath a mass of complaints, some far worse than what I have experienced, I’m sure.
But it got me thinking. They didn’t let the perpetrator go because they thought I deserved justice. They let him go because he already had a previous complaint filed against him within this company, for which he got ‘coaching’. They let him go because they didn’t want to risk getting sued should the next woman be more aggressive than I was. They didn’t do it for me. There was no justice served. I’m lucky in that I have an employed spouse to fall back on. But what about the many single-mothers and young women out there who have no support? Is that why so many women are terrified of speaking up? Is the outcome of voicing a wrong, personal retaliation? Will the voice of women forever be in a stranglehold?
The merry-go-round goes ’round and ’round,
The children laughed and laughed and laughed,
So many were going ’round and ’round,
That the merry-go-round collapsed.