I’m quite private about my personal life. Sure, I’ll tell jokes and stories. You know, dazzle (or scare) the crowd (small, really small crowd) with my mishaps and misadventures, my hands doing the talking at the same time my mouth fires off tale after tale. But there are two things I’d keep pretty quiet about, even with my closest friends:
- my family
- my love life
The former I can get away with. It’s the latter that can be quite tricky because while I decide to not tell most friends (like 90%), I am apt to post (vague) stuff here and in social media. Naturally, some people will wonder what it’s all about and try to piece things together. But over and over they get things wrong. They get me wrong. I don’t blame them at times. I mean, I did put up words here and there, didn’t I? But then again… I can choose to not say more than what I want others to know. Fair enough.
You would not believe the things I have gone through because of that same scenario. I thought gossiping had died when I left high school? I mean, the kind that twists things around until the news that reaches me is so far from the truth that I cannot help but laugh. Case in point:
(You better buckle up. This is one hell of a story. Just rehashing it makes me want to go grab some vodka and Sprite. And then promptly wash it down with an apple flavored beer.)
0.0 Going back to the start
I was a trainee in a company that time, where I was one of the hundred or so employees who worked in the back office. It was one of those usual nights of training: boring. While I consider myself an introvert, I do pretty well in small groups. I didn’t know anyone there and so I started chatting with the people closest to my chair. Then our trainer called for us to pay attention because the Ops Manager was about to talk. He stepped onto the small platform of our training area and talk he did. I forgot what he said and if you told me you’d pay me a million dollars and 10 thousand gold bars to tell you what he said, I will never be able to give you the correct answer. Because while he was talking, I was busy chatting with my newfound friend under my breath. I kept my eyes glued to the front, though. (Gotta make them think I was at least paying attention). I did hear him say, “I don’t really know a lot of your local language. I know a few but I think it would be great if someone could teach me more.” And then. AND THEN his eyes landed on our area. With his index finger pointing in our direction, he said, “I’d like you to teach me some words.” There were about five of us in that row. We all glanced at each other, nervous and confused. To which the Ops Manager clarified by saying, “You.” All five of us pretended to both be deaf and dumb. You who?
It turns out he was pointing at me. Our trainer told me to stand up, so I did. Eyes were on me now and I nearly died. I was never good at class recitations when I was still in school and this was no different, really. I could only squeak out, “Me? Why me?” MY GOD. Of all the people in the room, he had to pick me. I already made sure I’d blend in: I sat at the back, near the wall. The only thing left to do was wear something all white so I can lean back and voila! I am the wall. I forgot which words I chose but just to get it over with, I tossed him some basic ones. He wrapped up his talk and the moment he stepped off the platform, I turned to the girl I was conversing with earlier. I had just finished delivering my joke and we were both laughing quietly (of course!) when the Ops Manager suddenly appeared in front of us. “You look like you’re having fun,” He remarked. Everyone near us fell silent. This was our big boss, sort of like the school principal. We all had to be on our best behavior. I looked around my fellow trainees, feeling really nervous now. What to say, what to say? “Tell me your joke,” He said. I didn’t dare look at him. Holy shit. Wasn’t I supposed to crack jokes during training? “Come on. Tell me,” He said again. I looked up at him from my chair and saw that he was smiling. Relieved, I told him, “Uh, it’s really not a funny joke, sir.” But then he insisted, so I told him the joke all over again, complete with actions. Who am I to refuse a manager’s request? Right? RIGHT?
1.0 The black sweater
He was young; in his mid-twenties. And everybody liked him. He was easygoing and funny and good-looking. Hot damn, was he good-looking. He was also really nice. He was so nice, in fact, that one night during training, when he saw me looking cold and miserable in my shirt, he offered his sweater. I hesitated, torn between wanting to get warm and worrying about what those who heard him might think. He told me that his sweater was in his office and I can go ahead and get it right now. I sat there, the proverbial deer caught in headlights. The proverbial shivering, teeth chattering deer. “Go on. Get it,” He said for the nth time. “It’s in my chair. No one’s going to bite you there.” He motioned to his office, which was across the room. “Get it there now.”
That sweater had been the talk of town for days. And I wish it ended there, but that’s what kind of started the whole ugly mess.
2.00 Months and months later: the last to know
If there is one thing I am happy with about myself, it’s that I am pretty friendly. I may hate being in the limelight and being in front of a large crowd, but I can talk to anyone. (It’s a gift.) It’s not hard for me to make friends in a new place. I can start a conversation rolling if I had to. I think it’s this same part of myself that probably served as fuel to the gossip. What gossip, you say? This one:
I remember that moment clearly. I was in the coffee dispenser area, refilling my tumbler, when one of my teammates / friend approached me. She told me if I heard the gossip going around. I said which one? She said, “The one about our OM (Ops Manager) having a girlfriend here.” I remember I took a sip of coffee before saying, “Really? He has a girlfriend here? I wonder who.” My mind ran through the various girls who had been practically throwing themselves at him. My friend paused for a while before continuing, “I only heard about that gossip today. They said the girl’s name starts with K.”
“Wow,” I said. “That narrows it down. There’s only a few girls here whose name starts with that letter.” I was in the middle of spouting off names when my friend blurted out, “Anna, doesn’t your second name start with K?” I then looked at her, not quite catching on, and told her “Yeah, but I never use that here.” To which my friend finally exclaimed, “It’s you! They say you’re his girlfriend!”
Uh, excuse me? I’m sorry. Can you please run that past me again? *my sinking heart just jumped out my chest and dove straight for the wooden floor* Since when did I have a relationship of any kind with the Ops Manager? When did this start and why did I not get a memo that I was his girlfriend? Guys, if you expect me to play my part, the least you could do is give me a heads up. COME ON.
2.0 The part where rumors turned nasty
I thought I can just shrug off that rumor and it’ll die down on its own, as most office rumors tend to do. I ignored the curious glances thrown my way in the cafeteria. Once, I walked in the bathroom where a group of girls were talking and then immediately froze and fell silent when they saw me. Another time, I was late and walked inside the operations floor in a hurry. As I nearly ran my way inside… I kid you not and I am not even exaggerating: The moment my feet hit the carpeted floor, heads turned to look at me. There I was, in the middle of the operations floor, and people were staring at me like I was a Martian high on weed or something. I nodded and smiled at them, thinking they were probably just surprised and distracted by my late entrance. O-ho! I can be so dense and slow at times. Little did I know that by then, everyone on the floor had heard about the rumor and some nasty news (made up, mind you) had wormed their way in. Apparently, I am not just his “girlfriend” but that we have slept together.
UGH. Guys, I have not even caught a glimpse of his condo unit. And sure, I hang out with him and other employees after work, at a restaurant or a resto bar, but that’s about it. I don’t even know which floor he lives in.
3.0 The Valentine’s Day fiasco
For our account’s Valentine’s Day activity , I was picked to be one of the contestants. I practically begged one of the team leaders to replace me with someone else. I mean, the gossip was already making me the target of some of the girls’s ire and snide remarks. I didn’t want to put myself out there. I wanted to be invisible. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. But the team leader wouldn’t give in. I ended up participating. It went down a lot worse than I had expected.
The dating game mechanics: Searcher (the Ops Manager) asks questions and Searchees (me and other girls) answer them. The girl with the most correct answers win and she goes on a date with the Searcher.
When the time came for the Searchees to be introduced, I was a bundle of nerves. As luck would have it, I was the last name called. I waited for my turn, growing more nervous each time a co-worker’s name was called. The loud cheering that came each time a Searchee’s name was called only made me even more nervous. When my name was finally called… Silence. Absolute silence, followed by a collective hush, and emphasized with curious glances thrown my way. Should I all blow them kisses? Tell them to take a picture because it lasts longer? The silence seemed to go on forever and ever. The one who broke it was the OM. He grabbed the microphone from someone and said there was a change of plans. He said that someone else will be the Searcher. Well, that went well. Now everyone was wondering why he suddenly called it off. And nope, my reputation was still in ruins because of that stupid rumor.
4.0 The only way to break this is…
I have been thinking and thinking of ways to make the rumor die. I mean, it’s been more than a year and everyone’s convinced I am carrying on a relationship with the Ops Manager. Guys, I do not condone to being in a relationship when a man is already taken. Never mind that his girlfriend is miles and miles and miles away. Okay?
So I have been thinking and thinking and nothing’s coming up. I thought I saw an opportunity to break the rumor because I got transferred to a different position (but same account). That position entailed me and other nine people to work in the night shift. Hooray! Woohoo! Now they won’t have anything to talk about because he comes in during the morning! I would’ve done a tap dance if I could, if only out of sheer happiness.
Only to find out during my first night in that new position that… Surprise, surprise! He was also in the night shift. Of course, it’s all for business purposes. I mean, he has to oversee the kick-start of this new support. But my co-workers didn’t think so. Word got around that the manager’s sudden change in schedule was because he and I needed to be together. What?!
5.0 Moral of the story
Girls, toughen up in the workplace. And make sure to stay under the radar. Do not crack stupid jokes during training. Look somber and unapproachable. Stop smiling and laughing while conversing with your teammates and other co-workers. STAY UNDER THE RADAR. I cannot stress that enough. If you happen to have a good-looking boss who’s the alpha male type, well, do you even want to be in his line of sight? REALLY? Because I’ve been there and unless you really, really, really like either him or the drama that will surely unfold and escalate in case he decides to give you some attention, then just… stay under the radar. Look, I don’t know what I’ve done to have been the subject of a nasty office rumor. I’m beginning to think it’s the way I tend to talk and talk to people, which is another story for another time (maybe never). I also do not know what I’ve done that I managed to get myself in his line of vision. I do not look like a Victoria’s secret model. I wish I did but I am short and pale and skinny. My hair never behaves and it’s everywhere. My eyes are huge and my lips too thick for my small face. I was wearing braces that time, too! If you want a photo of what I looked like during training, I have proof. “All my friends look like Victoria’s Secret models and I look like a Victoria sponge cake.” HAHA! 😄
Just… just be careful in the work place. It’s a real jungle out there. Rumors fly around so fast that the truth rarely catches up to them. Well, that’s my story telling for now. Whew! Longest blog post ever! Until I blog again, remember to keep the stiff upper lip and have faith in yourself. Don’t mind the gossip hounds. They never win. Keep being your awesome self.