*this contains sensitive content*
This is going to be a bit of a venting session; I hope you don’t mind. Let’s get into it.
For one of my scholarships, I have to work 75 hours per semester, which equates to five hours a week, as a student worker/receptionist for one of the offices on my college’s campus. My scholarship job got moved to a different building because the building we were originally in is currently undergoing renovations. The room that we are temporarily in is one giant room, so no conversation is private, even if you think it is; it isn’t difficult to hear other conversations.
Last semester, I worked with two wonderful girls we’ll call Barb and Cadence. We talked about light topics or things related to pop culture; any topic that wasn’t a light topic was usually related to something happening in our personal lives, like family issues. This semester, I work with a guy we’ll call Rey; he is the age of a college student, but he definitely doesn’t have the maturity of a college student. Any time we have a conversation, it is a sensitive topic, and the conversation always turns into something that could get me fired. I was thinking about me potentially getting fired for the conversations we have, and it sparked this venting session.
There are three topics I deem sensitive (especially for work) that our conversations always go back to: sex, menstruation, and race.
This is probably the biggest one. Rey turns everything, literally everything, into something sexual. One day, we were having a normal conversation about Marvel superheroes. He asked who my favorite super hero was, and when I responded with “Hulk,” he said, “Is it because he’s big?” with wiggling eyebrows. The way he said it made it very obvious that it was a sexual innuendo. Yesterday, we were having a civil conversation (or I at least thought it was civil) about how difficult it was to sleep on the twin beds in the dorms. I mentioned that I sleep with a giant teddy bear (as in it’s in my bed sitting in its corner when I sleep). Rey literally said, “Is there something attached to it? I can imagine you riding it.” I was very disturbed and upset with his comment. In fact, I get upset with all of his sexual innuendos and sexual comments; there can’t be one conversation, whether he’s supposed to be in it or not, where he doesn’t make any reference to sex. The sad thing: for a couple of weeks, I stooped to his level just to mess with him; I wasn’t happy with myself about it for a while. I feel like constantly bringing up sex or any sort of sexual innuendo shows a high level of immaturity; that’s his level. I hate that level.
The one conversation Rey and I have had revolving around menstruation was the only time he was close to being semi-serious. Though his immaturity was at bay (kind of), I still don’t think talking about periods is appropriate for work. Most of our conversation was about common things girl experience while being on their periods, such as having sensitive boobs and wild hormones and body aches (like my back hurts more than usual on my period; the need for a massage is so real). Rey has a girlfriend, which I think is the only reason he took this conversation semi-serious. Key word being “semi.” When the talk of wild hormones and sometimes being sexually frustrated came about, he made sure to mention his girlfriend is like that 24 hours and is constantly wanting him (in that way); I didn’t need to know that. Like, at all.
Background information before we get into this one, I go to a PWI, and most of the people who work in my office are white (if the terms “white” or “black” offend you, I don’t recommend reading further). Yesterday, towards the end of my shift, we semi-talked about how I can’t get a job because I have to work certain hours only during the day since I don’t have a car, don’t feel comfortable walking at night besides going to the student center to eat, and am a full-time student. Rey asked, “Why?”
I responded with, “There’s a difference between you and me.” I was trying to keep my voice down because several people on campus (whether it be faculty, staff, or students) hate talking about anything that could relate to racial differences.
“What? Is it because I’m big and-“
I cut him off because who knows what else was going to come out of his mouth. “No. It’s because you’re white and male, and I’m black and a woman.”
He repeated a couple of times, “That’s not true,” but it’s very true.
I got to a school in a part of a country that is very racist; white supremacy is very prominent; and I never know what I’ll endure. White men dominate the region where I go to school, and they are not the kind of men who look beyond one’s skin color. You’re never truly safe anywhere, but being both black and a woman, I especially don’t feel safe walking around here. Some people on campus don’t understand that, including Rey.
To avoid these conversations, I tried not talking to Rey, but he would either hop in on conversations I have with other coworkers or annoy me until the attention was back on him… like a little kid. To make it worse, Rey has looked at other girls in the office (two so far) and called them hot; not to their faces but still. He has a girlfriend who doesn’t go to school with us, and I personally don’t think it’s right for him to call other girls hot, especially when his girlfriend is not around. I am not a fan of guys like that– at all. I genuinely hope Rey and I don’t get scheduled to work together for the two years I have left.