Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I worked in an abusive situation for twenty years. I stayed in the job
too long, perhaps because I was very well compensated, which may
have clouded my judgment. By the time I understood that most
bosses don’t publicly humiliate their executive assistant in front of
other staff I was a mid-fifties female in middle management. If you
ran an ad for a mid-level manager you might get 200 resumes like
mine, so I decided it was easier to roll downhill towards retirement
than to risk another situation with worse pay and an equally bad boss.
That decision cost me the better part of my sanity and my health,
though I prevailed pretty well until the last six months before age 62.
Then, sensing I was going to leave soon, he became so publicly
demeaning that I consulted a lawyer and negotiated a severance
agreement that paid for my medical insurance until Medicare. Hoo-ray!
Now the company is going to have its fiftieth anniversary party and I
have been invited. I would like to see the colleagues I enjoyed working
with, but one of them let slip that they’re going to ask me to play
myself in a skit with my old boss. Should I go or not?
Beaten No More
Dear No More:
Is the old boss still the Old Boss or is there a New Boss in the room
who might temper the invitation? The simplest way to ensure that
you’re not forced into a situation you don’t want to be in is to decline
the invite. Period. If you’re not there, you cannot be embarrassed. The
next best thing to do is to accept the invitation but put a caveat on it
that you are there as a guest and will not participate in entertainment.
That may not stop them from asking you, but you can demur in the
moment. It’s more awkward and makes you seen a little of a Grinch.
Alternatively, you could plan in advance with a favorite former
colleague to be your body double, so that if you are asked you could
pretend to think it over and then say, For tonight’s performance, Ed
So-and- so will be playing the part of me. A cross-gender choice adds
to the comedy, especially if the person can ham it up.
But in the spirit of the season, I would encourage you to lay all you old
feelings of anger, shame, abuse, fear, and revenge on the altar of
t’shuvah. Release them when you say your prayers, and come back to
yourself with a sense of being lighter in your soul. It is hard work
carrying around anger and shame. Our religion offers us ways to
transcend it. Take advantage of them, and then go to your party, and
enjoy showing off the new happy you. PS Look sharp and smile! It
may have taken the long run to get there, but you won your freedom.