Star reveals exec’s leery whisper
I'D BEEN invited out to lunch by one of the bosses at the TV station where I was working at the time to discuss my "future at the network".
This was a major deal. I'd been working my little butt off, hoping the television superpowers would notice me and decide I was most definitely destined for bigger and better things. So that lunch invitation was a promising indication that my career was heading in the right direction.
I wore the Cue suit I'd bought specially for the occasion. Back then, Cue was the go-to store for the trendiest female corporate attire. I had never worked in the corporate arena, but I hoped my new suit would exude a Jana Wendt level of professionalism, ambition and credibility.
Lunch got off to a cracking start. We discussed my job, the show I was working on and the general goings-on at the network. Just after main course, the mood changed slightly as Mr TV leaned across the table and with a weird smirk, said "So ... you're a journalist?"
"Yes, I am," I replied, wondering why he didn't already know that. "I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Communication with majors in Journalism and Film and Television Studies from the Queensland University of Technology."
"Impressive," he purred. "So I guess that means you're good with words?"
"Well, I hope so," I laughed. "My career kind of depends on it."
By this stage, I was convinced that my Jana Wendt Cue suit was working its magic and he was about to offer me a job reading the prime-time news.
But instead, he leaned a little closer, like he wanted to tell me a really big secret, and said, "Do you know what my favourite word is?"
I mean, what sort of question is that? There are more than 170,000 words in the English dictionary. How could I possibly guess his favourite? Was it a trick question? Did my future at the network depend on knowing the answer? Would Jana Wendt know the word? Good god! What could it be? "Television"? "Winklepicker"? "Kakorrhaphiophobia"?
But instead I just said, "Umm. No, I don't know what your favourite word is."
And then he leaned even further across the table, leered at me intently and, in a deep, suggestive, growling voice, said "Moist".
That's a word that makes most women cringe. It's up there alongside "discharge" in the repulsive zone.
So why the hell was this guy forcing it into our conversation over a business lunch? Was he deliberately trying to make me feel uneasy? Or was it an attempt to steer our conversation down that suggestive little path towards his casting couch? Was he just throwing it out there to see if I might bite? I know for sure he wasn't about to invite me for a game of Scrabble.
After clearing the little bit of vomit that had surfaced in the back of my throat, I laughed out loud, like it was the funniest joke I'd ever heard. And then I quickly changed the topic. I'm a nervous talker. When I don't know what to say, I somehow manage to talk incessantly.
I'm not even sure how the words come out of my mouth. But they just keep coming. I guess it's my superpower (my other superpower is making champagne disappear, by the way).
We finished lunch without further incident. He didn't bring it back up and we never spoke about it again.
A friend had a similar experience after she'd just started working at a popular radio station. A well-known announcer at the station, who also happened to be much older, invited her out to lunch. She was flattered and honoured to spend time with a man she had respected for so long. But as their business lunch was winding up, the dirty old man leaned over to her and said, "I get the feeling our relationship could be like a ride in a Ferrari. Fast, exciting and fun while it lasts. I've booked us a room at the hotel around the corner. Let's go." Ewwwwww.
I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about my lunch experience for a long time. I felt like a fool for even agreeing to the meeting in the first place. Maybe it wasn't a business lunch at all. Had I been on a date with my boss without even realising it? Was I somehow supposed to know that "let's discuss your future at the network" is television-executive-code for "let's discuss your future in my bedroom"?
I never called the guy out over his inappropriate "business" lunch chat. At the time I tried to brush it off by convincing myself he'd done nothing wrong. It was just one little word, after all. But I couldn't deny that that one little word had made me feel ... I guess the best word to describe how I felt in that moment is ... "icky".
So I walked away from that lunch feeling icky and vulnerable and a little bit confused, which was in stark contrast to the excitement, pride and optimism I'd felt when I'd arrived that day in my brand new, perfectly pressed Cue suit.
But it also made me determined to work even harder and be noticed for all the right reasons. Which I most certainly was.
Romantically Challenged by Sami Lukis is available now (Viking, $32.99).