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Too Hot for the Job?

A fan's reaction to woman fired from Citigroup for being too beautiful

deborah.jpgDebrahlee Lorenzana is suing Citigroup claiming they fired her because her beauty was too distracting for her male colleagues, reports the Village Voice.

Liza (last name withheld), a fan of Beauty in the Eyes of the Beheld, was inspired by this story to share her own personal story about physical beauty. Here it is:

I am a first generation American of Ecuadorian descent. I was born 7 years after my sister and when my mother birthed me; she was physically alone, her husband (my father) was alive on paper. My father could not handle the pressures in America and escaped to Ecuador while my mother was pregnant. My father didn't meet me until I was 2 years old. I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood where no one minded their business and gossip about neighbors was a common practice. My father came and went as he pleased; my mother was fed up by the time I was 9 and filed for divorce. Growing up, I was not only disciplined by mother, she gave my sister the power to rule me as well. I felt the pressures of single parenting every day because my mother treated her household like an institution. My sister and I were little soldiers and our way of life was not about emotional expression just a mechanical march to eat, bathe, clean, go to school and go to sleep.

Teenage pregnancy was a common theme in my neighborhood. I was forbidden to have male friends. I could not speak to boys on the phone. I grew up thinking boys were bad but I longed male companionship because I missed my father. My mother never said I was beautiful but she did say I am a natural for the camera. She was always so proud of her product (me) when I gave a smooth smile for the camera. Every birthday, my mother scheduled me for a professional photo shoot. I craved her attention. I enjoyed spending quality time with my mother, even if I had to follow her direction for the camera, it didn't matter to me, she was giving me attention and her smiling at me was all that I needed to feel loved. Doesn't every baby want to feel that her parents see her as beautiful? It is no wonder that I still model today.

I had a very hard time in Junior high school and I didn't understand why girls wanted to pick on me and fight me because I was very quiet and all I wanted was to fit in smoothly but I never found my place. The longing for my father was more evident once I hit puberty and any attention I received from boys was welcomed because the more my mother restricted me, the more I wanted boys. I kissed many boys in junior high but they would break up with me after 2 weeks. I always felt sad that they would dump me and I blamed my loss of boyfriends on my lack of communication skills and boring personality. I hated that I was so quiet; I crawled into a deeper hole when my peers and family would point out how quiet I am. I hated myself even more when girls would say that I am conceited.

My reserved nature always helped me easily land office jobs since the age of 14, it made me appear more mature. Perhaps too mature my longing for male attention translated into interoffice affairs with men 10+ years my senior. I even jump started a married man's libido at the age of 17 and quickly ended the affair when I discovered his wife was going to have her first baby, I didn't want to be that evil home wrecker and thought of the child being born, I didn't want to be the source of anxiety for that child, she deserved a father like I did. I ended the affair with the married man and quit my job soon after.

I continued to see men as a means to an end because boys could never be friends like my mother said. When it was time to pick a major in college, I chose communication out of personal pain. I wanted to break out of my shell and learn how to release myself from fear. My romantic involvements in my early 20's were never balanced because I didn't give myself time to try to develop a friendship, I didn't know how. My idea of love was instant physical attraction and when that burning desire was gone, so was my "love". Men either tried to objectify me or place me on a pedestal because of my independent and beautiful appearance. I was never perceived as a person and I never perceived men as a human being either; they were all vultures through my eyes.

Last year, I started working at a family owned business and was hired as an Executive Assistant working for two "Alpha" males. I was drawn to their powerful stance and felt a sense of power myself for being chosen to be their assistant because before me, six assistants were never good enough. I gained the office title of "lucky #7" and blindly believed I finally found a good place for work. After 2 weeks of my hire date, I was given more responsibility and was praised for my work, my technical skills and organization skills. After 2 months, I was included in the gift distribution pool for Secretaries day and received a platinum calculator with my name engraved on it. I felt like I finally belonged.

After 5 months, the new feeling of being the new toy wore off. The ladies in the office started to show signs of tension around me. I sensed it and tried to reach out to them even more but only received more snide comments and rejection. No matter how nice I was, how smart I was; they resented the special treatment I received. I guess if I put myself in their shoes; I understand. Everyone wants recognition from their boss and they resented the happiness I felt of working there. One afternoon, my boss asked me to come in to his office and he said "Liza, this is not working out, I am not happy and when I let you go, don't be surprised." I asked him, can you tell me specifically what I did wrong? He said, "Typos." I went back to my desk, reviewed the report I typed up for him and with a calm frame of mind, I approached him at the end of the day and said, I didn't find any typos on my recent reports. He said, "Well then you mixed around the words" and I said "ok, where?" I saw his tension increase and he brushed me off with "you are driving me crazy." I banished from his sight and walked on eggshells from that day on.

I was not going to quit, I needed the money at least from unemployment. I knew I did nothing wrong, I forced myself to put on a brave face and be strong. I started making mental connections and remembered I met his wife the week before and perhaps she felt threatened by my youth, my energy and possibly my looks. I did not dress provocatively; I worked for a very strict Jewish owned office. I consciously covered my body and wore glasses to hide my beauty; I knew I had to do this because I learned watching my sister as she converted her appearance to this culture through marriage. The next day, I diligently and carefully worked on a presentation my boss needed. He reviewed my work and said I did an excellent job. I thought his comment was his way of apologizing and I wasn't going to be fired but it was then when I saw what everyone in the office warned me about, you work for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A week after that ugly episode between my boss and I, he called me into his office and his Office Director proceeded to hand me paperwork that related to my agreement of dismissal. The Office Director is the only woman that holds some authority besides all the men in the office. I must add that the Office Director has an obvious facial deformity making it someone what difficult for most people to look at her straight in the eye. Though the Office Director has a title of authority, she still serves the "alpha" males lunch every day making sure they are equipped with enough silverware. I also feel compelled to add that the Office Director has worked for the alphas for 20+ years, has no formal education and no children and has dedicated her entire life to serving them. She serves me with papers and says that if I sign this contract, I will receive one week's severance. I took the papers and thanked them for choosing me to work with them when they did, I said I would read the papers when I get home and send them in later. I left quietly and quickly because I knew my tears were going to get the best of me.

I called my sister for comfort and she listened with her mind and not her heart. She said it was good that they let me go because my existence caused tension to my boss' marriage. So now it's my fault my boss has a bad marriage? I hung up the phone and promised myself to never share anything with my sister again; she gets a cheap thrill to see me fall. My mother was a little more understanding but also made me feel worse by saying, I should never smile at men; it encourages them to entertain filthy thoughts.

My husband helped me keep my sanity through this troubling experience; it was my first time ever being discharged for an unknown reason. He said he knew that my boss was a dominant yet insecure male the moment he shook his hand and my boss tried to flip his handshake. Because my husband was raised by a self respecting woman and forced to respect his two sisters; he was never raised to judge people by appearances and was able to have healthy platonic friendships with women which was a source of anxiety in the first years of our marriage but thankfully I am still healing. Today, I am much happier at work because I now work for a beautiful woman who is not insecure and sees people for their talent. For the first time, I feel like I fit.

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