As a young executive for a growing company, I face many challenges. From trying to constantly grasp the concepts of an ever evolving strategic vision to hiring the people necessary to execute the vision doing so with minimal resources and under largely unrealistic time constraints. Also, doing this under the pressure to grow, defining the marketplace for our products and battling the better funded more technologically advanced competitors. All with a belief in the collective vision of the founders, the great team of people I work with and in myself that our ideas are better, will revolutionize the marketplace and of course…make tons of money!
Sound like a lot of fun? Well for me, it’s a dream come true. You could describe me as the typical male. I live and breath sports, drink my coffee black, I’m into cars, am educated as an engineer, and can honestly admit I am not the most sensitive man on the planet. I would even go so far as to describe myself as a manly man, hairy chest and all.
During the journey to build this company, I noticed something very interesting happening. I ended up surrounded by women. I know, for most men, this would seem like the ideal situation. Having to go to work each morning and spend the day fighting the corporate battle (an analogy of course for the struggle of a growing company) with a bunch of smart, intelligent, capable, talented, talkative, fashion conscience, sometimes moody and always beautiful women. But let me tell you, it has certainly brought about some challenges and interesting dynamics. Imagine in this age of HR dominance and workplace equality all of the new skills a man must learn in order to survive in this jungle.
For instance, how common is it at your job to end a marketing meeting with paraffin waxing of your hands. Or when after work happy hours turn into regular rendezvous at spinning or even the dreaded “manny” and “peddy.” Yes, I admit it. Those are what women affectionately call a manicure and pedicure. See, I would have never known that before. But I find myself learning little things like this subconsciously. I’ve been exposed to countless conversations about hair color and the eternal question: bangs or no bangs? Never before have I been so self-conscious when I get dressed in the morning to make sure my belt matches my shoes in fear that the fashion police will pull me over when I walk through the halls and write me a ticket. It’s gotten so bad I have nightmares of Joan Rivers annoying voice telling me “Oh hunny, that suit is so out of season!”
Oh, and did I mention how awkward the conversation gets when the subject of boys inevitably comes up. If ever there was an argument for the saying that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, this topic cements that point. In fact, based on some of these conversations, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if women were actually aliens from another planet. I mean really, how complicated do things need to be? Does it really matter if he calls you two days after your date instead of one?…but I digress.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that these women aren’t good at their jobs or incapable of succeeding because they are; they just go about it in a way unfamiliar to me. It is easy for me to communicate with other guys because you can relate everything to sports, grunt, bump chests, high five and all is understood. It may be rudimentary communication, but very effective. The occasional disagreement happens but is quickly resolved by a best of 3 rock, scissors, and paper contest. Unfortunately for me, in a work atmosphere dominated by women, this is not the case.
Apparently, women have these things called feelings (as my girlfriend constantly reminds me). And you can actually upset them. Again, not bad…just different than how I am programmed. Never in my life have I tried so hard to carefully think what I say before I open my big mouth. Still, I end up saying the wrong thing and sticking my foot in my mouth at least three times a day. But by the look of consternation on my face, at least the ladies acknowledge I’m trying. They typically tell me to just spit it out. But I know better. I am always conscience of HR and its iron fist. On the rare (ok, somewhat frequent) occasion I use a curse word, the instant guilt and shame I feel is a constant reminder that I’m in an estrogen filled environment. After all, that’s not how a gentleman speaks in front of a lady. But then I ask myself, am I really a gentleman.
Sitting at my desk at home writing this blog I am having a sort of Darwinian moment. Suddenly I realize that I am starting to adapt to my environment. Darwin explains it as an instinct in order to survive. I look around and notice the non-fat café latte on my desk. In the background I hear a scary noise…somehow Sex and the City is on the TV. I peak over at the bathroom and see a bag of foot care products from Bliss. I start to smell the gentle aroma of a mix of flowers from a candle I have lit. I look over at my bed and notice I picked out a pastel purple shirt for work. Oh my god, I am becoming one of the girls. Immediately I jump out of my seat and start to panic. The hair on my arm stands up, my heart is racing and I have the look of a deer in headlights.
It was that moment I realized I am in jeopardy of losing my MAN pass. You know the card that all men get during puberty that permits us to act like kids, burp, say stupid things, watch sports and generally be clueless. If any of my friends witnessed this moment, they would revoke my man pass and I would be forced into a life of sensitivity, potpourri and endless chick flicks. In other words, my definition of hell.
Thankfully I was alone. My MAN pass is safe for now. But I can promise you this. When I go to work tomorrow, I will be acutely aware of my environment and just may start imposing some evolution of my own! After all, I am a man’s MAN!