Despite the fact I share all my private business with the internets, I really don’t like talking about my personal life while I’m at work. Prior to my current job, I was always a bit of a privacy snob. No one knew my real address, no one knew Alex’s name, and if I could keep my coworkers from knowing which car in the parking lot was mine, I would. Maybe I’m the tiniest bit paranoid.
But the right to privacy does not exist when it comes to my current boss. The job interview should have been my first red flag.
“Why’d you move to Denver?”
“My husband and I both love it here, we wanted to be near the mountains.”
“Oh. So what happens if your husband’s job relocates him outside of Denver? Would you get a divorce? I need someone committed to the long term.”
I thought he was making a joke. Ten months later, I realize he wasn’t. And his interest in all things Alex did not stop with the job interview.
“What does he do for a living? Do you guys like to do the same stuff in your free time? Is he needy? He can be a little passive aggressive, can’t he? I bet he resents your independence.”
I can hardly handle being asked “how are you?” or “any plans for the weekend?” so this line of questioning is enough to make me retreat deep inside, where my inner tween lurks with evasive responses and punctuated eye rolls.
“Alex googles stuff all day. We like mountains. Nope. Nah. Nosh.”
I quickly learned that one of my boss’s favorite self-esteem boosters is the pursuit of unhappily-married women. Of course, he never actually admits to liking any of them, he just loves to detail all the unfortunate women who wish they could “upgrade” to a man like him.
“She was really great and all, but she’s 32. Have you see how Colorado ages women? You really need to be careful. You should probably keep the blinds drawn in your office, you don’t want to get any more wrinkles.”
In the mythology of my boss’s brain there are multitudes of married women texting him late at night, baring their souls.
“She only married him because she got pregnant. She wishes she could be with me.”
“Wait, don’t they have four kids and own a successful company together and we just met them at a networking event and they’re going on a trip to Italy next month?”
“Yeah, but she says she would leave him for me if I was willing to have her.”
I can imagine what he means by “late night texting” because he continuously texts or calls around 7PM each night. I’ve stopped replying, which means I get accusatory questions the following morning when I come in to work.
“Did you get my text?”
*Mocking incredulous stare*
“I agree. Excel is really great for making spreadsheets.”
In the early days of his startup, when we worked out of his house until 7PM each night, I would have to specifically let him know if I planned to leave any earlier– otherwise he’d monopolize me for an extra 30 minutes of last minute catastrophes or brilliant revelations as I stood in the doorway, bag over my shoulder, keys jingling in my hand.
When I tried to leave at 5PM on a Thursday, he became suspicious.
“I need to buy a dress,” I said. “Alex has a work party tomorrow.”
I’d finally given him the small kernel of personal info he’d been pining after.
“Oh?” he said. “What’s wrong with what you’ve got on right now?”
He looked me up and down, taking in my boring black cardigan and sock feet because it was snowing outside.
“You look pretty good to me.”
I decided to do as I do and just ignore his red-flag behavior.
“I don’t think this is exactly what everyone else is going to be wearing.”
He looked me up and down again, more slowly this time.
“Oh? Is Alex not proud of you?”
I decided my best plan of action going forward was to slip in a few more references to how happy Alex and I are (as though the hickey weren’t enough). But this plan backfired because now he feels the need to constantly evaluate himself against this standard.
“You think I overreacted?” he asked, after a particularly shitty encounter with our assistant.
“Well, I think you could have been a bit more patient.”
“Oh yeah? Is that what Alex would have done?”
“Tell me how Alex would have done that differently. He’s such an angel. Maybe you can talk him into letting me borrow his halo sometime.”
I never said Alex was an angel, just that we don’t mind being around each other. But now my boss is all Single White Female over here.
“What kind of wine does Alex drink? Did he play sports in high school? Soccer is for wusses. He also played tennis? I bet I could beat him at tennis. You don’t know how good I am at tennis.”
Maybe this is a hostile work environment—but ultimately I hold the power. Because I have Alex, apparent god among men.
“Alex should come by the office. We should all grab a drink. We’re near Alex’s work, should we take him a coffee?”
It’s amazing how many excuses I can come up with to keep my boss from ever meeting my husband. I’m not sure when my marriage became a battleground, but I’m pretty sure Alex the Angel is my ultimate trump card.
Have you ever had a coworker try to involve themselves in your personal life? How do you create healthy boundaries with an overbearing boss? Do you think this guy wants to wear Alex as a skin suit?
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