I wasn’t feeling too great last week and spent most of that week in bed. I got a missed call from a strange number at around 8pm or so, I later returned the call only to be greeted on the other end of the line by a man who I could not recall having met, let alone proceeding to give my number to. It startled me because he knew my name, so surely I must have met this man somewhere and given him my number. He reminded me that I had recently met him at a networking event and for the purposes of not tainting that event, I will leave certain bits out to avoid giving it away. After he mentioned this, my memory recollected and I remembered him. I was polite and continued the conversation but I soon became disappointed as the tone in his voice changed. It was around 9pm and in my books no professional calls especially follow up networking. To me, these should never be made at such hours, it just seems inappropriate and this may very well be where you get to decide whether I am over reacting about this or if you can empathize with my rage.
I wanted to make this an issue about race, culture and certain mannerisms that some men have in the professional world but if I limited it to race alone and marginalized a particular culture, that may cause all sorts of tension because its only ever a few that spoil it for everyone else. And this is one of those cases where I have had to deal with the same issue repeatedly from the same race, similar culture and identical mannerisms. So anyways I asked him to call me back at a more appropriate hour in hopes of giving him the benefit of the doubt, that he had a good reason for calling me that late into the night and sounding ever so casually, while asking me personal questions about my life. But my gut and instincts knew better, they knew that this man was not calling to make professional ties or express and interest in networking and helping me as a young woman on the come up fulfil my goals. My guy and instinct knew because I have been in this situation before one too many times and it is now familiar with all the little red flags that I was once so naïve to.
He called me again the following day, only this time I didn’t take the call because it was late at night. A few days later he phoned me again but I was out having dinner with my friend. I told him to call me back and hung up the phone. I was angry and annoyed. Angry because I had given him my number at a networking event where the prime focus was to foster growth and development in young people and I expected just that but instead he was trying to make a pass at me. I was annoyed because I was unable to let this man know not to call me because I wasn’t too sure what his intentions were. My gut knew but what if my gut was wrong? There was that possibility in my head that I was maybe just overreacting a little but my gut was not having any of those excuses because it knew.
I then summed up the courage to return one of his many missed calls that I had deliberately missed. At thus point something greater than myself took over me. I was polite and straight to the point because as Beyoncé mentioned in her “HBO documentary titled “life is but a dream” business is not polite. That is a lesson her father taught her. What he meant by this and what she later understood is that you cant let people walk over you when something does not feel right on your side. You have every right to object because if you aren’t careful people will use and take advantage of you in many ways. This doesn’t mean you should turn into an absolute nightmare to work with, it simply means don’t be afraid to speak up in a professional setting in fear of being rude or being judged as a difficult person for the sake of doing business. I don’t think it’s worth your integrity. And so I asked this man what the purpose of his call was to me, to which he had no clear answer to apart from mumbling the words “to catch up with you” when I expressed that I was busy and could not do so unless he stated the nature our meeting, he could not provide one as I had previously suspected. His intention was not business, therefore I ended the conversation and I hope to never hear from him again until his intentions are clear of which as this point I probably would decline based on my first impression and encounter with his mysterious late night phone calls and attempted phone calls.
I wanted to share this with young girls because it is so easy to get caught up when you are young and on the come up. You are fresh out of high school, new this this adult life and sometimes you believe that everyone has good intentions. Now I am not trying to accuse the man I referred to in this article as having had bad intentions because I don’t know that but it felt that way and one can’t help but wonder where it would have led to had I tolerated it further and danced to his tune. I could probably give you the answer to that too because I have been caught up in situations similar to this one. Thankfully, I have learned over the years.
To conclude, it is really a tough scenario because at the end of the day you just don’t know for sure and sometimes you may miss out on what could have been a great opportunity based on false assumptions about a person’s intentions towards you. My only piece of advice would be to pay attention to the other person more than what you are trying to achieve because sometimes we get so caught up in the opportunities that the other person may be able to provide you, that we miss out on all the red flags about them. As you get older I am sure it gets better and you won’t even need to second guess yourself because you will just know and you will handle it. So good luck on your professional journey and don’t let anyone cross the line leaving you to feel uncomfortable, ever