Unfortunately, I think I need to talk to my father about porn. I’d really rather not, but I think this might be a real problem.
I both live and work with my dad because I am a loser. My dad runs his own business and is well known for giving losers second chances. Our workforce consists mostly of people who stay on because there’s literally nowhere else they could get a job that would pay them as much as we do (not much but better than minimum wage) and my younger brother. My brother is great and probably could get a job anywhere doing anything, but he’s decided to stay on and take care of the family business. My family has been in this town and running this enterprise since the 1700’s. We’re old school, and that’s kind of the problem.
When I was a kid, the whole of what we call the Retail Office was covered in explicitly pornographic images taken from magazines and calendars and glued onto the walls in a kind of collage. There were also toys. One of my earliest memories is trying to explain a certain “nutcracker” to my not yet school aged brother. You can use your imagination. Anyway, my dad never cared if my brother or I saw this stuff. I don’t think it traumatized us any; it was just kind of weird. Most parents go through a lot of effort to try to hide that that sort of thing even exists from their kids. Eventually my mom persuaded him to move all that stuff where the customers wouldn’t see it. Trouble for me is, it’s now in the break room.
I’m asexual but I don’t hate porn. I don’t think people who use porn are bad people. I think girlfriends who demand that their boyfriends give it up are irrational. But…. I really hate looking at it. It makes me uncomfortable in a way I can’t even fully describe. I hate being in the break room. The worst is when I absolutely have to go in their to deliver paperwork or find an employee and someone wants to stop me so we can have a pleasant chat in front of the wall of titties. I love that we run a business where our customers are mostly old family friends who come into the break room to hang out with us and that we’re super casual, but I hate talking to older men when there’s a wall of naked women behind me even though everyone pretty much knows about my orientation, or lack there of, and I don’t think they even think of me as being the same species as the women on the wall. The other day a customer yelled at me to get a haircut and when I went up to chat with him about it he was quite abashed to discover that I was female. I’m tall, skinny, hairy, this sort of thing happens all the time. People have accepted my presence in the yard as a given and treat me more or less the same as all the male employees, which I appreciate. It’s also why I don’t want to cause a stink, especially when I’m the new girl and probably will continue to be for years to come.
I consider my discomfort with the wall of tits to be a very minor issue but there are two other problems with it. The first is that we have a low level sex offender working for us. His M.O. is going to camp grounds and hiking trails, taking off all his clothes, waiting for unaccompanied women to show up and then streaking past them. He’s been caught and arrested numerous times (I think being arrested is part of his fetish, you’d have to make an effort to be caught in the places where he does this). He’s serving jail time on the weekends, which is apparently a thing you can do. I think he’s harmless but he stinks to high heaven and his hanging around the Admin office when I first started working there made me uncomfortable enough that I mentioned it to my brother. My brother had words with him and I haven’t seen the guy since. To be fair, I think he was hanging around to avoid work and not necessarily because of me, but he really really smells bad. My dad uses this guy as justification for why we need transphobic bathroom laws. What I wonder, is if my dad is so worried about this guy that he thinks he ought to be required to carry his birth certificate before being allowed to use the bathroom, why isn’t he worried about what kind of messages the wall of titties might be sending him?
The other problem is that it’s embarrassingly unprofessional. This is the hard one. My brother and I have gotten into a lot of fights with my dad and the other employees about this because they’ve always made a point of being unprofessional, anti-corporate might be a better way of putting it. This is an old story around here, kids take over the family business and ruin it by trying to turn it into a copy of a giant mega chain store or something. I sympathize, I really do, but I also think life would be way easier for all of us if we had say paperwork for people to fill out when they want to take time off instead of our current system of employees just leaving whenever they want to and then arguing about it for weeks afterwards. This is the tightrope my brother is walking. He doesn’t have any actual authority but people know he’s going to inherit the business (because I don’t want it) and he’s in a really tricky situation. Everyone’s watching him but he can’t actually change anything. When I talked to him about our admin problems he told me the only thing we can do about it wait for my dad to die. Everyone knows the only reason I have my job is because my mom made my dad hire me. I’m not actually qualified (or good at it) and I don’t have grounds to try to change anything on my own.
It’s almost impossible to talk to my dad. Everyone I know is terrified of him. I can’t even explain why because he’s not a bad person but it’s not just family. Nobody at work ever wants to talk to him either. People come to me to get me to go tell my dad things. My mom thinks it’s because he’s unpredictable. You never know how he’ going to take anything and sometimes he flips out at you when you’re just trying to help. He doesn’t stay mad for very long, generally, but he’s got a way of yelling at a person that makes you feel small. I’ve been yelled at in the past. I’ve had fights with bosses and school administrators and my very formidable grandmother and nobody has ever made me feel as bad as my dad can make feel. I don’t understand it. My brother won’t even talk to him at all and they work in the same room all day. I don’t even dare mention that the wall of tits makes me feel weird. I don’t even know how to start. I asked my mom about it but she says you have to pick your battles very carefully, at least the customers aren’t seeing this stuff any more.
This all came to a head yesterday when there was a postcard with a naked woman on it in the mail. I’m 90% sure it was an ad. I threw it out and my dad’s secretary flipped out at me, even though it’s an expected part of my job to sort the mail and I’ve been reprimanded for failing to recognize adverts and dispose of them in the past. She got it out of the trash and propped it up on the desk, where it’s stayed, sitting in between the photo of my brother with his first turkey and the portrait of me from senior year of high school. I’m not great at math to begin with and it’s especially hard when I have a pair of nipples staring at me. I am trying to work. In a fucking office. If the damned thing stays there I will snap and tear it up, damn the consequences.
Not In My Office