“No one has ever told me that it’s wrong to do what I just did. I have had no guidance.
That’s why I need you.”
I am on the phone with Brian, and while I am upset that he has called me this late in the evening with a mentorship request, I feel compelled to find a way to guide him.
“Tell me, where did you really get that expensive watch you were wearing today?” I ask. I have no idea why my mind has gone that way.
Brian takes a deep breath. “It was a gift,” he says.
“Aha. From who?”
“An old friend. Someone who used to be very close to me but we lost touch.”
“Alright,” I say. For some reason his answer has set my red flag waving, but I can’t put my finger on why, exactly — it’s not unusual for friends to give other friends gifts, is it?
“Anyway, if you send me a formal e-mail tomorrow with a politely worded request, I promise to think about it.”
“Just think? I was hoping for a yes …” I hear that flirtatious tone creeping back into his voice.
“It’s late,” I cut him off, “and I have a long day tomorrow. I look forward to receiving your e-mail.” And then I hang up.
I am still shaking my head at the audacity of these young children of these days and how much they lack professional manners when I go to bed. And I wake up still shaking my head in the morning. My puzzlement continues all the way to work, and when I finally land in the office and switch on my laptop, the first thing I receive is an e-mail from Brian with a very properly worded request for mentorship. I am impressed. Perhaps there is some potential there. I cannot say no to this request — but just to be sure, I call Louise to ask her opinion.
“Well, it seems to me like you’d be doing him a service,” she says. “He clearly needs to learn about workplace etiquette — and who better to teach him?”
“Hmm,” I say. “It’s just that he makes me feel weird-,”
“Liz, no!” I can hear the horror in her tone. I am also horrified that she is thinking what she is thinking.
“Louise!” I exclaim. “Not like THAT. Perish the thought. I am only interested in him on a professional level.”
“Phew!” she says.
“What I mean is, he makes me uncomfortable — and not in a good way.”
“Maybe you’re just sensitive after all the drama with Frank and Chris and everything. Or maybe he is inappropriate because he doesn’t know any better? In which case I would say, please teach him to do better. This is a great opportunity for that.”
“Hmm,” I chew my lip. “Ok, thanks for your advice. Let me see what Fatma says.”
I pick up the phone to call Fatma — and remember that I tried to call her yesterday but she totally ignored my phone call, and did not respond to my request that she calls me back. She must be REALLY mad at me. And so I try once more. This time she responds.
“Hey,” she says flatly.
“Are you OK? You don’t sound happy at all to hear from me.”
“I’m fine,” she says. Having known Fatma for many years now, I know that on the other end of this phone line, she has rolled her eyes as she says those words.
“I know you, Fatma. Are you still upset about this Louise situation?”
“Hmph,” she replies. “Even if I was, is there anything I can do about it, really?”
Yep, she’s mad as hell, and I know when she is holding her feelings in the interest of civility. So I figure it’s best to just launch into it.
“So, Brian, your new guy, asked if I would mentor him and I wanted to know what you thought about that.”
“Think about what, exactly?” It’s my turn to roll my eyes as she continues: “I mean, are you asking my opinion of him or my opinion of his request?”
“Both,” I say.
Fatma sighs really loudly this time. “Liz, you know, you always do what you want anyway, even in situations where you should consult me. So I don’t know why you’re asking me now. Si you just go ahead and do what you want?”
And then she hangs up, leaving me staring at my phone, wondering when the endless petty fights between me, her, Jo and Mariam will ever end.