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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Stung by PTSD

I was not impressed with my new job as an administrative assistant to a vice president at the headquarters of Target Corporation, the eighth-largest American retailer in the United States. There were many administrative assistants floating around and many vice presidents listed in the personnel directory but so far no administrative assistant had talked to me and I had not even met the vice president for whom I was supposed to be working. I had been pleased to be hired with the relatively new job title of "administrative assistant" but so far I had not had one scrap of work assigned to me. It was in the early 1970s and I had been hoping for work with more responsibility, more creativity, more...something. Something more than the awful jobs that I had already tried and fled from as factory worker, file clerk, receptionist, typist, and secretary, which were the jobs open to a young woman without connections in the early 1970s. What I got was not at all what I wanted.

For several days I sat idle in a long, narrow room that was more like a corridor lined with desks and staffed with fairly pretty young women who occasionally sat at those desks. The atmosphere was subdued, the lighting was low, no one talked to me, and my few timid questions were rebuffed with "Wait, someone will tell you what to do." They did not seem to think that waiting around at work was unusual. I looked through my desk but there was nothing much in it. I was inexperienced but I knew that something was amiss so I went wandering around Target corporate headquarters looking for clues. I skirted around upper management's dark, somber offices and into the sales department, but I quickly moved on when I saw the flashy-toothed personnel and gaudy displays of underwear tacked up on exhibit panels. I hoped that I would not have to work with them. I had no idea how one might interact with that sort of personnel or product. I went back to my desk to wait it out.

Apparently my ten-minute trek through upper management and sales galvanized Target. In just a little while an attractive, very pleasant, quite elderly man introduced himself as "a friend of the vice president" for whom I was to work. The "friend" was soft-spoken, silver-haired, tall, thin, and elegant. I was impressed with him, but was soon appalled as he explained that the vice president was very sad, he was unhappy, he was...well, he needed "a special friend". The vice president's friend pointed out the well-thumbed, cream-colored sweater of the vice president's wife hanging in the vice president's slightly open closet. It was to comfort him he whispered. This was a very intimate moment, perhaps the "friend" was actually the vice president whom I had not met? My young heart did not soften for the vice president, I did not want to know why he needed comfort, I was stung with disappointment for what I knew would soon be the loss of my job as an administrative assistant. I answered with youthful simplicity and directness, something to the effect of "No, I am here to work, not to be a special friend, I would not do that." Without further ado, the friend of the vice president picked up the phone and summoned a Human Resources Personnel witness, when she arrived he fired me. She took notes and only looked up when he hemmed and hawed about his reason(s) for firing me; so in exasperation I said, "You don't have to have a reason to fire me, if you don't want me to work for you, then I won't work for you." I was then escorted out of Target Corporate headquarters. And I have not shopped there in half a century.

It was all quite unpleasant, and it took me a while to find another job. I had been stung with what is now called sexual harassment in the workplace and I suffered PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Even today, half a century later, it is unpleasant and uncomfortable for me to recall this episode of being sexually harassed in the workplace; especially as it was followed by many, many more such incidents, including assaults. In later years I did my best to complain about sexual harassment in the hopes that things would be better for young women and men today.

Stung by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2021

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