I’m A Bad Sport Bitch

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It’s 1991, and I’ve been hired at WKRC in Cincinnati (it’s a real station, look it up). They’re changing formats – sort of. They want to be part of the great Talk Experiment, and it’s my first full time gig. The problem is they only want a talk show from 10 am- 2 pm M-F; the rest of the time it’s oldies music. Oh, and then there’s the cinder block wall of a half hour newscast from Noon to 12:30, followed by 15 minutes of Paul Harvey.

Thinking I had a shot of making that horrible format work (ah, youth!), I took the job they offered me at the interview and agreed to move my family to Cincinnati in a few weeks. I was to start Monday.

That first day – April 1st – I’m ready to prove my mettle: The news ends, the sweeper plays and I’m waiting for “Wild, Wild West” by Escape Club to play. Instead the guitar riff from ‘The Bitch Is Back’ by Elton john starts cold.

I sit there for a minute blinking. First, I think the producer has made a mistake, but then I see the look on his face, he’s smiling. I’m confused and am trying to focus on opening my first show, and I realize the PD is at the door laughing, along with any number of male colleagues. It dawns on me what music is playing and I am hurt: Mortified, angry, humiliated. I feel the sting of tears in my eyes as I realize what they are doing to me. I swallow, breathe, smile like I’m in on the joke and open the mic and the show.

What I assumed was an April Fool’s first-day-on-the-job hazing was to be my regular music: My PD refused to allow me to use any other intro but ‘The Bitch Is Back.” Every. Single. Show.

Walking into that studio to hear myself called a bitch everyday was beyond degrading, but my male colleagues made sure I knew I was in a ‘Man’s Business’ and heaped the humiliation on me.

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WKRC Part 2 – “You’re just not a good sport,” my Program Director was telling me at the end of my first week. You know, the one that started with my being forced to use ‘The Bitch Is Back’ as my theme music.

I’m sitting in my PD’s office for a sound check and show meeting – an event that shouldn’t even happen for a few weeks that he has turned into a daily exercise in torture that lasted at least an hour.

My ‘not being a good sport’ was because I had complained to him that the day before I found the picture of my 3 1/2 year-old son I had put on my cubical wall with red thumb tacks driven through the eyes. I was furious, and put a note up next to the picture, “This isn’t funny. This is a picture of my son, who is 1,200 miles away and whom I miss very much. His grandma sent me this picture.” That morning when I got to work the tacks were back in his eyes and more tacks outlined his smile, with 2 pennies taped to the note. I was apoplectic. The morning guy’s producer sauntered by and informed me that I had no sense of humor and admitted his boss had done it. Maybe I was not fit to be in radio, opined the teenager who had never – EVER – been on the air.

I listened to my boss tell me how I needed to roll with the punches, him being oblivious at how he utterly abused and misused the metaphor. You’re not supposed to dodge punches from your co-workers!

I couldn’t get back to my hotel room at the Omni fast enough, so I could call my son and ground myself – remind myself why I was doing this. As I was changing from my suit into my sweats I had the radio on, listening to the station. A promo came on that made me stop dead – my foot poised above my sweat pants. “Win lunch for your office for Secretary’s Day!! All you have to do is send Claudia Lamb a picture of you sitting in your bosses lap!!”

I tripped on my sweat pants, sprawling on the floor in my rush for the telephone to ask my boss what the hell was going on.

“Isn’t it great?” said my PD – I could hear him leering on the phone.

I spoke eloquently about how dehumanizing and sexist this promotion was and how it contributed to a culture of misogyny, and how I didn’t want the stink of it on me. He admitted that it was a publicity stunt he dreamed up to get some cheap publicity for my show. I was aghast and strenuously objected, but I was contractually obligated to participate.

The following Monday I read the promo liner cards in my utmost cardboard voice. I was white hot furious at being dragged into a sexist promotion. It was bad enough they were still calling it Secretary’s Day, but to drag me into humiliating people so they can eat? A few minutes later one of my callers lit into me, she couldn’t believe I’d do something so sexist. I told her that I found the whole thing in appallingly bad taste, but that I was a professional and would meet the terms of my contract.

The blow-back was swift and severe, and for the most part I avoided being the brunt of it. People were furious at my boss and the calls poured in that first afternoon – my boss grinning and loving it. The next day someone in corporate HR told him that the station could be liable if there were a sexual harassment suit filed and that promotion was pulled like a needle across a record.

He saved face by giving the prize to a small business owned by a married couple. He honestly thought the avalanche of shit he brought down for his sexist promotion was a success.

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WKRC Part 3 – The hits kept coming when, about a month after I stared pushing a rock uphill for 4 hours a day, my PD announced we would be getting station jackets. He had decided on a Members Only-style silver satin jacket with the station logo on the back, and the employee’s name embroidered on the front.

Sure the style may have been half a decade late, but the good news was we would have to pay for it ourselves. This was something the PD didn’t bother to tell anyone before taking their size and ordering. I remember him walking around the station hitting people up for $60 to pay for their own company branding, and the stunned looks on everyone’s face. One person told him they’d have never ordered the jacket had they known they would have to pay for it themselves, and the PD grinning, “I know. That’s why I didn’t tell anybody. I wanted everybody to be wearing one!”

When the big day came and the jackets finally arrived the PD stood with a crowd gathered, handing them out of the box in a fashion that suggested they were gifts he had paid for. He made a show of handing each person their jacket.

Mine was one of the first he handed out – when the crowd was the largest. The PD took it out of the plastic bag it was in and held it up for all to see, first showing it to the left and to the right.

‘Bitch’ was embroidered in large cursive letters on the left breast. The assembled crowd roared with laughter. That asshole made me pay for my own jacket, and then ruined it with the repulsive epithet he knew offended me.

I again felt the sting of tears, but wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry, and gamely grinned. I snatched my jacket out of his hand and left the laughing crowd, going back to the desk upon which I knew I couldn’t put a picture of my family without it being defaced.

That night at home I took a pair of manicure scissors and tweezers and carefully cut that vile epithet off of my jacket. I painstakingly pulled every black thread out of the silver satin, and in the morning took it to a tailor on the way in to work, explaining what I wanted done.

A few days later I sported my WKRC jacket into work – with the name Claudia embroidered in cursive over my left breast. My PD was angry I’d changed the jacket he was so proud of. I was again told how little sense of humor I had – I was a bad sport.

Thankfully that job lasted only 4 months. The parent company switched formats again, and paid off my contract in full.

I earned every penny the hard way.

 

The sad thing is: I haven’t finished telling the worst stories of the sexism I have experienced over the years, and ‘Grab them by the pussy’ is long out of the news cycle. Sexual assault is passé and old news.

And that, my friends, is how rape culture festers: Society loses interest in the issue, and in doing so tells those who have survived that their story really doesn’t matter that much. Or, worse, in revealing what actually happened to us we will be judged or met with disbelief.

It wasn’t okay then, It’s #NotOkay now. #SexismIsReal
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With the election of Trump and the validation of racism, sexism misogyny and homophobia it’s only a matter of time until the bullying begins again.

For fuck’s sake – We elected a man who bragged about sexual assault.

Shame on us.

 

The Price Of Love

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I’ll let you in on a secret: I hate Valentine’s Day.

Really.

The modern holiday as it’s celebrated is nothing but a way to separate you from your hard earned money.

There is nothing religious about the day, as it was initially celebrated. People don’t look to the saints who were honored in the past, nor is there a rush to attend any masses in their honor.

No, these days we honor Saint Hallmark and Saint Godiva and Saint FTD as we meaninglessly toss more consumer goods at one another in the name of ‘love’.

According to the History Channel, American’s started exchanging Valentine’s greetings as far back as the 1700s. The first mass produced cards were from a woman named Ester A. Howland, who used lace, ribbons and colorful pictures in 1840. So, yes, the tradition of exchanging cards dates back more than 250 years. That’s fine.

What I take issue with is that it stopped being a day to let loved ones know they are in your thoughts and your heart in a simple way with a heartfelt message. Rather, it has become a day where we feel obliged to give our loved ones over-priced flowers, candies, stuffed animals, jewelry, fancy dinners and expensive electronics.

Does that seem right to you?

Why do we let ourselves get manipulated by the same businesses that tell us Christmas isn’t really here until you’ve spent more than you can afford to shower your family with things they don’t need?

And really – it’s men who end up getting the short end of the stick on this one. Let’s just look at what the average man is expected to do for the average girlfriend or wife:

A quick check on the internet shows that a dozen long stem roses start at $30 (tax and delivery not included!) – and that’s supposed to be a deal. Flowers, check. A card is going to run you another $5. Card, check.

Now the question is do you spring for a box of chocolates? ($12) A teddy bear with a heart sewn on its chest? ($15) Some balloons? ($10) Check, check and check.

But that’s all just the lead up to the expensive ‘romantic’ dinner that he’s expected to shell out for when prices are jacked up for the evening. Yes, it’s so romantic to go to a crowded restaurant to get rushed through dinner so they can turn the table for the next poor schmo who’s buying a dinner he can’t afford because he’s been pressured into thinking he’s not a good partner unless he does so.

At dinner there’s supposed to be the big reveal of the actual gift. Perhaps it will be some costume jewelry, or if he’s feeling really pressured some actual high end stuff. Maybe it’s a new e-tablet or an iPhone. God knows car dealerships think this is a day where people are buying each other new rides. (Does anyone actually do this?)

The point is that a guy can easily fork over $250 and not be doing anything high-end. Again – does this seem right to you? The thing is, there’s absolutely no reason anyone should be doing this.

Let’s face it – Valentine’s day has become a competition. It’s not about love or affection. It’s about who has the biggest flower arrangement at work. That’s a shame, too,  because it sucks the fun out of giving or receiving tokens of affection if you have to do it.

I’ve heard people defend the ‘holiday’ and the waste of money by saying it’s nice to have a day that’s special and romantic. Agreed. But, why does it have to be February 14th? I mean, there are 364 other days you could pick to celebrate your romance. All right – 360, because most people are already busy on Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and make their anniversary a special occasion. Why not have a romantic evening because you want to, and not because you feel obliged to because it’s half way through February?

My husband and I take the time to wish each other a happy Valentine’s Day with a kiss and a hand written note. We refuse to be manipulated into spending money on gifts for each other on a day that has no meaning to our relationship. In fact, I have told my husband that I would be disappointed if he spent $30 on a dozen roses that will go for half the price a week later, and be dead by then.

I’m great with not getting flowers on February 14th, because I know that I will get them on an odd Tuesday in March or a Thursday in July. My husband will surprise me with flowers for no particular reason at all, which is far more pleasing than getting them because he felt he had to. We’ll celebrate our relationship with a romantic dinner on the spur of the moment, whether it’s a picnic in the park or a candle-lit restaurant. We don’t let retailers define when we celebrate our love.

The point is this: Why do people salivate in a Pavlovian manner at the ringing of the fabricated holiday bell? Why don’t you make your own traditions? Let the herd get manipulated into spending money, but don’t be one of them. Find a way to make your own time special, and in doing so truly celebrate the one you love.