Joke, laugh, leave…or not?

By Go-getter Precious Singo

SCENE:
Elevator in a large office building. Precious (me) and my male middle-aged boss (“Joe”)  are headed back to the office after a lunch meeting. The elevator opens a few floors before our destination and a stylishly dressed middle-aged woman joins us on the ascent. 

Woman: Oh, you guys are going to the 15th floor?! (Now speaking to Joe:) You must be the boss, huh? 

Me: (confused face)

Joe: Why do you say that? 

Woman: Everyone who goes to that floor is really young. I figured since you were my age, you must be in charge.

All: (uncomfortable laughter) 

Three different people in business attire.
Assumptions can lead to strange places.

You must be asking yourself why I decided to put on my Ava DuVernay hat and take you into this impromptu dinner theatre. It’s because to this day, months later, I still beat myself up over this interaction. 

I had the chance, right in front of me, to practice what I preach, to speak truth to power. To state proudly that age does not equate power, intelligence, or hustle, that I could have very easily been HIS boss, or that any of the 20- somethings I work with everyday likely do more before breakfast than many people do in an entire day. But I didn’t.

I just…stood there. I stood there and said nothing.

I let this woman make an insulting, albeit correct in this instance, assumption about me and anyone else like me. I was sad for her out-of-date thinking, and I was annoyed by Joe’s ability to always be seen as the leader based on nothing but his age (and most likely his gender and race, too).

I became angry at my inaction. 


Joe and that woman probably never thought about our silly, simple elevator interaction again. The joke was made, they chuckled, they went on about their lives. Joke, laugh, leave.

Me? I have replayed that conversation a hundred times in my head (thank you anxiety!) and no matter how I play it, it’s the same scene. Joke, laugh, leave. Joke, laugh, leave. 

To be perfectly fair, on a scale of innocuous chatter to downright insulting you to your face, this falls somewhere closer to the lower end of the scale. I’ve had much worse things said around me and to me, and by comparison, this interaction certainly shouldn’t be an issue.

But it was an issue to me and I’m left carrying this weight of regret, looking for somewhere to put it down. Someone to take it from me. Something, anything, to do about it.

Barbell on floor

That’s the thing about regret though; you’re the only one it affects. It will creep up on you when you least expect it and, most likely, don’t deserve it. It will keep you warm at night and walk with you during the day. Regret will sit in the pit of your stomach and in the back of your mind, making you question every, seemingly, related topic until you barely trust yourself. 

But you must trust yourself. Trust that you will make mistakes and not end up saying something you should have. Trust that you will learn from that situation and do better next time. Trust that you deserve the same grace you seem to give everyone else in spades. Just trust. And if you can’t, grab a friend, tell them your regret, and let them trust you for you. 


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