Imbroglios

The best advice I ever heard about work? “Never get your meat where you make your bread.”

Meaning putting your swyve on that sweet-thing co-worker should be a non-starter. But I always took that to mean at work, in the office. If she consented to an off-premises meeting involving chat and drinks, and that led to something substantial then it was two adults who clearly knew the rules once they rubbed out the lines.

Of course, the opposite is just as valid. If she nixed the offer, then Mr. Horn Dog couldn’t get hurt or become an insistent pest. Why, yes, it’s just that simple.

Apparently, a lot of so-called men and alleged women claim not to know this.

Nonetheless as it becomes more and more common, or easily more reported, there are Lotharios believing themselves irresistible. All they must do is convince distressed damsels to lower their resistance and be devoured by the magnificence of them.

Some men must see women who won’t succumb their obvious charms as a challenge. These fellows must never have learned about the incalculable number of fish in the sea or moving on to the next sweetie in a pencil skirt. A woman perhaps more amenable to his lure.

Watching the kerfuffle entwining New York Governor Andrew Cuomo brought back the above’s vital lesson. One that kept me and countless other men outside the crosshairs of modern Furies, women coiled to let insignificant matters spring into all-consuming, all-inconveniencing social splatter fests.

Cuomo and I are contemporaries. We both came along at that social juncture when Dan Ackroyd’s late 1970s SNL news host could eviscerate one of his colleague Jane Curtain’s more asinine counterpoints with a brutally succinct “Jane, you ignorant slut!” Audiences would find the line funny – because through its delivery, through its clear ridiculousness, it was funny.

That sort of awareness would be lost on a generation proclaiming itself “woke.” … And humorless.

At the same time as we were maturing into men, more women entered fields once regarded as male purviews. Unlike our male mentors, we just didn’t automatically see women as domestic goddesses or solely suited for pink collar professions. Thanks to civil rights and women’s rights movements, we intuitively understood if a prospect made some position’s cut, at least served capably, he or she belonged.

Regarding him comparatively, Cuomo’s circumstances were way more rarefied than mine. During his summer breaks from Fordham, I doubt he made his money for his next semesters school essentials and partying sweating like a bastard on the assembly line at the now demolished General Motors plant in Tarrytown, New York, as I did.

Rather, I’m sure his father Mario found him a nice cosseted spot in a friend’s law office. There, his son could absorb the nuances of litigation and people availing themselves to it in manners unfound in any legal tomes.

In the same ways the younger Cuomo probably developed the subtleties of his future profession, GM prepped me for a diverse assortment of people who didn’t bother using proper grammar, wouldn’t have known which glass served for white or red wine, and lacked any restraint when it came to telling strangers to “go fuck” themselves.

That GM crucible was definitely a male hierarchal bastion. Looking back, the idea any of the women strong enough to have worked on that assembly line trotting to the foreman in order complain after one of the guys alongside her had flashed his gizmo remains laughable. Instead of “causing trouble,” which is how she then would’ve been seen by co-workers – men and women – the offended party usually came back with the always durable “That all you got?” or “Where’s the rest of it?”

Table turned. A snicker. No muss, no fuss. A grin. No waters roiled. The line rolled on inexorably until the whistle. More importantly though seldom overtly acknowledged the intended target of belittlement gained a further tick of respect from her male co-workers.

By handling the matter and keeping it between the two, she also demonstrated to other women on the line how such pests should be handled. At best, this encouraged them all.

But let’s say she’d instead gone whimpering to the foreman. Nothing of substance would’ve happened. Oh, maybe a “what the fuck is the matter with you?” verbal reprimand for the offender. Or maybe even a half-assed threat to write him up. But written reprimands were saved for incidents that disrupted production.

Anything that severe brought the appearance of the shop stewards. The most solid of union men, they were to buffer hourly laborers from management. Nothing else. If a foreman had it out for Joe Blow – not an uncommon occurrence – they ran interference. If Joe Blow had fucked up, they tried to lessen the penalty.

These guys would’ve been quite unhappy to talk about somebody else’s weasel.

Those molten summers inside that loud grimy GM plant prepared me well for professional life. While the colleagues I worked beside in the future have been better educated and more polished, the worst the dumber ones threw at me couldn’t phase me much after Tarrytown. There, the lesson taught over and over again was one had to give it back. If not, you got more.

That also extended to bosses. It’s amusing listening to trembling nervous virgins recite stories about how abrasive, how demanding, how tough Cuomo treated them as boss.

Oh! The agony!

Duh. Yeah. He’s the boss, not your buddy, not your pal. Want to get on his good side? Want to stay on his good side? Easy enough. Every boss expects his or her subordinates to perform their tasks competently and efficiently. Do that.

Coming from probably the last generation of American workers who expected his or her boss to be some kind of bastard or ballbuster – and was damned well pleasantly surprised when the chief turned out to be a human being instead – I see how Cuomo’s accusers could misconstrue his “flirting.” But let’s call it what it really is. Teasing.

If any viewers had been paying attention to interviews Andrew gave his brother CNN correspondent Chris Cuomo, the eldest sibling dynamic was on full display. The CNN talker was deferential into hesitant when it came to questioning the governor. Doubtlessly the newser conducts respectful interviews. After all, he reports for a reputable broadcaster, not Fox News. But until our Covid times how many had been with his brother?

Not that Chris Cuomo was slavish or reverential. Yet shared family history, the fact his brother top dog throughout their lives, blunted his usual sharpness. The elder brother perceived this. How could he not? He’d been reading his brother all their lives. Andrew Cuomo is so familiar with Chris’ tells he can likely anticipate them.

So, they play a little game. Okay. The governor plays a little game with the newsman. Andrew knows what unnerves Chris. He only goes so far as to shake him, not jar him. Watching Chris Cuomo retain his poise was interesting torture TV.

The governor probably applied the same to those younger, less experienced staffers now decrying his, um, what, attentions upon them. He was having a little fun. Readers might exclaim, “Fun!? More like anguish!”

Women would. Men? No.

There are possibly few men who haven’t had the displeasure of catching shit. Not justified criticism, but some comment that magnifies a foible. Not only magnifies but enlarges until it becomes a seemingly defining characteristic of who one is. Ignored in the hope, prayer, this out of nowhere focus finally ends, it just may, though never with any dispatch.

Andrew Cuomo is quite adept at twisting words which twist the guts of his targets. That’s why many New York State legislators and Gotham mayor Bill DeBlasio are now taking chances to stand on their hindlegs. Believing the governor fatally weakened, they sense this the moment to heap humiliation on him after his 10 years of subordinating them.

Although there are quite a good number of discordant voices against Cuomo, they still only form one pipsqueak.

Most men know the remedy against catching shit. Give shit back. Consistently returning the verbal flavor quickly dissuades it being launched in their direction. It’s no great secret. In fact, it’s human nature. Shit slingers can’t handle being smeared by what they’ve tossed.

Unless it’s guys like me. We do our utmost to give better than we’ve ever gotten.

Men, however, we can parry. Women can’t. At least most of them can’t. Their recourses are accepting or rejecting it. If the governor’s, what do we call them, entreaties were so bothersome, they needed to have made their distaste of these clear.

Andrew Cuomo, a smart man, a wily executive, would’ve done the rapid calculations the situation demanded and retreated. His being put in his place doubtlessly also would lifted his esteem of them.

As beloved former New York Yankees shortstop and later team broadcaster Phil Rizzuto would’ve said with Brooklynese flourish, “Holy cow, White! They showed me somethin’!”

Moreover, it’s never been a bad thing to be held high in the boss’ regard.

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