A few years ago, before we became a nation run by a human Cheesy Poof, I was at a party with friends. Many of them were from Delaware and talking about how Joe Biden encounters were commonplace — so much so that everyone had an “Uncle Joe” story to tell.
He was VP at the time, and most of America was enthralled by his bromance with President Obama. Just a few short years later, as Biden is mulling a Presidential run of his own, the former VP is in the news for a different reason. Multiple women have come forward to say that, while not sexual, Biden touched them inappropriately and made them feel uncomfortable.
The question has now become: has the Gregarious politician intentionally done something wrong, or is he just an old timey, touchy feels guy who gets a little too comfortable unintentionally? Does it matter if it was unintentional? And, seriously, could he have possibly been reacting to the allegations any worse?
Many of the cases that have made headlines over the last few years have been black and white, clear cut cases. Weinstein is a monster. Matt Lauer: douche nozzle. Kevin Spacey: creepier than any of the SUPER creepy characters that he played. But what happens when the case isn’t clear cut… or worse, a false accusation?
When I had graduated, having only been out of college for maybe 2 or 3 years, it happened. One Monday night, around 7 or 8 p.m., I got a call from my boss. That was strange enough, but her first question was even stranger.
“What happened on Friday while I was out?”
I was confused, racking my brain. Nothing came to mind.
“Think really hard. It’s important that if you said anything in your cubicle on Friday that you tell me what happened.”
So I told her the only thing I could think of, was that four of us were in my cubicle going through old issues of magazines for awhile. Still not fully sure why that warranted this conversation. I mean I know that maybe we should have been working, but everyone needs a break every once and awhile to catch up on their latest beauty products.
That’s when she told me that a female co-worker had gone to HR to say that I sexually harassed her. My mind started running a million miles a minute. My boss said that the woman said that I told her, who didn’t report to me, but was the departmental assistant, that if she wanted to get ahead, she should sleep with me.
Suddenly, everything came crystal clear. I knew that wasn’t what happened.
I recounted my side. There
My response, “Why should we spend the money for that when we can just sleep our way to the top?”
It was a dumb joke, yes. I fully admit that part, but I clearly said we and didn’t direct it at anyone in particular. And I definitely never said she should sleep with me.
So, my boss asked for the names of the other people, some of whom were also female, who were present. Having other people there was my only saving grace, probably. Otherwise it would have been my word versus hers.
Now, there’s more to the story. Two days later she gave notice and already had another job lined up. What was told to me is that she was angling for a promotion and when one wasn’t available, she left.
So, I don’t know if she was trying to use me as collateral damage to make one suddenly become available, or what. I never saw her again. I never got to apologize if she did truly misunderstand. I also never got find out if I was just a pawn in her attempt to advance her career.
I know what happened to me is rare. False accusations are extremely rare. But I have experienced being part of that small minority where things aren’t completely on the up and up. Even though I knew that, it was a stressful experience. Would I be fired? What if people had said they couldn’t remember? Would my entire career be derailed for an admittedly bad joke?
I don’t know how to access the dark web to harvest my organs to pay my bills, and I am definitely not pretty enough to live off of my looks.
I am thankful everyday that we weren’t alone, and I can only imagine that my fears of not being believed are only amplified for victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment. We live in a society where more times than not, victims are not given the benefit of doubt. They have the burden of proof and well.
In the decade that has followed, I have made sure that even people I think of as work friends have boundaries. Some things just definitely shouldn’t be said. It was one of the scariest things I’ve experienced, and it’s one that I don’t ever want to go through again.
I am not here to say whether Biden is the fun uncle who’s a little touchy-
Padraic Maroney hails from upstate New York, suffering from middle child syndrome. His writing career began after moving to the Philadelphia suburbs while in high school. He wrote for The Bucks County Courier Times’ Reality section, written by local teenagers, and has the distinction of writing a weekly gossip column for a college newspaper at a school he didn’t even attend! His love of pop culture led him to intern at Teen People, where he met Janis
You can follow his additional adventures on Instagram: @padraicjacob