Flavor of the Week: Intern or Working Girl?

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:14

    I knew it was weird when my invitation to the “no boys allowed” office party was sent via text message and followed by a grainy picture of a shirtless guy with a banana sticking out of his fly. I had just started interning at a PR firm for school credit, trying to make my way through the swirl of city life in my second year of college. Despite my better judgment and the strictly female invitation, I went to the party and brought a friend, as well as a male intern at the firm who was finally allowed to come. After about seven shots of leftover-from-someparty Svedka, I was beginning to get as drunk as my co-workers.

    Seeing as how my first conversation with the boss, let’s call him Alan, was about how coincidental it was that I was from the same small California town that he and his wife were just recently married in, I wasn’t expecting him to try to fuck an employee about half his age. But then he started going on about how fond he was of the interns. He slurred to me, “You know your body makes the office a much more interesting place to work. You’re my favorite intern, Lindsay.

    Your just so smart and innocent, so pure.” Then he tried to kiss me. I slapped him in the face. He thought it was funny, calling it a game named Slap the Intern, and he slapped me back. At that point I should have left, but I saw the opportunity to slap the shit out of the fat fuck—and I didn’t want to lose my job or the credit—so I stayed there slapping the bastard in the face. I’m sure it turned the creep on; by the end of the night he was tackling me to the ground, pretending to have fallen while simultaneously grabbing my ass and laughing. I considered this an opportune time to take my leave, and I quietly snuck out as he groped one of the few remaining interns.

    The next time I went to work, Alan called me into his office and tried to play off the night like it was all a big laugh. He nodded at the rip in my tights and added, “Looks like you need a sugar daddy.” He offered to front me twice the amount expenses were worth, handing me $140 in cash. I told him I couldn’t stay to work because I had something for school, and left with the wad of hush money. Though it might have been detrimental to the integrity of my internship, what was I supposed to do? One hundred and forty bucks is a lot of money for someone who’s been living off potatoes and eggs. After that day, there was an apparent change in the way he treated me. My work went from organizing Excel lists to taking out the trash and cleaning the office. I knew he liked to order me around with menial work; I knew it was all part of solidifying the dominance he had established when I chose to take that money instead of quit. But it all came down to the fact that I needed the school credit, and none of it was offensive enough to jeopardize my relationship with the company and lose a reference.

    So I humored him. I took out the trash and laughed at his stupid antics, I accepted the cigarettes and drugs he offered me, but I also came in hours late and did less work than anyone there. An understanding seemed to have been established between us: I was an office decoration; and because I knew what a creep he was, I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t feel like doing. He said, “We just like having you around… you look good in the office, Lindz.” (I later found out that Alan had given secret instructions to one of the male interns to post an ad on Craigslist asking for female interns—headshots must be included with the resume— and that once he had compiled a list of 50 girls, the guys at the office would choose the hottest ones.) One night after I had finished working the door at an event, I was draining what was left of the open bar, trying to avoid the hangers on of what was already a lame party. A round, greasy man with a few shreds of hair left approached me. “So, what are you doing here, are you in the fashion industry?” I told him I was working at the PR firm that threw the party, and he asked what they were paying me. I told him nothing and he quickly responded:

    “Well I own a PR firm too, come for me I’ll pay you twenty bucks an hour.” I said I would consider it and took his card as he weaseled my number out of me. The rest of the night my phone was buzzing with his text messages, trying to get me to accompany him to various bars, saying he’d take me to a party that Michael Phelps was at—you know, stupid shit that would impress a naïve little girl. He didn’t need an intern in the same way Alan didn’t need one. It’s all an excuse to have access to young girls, a way of masking their true intentions of getting some college-age ass. The validity of the internship comes into question, as well as how long and to what degree you’re willing to objectify yourself to keep the job. I eventually chose to salvage my self-respect and find a job where I wasn’t just a decoration. ------

    Lindsay Maharry can usually be found missing the L train or pretending to be 21. She is currently an intern at the New York Press— where she has yet to be harassed.