Reader N wrote in with an interesting problem: her colleague offered to throw in her firstborn to sweeten the deal. HiLARIOUS, right? Here’s her question:
Here’s an interesting dilemma, recently a senior male colleague and a new client were haggling over price when my colleague said jokingly, “to sweeten the deal we will throw in [my name]’s first born” (I am in my 20s and have no kids), they all laughed. It has since become a running joke, to refer to my first born in all pricing discussions with this client. I feel uncomfortable whenever it happens, but don’t want to seem high-maintenance. Should I raise it with my colleague?
YEOUCH. What in the… We’ve talked before about how to deal when you work with sexist pigs and how to deal with sexist jokes from offensive clients, which may or may not be appropriate reads for you if circumstances warrant. I think it’s entirely possible here that he doesn’t mean anything by it (it can always be worse!), and that this is just a Case of the Clueless Dude, promoting the patriarchy unwittingly. I think your feelings are legitimate, though, and I do think you should shut it down. Gently, maybe, but firmly. You are not, after all, the maiden or victim in some fairytale story, and that is kind of the worst thing to me here — it calls up all those old ideas of gender roles. (In fact this is kind of unflattering to all parties here – if the client is an older woman is he saying, you remind me of a fairytale witch? If an older man, a troll under a bridge or firebreathing dragon?) Nope. The next time he brings it up I’d take him aside after the call, privately, and suggest it’s time to move on from that particular running joke. You could be even more direct and, ahead of the next client call, let him know that you’re no longer amused at the trope and everyone should move on. (Or: you could just get a mug like the one pictured! It’s available at Etsy for $15 (affiliate link).) I suppose you could take a jokey turn and address it yourself during the next time he (or the client) brings it up — alas, that’s no longer on the table! I committed my firstborn myself when I made a deal with that genie for complete and total power, sorry! But being direct with him is probably the best thing here.
(As a side note, I must say whenever I hear this kind of thing I think, GAH, who wants a baby to settle a debt, and go on a Seinfeld-ian rant in my head about how impractical the payment of a baby is. Like, have they seen babies? Do they know how fussy they are? And YOU try dealing with the hassle of hiring an appropriate caregiver…)
Readers, take it away — how would you deal with this senior colleague? If someone offered to sweeten the deal with YOUR firstborn, would you be uncomfortable? How would you deal?
Pictured at top (affiliate link).