When I worked for AP, aged 22-24, I was often asked during press conferences what college newspaper I represented. And while sometimes the weight of my employer's reputation worked in my favor, often it wasn't enough to garner any respect for my still-teenaged face. Now I'm 28 years old and a U.S. diplomat, but I still find that to be the case sometimes.
To wit: This weekend, a bunch of us went out to celebrate a friend's birthday. We were at a popular downtown bar, and all of a sudden I noticed that a mid-level, middle-aged government official from an agency I regularly deal with was sitting at a corner table. Feeling ever the diplomat (we're never off-duty, you know), and not yet hit by the impact of the two tequila poppers I had just had, I decided to go over and say hi. I should mention that I had just seen him in a meeting two days earlier, in which I had quite harshly given him a piece of the U.S. Embassy's mind regarding allegations of corruption in his office. And when I said hello this weekend, he looked at me blankly. I barely had time to identify myself before he grabbed me around the waist and began to twirl me about in a bizarre, awkward version of swing dancing. As soon as I was able to disentangle myself from his grasp (about 30 seconds later), I went back to my table. (Though my friends had noticed the clearly-not-my-type middle-aged man groping me, none of them bothered to come to my rescue.) He followed me, tried to dance with me again, and when I demurred, grabbed my hand and kissed it. Then he shoved his hands into his pockets and produced handfuls of carnation blossoms. He pulled them out of the outer pockets of his jacket, the inner pockets of his jacket, the pockets of his pants and who knows where else. I began to get uncomfortable by his attention (and not a little annoyed that this fellow whom I had soundly scolded was treating me like just another woman to hit on at a bar). Finally he left, and eventually disappeared out the door. He returned a few minutes later with an enormous bouquet of flowers, which he brought over to me. After that failed to produce the desired result, he let me be to flirt with other women.
Gee, wonder whether he'll take me seriously the next time I have to deliver a harsh message?