Dear Evil Skippy:
I’m expecting my first baby. We told friends and family our good news, and the news is out at work too. My husband and I learned during routine tests that we are having a baby boy, and also that he has Down Syndrome. We are working on adjusting to this news – it is certainly not good news, but it is nothing that we can’t handle. Our bottom line is that this is our baby boy and we know we are going to love him.
One of my co-workers is the problem. We are “sort of” friends. This means we talk a lot at work, but hardly ever socialize otherwise. She has always been rather bossy. I did not mind before because I had no problem filtering out and ignoring the annoying stuff. It changed for me when I told her what we had learned from the tests. Her first question was whether or not I was going to terminate the pregnancy. I told her absolutely not, and she looked shocked. Now she tells me at least on a daily basis how “brave” my husband and I are and how she would never have gone through with it. I hope she is trying to be supportive, but her repeated comments make me want to strangle her. Maybe it is hormones and maybe it is just my true self emerging.
I have two requests for you. First, tell me a few Evil Skippy approaches to use with this person that I can celebrate in my mind. (I am too restrained to actually BE you, so I like to pretend). Second, what can I really do to make my co-worker drop the platitudes and also fend off well-meaning but upsetting comments or questions from the rest of the cubicle gang.
— Mom to Be
Dear Mom to Be:
You’re so sweet, just asking for a few of my “approaches.” How about ten? These should help you resist the urge to strangle anyone:
- Someone should drop a house on you just like what happened to that other wicked witch.
- Did you know that pregnancy causes uncontrollable mood swings? Feel lucky? [This one works best if you can manage a Clint Eastwood impression.]
- Are you trying to be insensitive or are you simply an idiot?
- I bet people told your mother the same thing when she was expecting you. Oh wait — they don’t have a test to pre-screen for thoughtlessness, do they?
- Whoa! Whatever you ate really did a number on your breath. I guess I am more sensitive about smells these days. Could you stop talking near me for a few months?
- Of course you would not go through with it. You’re a selfish, self-centered twit.
- When is YOUR due date? Oh, you’re not? [Glance at stomach region.] Really?
- Bring me some cake. From that bakery on the far side of town.
- Actually, I am brave because I come to work in a positive mood even though I know I am going to be asked rude and stupid questions at some point during the day.
- Don’t speak — just slap.
— Evil Skippy
Remember not to use your “outside voice” when you think these things, unless you want to have an “Evil Skippy Moment” like the person in this post.
As fun as Skippy’s suggestions might be to imagine, you probably know that they would not foster a great workplace for you in reality. The only thing you can do with this co-worker is to tell her to shut up (in a professional and respectful manner, of course). The next time she starts to make one of these comments, tell her that she needs to stop. Don’t engage in a discussion. Don’t explain. Just say, “These comments really bug me. Please stop.” If she asks why, say “I do not want to talk about it. Just stop.” Keep saying that until it sticks. If this co-worker is so dense or so rude that she continues, bring your supervisor into the mix.
You are off to a great start when it comes to handling this issue with your co-worker. I say that because of your hope that she is simply trying to be supportive even though her actions are not welcome. The emotional maturity of not taking such things personally is a wonderful asset to have – and it will come in real handy to you as a new parent (and even more so when you are parenting a teenager).
Keep in mind that if other co-workers make thoughtless comments, it also may be due to ignorance as opposed to intentional meanness. One way to prevent or minimize upsetting comments would be to take the John Wayne approach and head them off at the pass. I have an idea for how to do this. It involves a little lie. I give you Evil Skippy’s Official Permission to Lie.
Tell your co-workers that you are a big fan of Evil Skippy at Work. (That better not be a lie.) Tell them that you ran across this post and you want to share it. (That is sort of the truth.) Tell them that you aren’t implying that they are the rude co-worker or might be like her (that’s the lie), but you wanted to share some of the other information that I cited. It is a way of bringing the topic into the light, sharing positive information and letting people know that your desired mood is celebration. You are having a baby and it is a fantastic thing. Set the tone and they will follow.
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby”) was one of my role models when it came to developing this blog. I often refer to Evil Skippy at Work as “Warped Dear Abby”. (I don’t say “Dear Abby on Drugs” anymore because of the bothersome TSA incidents.) Every October, as part of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Dear Abby used to run an article called “Welcome to Holland” written by the mother of a child with Down Syndrome. It is well worth reading, so here is a link to take your co-workers there.
After sharing “Welcome to Holland” with the gang, it is time to haul out the heavy artillery. Lauren Potter is the amazing young woman with Down Syndrome who plays a cheerleader on Glee. She is a tremendous role model and a heck of an actress. I am not sure if anyone else could be such a perfect foil/partner to Sue Sylvester’s Coach.
Ms. Potter and her mother were interviewed last year and spoke out about bullying. Here is a link to the story. Unless your co-workers are creeps or dolts, this type of information should help them evolve from well-meaning (we hope) but awkward comments into true understanding and support. Give them some time, be patient and – when all else fails – play a few Evil Skippy approaches in your mind.
By the way – congratulations in advance. Parenthood is wonderful and I can tell from your letter that your son has a great head start with such loving parents.