My first review with the new boss was awkward. She tossed her dark brown ringlets behind her as she fiddled with the pen, looking down at notes on the conference room table. We covered the basics of my review and there were no concerns, and yet we sat, waiting.
As I looked across the table at her, I thought how we might have been friends in another circumstance. We were both outspoken, outgoing women in a field of men. Instead we interviewed for the same job – her job – which is why this was awkward.
“One last thing. I feel weird bringing it up. You may or may not know you’re doing it,” she said, as her pen tapped repeatedly on the table. She didn’t look me in the eyes.
I scrunched my forehead in concentration and squinted thoughtfully. A mysterious and unconscious defect? This was unexpected. “Sure, what’s that?” As always, I was the helpful employee.
“You make the Face.”
I waited for the punchline, then pulled back with a frown. “I’m sorry. What face?”
“That face, the one that you’re making right now.” She pointed at my head and made a circular motion with her finger. “You know, the one where you disagree with someone and then look at them like they’re an idiot.”
My eyebrows shot up and all I wanted was a mirror to see the reflection of what she saw. Instead I opened my mouth and couldn’t resist saying, “So, you’re marking me down on my review because I make… the Face? I’m not sure I can do anything about how my face looks.”
“I’m not putting this in your review officially. It’s just that I want to help you. You can make people feel uncomfortable.”
“Uh, thank you?” What I really wanted to say was fuck you. No one had mentioned before that I make “people” uncomfortable, but now I knew that I made her uncomfortable. What had been a professional discussion of my workplace contributions turned into a commentary on me personally, on who I was and what I look like, telling me to school my personality and my countenance to fit her expectations.
What an idiot, I thought. And then laughed because I realized that yes, right now, I was making the Face.