Today, as I returned from a private holiday lunch at Métier, Gretchen called out to me from her seat at the reception desk.
“Mr. Collins,” she beseeched, “I told my new boyfriend, Mark, what you do and he asked me if he could call you for some advice.”
“Is there an opening any time soon?” I asked.
“There’s half an hour between 3:30 and 4:00,” she told me. “But you should know, he can’t afford to pay you – he’s only a congressional staffer, and not too high on the totem poll.”
“No problem,” I assured her with a smile. “Any friend of yours rates a free telephone consultation whenever they want it.”
“Oh, thank you,” she sighed. “He’ll be so relieved to hear that when I tell him – he’s been so worried.”
“Okay, then,” I shrugged as I opened one of the massive oak doors leading into my office, “let’s see what can be done about that.”
Mark: Hello? Mr. Collins?
Tom: Hi, Mark. Gretchen tells me you have a problem.
Mark: I sure do, and she says you are the smartest person in Washington.
Tom: Which is a lot like being the tallest building in Baltimore.
Mark: Baltimore? You know, I’ve been living here in Washington for nearly five years, and I’ve never been there. What’s it like?
Tom: Well, how shall I put this? Let’s see – you’re a congressional staffer, so I bet you were on the debate team in high school, right?
Mark: Oh yeah, sure.
Tom: And you belonged to every club, I suppose?
Mark: Sure did – that helped a lot when I applied to college.
Tom: All Ivy League, no doubt.
Mark: You bet – I graduated from Princeton.
Tom: And back in high school, you were the student council president, right?
Mark: Yeah, as a matter of fact, I was elected twice – junior and senior year. How’d you figure that out, anyhow?
Tom: Let’s just say it was a lucky guess. And you were a nice, upper-middle-class kid, weren’t you?
Mark: Well, you could say that – my father is a doctor.
Tom: Right. And do you remember, back in high school, there was this beautiful working-class girl, whose father was a garage mechanic or a truck driver or a welder or something like that, but nevertheless, you secretly had serious case of the hots for her?
Mark: Oh, [expletive]! How the hell did you know that?
Tom: Another lucky guess. And here’s a third one: she didn’t even know you existed, did she?
Mark: No… I’m pretty sure she didn’t.
Tom: Okay, well – Washington is like you and Baltimore is like that girl. If you went there and told someone who you are and what you do, they’d look right through you like you weren’t even there. So don’t bother. Now – what’s your problem?
Mark: Um… it’s my boss, the congressman.
Tom: Who shall remain anonymous, of course.
Mark: I’d really prefer that, if at all possible.
Tom: It is. Go on, please.
Mark: Okay, well, it’s like this – I worked on his campaigns and in his organization back in his home district for a while and then I got invited to come work for him here on Capitol Hill and that was about the most awesome thing that had ever happened to me, you know?
Mark: So I guess for the first three or four years, I was looking at things through rose-colored glasses or something.
Tom: Also understandable.
Mark: But now, uh… well, things have changed.
Tom: I see. What did they used to be like?
Mark: You have to realize, it’s a real pressure-cooker environment up there on the Hill. So I wasn’t too surprised when he told everybody, “We work hard, but that’s okay, because we also play hard.”
Tom: And how hard did he play?
Mark: Uh… really hard.
Mark: Um, yeah.
Mark: Afraid so.
Tom: Big and bouncy?
Mark: Oh, my God… yes.
Tom: So – what did he do?
Mark: Well, it started out kind of, I donno, kind of funny, like… he said, for instance, “To hell with casual Fridays. Around here, it’s going to be No Underwear Fridays!” Which sounds kind of cool, in a way, but then, every Friday, he’s running around feeling behinds to check if there’s any underwear there, and that can get kind of upsetting, you know?
Tom: I can imagine.
Mark: And then, he starts talking about how much he likes slim-fit dress pants and he keeps bringing it up all the time, and he goes around slipping his hands into everybody’s pants pockets, saying stuff like, “Just checking to make sure they’re really genuine slim fit with those nice, tight pockets,” and, “Those buns would look mighty fine in a tight dress, too, baby,” and stuff like that.
Tom: Sounds a bit lecherous, all right.
Mark: And it went on to him talking about breast sizes, just about any time and anywhere. Then he began bringing bras in to work and flashing them in front of someone on the staff while everybody else was watching and he’d say things like, “Who’s the chairman of the itty-bitty-titty committee, sugar?” Or he’d say, “What’cha got there, moo-cow, a couple of double-D’s? Ya need double D’s to spell ‘udder,’ don’cha, sweetie?” And then he’d dangle the bra in front of them and say something like, “Don’t be shy! Come on and model it for us,” or, “Hey, toots, better put this on! With that thin material covering your chest, a blind duck could see you’re not wearing one of these now!”
Tom: That’s certainly behavior calculated to intimidate and degrade, I’d say.
Mark: And he got more and more handsy as time went on, too. Get near him and he was all over the place – stroking necks, rubbing backs, grabbing butts, feeling legs – you name it, he fondled it.
Tom: They say politicians are physical, but that definitely seems to be taking it to the extreme.
Mark: And his tongue – Jesus, in the ear, down the back of the neck, even elbows and knees aren’t safe!
Tom: Some kind of oral fixation perhaps?
Mark: One that involves biting, sucking and slobbering all over whatever piece of anatomy he’s decided to violate? I don’t know. And the pornography! Jesus Christ! He’s obsessed with it, and he’s not shy about showing it around, either. “Check out that position,” he’ll say, “any of you here that limber?” “Whoa – look at the size of that! Think you could handle it without choking?”
Tom: Rude, very rude, to say the least.
Mark: In my book, I’d say you’re being awfully open minded, Mr. Collins.
Tom: Regardless of the facts of a matter, I consider it my duty as a professional consultant to remain objective and avoid a rush to judgment.
Mark: All right, sure, I can see that. How about this, then? I heard it through the grapevine that the sofa in his office folds out into a queen-size bed.
Tom: Well, since members of Congress sometimes need to sleep in their offices, a single wouldn’t be suspicious, but queen-sized is definitely pretty fishy, no doubt about it.
Mark: Then I heard he had an electric door lock wired to a button in his desk so he could trap anyone he wanted right in there with him.
Tom: Coupled with the queen-size bed, that’s more than a little suspicious.
Mark: Suspicious? You want suspicious? How about this – he started taking off his pants and sitting there behind his desk, ready-teddy, so he could stand up and ask for a kiss below the belt!
Tom: That’s approaching perverted, there.
Mark: Approaching? How about calling staffers into his office, jumping out of the coat closet stark naked, locking the office door with that secret button and chasing them around that sofa bed while wielding a fifteen-inch, extra wide pepperoni?
Tom: Bingo! You got it – that’s totally perverted.
Mark: I mean, how can you even look at a pizza after that without feeling sick to your stomach?
Tom: Yeah, I can see how that might be a challenge, to say the least.
Mark: It’s total hell, Mr. Collins. What do you think should be done?
Tom: Well, first of all, do you know if any of these unfortunate, exploited, persecuted, oppressed and humiliated women in this congressional office you’re describing are willing to come forward and let the truth be known?
Mark: Women? He hasn’t done a damn thing to any of the women.
Tom: You mean… he’s been doing these things to his male staff?
Mark: Yeah, and over the last year, it’s been getting worse and worse!
Tom: Wait a second here… what about that business you described with the bras? Double-D’s and all that?
Mark: Um… a couple of the guys are… well… they’re kind of fat, actually, and they have these pretty big man-boobs.
Tom: And he taunts the skinny guys with little A-cup bras, then?
Mark: Or trainers. And there’s some of the guys who work out and are really buff and have these awesome abs, and he goes after them with like, B or C cup bras.
Tom: Okay, I get the picture. In that case, what do the women staffers in this weirdo’s office think about the situation?
Mark: Well, a lot of them think it’s funny, actually.
Mark: Yeah, they say stuff like, “It’s high time you male chauvinists got a dose of your own medicine,” and “Now you know what we’ve had to put up with for our entire lives,” and “Better you stupid ball sacks than us.”
Tom: Certainly, they can’t all be like that, though.
Mark: No, not all of them – there are a few who think that what the congressman is doing shouldn’t happen to anyone, even men. But after they express their sympathy, almost all of them say we should just put up with it.
Tom: Really? Why?
Mark: Because if it comes out in public, the congressman will be under pressure to resign. And actually, I think his congressional colleagues might convince him to do that, too. But even if he doesn’t resign, if the voters back in his district find out about how he behaves in Washington, he could very well lose the 2018 election – hell, he might even lose the primary. And then all of us – women and men both – we’d all be out of a job. Which brings me to the last group of women on the staff – the ones who like their cushy Washington congressional staff jobs working for this flaming deviant and threaten to castrate any guy who blows the whistle on him.
Tom: No pun intended, I assume.
Mark: Oh… oh yeah. Strange you should say that, because I was about to mention, he’s been leaning on me pretty hard to put on those leather kneepads he keeps in his desk drawer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that among consenting adult males, but listen, Mr. Collins, you can ask Gretchen, she’ll tell you, I’m straight! Completely! Not even a little bit gay! Not even bi, for Christ’s sake! And believe me, there would be nothing consensual about it! Please, Mr. Collins, show me a way out of this that doesn’t involve me losing my congressional staff job and then getting neutered by an enraged alpha-female co-worker for losing hers, too!
Tom: Well, I’m no shrink, but one needn’t be Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing to see that your congressman’s behavior is a desperate cry for help.
Tom: Yes, help.
Mark: What do you mean, “help?”
Tom: The first thing you need to realize, Mark, is that his behavior isn’t motivated by eroticism, it’s motivated by a vexed emotional conception of power. Just like Donald Trump grabbing snatch at his beauty pageants, or District Attorney Roy Moore fondling teenagers at the local shopping malls, or Bill Clinton using a White House intern’s private parts as a cigar humidifier. It’s not about sex – it’s about power. And by behaving as he does, your boss is broadcasting a message about his power problem.
Mark: A message? What is he saying?
Tom: First, you need to understand that initially, when be began this behavior of subjecting his male subordinates to sexual stressors, he was attempting to deal with deep-seated feelings of inadequacy, brought on by the realization that he isn’t, in fact, capable of functioning effectively in high political office, compounded by an uncontrollable urge to occupy one nonetheless. But he who is his own doctor has a fool for a patient – your boss was self-prescribing a remedy he imagined would ease his psychic pain. Instead, the subconscious guilt and remorse he experienced after engaging in this sort of behavior ended up goading him to escalate its intensity and frequency as he constantly attempted to extend the brief period of psychological equilibrium he experienced during and shortly after each act.
Mark: Damn! When you put it that way, it sort of makes sense. So it’s like… a vicious cycle or something?
Tom: Correct. And what is needed is introduction of a new element that will break that cycle and provide the congressman with a means to achieve a sustained, manageable state of psychological equilibrium.
Mark: Which would be – what?
Tom: Tell me, Mark, aren’t there at least a few people on the staff who are so freaked out by all the congressman’s insane shenanigans that they would work with you to execute a plan to do something about it?
Mark: Oh, sure, plenty of them!
Tom: Any of them in a position to hire a new staff member?
Mark: Uh-huh, absolutely. Right off the bat, I can think of at least two.
Tom: Okay, so get a team of willing cohorts together and dummy up a consensus that the work load has increased to the point where an additional staff member is needed, then have one of those two people with hiring authority bring that newly necessary staff member on board.
Mark: Okay, but who?
Tom: Someone I will send you.
Mark: What kind of… someone?
Tom: Someone special.
Mark: Special? How?
Tom: A transvestite dominatrix.
Mark: Uh… transvestite? Dominatrix? I’m confused. Are you talking about a woman who dresses like a man, or a man who dresses like a woman?
Tom: The latter.
Mark. Oh, okay. So we get a drag queen who likes to whip people?
Tom: No, drag queens are a different sort of thing. What you will get is a beautiful, foxy, attractive cross-dressing male who is paid to, among other things, whip people. And you will put him on the congressman’s staff under a woman’s name. And you will pay her regular staff salary plus a bonus for the additional services she will render.
Mark: Bonus? How big a bonus?
Tom: This person will be a professional, and as such, will require appropriate compensation. I’d estimate somewhere between seventy-five and one-hundred and twenty-five percent additional.
Mark: Holy [expletive]! That’s going to take some really creative bookkeeping!
Tom: Maybe. But what’s it worth to the guys at the office if they can stay here in DC and not be sexually harassed at work? I’d suggest you all just chip in ten percent of your own salaries to get the bonus money.
Mark: Well… yeah… it should be worth the cost… if it works.
Tom: No worries there, Mark. It’ll work. Now, when is the next time you and Gretchen will see each other?
Mark: Um, that would be Saturday. We’re going to see that new installation at the Renwick Gallery, then have dinner at Busboys and Poets, then go to the 9:30 Club, and then after hours, we’re…
Tom: Okay, right, and some time in there, Gretchen will give you an envelope with the name and contact information for the one of the top five transvestite dominatrix professionals in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Discuss the details with that person and onboard them as a new female member of the congressman’s staff.
Mark: Then what?
Tom: Leave it to the professional, Mark. Inside of two weeks, your congressman will be on the floor of his office, wearing those kneepads – and a ball gag, handcuffs, a dog collar and a vinyl face mask – with that pepperoni situated right where it belongs, and getting soundly whipped with a lamb skin flail, finally achieving that balance of power he’s been seeking since his babysitter screwed up his potty training with a series of Ex-Lax enemas.
Mark: Okay, but… I mean… well, hell, what if the congressman figures out that his dominatrix is really… you know… a man?
Tom: Oh, that? Yes, well, that will probably take a while, most likely a few months. But when it finally happens, the adaptive correctional cognitive dissonance of discovering that the dominating mother figure is actually a father figure will function like a course of electroshock therapy treatments and essentially cure his condition. The professional can then refer him to a psychoanalyst, who will maintain him on a regime of weekly talk therapy and anti-anxiety medication.
Mark: And that will be it? No more sexual harassment, ever again?
Tom: Not from your boss, anyway. But remember – there are plenty of other deviant predators prowling the halls of Congress, and nature abhors a vacuum. And those guys seem to have a sixth sense about it, too – it’s like they can smell a sexual harassment opportunity a hundred yards away.
Mark: Well, if that happens, at least they can be publicly denounced without everybody in my office putting their Capitol Hill jobs in jeopardy.
Tom: Yes, there’s that, certainly. And who knows – maybe it will even be your boss who is one of the members of Congress self-righteously calling upon that miscreant pervert to resign.
Mark: Whoa, yeah… won’t that be ironic? Okay, thanks, Mr. Collins, I’ll be looking for Gretchen to give me that envelope on Saturday so I can get started on creating an harassment-free work environment where everyone can strive to reach their full potential without worry or fear.
Tom: Not bad, Mark. Nice little sound bite there. Have you considered running for Congress yourself?
Mark: Aw, yeah, I got to admit it. So you think it sounds like I have what it takes?
Tom: Indeed, Mark, but if you ever do get elected to Congress, you must promise me one thing.
Mark: What’s that, Mr. Collins?
Tom: Behave yourself with the staff, okay?
Mark: Oh, yeah, sure – you can count on it.
Tom: I will. Goodbye.