While most of the men I encountered in the Agency were a particularly narcissistic and womanizing bunch, the women of the Agency definitely took the cake when it came to viciousness and backstabbing. It was as if destroying your fellow female colleagues was a requirement for success as a woman in the Agency. This was rarely accomplished in public view; it was most often a behind-the-scenes demolition of another woman’s reputation.
And so it happens, in every workplace – endless time-wasting meetings, gossip and trash-talking. But at the CIA we were supposed to be above all of that – we were the “cream of the crop”….
….they were discussing the staffing of our office, going over each employee and what their position was. Barry said that when my name was mentioned and Barry described me as “the blonde”, one of the women in the meeting then spent quite a bit of time arguing that I was not a blonde, I was a brunette. The woman making these claims was someone I had met once or twice in passing. According to Barry she was adamant that I was not a blonde, I dyed my hair, and she spent at least ten minutes arguing with him about it. Barry thought the story was funny; I was just appalled. Besides the fact that I have always had blond hair, why was this an acceptable topic of discussion in a front office meeting? I could not understand how the color of my hair was relevant to any staffing meeting in the CIA.
You could say that my twenties and early thirties were an endless procession of douche bags, and most of the men I encountered during my Agency career were no exception. That was acceptable to me, I never considered myself a victim, I was merely along for the ride….. However, I was not prepared nor particularly suited for the reality of the workplace dynamics, in which I spent much of my days dodging perverts and battling unseen enemies lurking behind cubicle walls….
I will never forget seeing the burning on the horizon as I drove down the road. The Pentagon had just been hit. The plane had flown right over the road as I was driving. I had just returned to the Washington DC area, where I lived, from visiting New York City and seeing the Twin Towers in person. I was currently working on a HIDTA money laundering task force with local police, DEA, and IRS agents. I was severely underemployed in the position, but I had dreams of working for the CIA one day and, as is my nature, would not stop trying.
The people in the DC area were mostly a miserable, angry bunch. But after the attacks, I noticed an extreme change. People were suddenly being much kinder to each other. People were letting other people in front of them in the gridlock traffic that makes up the Washington DC area. People were courteous, helpful and respectful.
These days, we have gotten so far away from that. We are back to being angry and hostile. Jumping to conclusions about people we don’t even know. Not listening to one another. Making personal attacks simply because we think we know where a person stands on an issue, mostly based on a social media post. We have family interactions through social media, which is sometimes fake and phony and easily misinterpreted.
I will never forget September 11th and neither will my children.
I recently posted a series of flashback excerpts from my first book, Single in the CIA. I’d like to think my writing has improved dramatically since writing that book. I now have seven published books under my belt (four are part of a short story series). As I’ve written each one, I feel my writing has become more creative. My writing now has evolved from the robotic style of CIA cable writing (also, for much of the time I was writing Single in the CIA I had a newborn sleeping on my lap). As much as I sometimes want to cringe when I read segments of Single in the CIA, I wouldn’t change the voice or what I said. I wanted it to be a sort of purging of memories, without much – if any – commentary about the events I described. I think I succeeded in my wish.
Four years later I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write for OpsLens Media Group. It’s a very different type of writing, but it has definitely helped me to improve further.
As this is my first experience as a news contributor, writing for OpsLens has been quite an eye-opener. I write a series called Underground California in which I highlight issues in the state and try to give a voice to those who do not have one. I try to paint a picture with my writing – to use my creativity to share experiences I’ve had and images I’ve seen.
The staff of contributors at OpsLens is comprised of former intelligence, law enforcement and military. They each offer print and video commentary through the lens of someone who has been there, done that. I truly have friends from all walks of life and I can say that most people who come from those lines of work tend to have fairly conservative views; “Conservative” meaning free-thinking, experience-based opinions. These people don’t get their news from memes on Facebook!
I’ve noticed something lately, and it seems to be getting worse. People seem to be offended and outraged by everything! I’ve seen it in just about every aspect of my life. These days I have been deleted, unfriended, blocked, unfollowed, called nasty names, trolled, misunderstood and just plain treated badly. And it’s not just on social media (I use the pop-in-pop-out strategy on social media as it is a necessary evil for me as a small businessperson). I have had family members, blood and otherwise, treat me with disrespect and misplaced anger. I have had old friends distance themselves from me and even call me a farm animal (huh?). It used to be we could discuss differing views and opinions and accept each other as independently thinking individuals. Now, most people can’t even bother to be civil.
A few weeks ago I made a positive, supportive comment on a fellow contributor’s article. Weeks later (did I mention I pop in and pop out?) I noticed he had responded, and not in a pleasant manner. It appeared that he was so mad at the world that he twisted my complimentary words into something to be mocked. He recently apologized for jumping to conclusions, but the lesson is still there.
And the list goes on. On another social media channel I was called a “bleached blonde hag”, “Russian bot” and told I was a “lonely and desperate” old lady by various trolls. The name-calling is rampant. On yet another channel I was contacted out of the blue after one of my articles was posted that happened to mention our president. The person decided that because I had mentioned my country’s president in a non-negative way (this reader is from another country) that he could not be connected with me on social media any more. Mind you, I don’t personally know these people, I just want them to buy my books and products. Just like everyone else, I am trying to make a living.
Oh – before I receive emails from well-meaning family members trying to give advice on how to handle these things – please, just realize I have an online persona and I do not take these things seriously. Most of my writing is done in a joking tone, playing to the fact that most people put me in the “dumb blonde” category.
Really who cares what I think? Who cares what anyone thinks? Does it really matter? It’s not all about you. Most people are only thinking about themselves and the worries they have from day to day.
Now, this is not to say that I am immune to getting sucked in to the social media rubbish – I am human. I remember back in 1995 when my best friend and I used to fire up that dial-up service, listening anxiously while a noise akin to a robot being strangled filled our ears. We would get into those chat rooms titled “hot-tub” and stir up some shit! But it was more along the lines of “I have big melons” and people knew how to laugh back then. It was fun, it was harmless.
I suppose you could say I was a troll. But a happy-go-lucky troll… With big melons.
I usually write books and stories about and inspired by my time working for the CIA. But….. I have now written a children’s picture book!
Mommy Thinks She’s a Monster is a touching children’s picture book about Moms and motherhood written from the perspective of a young child, who only wants their mommy to be present in their life. It is the story of the mother of young children who perhaps does not feel quite as attractive as she once did, or even suffers from PPD. This book is written for those moms who are never in the photograph, the moms who cannot find any clothes that fit, the moms who just don’t feel quite right just yet.
This was by far my most collaborative project yet, and probably the most fun! I had the help of some very talented people and they really brought my creation to life!
You can buy an ebook copy or a print version here. You can also purchase a print copy at most other major booksellers. If you don’t see it yet, keep checking and you can always ask your favorite bookseller to order a copy.
As always, thank you for supporting my creative projects!
…I arrived in to find a very disorganized office. Some of the people in the very large group forced in to these assignments did not even have desks to sit at yet. It was as if no one had planned for this surge of new people who were apparently so urgently needed. I was placed at a desk, but found I had no work to do…
…I had absolutely no CI experience, so I was baffled at how I could be chosen for this somewhat crucial aspect of work in this new division…
…Not that my appearance went unnoticed. During one particularly large delegation visit dinner, the Chief of a very large and prominent division spent the entire evening talking with me and not even acknowledging our foreign guests. He shamelessly insisted I sit next to him, ordered my dinner for me, offered to share his dessert with me and made sure he poured my wine himself when my glass became empty. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we were on a date. Fortunately our foreign guests were not offended and actually found his behavior rather amusing. I cannot say that the Agency participants were amused though, as I noticed the horrified looks on many of their faces during this high level SIS’s antics…