Our Spy On The Upper East Side: Flirting In The Workplace

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Flirting in the workplace is a God-given right and a heck of a lot less lethal than going all the way with your boss.

I’ve always wondered about those all girly jobs in PR or cosmetic industries where you only work with women and talk mostly about anorexia or the latest under eye concealer. Sure, you can trade gossip on the J. Sisters bikini wax techniques, but what’s the fun in getting dressed up for work if no one’s around to appreciate the gold-flecked body powder you’ve tossed down your cleavage ? A fun and frisky flirt is what every girl needs and don’t fool yourself, you can still get ahead that way.

I’ve now reached the age where I can call anyone "honey" or "cutie" without fear of sexual harassment, but in truth I’ve flirted throughout my career and it never boomeranged because I was also smart and a master at sizing up political potholes.

During the first summer I worked for Helen Gurley Brown at Cosmopolitan magazine, Bill Clinton was running for president and making the rounds of New York fundraisers one of which was being held on a sweaty August night in my apartment building. Blonde and tan wearing a white t-shirt and red shorts, I stood in the lobby holding Otis, my King Charles spaniel. Clinton and I ended up alone without the ubiquitous security detail but with him petting my dog. And, as I recall, me. His hand started the downstroke on the fur and ended on my t-shirt. HGB was so proud of my escapade; I was her ultimate Cosmo girl, though she would have given me the Nobel Prize had I taken it one step further. It was a flirt all in the name of investigative journalism.

Pretty and smart is still an unbeatable work combination. I know one big city mayor who used to run a high profile company and only wanted pretty girls around his bullpen. The overweight young woman whose bra straps always showed, and who had the unfortunate habit of burping out loud, lasted minutes before being moved quickly to another floor.

I did start out my career in the women’s magazine industry but quickly tired of conversations about hemlines and moved into areas that exposed me to eligible and attentive authors and newsmakers. It was a given in the days when martini lunches unlocked a writer’s block that the afternoons were a total write-off. No one cared if you returned to the office, as long as you got the interview.

Moving into the newspaper world was a different story. The newsroom was full of tough Australian journalists hired by my new boss, Rupert Murdoch. There was a camaraderie there that I hadn’t seen before. (Covering Watergate together can do that.) You conformed to this hugely sexist, hard-drinking bunch of outlaws if you wanted to get ahead. I remember raunchy late night calls qualifying every bit as “sexual harassment,” but the term had yet to be coined. And, truthfully I got some great inside tidbits by playing along as “one of the boys,” but definitely being one of the girls.

In the television business I showed up every weekday to watch the senior producer flirt with the anchor. She fed him great stories and made him look smart all in the name of what she was getting after the credits rolled. Bless that dumb anchor if it got his lovesick producer in at 2 a.m., dressed in St. John’s Knits, while the rest of us arrived with bed head, in basic sweats.

I have flirted through job interviews and intense business meetings and considered it part of the way I did my work. I always remembered HGB’s wise words when she told her disciples, “Being a great lover and a great listener are equally important.” Though I left the lover part at the doorstep I became a great listener. If you remember both Pamela Churchill Harriman and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, they were famous for an ability to rapturously focus on their subject much like a bird dog with its prey in sight .The intensity was an aphrodisiacs and a clue to how they maneuvered men so brilliantly.

Powerful men are readily seduced by the attention and devotion of clever women for whom flirting is an art form and when performed correctly, one that can have a big pay off in the work world. (Come on, just look around you.)

Not unlike a geisha, leave your flip-flops at the door and step into those Jimmy Choos—a sexy gait is worth a little hamstring ache in the long run, don’t you think?

 

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