The next morning, I walked into my office around eight o’clock, set my half-empty Starbuck’s cup down, and leaned over to log into my computer. An excited voice interrupted before I could finish entering my password.
“Have you seen Julie?” Ken was that guy at the office everyone loved. He was perpetually positive, clever, and hilarious. His smile showed more teeth than an angry shark, and his laugh was a high, giggly sound that demanded everyone around him crack up. Yeah, he was that guy.
I looked up. “No, why? What’s up?”
“Just come out here. You’ve gotta see this.” The glimmer in his eye usually heralded some joke or story, but I could tell this was different.
We walked out of my office, around the floor where the recruiting teams sat, and onto the sales floor. Two women and three men stood casually in center of the floor, chatting and laughing before the workday began in earnest. Julie stood with her back to me, her long blond hair trailing halfway down her back.
I turned to Ken and shrugged. “Ok. There she is.”
He grinned. “Go talk to her.”
This was getting ridiculous, but now I was curious. As I walked past the group, all five of them turned to watch me. Then Julie turned around and waved in greeting.
Ken hadn’t let me down. She wore what looked like a perfectly normal white blouse from the back, but when she turned, I saw there might’ve been more stitching than fabric on the front. She was a very well-endowed woman, and one nipple was trying desperately to peek out and say hello. I’d never seen anything like it in my short professional career.
I swallowed hard and tried not to blush. The more I thought about not blushing, the deeper the crimson flowed. Recognizing a no-win situation when it slapped me, I said my “good mornings” and retreated as quickly as I could, pausing by Connie’s doorway with a quick, “can we talk now?”
She followed Ken and me back to my office, exchanging glances with my little instigator but receiving no information. I thanked the workplace gods he had the good grace not to say anything in the common areas. The tiniest words spoken on the floor could be heard several desks away.
“Thanks, Ken. Connie and I have it from here,” I said, leaving no room for discussion. He looked disappointed—and amused.
“What’s up, sweet pea?” That was Connie’s nickname for me when prying ears weren’t around. It was a nickname I called my mom when I was three or four, and Connie thought it was cute enough to revive. She also enjoyed reveled in the way I squirmed every time she used that particular pet name.
“Have you seen Julie this morning?”
She furrowed her brow and shook her head. “Nope. Why?”
“I think I saw her nipple.”
She barked a laugh. “What? Why were you looking at her boobs?”
“Because they’re falling out of whatever bikini top she’s wearing. She’s worn some crazy things before, but this tops them all. She’s a walking anatomy lesson today.”
“I gotta see this.”
She hopped up from her chair and raced out of my office before I could say another word. Five minutes later, she appeared in my doorway and tried to speak through breathless laughter.
“Anatomy lesson. That’s exactly what she is. Have you seen how she bounces when she walks in that thing?”
“No!” I held my palms up. “And on behalf of my people, I don’t want to.”
She spat with laughter. “Your people? Who are you now? The Gay Moses? You planning to part the Rainbow Sea?”
“Come on, Connie. Just let my people go.”
It took several minutes for the two of us to calm our laughter. Between Julie’s nipple dance and our terrible biblical references, we were practically hyperventilating.
Connie did that to me.
“You know you have to talk to her,” she said when things quieted.
“Me? Why me?”
“You’re her manager. It’s your job.”
“Uggh. I hate it when you’re right.”
“Happens a lot, I know.” She grinned. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ll do this with you. You should have a witness in the room anyway, in case she claims you tried to molest her, causing her nipple to fall out.”
I laughed, despite the queasiness I felt at the mention of a sexual harassment claim. I was gay and a gentleman. I’d never treat a woman with disrespect, but that wouldn’t stop someone from saying whatever she (or he) wanted. People would do all sorts of things if they thought they could cast blame or make a dollar.
“Fine, but we do it together. I’m simply going to stick to the facts, alright?”
She nodded. “Right. No nipple play.”
She burst out laughing as I covered my head with my hands.
An hour later, I stood behind my desk as two women walked into my office. Connie took her usual seat in the corner, while Julie jiggled her way into the chair directly across from me. Thankfully, her escapee had been carefully tucked away, though I could still see everything through the sheer white fabric of her top.
I looked to Connie. She simply stared back at me, blinking twice in silent communication. In Connie speak, that meant, “This is all on you, sweet pea. I’m just here for the popcorn.”
I turned back to Julie. “Hey, Julie. Thank you for coming to see me.”
“No problem. What’s up, boss?”
“This is an awkward conversation, so please forgive me if I fumble my words.”
“That sound serious. You always have lots of words.”
Connie stifled a laugh.
“Right. Well, today may be different.” I sucked in a breath. “I need to talk with you about appropriate work attire.”
Julie’s eyes shot to her blouse, then her skirt, which was shorter than a seventies tennis player’s shorts.
“Don’t you love this outfit? I just got it over the weekend.”
Shit. How should I even respond?
“It’s . . . lovely, but it’s not appropriate for the workplace.”
Her face fell, and she leaned forward. I thought her girls might jump onto my desk. Connie caught the horrified look on my face and a chuckle finally escaped.
She offered zero help. Traitor.
“Why isn’t this appropriate?” Julie hopped up from the chair and spun as if she were modeling. Her boobs trailed the rest of her as she spun, regaining their rightful place only after several wild wobbles.
I was reaching my wits end. “Julie, please sit down. Your outfit would be wonderful outside of work, but it shows entirely too much of you to be appropriate in the office. We need you to go home and change.”
I emphasized the “we” to make sure Connie knew she was on the hook here—and to present a unified front to Julie.
Julie plopped into the chair, crossed her arms protectively over her ample bosom, and huffed. After a moment of hard glaring, she declared, “I can’t help it if God blessed me.”
My jaw dropped. Connie lost her composure. Julie lifted her chin in triumph.
For once in my life, I said the thing I would later wish I’d said in the moment:
“Julie, God may have blessed you, but He never asked you to show those blessings to your coworkers. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Connie repeated that a hundred times over the next week.
The next morning began almost exactly as the previous one had:
Coffee on desk.
Lean over to login.
“Seen Julie this morning, boss?” His voice was laced with mirth.
He grinned and curled his upturned index finger in the universal sign of follow me. Reluctantly, I did.
That walk through the office felt longer than any since I’d joined the company. Visions of Julie flashed through my head. What would it be today? A bikini? A thong? Stripper’s titty covers? Every possible workplace violation related to clothing flashed through my mind, but none prepared me for what awaited on the sales floor.
I’d never seen anyone wear something from the eighteenth century to the office before, not even Thanksgiving week, but Julie’s pilgrim-esque outfit made me pull up short. A solid black, floor-length dress with flat, black buttons covered a white blouse with lace that poked out at the sleeves and neck. The only skin showing were her hands and face. The neck lace even covered part of her chin.
Julie hopped up from her desk to greet us. She did a full twirl showing off her outfit.
“Like it? I went shopping after our chat,” she announced for all to hear.
A dozen sales people and a few recruiters were gathered for the show. Our teams were quite efficient in spreading the word. Even that traitor Connie stood among the gathered throng. I’d have to think of some terrible prank to repay her for this.
Amused grins and covered mouths waited for my reply.
“It’s very . . . American,” was all I could think of at the time, but it struck a nerve. Everyone in the place erupted. Connie had to sit or she would’ve fallen over. Ken raced to his usual group, whispered something, and they exploded in renewed laughter.
Julie simply smiled and curtsied toward me, fanning the flames even higher.
Read My Dream Date in its entirety, if you dare.