For most of my working life I have been a trader of stock options on a trading floor filled with men. My history with women has been pretty thin. In high school I was short, shy and skinny. Even later when I had filled out and had become better looking I still had that image of myself and I was especially afraid of rejection. I’d talk to a girl for a long time, but be afraid to ask her out because I might be turned down and I didn’t want to look like I had been just talking to her because I was hitting on her. I asked my first girlfriend to a fraternity formal and I had to lead into the request with a 20 minute story.
I have always respected strong, smart women, and I’ve treated women well in my life, but as Chris Rock said “Men are basically as faithful as their options.” One of my best friends in high school is a rich doctor who just got married to a girl about 23 years his junior. He spent the last 30 years or so basically dating a pretty 28 year old drug representative who he replaced every two years with a younger version. He is tall, smart, athletic and good looking and when I first met him in Junior High, he stuck up for me when I was being picked on by asking the other kid, “Do you know how much smarter he is than you?”
His success with women has always amazed me and I’ve always challenged him on his crassness with no success. Every one of his girlfriends that I’ve met all claimed that they are going to change him, and I’ve laughingly told each and every one of them that they were wrong.
This is graphic and I may even admit that I’ve laughed at some of it, but it goes to show how awful men can be and how somehow women put up with it.
When he was at med school he had a girl in his room and got bored with her and told her that she had to leave because he had another girl coming to be with him soon.
I once asked him if he’d ever spent a meaningful night with a woman where no sex was involved and he said “No why would I?”
Most of his party dates consisted of him going to talk with the men and his girlfriend going to talk to the women.
He once broke up with a girl that he was engaged to because she was so dumb that he claimed that “he got sick of explaining sit-com jokes to her.”
I kept asking him why he didn’t date someone of equal or greater intelligence than him and he said, “Look at this here. This girl I’m seeing now. I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, she blows me and then she goes right back to sleep. You can’t put a price on that.”
I went out to dinner with him and some of his friends. Their best compliment for a woman was that she was “a great girl.”
Once he was dating a girl and she received a four page letter from his ex telling her essentially that he would treat her well, he wouldn’t cheat on her, he would take her on great vacations and buy her nice things, but that he would never marry her and replace her soon. He told his girlfriend that it was all true and that she could do whatever she wanted. She stayed with him. At least he was honest.
I read about Warren Beatty who for years was Hollywood’s biggest womanizer. He claimed that he had never in his life broken up with a woman. Instead he would just start cheating on them until they left him.
I’m not claiming nobility here. I have treated all of the women in my life well, but I have a sex drive too and it makes me crazy at times like with all men. If I had a ton of women competing to be with me I’d like to still think I’d be the same way but that’s a hypothetical that I can’t prove. I once had a stripper tell me I was the most respectful person she had ever given a lap dance to. I was still at a strip club with my friends. According to the movie the Tao of Steve I’d have been more successful had I done the opposite.
I have a small amount of resentment that a lot of women are more interested in confidence, status, wealth and looks in choosing a mate, but I can’t really blame them. Like Larry David recently said about Quasimodo, even the lowliest of men still care about the appearance of a possible mate. I prefer intelligence and kindness to a shallow beautiful woman, but I still need to be minimally attracted to her to want to be with her. I’d definitely choose the smarter, kinder, girl that I had chemistry with over the prettier of the two, but again I have to be at least minimally attracted to someone to date them. I’ve put it in courser terms to friends, but I won’t share that here.
Like John Lennon, who admitted how badly he’d treated women in his life just Gimme Some Truth. Lennon then went on to record an anthem from a title suggested by his wife Yoko called “Woman is the Nigger of the World.” It’s not his best song, but his evolution and thinking were in the right place.
Anyway, my college majors were economics and statistics, which were mostly made up of men, and then I went into trading, which was mostly men. By the time I got to San Francisco to trade I was getting up at 5:30 AM to go work with a ton of people who were 90% men. It wasn’t a great environment to meet women for one to date seriously.
My first summer on a trading floor was 1987, when I clerked for a couple of fraternity brothers. There were times when it was busy, but when it was slow only two things got the floors attention. The first was a group of Japanese men being shown the floor. Traders acted busy and respectful because it was seen as a way of keeping their customer’s business flowing. The other was when there was an attractive woman in the upstairs glass windowed visitor’s gallery. That was less pretty and pretty embarrassing.
By the time I was on the floor the next year as a clerk for O’Connor and Associates I had about ten bosses and they all treated me terribly. Most were men, but a few were women. My firm actually did a pretty good job of hiring women, but they had few blacks and I often joked with my friend who was the most accomplished black hire about how he was on the front page of every yearly brochure the firm put out. He was sort of a token, but they were also sort of trying to be more diverse. There were about 7 clerks for about 6 traders. Two of the clerks were women. During my time as a clerk about two or three of the traders were women. Each of us regardless of gender were treated like shit and yelled at well beyond reason for the smallest of reasons. It was accepted in the industry because you had to be tough and aggressive to trade.
Of the two female clerks, I felt one was clearly more competent and intelligent. I have no idea why, but the powers that be had decided that she would never be a good trader and kept passing her up for a promotion over and over again. She eventually had to quit and she still tried to do her morning work after she did so even as she was crying. I took her work for her and told her to just go home. I thought she would have been a great trader. I still do. I have no idea what issue they had with her.
But like I say they treated everyone badly regardless of gender. The first guy who I clerked for was a large southern man, very smart, but liked to pretend he was a stupid hick as he secretly hated most of the other people there that he knew he was smarter than. He was a decent guy, invited me over for Thanksgiving with his mother, and his name for me was “Fuck Stick.” He also always joked about the men’s bathroom stalls and Marshall Fields’ bags, which was a gay reference that I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself.
One day I was in our firm’s trading booth and saw a fight between two women. One worked down there and the other had been signed on to the floor by a friend. One had apparently slept with the other’s boyfriend. Everyone kept asking me about the cat fight. I simply shook my head and wondered just what in the hell I was doing with my life.
Eventually, two of my friends were made traders and sent to Philadelphia and I was also promoted and sent to San Francisco. A friend of mine protested the decision at a meeting by saying they were only sending me to San Francisco because I was weird. They all agreed with him. My other friends both got fired and I was successful in San Francisco. I didn’t care. I was ecstatic that you could wear jeans on the trading floor and who wouldn’t pick the Bay Area over Philly?
As I said earlier, I had to be at work at 5:30 AM and the floor’s hours were 6:30 AM to 1PM. I’d spend my days among almost all men most of them disgusting and be home by 2PM where I would do my best not to fall asleep too early. I didn’t drink, and had to go to bed at around 9:30 so it wasn’t the best environment for meeting women.
As for how disgusting the men were, most were Neanderthals who were rewarded for being as unpleasant as possible. The best trades went to the quickest and the quickest got to take as much of the trade as they wanted so you had to be completive and aggressive to survive. It was common knowledge that even your best buddy would knife you in the back at any time if you weren’t looking.
I remember one day that a guy had what appeared to be half a can of what appeared to be white cooking grease in his hair, which gave him an advantage because no one wanted to stand anywhere near him. Yes, this was an occupation where not showering ever gave you a huge advantage.
It was a jungle to a certain extent and everyone treated everyone else horribly. If you went into a new trading pit you were hazed and harassed for months whether you were a man or a woman.
Early on, I was surprised that one of the more attractive female clerks on the floor was really nice to me and invited me out to a few outings, but I soon realized that most of the people on the floor were initially nice to me because they wanted my business. She was nice, but she wanted my business.
Of the bigger brokerages on the floor only one was run by a woman and she was called every foul name in the book by the other brokers, which I suppose was fine because she gave as good as she got and talked the same about them.
As I said, the job was all about aggressiveness and competition, which men are naturally more prepared for by societal norms. There were women traders, but most of the successful ones became so by becoming just as foul, aggressive and mean as the men.
My boss told me a story about a time that he was in a trading pit in New York with one women trader. It was a big juicy, money making trade and the men didn’t share any of it with the woman. To make it worse they then proceeded to chant, “Men, Men, Men, Men” over and over again. I may or may not have laughed at this to be honest I don’t remember.
There were a couple of months that one of the Asian traders had his wife join our pit. She was quite meek and never said a word. She didn’t really help keep the markets up to date, which was considered part of the way that you earned respect down there. The men didn’t share with her at all. A thousand contracts could trade and then wouldn’t even give her a five lot. It wasn’t misogyny though. She was always last and there was no reason to share with her except pure charity. A man would have been treated the same way. I felt sorry with her. I may have shared a little with her, but not for long.
The rest of the women on the floor who were not traders were mostly quote reporters, runners, brokers or other exchange employees. In about ten years there I only dated one girl from the floor. I once sent flowers to a girl and never got up the guts to tell her they were from me. She soon moved to Hawaii and at her going away party I think I could tell that she had figured out that they were from me, but we didn’t discuss it when we said goodbye. Maybe, had she stayed I would have eventually gotten up some courage, probably not. I would never do that today – it was a courage thing not a creepy thing – I heard that she was happy to receive them. I hope she found out they were from me. I hope she knew that I was a fan not a threat, but I won’t ever know. I just had a hard time asking women out unless I was absolutely sure that they were interested in me. Warren Beatty figured that nothing ventured nothing gained and treated it like a numbers game – I’m not Warren Beatty and I have never really wanted to be him either.
One girl who worked on the floor for her father had been around the Replacements early in their career she and a male friend of mine committed suicide – very sad. I was closer to my male friend and he was a very upbeat guy who I envied as having it made. I still wonder why and think about this mystery often, he jumped off a building in Los Angeles and left no note I had just talked to him within a week. Never saw him sad once.
There was another girl who worked down there who it was clear wanted to date me. I was lonely, but didn’t pursue it. I have no idea why. Like I said, I was pretty shy and fearful of any rejection.
When I started two of our traders were women. The more experienced was a very good trader, but like I said she did so by becoming every bit as abominable as the men, which though I liked her was probably close to her true nature. She once bragged to me that she had told her boyfriend that she was going to blow every one of his friends unless he married her. I can’t remember if any part of this threat was carried out or not.
The other woman trader was a nice woman, but not a great trader. She just wasn’t aggressive enough. I thought we were friends, but I later heard that she hated me because I was always talking to our boss, and she resented the fact that I got away with things like taking longer lunches and leaving early. Honestly, though, I talked to our boss because I enjoyed talking to him and learned a lot from him. I wasn’t kissing up. As for my liberties, they were things that I had earned through success. I’ve never understood professional jealousy like this. Instead of complaining about my special treatment, she should have earned whatever situational advantages she wanted through achievement and courage. If you just insist that everyone is treated the same then you usually insure that you are all treated like shit.
At one point we hired a new clerk and when I first saw her I remember seeing her in sort of that gauze-like type of framing that you see in old Hollywood movies. She was probably the prettiest girl that I had ever seen. I knew I had no shot with her, but she was really smart and fun. Our interests weren’t the same, but we became friends and had a lot of fun together. When my mother and grandparents visited the floor at separate times, we pretended that we had gotten married just to mess with them.
She was I believe straight out of college, but I might be wrong. Now had the floor treated her well, and not all of them did treat her badly, I have no doubt that she would have been popular and might have even been flirtatious at some point (maybe, maybe not it would have been up to her). Eventually, she knew who the good men were and who to avoid. She grew fond of my African American friend Rasheed (his race is important for later) and he would flirt with her, but he though quite big was a puppy dog and flirted with everyone even though he’d never cheat on his wife. I think women can tell who is good and who has bad intent, but I can’t ever know that for sure.
Anyway, from the first second she was on the floor she was immediately hit on constantly. There were a lot of different options open for her to respond to this attention. She chose to be ultra professional and to do her job and ignore it. She wasn’t unfriendly, but she certainly didn’t want to be hit on by every grubby trader and broker in that cesspool. I think the entire time that she was there she may have dated one man who worked down there and she asked him out.
I never shared this with her but her professionalism was not received well. Pretty soon everyone would complain to me that she was cold. A lot of people told me that she was a bitch and I told them that no, in fact, she wasn’t that they were just idiots, who couldn’t talk to a woman intelligently. They’d even criticize her looks, which was pretty amusing because they initially were falling all over themselves trying to impress her.
I honestly think that had she stayed around that she could have been a great trader without having to compromise like most women had. She would have been aggressive and professional. She would have made it on her own terms, which is what women who wanted to break into that lucrative business needed to do. It would have been tough, but she would have most likely succeeded. Instead she went on to work for a Silicon Valley company and I’m sure never looked back. I really respected her for the way that she carried herself down there. She was actually never a bitch, always upbeat and always cool with me.
In turn, I had promised myself that I would never treat my clerks the way I had been treated. I’m not sure how well I succeeded. I never yelled at anyone, but I teased most of them mercilessly and I can be pretty demeaning. Hopefully, they took it well and got better. I did get the entire office to call one guy Meat, but at least that was a bit better than Fuck Stick.
The Anita Hill hearings shook America pretty hard for a few seconds. It wouldn’t last but it did have an impact for a while. Eventually, the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange had a somewhat mandatory sensitivity training presentation about sexual harassment.
One guy had the unfortunate fate of taking the bullet for pretty much the entire floor on the issue. He had dated a really pretty stock clerk for a while. She had broken up with him and he didn’t react to it well. This of course left them in the same work environment and he had apparently harassed her pretty badly.
The woman who gave the presentation had spent a week or so on the floor getting to know all the heroes and villains, usually accompanied by the aforementioned guilty harasser.
To tell you the truth, the speech was a huge waste of time, and even I wasn’t that receptive to it. The presenter’s agenda seemed to be not to educate the mostly male population there on the proper way to interact with the growing number of women that would be competing for their jobs, but instead to convince them that sexual harassment was equally as bad as things that the men already knew were socially seen as horrible.
At one point, she tried to equivocate it with the Holocaust. Now I am sure that many women have gone through terrible times that were in fact somewhat equivalent to that, but her way of approaching it was weird. She claimed that posting a sexy picture of a girl in a firm’s booth was the equivalent of hanging up a swastika or a picture of a concentration camp victim. So at this point even I responded to it the same way racists get upset at being called out by claiming that they’d never owned slaves and were sick of being called out. I have no idea whether it is a bad thing to have a pin up on your desk, but it really isn’t anywhere near the location of a swastika or a concentration camp victim.
I consider myself to be somewhat advanced compared to the entire male population, and even I think that part of the beauty of the world is the sight of a beautiful woman. Men are visual like that. Part of that means dealing with their sex drive in socially acceptable ways. I wouldn’t want to be judged by my worst moments, but I’m still a big fan of strong bright independent women. Sadly, for me those are even harder to land. My sister has followed in the footsteps of my mother and has told me that she is proud to take care of her husband even if I perhaps see this as a means of subservience. Either is fine, I prefer equality, but I’d probably enjoy being catered too also. In the times I’ve been with women that I’ve enjoyed I’ve found that giving is more fun and rewarding than getting and if both partners agree than they will probably be successful, but then again I’m 52 and have never been married. This has always been my dream girl.
From there it has gotten worse. Rasheed hadn’t been at the meeting, but the speaker proceeded to equate sexual harassment to racism by saying. “You wouldn’t just go up to Rasheed and call him a nigger, because you know what would happen to you.” When Rasheed heard about this he was rightfully offended at the assumption that a large black man would stereotypically react with rage and violence. He threatened to sue if her he didn’t get an apology and got one.
Towards the end of the meeting, it completely broke down. The biggest jerk on the floor, the one who had dealt out perhaps more aggressive abuse to both men and women alike raised his hand, and asked a question. “All I want to know is if I can tell a woman to fuck off?” He was told that as long as he didn’t do it in a sexually suggestive way that it was allowed.
“That’s all I need to hear,” he said and walked out.
That Anita Hill moment didn’t really take hold, but the trading floor was doomed and its prehistoric brawling environment was replaced by computer screens and the internet. No more women or men had to deal with the kill or be killed atmosphere anymore. The new environment was fairer, but I have to say that there was some fun of being among a brisk environment full of people. I might have spent years bored out of my mind standing with the same people I had stood beside day after day for what seemed an eternity, but it was more fun than staring at a computer screen all day in complete silence.
I later dated a girl who had been molested and another who had tried to take her life by slitting her wrists. Before that I had no idea how hard it was to be a woman in a male society. After my worst break up it was Aimee Mann’s first solo album that got me out of it. When my trading career fell apart, I moved to LA mostly because I had no idea what else to do, and I saw that Aimee played there at a small club on Tuesday’s for only $8. I later started to go see singer/songwriter/producer Jon Brion’s weekly shows, which often featured a song by Fiona Apple who had been raped at a young age. I recently found these two videos of Apple speaking out to Sinead O’Connor, who I have always loved since I first heard the song Mandinka, which I always have thought was just sexy as anything.
Fiona actually had a sort of bratty reputation at the time, because of an MTV awards speech about Hollywood fame meaning nothing, but I was told that Jon Brion loved working with her, and she appears to have been right about Hollywood. I saw her sing with Jon bunch of times. She is tiny, shy, self deprecating and very talented. She is always deathly afraid of forgetting the words. I wish I could sing like that.
I’m not a doctor or a woman or a victim but if you notice – every single person who has been molested is eventually accused of being crazy – and it’s because 1. Being molested is not great for your mental health 2. That’s what the molesters want you to believe
Fiona and Sinead are incredibly bright talented women.
I choose to believe them
The current Weinstein movement seems different. I really feel like the walls that so recently were still there when Donald Trump, the most corrupt, lazy and intellectually vacant person alive prevented the first woman American President from happening despite the fact that his opponent was much smarter and had a much stronger work ethic. Perhaps election isn’t the way for this revolution to happen.
I’ve always felt that minority groups need to change the roadblocks of white male power by doing it themselves. The same goes for women, who though historically couldn’t compete physically, are the majority in a time where muscle is no longer all that matters. So like Reese Witherspoon says below, Do It Yourselves, and be nice to the men that tried to be half way decent when you take over.
I really believe that Donald Trump is the last gasp of a history of white male patriarchy and I will be happy to see us evolve. Then again I may just be patting myself on the back for thinking I’ve been on the right side for most of my life. Had I been as tall, rich, confident and good looking as my high school friend I can’t guarantee that things wouldn’t have been different, but I hope not.
A sad admission
Alright if you’ve made it this far here is a bonus dig at myself. A friend and I went to see Ocean’s 12 and then went to an Irish bar afterwards. Julia Roberts had just had a baby and I said to my friend, “Julia Roberts looked kind of haggard in that movie.”
Later I saw this pretty Irish girl sitting near me and told her that she looked a lot like Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries. She turned to me and said, “Well it’s a good thing I don’t look like Julia Roberts isn’t it?”
Ouch. Shot down cold.
See why I rarely ask women out? Honestly I meant no harm, but man did she put me in my place.