The other morning we were getting ready for work. My husband, the nanny, and I were all in the kitchen. My husband said, “Honey, would you like some more coffee,” and before I could answer, he said, “And Jane, do you want a refill, too?” My name is Jane. He was calling our nanny “honey.” I got really mad. He says it was a harmless joke and that the nanny laughed and moved on, but I think it’s embarrassing and it probably made her feel uncomfortable.
Now we’re in a big fight over it. He says I’m overreacting and that it’s no big deal; I think he’s being stubborn and refusing to admit that what he said was inappropriate, borderline sexual harassment, and that from now on he should be very careful about what he says to and around the nanny. Who is right?
There’s this respected older gentleman who I see around town and at various social events. Well, not gentleman…he’s a dirty old man, really. I’ll say something like, “I’m feeling great, thank you,” and he’ll give a look to various body parts and say, “You’re looking great, too, if you know what I mean.” Yes. I do know what you mean, you dirty old man. Now get away from me before I throw my drink in your eyes.
I’m sure Dirty Old Man thinks he’s funny and clever and flattering, just like your boob of a husband thinks he’s flattering the nanny and just being silly. But your husband, like Dirty Old Man, is in a position where it’s clear that the woman on the receiving end of the joke isn’t in a position to reply the way she wants to. I’m sure he says stuff like this to her, or around her, all the time.
The nanny laughed; everyone moved on. But really I’m sure she wanted to say, “If I had to wake up to your boorish blockheadedness every morning, I’d fling myself off the nearest six-story building. I’d rather be married to Tiger Woods right now than a douchebag like you.” Sadly, she can’t say that, because your husband is her employer. Even if he just put half a foot over, your husband stepped over the line. I don’t think he needs to apologize (except maybe to you), but I do think you could do a little research and send him some links to articles about nannies suing their employers for sexual harassment, or about appropriate conduct between employers and childcare employees. Maybe hearing it from a source other than his wife will get it through his thick skull.