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Wedding Woes

"Oh I don't have anything to say. Thanks for thinking of me."

Dear Prudence,

I am in my 60s and work in a field that still isn’t known for being welcoming to women. When I started out 40 years ago, I dealt with harassment, sexism, handsy bosses, and comments like “Women don’t belong in this field and they never will.” I persisted and managed to make a pretty good career for myself. But I spent those early years angry, frustrated, and thinking, “If I were a guy, this wouldn’t be so damn hard.”

Well, a lot of those old guys are dying now, and I’m starting to get emails from colleagues wanting to celebrate their long, distinguished careers. Usually I ignore them. But sometimes, especially if I worked with the guy in the early part of my career, I’m asked to “say a few words.” The only words I could offer would be, “He couldn’t pass a woman in the hall without trying to cop a feel, and he consistently refused to recommend promotion for a woman because she didn’t ‘belong’ here.” I know that graceful silence is better, but I want to say, “I used to put his name on the punching bag in my basement!” My industry is getting better, and we women all knew we just had to wait out those old guys. Any advice on how to respond to the eulogy requests?
—Dying Old Guard


Re: "Oh I don't have anything to say. Thanks for thinking of me."

  • LW is right to be angry. A lot of companies use to run like that and while being upset is valid, speaking ill of the dead I just personally don't find it okay.

    I mean, we all learned this line from Bambi
    If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
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  • "Oh I'm not comfortable with public speaking.   Thank you for thinking of me."

    Or leave it to the work at hand.  
  • I wouldn't actually go to the funeral and say something negative, lol.  But I WOULD be tempted to respond to an ask to say something with, "I appreciate your asking me.  But I actually don't have anything nice to say about Mr. Former Coworker, so this is not something I could do."


    a more blunt version, "Well, I hated that guy and am not even going to the funeral.  So you need to find someone else."

    But, in reality, I'm assuming she probably has to attend these funerals and play nice-nice for the sake of her career.  But that still doesn't mean she has to say something.  Plus, I'm assuming if some of these are gentleman from early in her career, it has possibly been a long time since she has worked with them anyway.

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  • Since these requests are coming from colleagues I don't see any reason she can't be honest in why she's declining if she wants to (assuming it wouldn't affect her career). It might make her feel better to finally open up about it even just a sliver
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