Probably for the first time, you’ll learn about “sexy potatoes.” However, once you learn it, it might be tough to forget. In this story a n irate coworker reported a lady who had been eating potatoes “hot dog style” for lunch to HR for eating them “too provocatively.” Read the story to know what office drama took place.
It honestly feels ridiculous that I have to post this but my coworker has been getting onto me about this for weeks now, so I have to ask.
My whole life, I’ve been eating potatoes by microwaving them, then biting into them, eating them hot dog style. This is the easiest, most convenient and intuitive way for me to eat potatoes (sweet potatoes or regular). I think this is how people in Japan eat them, or at least, this is how I was taught by my Japanese parents to eat them. Whenever I go to a grocery store, I always pick out the most easily bite-able potatoes, which are generally longer and thinner than most potatoes.
So I work in an office of about 30 people. We all typically bring our own lunch, and I usually just eat at my desk while doing work. No one has ever commented about how I eat potatoes, but I do eat them quite frequently. Recently, a new person was hired, and she clearly has a problem with the way I eat potatoes. A couple times, she pulled me aside and asked me that I should just eat potatoes in a more normal way. I asked her what she meant, and she I was eating potatoes too suggestively. I was a little shocked because I literally just have my eyes glued to my screen whenever I’m eating and barely pay attention to how I eat.
I told her no one else seemed to have a problem with the way I eat potatoes, but she insisted others were just too polite to say anything. I asked a few other coworkers who all were just as confused as me about what she was saying. I figured no one else really had a problem with it. But this happened multiple times. She kept coming to me and asking me to tone down the way I eat, even accusing me of going out of my way to choose sexy potatoes (????). I’ve considered bringing them other ways, but this is just the easiest way for me to eat them, and they’re honestly delicious like this to me. I asked her to maybe just not watch me eat, but apparently that’s just not feasible.
Unfortunately, she reported me, and now I have a meeting with HR next week. This seems really dumb to me, but Am I A JERK for eating sexy potatoes???
UPDATE: So I had a couple meetings with HR. The first one was on my own yesterday morning alone with the HR woman. According to her, a coworker had reported me for “sexual harassment” and “creating a hostile work environment.” Not going to lie. After hearing those accusations, I was honestly pretty scared. Sexual harassment is a really serious charge. I was allegedly making lewd gestures while eating, despite repeatedly being asked to stop.
I told her exactly what had happened. I was eating potatoes the same way I always had in the four years I’ve worked in this office. No one else had ever had a problem with this until now. The new coworker (let’s call her Karen) approached me, telling me I was eating potatoes inappropriately and told me to eat them another way. I had explained to her that this was how I grew up eating them and would not stop. If it bothered her, she could (and should) look away. I continued eating potatoes this way, then over the next several weeks, she kept complaining about my potatoes every time I ate them this way.
As I explained my side, I could tell HR was getting really annoyed. I don’t think she believed that this was all there was to it. She pressed for more information: “Are you sure you didn’t do anything to make her believe you were being inappropriate?” “Are you sure you weren’t harassing her, even unintentionally?” I told her I never even talked to her unless it was about work or if she approached me first.
HR thanked me for coming in and told me she’d get back to me. I think she met with Karen after that. Then later in the day, we had a meeting with the three of us. Karen says that I lied about not doing anything to make her uncomfortable. That after the first time she came to me, asking me to eat my potatoes differently, I dismissed it as a joke (which to be fair, I did because, um,…deada**???). Which I acknowledged because, who wouldn’t take it as a joke? Then she claimed that after each time she asked me to tone it down, I escalated by choosing increasingly sexy potatoes to eat in front of her, by which point, I’m pretty sure HR was trying hard not to roll her eyes.
I responded by telling Karen I literally gave zero thought about her when I bought my potatoes and selected them based on ease of cooking/eating. She accused me of making eye contact with her while I was eating, which, I think I did every time SHE watched ME eat, because it’s really uncomfortable having someone watch me eat. Which I explained, and told her I had repeatedly asked her to stop watching me eat. She then pointed out that no one else eats potatoes this way, and the only reason I would do so is to try to be provocative. Which I swear to god, HR almost laughed at her. I just showed her a video of Japanese people eating potatoes with their hands and biting into them.
The HR woman knows me and knows I’m not the type to harass someone or deliberately make a hostile work environment, and at the end, she just said something like “I’m sorry about the misunderstanding. Perhaps it really would be best to look another way while your coworker is eating.” Basically trying to politely tell Karen to get her head out of her a**. Then Karen tried to turn it around by claiming I was making a hostile work environment by telling our other coworkers bad things about her. But literally all I had done was ask others if they were uncomfortable with the way I eat, and explain why I had asked them.
She tried yet ANOTHER angle, claiming that the way I ate them (with my hands) was a covid risk, and that I was putting the safety of the office in jeopardy by eating this way. HR then said that if she was so concerned, she was welcome to work from home, as is currently company policy (I work in hardware, so it’s harder for me to work from home, but Karen works in support, so it would be really easy for her to work from home). Eventually Karen had to concede she had nothing left, so we were all dismissed.
Later, I talked to my coworker who had stopped bringing curry because of Karen (let’s call him Surya) about the problems I had with her. He had been unable to eat his regular Indian lunches in the office because of her. We were both extremely annoyed, and honestly, I just felt extremely uncomfortable being in an office where she was constantly judging Asian people’s food. So I decided to file a report with HR, as suggested by many of you. I pointed out how she was harassing Asian people for their food choices and many of her comments towards me were bordering on sexual harassment.
Surya agreed to bring curry for lunch today, and, in solidarity, I brought some too (along with my potatoes). Karen didn’t comment at all, but she did give us dirty looks and made disgusted faces a few times.
I actually got called into a meeting this afternoon with my boss, who is also one of the founders of the company. He confessed that he didn’t like Karen either and that she had multiple complaints about her within the first month of her being hired (she’s been here just under two). And that he had hired her as a favor to his wife, because she is his wife’s cousin and had lost her job due to covid (I wonder why they chose to let her go…). He apologized to me on her behalf and assured me that he would talk to her.
I decided to keep my harassment claim with HR, and have another meeting tomorrow. We’ll see how this goes. I will keep eating sexy potatoes for the foreseeable future 🙂