I sold payroll for a living when I was about 22 years old. It’s the only “suit” job I’ve ever had.
My suits were pathetic. My work attire consisted mainly of items purchased at the Dress Barn made out of some kind of poly-whatsis-type blend. I had one good Tahari suit. I remember it to this day. It was pale yellow, nicely tailored. The jacket fit superbly and made me look like I had this gorgeous hour glass figure. The skirt had a little bit of a slit up the thigh. I wore the crap out of that Tahari suit, pairing it with off-white stockings. That and a nice heel and I felt like Bette from the L Word. It was a power suit, for sure. But, it was only the one suit. The rest of my corporate wardrobe looked like I was a participant in one of those from-homeless-to-work programs and had been given the suits by a social worker. My stocking care was a joke. I think about real women who bathe their stockings in wool-lite and then hang them on a clothesline to air dry. That was not me. My stockings were usually balled up in the corner of my room. I really gave them no care at all. In fact, I would have to do a “smell” test to find out whether or not they were wearable.
I tell you all this because there were women at this job who were dressed to the nines.
The job itself was all about money. We could’ve been selling widgets. It didn’t matter. The job was all about quotas and money and bonuses and compensation. As a result, the company hired a lot of ex-athletes in their 20’s. They liked hiring athletes because we know how to be competitive even when selling bullsh*t.
There was one girl who I remember very clearly. We’ll call her Ava. Ava worked in the department that sold to the BIG companies. Companies with 10,000 employees or more. Big employee numbers meant big money. So, the women in that department were always super attractive and decked out in Armani. In my department were the newbies and the not-so-good-lookings. We had to scrap our way up to Ava’s department if we wanted it. I didn’t care so much about Ava’s department as much as I cared about the way she looked. Ava was one of these women who looked like a fresh, Spring, breeze EVERY day. She always looked so elegant and calm. It was almost annoying. Everything she wore was designer, but she was super nice, so it never felt arrogant or cocky. Everything she wore also seemed brand new. It was like she was one of those ghetto kids who’s always polishing and re-polishing their sneakers so no one will think they’re poor.
One day, Ava had been visiting our lowly cubicles. I think she was a mentor to a couple of the newbies sitting nearby me. We chatted for a while. Then Ava left taking all of the sunshine with a click of her Louboutins. I think I sighed. Audibly. And I must have said something like, “God, I wish I looked like that.” It was one of those thoughts planted safely in my head. I hadn’t realized I’d said it out loud, until one of my cubicle mates acknowledged it.
Matt sat diagonally behind me. He was a freshly scrubbed looking kid of 22, just like myself. He had a suit from the male equivalent of Dress Barn, probably some place like Men’s Warehouse, but the big difference was that Matt took super good care of his suits. There was no balled up in the corner for this guy. They were always well pressed and shimmering, where as mine were given one shakeout, as I yanked them out of my gym bag and put them through the smell test. Matt was a really likeable guy. He had the spiky hairdo most often associated with men in their 20’s and a very “can do” attitude, which is exactly what they wanted at this company. As I was sighing and watching Ava glide toward her office, Matt answered me by saying, “You know you can, you know.”
“What?” I said.
“You can look like Ava. All it takes is a couple of nice suits and a trip to the makeup counter at Macys…,” he continued.
Matt went on and on about it. What I remember is that it was kind of sweet. It was like he was the hot guy in high school who had discovered a runway model hiding under her overalls. He thought that runway model could be me. In his own little, warped, way he was trying to say that I was a diamond in the rough.
The thing was, I didn’t want it.
Even then I could tell I didn’t want Ava’s life. Maybe just her wardrobe.
I was living way out in Queens at the time and commuting into Manhattan. I’d wear the suit in the morning and bring two changes of clothes – gym attire and casual attire. After work, I’d head to the gym, kill two hours working out, then put on the casual attire and head to a comedy show. Then very late at night, after the show, I’d grab the gym bag and head back to Queens only to do it all over again. I knew, even then, that I was on a quest to create something. I knew that Ava’s life was not for me. Selling payroll, accumulating wealth and a wardrobe, maybe a hubby and some kids. Probably not a bad life, but not for me.
These days I work on something creative pretty much all day. I’ve even started to cook. And I mean, crazy, in-depth cooking that includes making doughy things from scratch! Back when I was living in Manhattan (after I’d saved enough to move out of Queens), I used to cook one day a week. Sunday. It was my do-nothing day. I’d cook and watch everything on my DVR in one sitting. Now I create all day and cook most nights of the week. I have this weird tic where I like my home life, with wifesy, to be really well organized. My desk is neat. There are usually no clothes in the hamper and I like to make things from scratch. I mean, what has happened to me? I used to be cool! It made me realize something – I’ve become the perfect wife. Jesus. That is so not me. You have no idea. I was the – stay out all night, live the life of an entertainer, single girl, you might imagine in New York city. Now, I’m creative AND wifely.
Upon thinking about all this, Matt, from all those years back, popped into my head.
I could hear him say, “You know you can, you know…”
“I can what?” I say.
“You could be a super-mom, you know.”
That’s what the Matt in my head says. And I probably could – I picture myself homeschooling my kids, making unprocessed food from scratch, lining up our refrigerator with tuperwares marked with the different days of the week. In my spare time, I make the kids really cool clothes and ferry them to their sports practices and foreign language classes.
The thing is – I don’t want it. Not yet.
I have to make something first.
Right now, as I think of Matt, with his spiky hairdo and sweet face – the whole picture slowly morphs into Whitney Houston’s image. It’s Whitney Houston, pre-crack. The Bodyguard Whitney. She’s singing, “I’m Every Woman…It’s All in Me…” Matt is dancing in the background going, “You know, you can, you know…You could, if you wanted…”
What? Become a crack-whore? Shut up, Matt.
Jesus. I don’t want it. I just want to be this girl – the funny one who writes. The funny one who writes and enjoys her life with wifesy and a few good friends.
I don’t have to become anything. I am IT, right now. I have IT, right now.
Sometimes happiness is knowing what you don’t want. Don’t you think?