It was a regular Monday morning at work. I was ready for work, but my mind was still waffling on personal thoughts. Monday morning meetings are usually best at getting me into the right headspace.
Budgets, strategic plan updates and summary reports are enough to get you back into the game, also the new girl was starting today; this meeting was her first meeting in the department, so I was looking forward to another person my age in the department. I had yet to meet this infamous new girl, but did not think much of it…until I saw her.
All the heads turned when she walked in; she looked utterly fabulous. Her long, blond, beautiful hair looked effortlessly curled, her makeup was on point, she was wearing an amazing, well-fitted pink dress and three inch gold stiletto heels.
I immediately felt frumpy, in my outfit of the day. There I was, wearing my appropriately comfortable black flats, black capris, white blouse and navy blouse. My hair was tied up in a bun because I just could not have been bothered to do anything with it this morning. My makeup was minimal, as usual, under eye concealer and a bit of blush. An outfit, which I usually felt pretty good about, immediately made me feel like crap, from the three second stare at her.
I was jealous, envious and hated myself, immediately upon seeing her.
‘She must be a dumb, dumb,’ I thought to myself, trying too hard not to stare in her direction. For the entire meeting, I felt inadequate and bad. She was the new girl in the department and I should have embraced her, but I did not. I kept my distance, and did nothing to warmly welcome her in. I hardly looked at her and during her introduction, I busied myself on my laptop, not looking up once.
When I got back to my office, relieved to be away from the beauty of the boardroom, my dread grew; I had an introductory one-on-one meeting with her in an hour. ‘Great,’ I thought to myself, ‘just fucking great. Now I have to spend even more time with this woman?’
My phone buzzed and I quickly looked down to see what was more important, than my ever growing to do list. ‘Did you see that outfit?’ my colleague texted me. ‘Where is she going? To an afternoon high tea?’ I snorted to myself and responded, ‘My thoughts exactly. I was embarrassed for her. Does she not understand what business casual mean? Poor girl…clearly trying too hard, must be compensating for something.’
I felt an immediate sense of relief after sending my text response; I was not alone, everyone thought she was a little dumb-dumb. ‘Good,’ I thought to myself, ‘I am still winning. She clearly is compensating for something internal with that much external effort.’
Before I knew it, my computer plinked, reminding me of my upcoming meeting. I braced myself and strolled to her office, with a bleak smile on my face, trying to look far too busy and smart for the likes of her. I do not know what busy and smart looks like, but I think it comes across as looking stressed and cross.
“Hi,” I enthusiastically said, as I lightly tapped on her open office door. “How are you doing? I am looking forward to getting to know you and working with you.”
She looked up and smiled. She was writing, with one of those pens that had a fluffy pink feather on the top of it, how embarrassing. Everything in her office was pink and girly, with plenty of personal framed photos everywhere.
In comparison to my office, this screamed personality. My office looked like someone was temporarily residing in there, with the only proof of life being my lukewarm coffee cup. No personal memorabilia or anything to show my outside life to be seen for miles. I liked it that way, I thought it made me look too focused on my job for that knick-knacky bullshit.
“Hello,” she gushed, immediately giving me all of her undivided attention, “I have heard so much about you and am so looking forward to learning from you.” I was taken aback. I was not expecting a warm personality underneath that falsified exterior of too much makeup and much too expensive clothing. I slid into a seat and pulled out my notebook.
As the minutes of our sixty minute meeting ticked by I learned how brilliant this woman was. Not only was she stunning, but she was smart, funny, extremely hard working and driven. I was so inspired by her and realized how stupid I had been.
When I left her office I felt ashamed; I really liked her and each and every one of my assumptions about her she had proven wrong. She was not an image, or some stereotype for me to poke and prod at; she was a human being and I totally dehumanized her because of my own insecurities.
I may have thought I was a feminist walking in her office, but realized that I had so much self improvement to do, in order to be a champion for other women.
We cannot pick and choose which women we saddle up to; if we want equality and for men to see us as equals, we need to quit picking each other apart.
Being pretty should not be a punishment; caring about makeup, liking the colour pink or wearing tight dresses should not give us the right to make grandiose assumptions about a human being. I did, but I am big enough to admit it, learn from it and grow into the woman I want to be.