“She’s so stylish!” my coworker declared
of her 7-year-old niece, as if that was the best
thing any girl could aspire to: being decorative.
I scanned the ranks of cornfed executives,
saw perfect nails, silken suits. They talked golf,
stocks, and day salons. Their heads were empty
of art and literature. Said they’d never even heard
of Nineteen Eighty-Four or Lord of the Flies,
much less Snow Crash, Naked Lunch or Silent Spring.
Who had time to read with so many important things
to do, like wax the Porsche and schmooze the boss,
impress strangers with your perfect herbicidal lawn?
I didn’t have a lawn, or makeup, or jewelry;
I didn’t give a tinker’s damn about upward mobility.
They barely managed to tolerate me cos I did my work
fast and clean, coded pro. I wasn’t one of “the girls”
but they couldn’t get around my annoying productivity
and replace me like a vase that had gone out of style.
Eventually I tired of the condescending smiles
and brittle judgments from people who supposed clothes
makeup and hair are the alpha and omega of a woman,
imagined that a ten-second glance, sharp as the edge
of a punched ticket, could accurately suss anything,
much less the worth of a human life.
So I quit and found a new job where the boss
wears faded jeans and Chuck Taylors, and my co-
workers chat about books and gigs. The boss cares
about our code, our text, our ideas. Our clothes?
Hey, look, we’re all wearing clean clothes. Good.
Now let’s get back to work.