Gillian felt good. She’d indulged herself in a new suit and shoes. The blue pin-striped suit had a fitted pencil skirt just above the knees and a tailored short jacket. Gillian spiced it up with a red camisole and silk scarf, appropriate for the office yet young and sexy. She refused to adopt the androgynous look of the only female partner, who was rumored to be gay. Why the rumor? Who cares? Gillian wondered.
Her shoes were understated blue pumps, except for the four inch stiletto heel and caramel colored one inch platform under the toes.
“We probably won’t have to dress up this much every day,” Gillian noticed as she looked around the office, “But first impressions are so important. And God these shoes are so cute.”
She glanced at the other new associate across from her, Mark, who wore the seemingly military issued blue suit and black shoes, along with the power red tie. Gillian smugly reminded herself that she’d graduated well ahead of Mark in their class. Between the two of them, Gillian was the star.
Gillian and Mark were seated in a conference room and greeted by the hiring senior associate attorney, Zach Morrie.
Zach appeared tired, even though it was only 9:30 in the morning. He was pleasant, but it was clear that he had other pressing matters to attend.
“I know you guys have been here before, but now you get the official tour. You can leave your things here, if you’d like.”
Mark shoved his newspaper into his brief case and stood up, at the ready.
“Oh, and you don’t have to keep your jacket on in the offices,” Zach advised Mark.
“Great,” Mark, quickly removed his jacket and left it on a chair, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves.
Taking a minute to shove her purse into her briefcase, Gillian realized that everything important to her would be left in an open conference room. Perhaps she pondered this a little too long because when she looked up, Marc and Zack were watching her, waiting, patiently.
To gain her composure Gillian stood up straight; it was her power stance. With the help of her heels, Gillian towered over both men.
Unimpressed, Zach clapped his hands together and said, “Okay, ready?” Without waiting for an answer he motioned them both out of the conference room.
For the next two hours Gillian and Mark were paraded throughout the offices, stopping for presentations given by managers in the Copy Center, Information Systems and Human Resources.
Mark appeared to be listening, either rubbing his chin or sliding his hands in his pockets. Neither Gillian’s skirt nor her jacket had usable pockets, she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, touching her thumbs to each index finger and back again, a habit she developed after learning the guitar.
“Any questions?” The head of Information Systems asked.
Mark asked something about document retrieval and off-site storage. Gillian had nothing to add. The only thing on her mind was when she would be able to sit down. The new shoes were not made for walking tours.
Back at the conference room a paper fairy left piles of documents for Gillian and Mark to review and sign and employee handbooks to take to their offices.
“Okay,” Zach clapped his hands again. Gillian thought that this guy must coach something. “I will leave you to it,” he added, “Mr. Denny will take you to lunch later and then you can get settled in your offices.”
Just as Gillian swiveled the chair to sit down, however, Mr. Denny suddenly appeared behind Zach, almost as if he was conjured up by him. Mr. Denny was a jovial guy, almost Santa Claus like except without the beard. He did have a slender second Mrs. Claus who is half his age, though. Short, gray and with a paunch belly, Mr. Denny wore the legal uniform of blue suit, white shirt and tie, with worn but expensive looking shoes.
“Well, how are you enjoying your first day?” he asked.
Snapping her head up to answer, Gillian’s phone rang. It was her special ringtone for her mother, “Barbie Girl.” She was mortified.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I forgot to turn it off.”
“Not a problem.”
Mr. Denny and Mark made small talk while Gillian reached down for her phone . . . and dropped it.
“Oh I’m sorry.”
“Take your time.” Again, the men waited for her, patiently.
“Okay, all set.” Gillian resisted the urge to mimic the Zach clap.
“I thought we’d go to The Wave. It’s a lovely day. Let’s walk.” It wasn’t a suggestion.
Shocked, Gillian thought, “Walk? Walk? It was seven blocks away, at least! What happened to the hotel restaurant next door?”
It wasn’t until the third block that Gillian started making pleading looks at passing cabbies, trying to telepathically signal them to pull over and pluck her off the street, off her shoes.
But no, the taxis passed her by, as well as the buses. Even hi-jacking a bike messenger started to look like a viable option, according to Gillian’s feet.
The three of them were a sight to see. Two non-descript men in suits looking like father and son, walking briskly and chatting a few steps ahead of a fashionable, strikingly tall woman — with a noticeable limp.
But then the realization hit Gillian. This is the real world, not a date, not television. Hers was still a male dominated profession. Deals, alliances and mentorships are formed while walking and standing. Though Gillian looked fabulous, she was not dressed for success, not in this venue. In the past, she’d always led with her intellect, today she’d let fashion hobble her and she was literally left behind — like a girl, a Barbie Girl.
Looking at the men’s backs Gillian vowed never again to be in a situation where she could not keep up with the boys.