When I received my bachelor’s degree, I had no idea what to do next so I thought I’d try some temp work. I figured I had to try on a couple places before I knew where I’d like to stay so I pulled on some panty hose (remember panty hose?), put on a cheap suit and some heels, grabbed my résumé, and trotted over to San Francisco’s financial district on BART for my interview.
I arrived early, took the elevator up to the street and stood there, looking up at the metal, stone, and glass faces of the buildings leaning over me, feeling smaller than a bug. Bankers and CEOs and executive assistants have no time for a gaggler and I was quickly jostled along by the current of wool-clad, leather-loafered movers and shakers until I found a nook to stand in. I looked at the slightly wrinkled résumé in my hand and realized how I must look.
So I found a place that smelled of leather. If you close your eyes and breathe deeply, you’ll notice how leather smells just like money. The cheapest thing they had looked like a manilla folder, only made of black cow skin. The price tag made me queasy but you’ve got to pay to play, right? This was an investment in my professional journey, the entrance fee into the working world. You got to dress the part if you want to be a player, girlfriend, and so I coughed it up.
I sat in the waiting room for a long time with my back straight, knees together, and the leather folder on my lap. Finally, they called my name. I clacked my little heels across the room, shook hands, and followed her into her office, where I unwrapped the leather toggle, pulled my résumé out of its case, and handed it over. I was ready to answer all questions– how I had been employed since I was 12 years old and worked my way through school doing various jobs, how I had written two theses, one on Cindy Sherman and one about Willem de Kooning’s Women, how I had graduated with highest honors. It took the woman on the other side of the desk two seconds to scan it. The only question she asked was, “How fast can you type?”
For years I held on to that leather folder. Every once in awhile, I’d find it shoved in a closet or stuffed in a cardboard box and every time, I’d feel a hot wave of shame and embarrassment flood my face.
Over the years, this reaction faded to mild amusement. Where did that girl go, the one who was willing to wear panty hose and pay any price?
The day I found it on the garage floor, covered with a sickly green skin, I felt absolutely nothing.