At my job I have a security badge. I look awful in the photo. My fear is that if I continue to work here, I will become more and more that person. Around the corner from my desk is a short hallway. For many, this is just a shortcut from the elevator to the restrooms. For me, it’s the corporate version of a death march. The hall is lined with The Women, the women I might become if I stay too long. The Women are all middle-aged, single, and making the most of it (or the best of it, depending). There are five of them, in five separate cubes. Five separate cubes that each has decided to make her own.
The cubes are stunning in the “dumb-struck” sense of the word: One gal has picket fencing attached to the front of her desk and a garden-ful of potted silk hydrangeas, faux Tiffany desk lamps (even the whimsical stained glass turtle), and a length of polyester damask swagged across one wall. Another has made collages of photos of her boss’s children – pasted to wood cut like hearts and clouds, and decoupaged with inspirational slogans and plastic flowers. A third gal has created an homage to our Lord Jesus Christ. There are portraits in elaborate gilt frames; casual poses in Lucite or ceramic; hand-crayoned pages from an evangelical coloring book; and a signed photo of Mel Gibson that reads, “Thanks for sharing my ‘Passion’!” I was raised born-again Christian and this offends me.
The most chilling, though, is the most minimalist. There are very few personal items, no home décor, no mini-fridge stocked with Weight Watcher’s desserts. What gives me chills, what causes me to look away as I pass, is a simple ceramic plaque that says, “Pets are God’s giggles.”
The hall makes me woozy with its invitation to consider this 6x8 space a sort of second home and feel free to cozy it up. I’m afraid that age, missed opportunities and a few failed relationships will have me thinking that a couple of dupioni cushions or an aromatherapy candle wouldn’t be out of place at the office. Is this how it starts?
It’s not just the cubes, it’s the gals themselves, with their Oprah and their Hondas and their condos. It’s their jewelry parties. I resent them for making me aware of jewelry parties and candle parties and holiday ornament making parties and recipe exchange parties.
Yet….they do seem happy with their lives. All are overweight which could mean suppressed rage and disappointment, but in every other respect, they seem….content. So which is better? To be the happy gal in Kohl’s separates with two pugs and a condo? Or the bitter town gal with the acerbic wit and edge? Is there another choice?I don’t know how to begin to answer that question.