Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Zero Days Since

I've been re-reading the entire works of Helen Gurley Brown. God, I love this woman and her kooky brilliance. Last night's selection was 1964's Sex and the Office, in which she implies that you can get away with lots at work if you just try to be good most of the time:
"Here is the witching-costume of one Deborah Kerr type I know: fragile grey wool with wide bertha collar and deep V-neck. Nothing happens as long as she stands up. When she leans over, a man thinks he's won the Irish Sweepstakes, died and gone to heaven. Have a "joy dress" in your wardrobe but remember, you can only get away with it if you've been a lady for about 150 days running."

I can just imagine one of those tear off signs from factory scenes in movies (and perhaps in real factories?): 149 days since last trampy dress episode. Then Helen's friend come in and bends over. The office foreman sighs deeply and puts the sign back to "0 Days Since..."

One also gets some leeway when it comes to grooming:

"When you arrive at work in the morning, it's nice to be fully put together. In an emergency, however (you've washed your hair at six a.m. and need the extra thirty minutes of bus-time to help you get dried) you can arrive in curlers if they're under a big chiffon scarf so the effect is like that of a 1919 lady in a duster. The way you get away with this occasional casualness is by being an efficient, hard-working, dedicated girl worker who usually looks chic. That makes up for everything."

About seven years ago, I came in early to my new job in public radio and found my coworker, A, wearing nothing but a towel, her hair so soaked that water streamed down her face. She gestured frantically toward the phone. Something about clients. Something about the printers. I snapped out of my daze and sorted the emergency then returned to A for an explanation. She'd said she'd stayed the night before because of repairs at her own place. I had noticed the shower in the bathroom but where exactly she had slept? Oh, hadn't anyone told me? Our boss's ex-wife lived in the other half of the loft where we worked. She shared the kitchen and bathroom. She was out of town and A had borrowed her bed.
Unusual situation to be sure, but I got used to it. The ex-wife sometimes wandered from her side of the loft and deposited a small plate of blueberry pancakes on my desk. A head of rollers wouldn't have raised an eyebrow in that place.