I recently made the mistake of announcing that I didn’t know a designer. This was while temping for a
high end finance firm—the kind of company where I honest to God have no idea what they do—they
throw around corporate jargon, make “deals,” throw the world’s economy into chaos, and everyone is a
Vice President. Or Managing Director.
And they’re all VERY IMPORTANT.
Or at least you are supposed to treat them as if they are. Because they are paid six figures to move about
other people’s money. Philosophical arguments and commentary of worship of Mammon aside, it’s an
environment to which I am unaccustomed.
Oh, I try to fit in—I did what the temp agency said, and wore “business conservative” clothing—black
and grey, in appropriate lengths, cut, and style.
But this is not enough. Not for some of these firms.
It started with the looks at my bag…by looks, I of course mean frowns. I had gotten my purse from
Target, on clearance. It was practical, in a color I liked, and relatively fashionable. But like all New
Yorkers, I carried a second bag for all the crap that didn’t fit into the first…this one, not so smart. A
canvas bag with stars on it. A bit juvenile, I must say, but I was going to stick it under a table and no one
would see it, so what did it matter?
Apparently, it mattered a great deal. Already decisions were being made about me.
And so we come to the designer bit. I asked about a pair of shoes. A fairly distinctive pair of shoes that I
saw multiple people wearing.
When I asked, this lifetime secretary (who goes by the term Executive Administrative Assistant, as if that
makes her less a secretary and more some sort of secret agent of filing and copying), looked at me as if
I had three heads, and pronounced the foreign name with a ridiculous, and phonetically incorrect accent.
I only know this because I googled what I thought it should be spelled like, and something similar but at
the same time wildly different popped up.
She then turned away from me, and proceeded to ignore me for the rest of the day.
This was fine by me. She was uninteresting, foolish, and clearly desperate to feel like she was something
more than she was.
I used this time that I was snubbed and ignored to text about the incident to a close friend:
Me: I’m temping today and I asked about a brand of shoes someone was wearing, and when she said la too
expensive and looked at me like I was a monster, I DID NOT say, well, I’m supporting a child’s education
in Kenya to prevent her from getting FGM and being married off at 10, but nice shoes!
S: Hahahahaha, you probably should have said it.
Me: Jesus held my tongue.
S: Good for Jesus, and good for you!
I tell this story not to toot my own horn…alright, I’m tooting a bit, but because I just don’t understand
the need for something that will, in a few years, no longer be exclusive, but worn by the haggard bag
ladies on the bus (meaning, of course, me). I could understand if it were fair trade and it’s more expensive
because the workers who produced it are paid better wages…but for the mere illusion of sophistication, especially when one really can’t afford it, seems, well, sad.
On my subway ride home, in my sensible shoes, I thought about what I’d be going home to…a husband
who loves me, a solid but decidedly un-fancy dinner, and a home strewn with the evidence of my creative
And I wouldn’t trade that for any pair of shoes.