At the survival day job where I spend 20 hours of my life per week (20 hours I can’t ever get back, sigh) there are a group of summer interns who’ve been working on a large project the CEO is involved with. They’re all young women in undergrad or grad programs, and since the office is largely devoid of young people I’ve been super aware of them. I’m also hyper-aware of office attire for women in my age group, because I struggle with finding appropriate work clothes. Right now I’ve been cycling through the same two suits and four shirts that I bought when I was doing extra work when I first moved to LA – you get a lot of work on legal shows if you own a gray professional suit.
I’m certainly not closeted at my job, but I play down my butchness because I know the men at the top of the food chain wouldn’t take kindly to my usual vest/tie combo. For me, it’s a small sacrifice for a flexible, well-paying part-time job (every LA actor’s dream).
When these girls showed up for the summer, they did what most professional women do with me: look at my shoes (functional, boots or loafers, no heels obvs) and suits (generally ugly) and lack of accessories, and write me off. There’s not a lot of room to make friends here, and I don’t really have anything in common with them, so it’s just as well, but there’s always a part of me that a) would like to get to know them and b) worries that if they catch me sneaking furtive looks at them (my own once-over of their outfits) they’ll get the wrong idea. Yes, this is probably hyperbole on my part, but sexual harassment cases are running a bit wild here as of late, so I’m on my guard, since I’m already the red-headed stepchild of the office. And, of course, I’m pre-judging that they’re not queer/other/etc. which may not be the case at all.
A small change occurred last week: as I was walking in in the morning, I passed the group of them chatting, and – horror of horrors – one woman caught me, um, basically checking her out. She looked up right as I was passing, and I’m sure I turned the color of rare roast beef.
“Your dress is really pretty!” I managed to blurt out as I tried to run without looking like I was running. Difficult in an office. If I had to actually start dating again I think it would be a lonely, lonely experience.
“Um, I like that color on you!” she returned, a bit quizzically, but pleasantly nonetheless. I was wearing a purple shirt. She obviously didn’t think I was a total pervy weirdo. (Jury’s still out.)
Amazingly, since then, we’re a bit like the Mars mission: there’s a 13 minute delay in our communications, but we’re talking. We’re pleasant. ALL the other intern girls suddenly stopped ignoring me or being weird around me too. I won’t go so far as to say we’re friends or anything, but I’m at least not just a weird butch in an ugly suit – or if I am, they determined that I’m mostly harmless. They wave and smile when they pass my office.
Progress, people. I might actually be able to function like a non-alien after all.