Shape, Skin-color -A Survival of the Prettiest in the Work-place

The saying “All is fair in love and war” is a little over a century-and-a-half old. Fast forward and today, it has evolved into a phrase everyone uses to justify backstabbing, belittling, humiliation, spite, gossip-mongering, reputation attacks, etc in the name of waging and winning war and love.

In a girl’s world these constitute what often times is referred to as “bitchiness” so that when this famous phrase is used with reference to the above, it is simply shorthand for bitchiness. Let me illustrate this with an example: Susan is just recently employed. Her skin is smooth and brown. Often times she takes advantage of the hot afternoons and exposes this gorgeous skin.

It’s easy to spot that these are the same afternoons that James, Ken, Alfred and John are lacking in concentration. As it happens, James, Ken, Alfred and John are all managers. Since the office is open-plan, you can also notice that Susan entertains many managerial discussions at her desk. But get within hearing range and you will find that many of the discussions are about things like politics, cars, computers and football. She seems to know everything. James, Ken, Alfred and John all know Susan is graduating with an MSc next month.

There is talk that she is up for that managerial position that the other old guy left when he retired. Susan is slender; wears figure hugging dresses; has long hair; long painted nails; and those stilts that just make her all the more conspicuous. Every client who walks into the office, seemingly at random, seems to choose her desk. Everyone has noticed that the supervisor calls her all the time and she has 9 out of 10 chances to pitch her ideas. Her English: impeccable. She has won employee of the month many times. OK, let us take a look at one of Susan’s colleagues: Winifred has generated more business for the company in the last 15 years than anyone else.

But that is fast changing since she doesn’t get to pitch her ideas very often anymore. She’s in her forties but the grey hair is already showing. She is very familiar with hair dyes, hennas and colours. Her hair colour is a haphazard concoction of many colours, somewhat a pale brown, grey-red mix. It’s hard to tell. A lump always forms in her throat when “that Susan” goes past her desk and compliments her “multicoloured wig”. Winifred has a good relationship with one of the older directors but he has been hospitalized for the last 3 weeks.

If he doesn’t get well and come back soon she might not get the chance to pitch for the important clients for a very long time. Her opportunities have been stolen by this younger and prettier version of her former self. Having three teenage kids and a drunkard husband is already showing on her. Also, the supervisor asked her to work on her accent. “Too native”, he says. “These days we have all these foreigners among our clients, and they can’t understand a thing you say”. It is visiting time at the hospital.

The hospital has white walls with classy paintings. The director is fairly old white man: white beard, burly, scarce grizzly hairs with most of his head shinny mostly because no hair would grow there. Ironically, he likes to stay at the hospital. He’s sick alright: of old age. A cold here, muscle cramp there. Never mind he is always happy to come to the hospital just so the pretty nurses would smile and stay by his bed all night. Then they would change shifts in the morning. Winifred walks in wearing the same perfume he used to like.

He gives her a wide grin. His mouth is half empty. Most of the teeth are gone, yet his memory is still clear. How can he forget Paris and Singapore and Amsterdam back in the day when she used to be his personal assistant… ..? The visit is nostalgic… ..and she starts a rumour somewhere in the middle of the office updates. Well, she thinks that the managers talk too much money business with just one employee and while it’s the auditor’s job to check the figures, she guesses that the recent burglary was planned… … Monday, Miss Susan is called by the supervisor: that’s usual. Afterwards when the clicking of her stilts is heard again, it’s weak and slow: unusual.

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