Yesterday, I was treated to a car ride from Irvine back to the office with two guys. One of them is a hipstah, a Regular Finger-Snapper. Smart, arrogant and tirelessly and meanspiritedly witty in that way only adguys can be, he makes me want to put my head down on my desk and have naptime, preferably with my blanky closeby. Happily, balance was attained by the Other One, who's a decent fellow. So I was able to keep my dignity. Sort of. Advertising, and especially the creative side of the business, is an old boys network and being a woman on this show is, at best, challenging and enervating. At worst, you can start believing what the guys are telling you with every left-handed compliment, underhanded maneuver and inappropriate joke: that you're completely irrelevant.
It wasn't always thus. Back in the day I swore like a sailor, dressed scantily, drank everything alcoholic in sight and was about ten years younger. In short, I was one of the boys, with a little somethin' somethin'. But now, everyone knows I am Old. Respect is not accorded to the Old Ones in this business. If you haven't risen to management, you're looked upon as something of a loser. My solution to this has been to be a freelancer. A hired gun. I get in, I get out, I don't get any on my shoes. But every once in a while, my feelings get trampled anyway.
We were traveling back from a meeting that had gone well in the beginning, not so well at the end. It was about an hour's trip, and I have reached that place in my life where, if I'm sharing the car with two men, I don't feel compelled to be a nurturer in the conversation department. Therefore, I rode in silence unless I had something to say. It wasn't icy silence. Especially since for most of the way, the three of us were chattering away on our cells returning and fielding calls.
But at one point, one of the gentlemen, the decent one, (we'll call him Dude #1), mentioned a female friend who was a sex addict. I'm not sure that he realized that this would be the conversational equivalent of an arson fire set while the Santa Anas are blowing. Dude #2 immediately began grilling him about his friend. What's she look like? What color is her hair? What's she weigh? What's she do? And what what what is her age?
This was the part of the conversation where it dawned on Dude#1 that I was in the car. I believe his rather self-concious reply was "Uh."
This tipped off dude #2, who shot a look in my direction and then re-phrased his question with more delicacy. "Oh, sorry. Is she old?"
Yeah, now, see, that's where all that sensitivity training really pays off.
"How old is old?" Queried Dude #1. "I mean, I don't even know how old you are."
"How old do you think I am?" Dude #2 tilted his head coyly as he waited for a response. Jesus, now they were flirting with each other. I cleared my throat and shifted in my seat. To his credit, Dude #1 fiddled with his phone as a diversion tactic. But Finger Snapper was not to be dissuaded.
"Oh, man," he said, "I feel awkward about this with a woman in the car," he paused for a nanosecond, "Too old for me would be thirty two."
"Yeah, sorry. She's thirty-five, man," Dude #1 replied.
"Oh, well if she needs like a sex toy, sign me up," vollyed Mr. Sensitivity.
It was the likes of this that I listened to from Irvine to Santa Monica. At one point, it was laughingly established between the two of them that conversation of this nature was probably alright with Lucia because I don't date, whatever that meant. This was agreed upon as if I had not been present, but rather driving home in a separate vehicle. Which I dearly wished I was.
Now, I know. Rise above, and all that. And I did. To a point.
But when you're a woman who used to be a hottie, and now you're a nottie, this stuff takes its toll. It makes you feel small, insignificant and without a place in the scheme of things. And what really jangles the alarm bells is that I know I've probably been guilty of the very same behavior - making assumptions and jokes and belittlements all in the pedestrian pursuit of amusement.
So I got back to the office and after realizing there was quite a bit of writing that could be done from home, I drove back McManus, back to safety. What a treat - after a couple of months without her, the prospect of watching Oprah had me positively foaming at the mouth. And yesterday's show was bang on the money, as it happened. Because a year ago, Kirstie Alley vowed that she'd do a bikini reveal on Oprah, and yesterday's show was B-day. Now, this is a woman who had gone up to 220 LBs at one point. And she's lost 75 pounds. That is some kind of major accomplishment in my book. She also owns her age, which is 55.
Hey, she didn't look like Demi Moore in a bathing suit. Her legs were big, especially at the tops. But dammit, she looked good. She peeled off the wrap for a few seconds and then put it back on; you could feel her self-consciousness - and she's NOT a shrinking violet.
But then she talked about how scared she'd been to do it. About how women are always feeling like wherever they are, they're not good enough. That when she was thirty, she would NEVER have done a bikini reveal on national TV, and that was when she was super-skinny. When she was thirty, she would have wondered what someone like Dude #2 thought of her looks. She'd have been young enough, but the real question for her would have been whether she was good enough for him.
Now, she's 25 years older, and along with the years, she's grown a sassy attitude. She said she would wear a bikini and she did. On National TV. Come on! That takes real cajones. Regardless of the years, the bumps, the bulges and the wrinkles, she showed up because she SAID she would. She is a woman of substance.
And that's when it hit me. Any woman who gets up every morning and goes through her day being dismissed by our culture at large as having lived past her shelf-life is a force of nature. To say "I'm Still Here" and show up in a bikini, when the popular vote would prefer you sink into the woodwork, THAT is phenomenal. Remarkable. Miraculous. And something that Dude #2, and his ilk, could never, in their most arrogant dreams, hope to touch. In his book, we're too old for him. But that's just a little kid's coloring book; and God bless him, he's busy coloring inside the lines. I would vastly prefer to be in, say, DaVinci's chapbook, where women of a certain age aren't just highly visible.
They're way out of Dude #2's league.