Goodbye Prada

September 18, 2008 by  

In the fifty or so crappy jobs I had prior to law school, I always cared about how I looked. Sure, I was only working as, say, a temp receptionist at a basement theater company, but I figured, eh, a little mascara and maybe a stiletto or two can’t hurt—because you never know who you’re gonna meet, right?  And when I accepted an offer to work at one of the swankiest Big Firms in New York, I figured the possibilities of who I might meet would skyrocket.  I’d be bumping into sexy corporate titans and Wall Street bad boys left and right—and my old glamour-jones would finally (finally!) have a worthy outlet.  Each day would be a glitzy montage of Louboutin bliss and sleek Prada power suits worthy of Darren Star’s next primetime hit. Sure, I didn’t really know what kind of work I’d actually be doing, or what a lawyer really even does, but I knew I’d look damn good doing it.  So please help me figure out how things have gone so horribly wrong.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly it happened, but in the past few months, I’ve become someone who has stopped wearing her hair to work in anything but a welfare-mother ponytail.  Someone who last week purchased eleven pairs of the exact same black Theory pants in an effort to “make things easier.” I might not have even noticed if, only this morning, I hadn’t been on the tragic receiving end of the most unimaginable—and earnest—comment from my fellow BFA.  One that begins “With your hair up that way, you kinda look like…” and ends with “…Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Remarkably, I didn’t commit suicide on the spot.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Really?  I may not know much about Darren Star’s development slate, but I’m almost positive that ol’ Ruthie G. ain’t involved.

So what is it about working at a Big Firm that destroys your ability to care about your looks and your clothes and your attractiveness at work (and apparently makes you look like an infirm 75-year-old Supreme Court Justice)?  I finally have a job, not to mention a paycheck, worthy of my glitz addiction and now I’m one step away from wearing sweatpants to work.  How did this happen?

After a therapeutic walk around the lobby of Bergdorf’s, the answer hit me loud and clear: There’s not one person to flirt with at the Firm.  Sure, there may have been one or two hot prospects the first few weeks, but within months, those dapper first-years have morphed into bloodless, pit-stained drones, slogging away in their billable black holes.  And the only people I’d actually want to run into around here—to devote some butterflies and curling iron time to—are slick, potentially hot Fortune 100 CEO clients, a.k.a. the people I’m least likely ever to see.  On the rare occasion when A-list clients actually descend upon the Firm, short of one getting lost on the way to bathroom and stumbling into the catacombs of the associate offices, they’re kept as far away from lowly juniors like me as possible.  At the end of the day—day after day after day—there’s just no one I’m excited and nervous to see, no one to crush on.  So why moisturize your legs and show off that new pair of Jimmy Choos?

So, the job that I thought would be the perfect showcase for my glittering parade of power-chic has turned out to be the sartorial equivalent of a trip to Duane Reade.  And now trips to Duane Reade—or Starbucks or the gym or any other mundane pit stop I used to flit past on the way to more glamorous ends—are my only primp-worthy pursuits.  Heading to the E train?  Slap on some lip gloss.  Running out to Balducci’s after work?  Can’t hurt to take my hair down and put on a little mascara.  Picking up from Burritoville?  Time to throw on some Prada.  I know, it’s not exactly Beatrice Inn, but at least there will be…people there.  Maybe one or two will even be worth flirting with.  Because like I said, you may indeed never know who you’re gonna meet—you just know you’re never gonna meet him at a Big Firm.

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