A topic that used to come up quite a bit in my conversations with my girlfriend was the belief of some women that they could have it all, i.e. a career and a fulfilling family life. As we all know, this just won’t work out. I also pointed out to her that old single women are tragic figures. While men often have hobbies they devote a lot of time and energy to, women are rarely that single-minded. Thus, the question is what they would do if they fail at securing a husband and having a kid. Some turn into crazy cat ladies. Others devote their life to a questionable cause. My cutie is currently dipping her toes into working the private sector. In this context, she met a woman whose very existence is an example of the latter.
I recently encountered the pitiful case of an aging, #strongandindependent woman at my workplace. To be fair she didn’t personally express such “woke” views, but I think I saw and heard enough to infer that she comes close enough to the stereotype. Let’s call her Gladys. Gladys’ title is “Administration Manager”, but that just means HR. I’ve seen her handle a range of tasks from more stuffy matters like employment paperwork, to the most trivial answering of the annoying chime of the doorbell in our open-plan office. Oh, she also gets the company’s owner his coffee! Have I mentioned that she totally adores him? I’ll get to that again later. Having been employed by the company for 15 years when it’s been around for 17, she’s virtually a dinosaur and by far its longest-serving employee.
It’s this long-time service that she takes great pride in, and her status in the company is reflected by the fact that she has the luxury of one of only three personal offices in the entire office. Apart from her, the owner (of course) and the Managing Director, everyone else has to suck it up in an open plan office.
Gladys is the sort of woman who likes to have her voice heard, speaks unnecessarily loudly, and cackles in a childish and high-pitched manner when no joke has been made. She also over-shares and as a result I get to hear a lot about her, unsolicited. My jaw dropped when she proudly told me of how she puts in 12 to 13-hour days and has been doing so for years, even at her previous employers. She typically comes into the office at 7am and leaves at around 7pm. When I learnt of this, the question “Do you have a husband and children?” immediately formed on the cusp of my lips, but I had the good sense to stop myself from uttering it for fear of triggering something in her, and making life hard for myself in this company. Gladys justifies her long hours by saying that she’s always been motivated by the desire for her boss to be proud of her work. Hence, she constantly goes the extra mile. According to her, it’s not a legacy that she wants to leave behind, but the simple wish for people to speak well of her whenever she comes to their mind.
I kid you not, but she’s gushed to me about how the owner is “a wonderful human being” and how “we’ve been through a lot together.” She then proceeded to explain to me how she had expended painstaking effort to earn his respect and trust in the fledgling days of the business, and now that their partnership has come this far, she can “literally” ask him for anything and he will provide. It is as though her biological instinct to nurture was applied to the growth of the company (which is grudgingly commendable, by the way) instead of children, and that her high admiration of its owner parallels an innate feminine desire to look up to a lifelong partner. This was truly bizarre to witness. But of course, that’s probably just my internalised misogyny speaking!
I’m quite certain that it’s going to hit her hard when she retires. That at the end of the day, the company she gave all of her waking hours to for two decades or so — moves on and runs as usual. Oh, think about the feeling of being replaced and the sense of loss! Her purported goal to be spoken well of by friendly acquaintances in the corporate world just rings utterly hollow. It’s astonishing, and I don’t get why she doesn’t see that. Even if this were to be achieved, which, given what I know, does sound quite plausible, what does it matter if she has to walk into the sunset alone? As Donald Trump would phrase it: Sad!
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