When I first discovered Betty, I felt like a firecracker on a 4th of July. Finally, I had found someone in the TV world I could perhaps relate to. I always fantasized myself as a Sydney Bristow (from the JJ Abrams’ show, Alias) because she seriously kicked ass, called Victor Garber ‘Dad’ and …, was humping super hot Michael Vaughn. For the latter reason alone, I would not mind dying and being reborn as Sydney Bristow; Sydney Bristow’s nipple even.
But Betty Suarez was me. Daughter of an immigrant family with unruly eyebrows and confusing fashion style. She was someone whom the viewers were rooting for and hoped she would end up with the financially comfortable, boyishly pretty and slightly rebellious Daniel. Young DH was a little like that before he married me. We then had 3 kids and one income for the whole family. He is now broke, circumstantially submissive to corporate America and with a beer belly. He is still kind of pretty 🙂
I am Betty Suarez down to my food diet. My last work meeting was a 2 pm meeting. The two model like women I met ordered a side kale salad for their lunches. A SIDE kale salad…Meanwhile I ate before the meeting thinking I would save some money and time and avoid having to swallow noodles or something tricky like that while I speak. I have done this once in a lunch job interview and it was ghastly. Anyway, guess what I had? I ate a fucking BBQ beef rib reeking of fatty juice with a lentils salad, dill rice…and a Madeleine. How more Betty Suarez can I be?
Betty was better though because she dared the tin can smile…I have been talking about wearing some braces for almost a decade to sort out my crooked teeth but I still cannot do it. Yes, the force was strong in Betty.
Age 37, I am feeling even closer to her. That is so retarded. I feel like an intern in my return to the work world despite 15 years working experience. Hell, this 20 year old blogger from Lost Gen Y girl seems to have it more together than I do. I am not on coffee duties but everything seems brand new to me. I also wonder whether I am going next. I am constantly asking myself: ‘can I really do this? Am I not dangerously winging it?’ Another very telling fact is that…I sweat a lot. Buckets load.
The difference is that now I am too fucking old to censor myself and actually say all the shit that I am thinking. I dress exactly the way I want without caring about how this may get interpreted. I also cut people in the middle of sentences to dash off home because my nanny’s shift was over. I am basically like an intern with a cocaine addiction problem.
But when your (still sole) client suddenly opens his eyes real wide during a meeting and excitedly says after listening to your demented rambling:
‘I think you have just nailed it! That thing you just said is a BIG, BIG idea’. When that happens, you feel what you would probably feel if you were removing hideous metal braces torturing your teeth. Suddenly I realize that teeth braces are the perfect analogy for my current anxieties. Being jobless burdens you, inhibits you, makes you feel ashamed and ugly. People see you differently, they try not to talk about it but it’s, sometimes, the only thing they see and they wonder when you’ll find a job again. Eventually, the braces always come off. Eventually, I hope I will smile again, this time though, a smile with straight teeth.
But before that, I actually need to put these braces on. For real.
NB: I looked online at what happened to Betty at the end of the series (I stopped watching after season 2). Apparently she left New York for a great career in London, looks fabulous; Daniel kind of followed her there and asked her for a date. Way to go, Betty.
NB2: completely not related to my post but needed to get this one out of my chest….I realized that we had 45 unmatched kid socks in our house…45!!!! How can I think I am better at laundry than our local ‘wash and fold’ launderette ? #delusionalhomemaker
When I decided that this year would be the one I would go back to the work world, I was ecstatic. Of course, it only lasted the time of drinking my morning cafe au lait and looking at my tired eyes in the mirror of my wardrobe . Truth to be told, with L’s snort all over my black top, my dirty hair and my broken nails, I did not look the part. Worse, with my brain programmed to deal with diaper rash, stew cooking or bingeing on diapers.com, I simply did not fit the part. Something became clear. The first step of Operation Working Mama had to be: get my mojo back.
In my old job, a lot of what I was doing had to do with reading, analyzing, interviewing and writing. Jumping back straight into where I left things off has been hard. I mean, I used to write about the social economy or various frameworks of power analysis for social change. A tad intense, isn’t it? I thus decided that I should probably rehearse my skills in a fun way. DH suggested that I volunteer for the NYPD to patrol projects in Harlem and could use the experience to write juicy pieces on ‘Old Harlem, New Harlem’. I am not kidding. He got a leaflet and really pumped me up for it:’What is awesome about it is that you get to learn self-defense techniques‘. I was appalled. Me+NYPD+guns ? How did he think this would end? Seriously…
Instead I opted for a more peaceful approach: writing profiles for my blog. Since my self-confidence is pretty low at the moment, I did what a girl should always do in this situation: call a friend, bribe them with a champagne lunch and get them to be the guinea pig. After a lot of Facebook hassling and hustling, my first victim is Brandon Aldridge, Betsey Johnson’s senior designer and right hand man. For the occasion, I dressed young and free. We met at Betsey Johnson’s offices, quintessentially girly and quirky (see the little teaser in the pictures montage). Hours later as I was jumping into a cab after downing a glass of bubbly to meet my sick kids at their pediatrician, I felt good. I had been able to carry out an adult conversation for two hours! It was a baby step but as my kids kind of taught me, these can be the hardest to make.
It is not often than I get work connections through my family – mainly because they still don’t know what I was doing before having kids and more comprehensibly what it is I actually want to do now. My sister’s boyfriend once candidly asked: ‘I am confused…your sister has two Masters in Business and Management, worked in Market research, then studied a Masters in Development studies because she wanted to save the world and then took some accessories design classes at the Fashion Institute Technology …I am lost’. What is truly awful about this is that my career schizophrenia has been correctly articulated by a 21 year old boy. I don’t know what is going on but younger generations seem so much more together and so much more serious. Perhaps one of the many consequences of the economic recession: the youth is scared shitless of being unemployed for the rest of their lives. People in our 40s; let’s watch out because our competition is ruthless. Mark my words: they will eat us alive.
Ok back to the topic … For once I had a family connection, an ‘aunt’ with at least three degrees of separation and through marriage but it still counts. Can you feel how desperate my job search has become? My aunt thus hooked me up with a headhunter for a ‘please find me a well paid job’ coffee chat. After my one hour meeting, my first one since 2010 that did not involve talking about my eggs, measuring my hormonal levels, monitoring my fetuses’ growth or weighing my kids, I learnt a lot. A lot about what not to do at a first meeting after your maternity leave:
1- do not forget to ask people’s cell phone number. It is obvious but somehow two years with my head in dirty diapers made me forget this simple rule. It would have avoided the awkward search around in one of the busiest Starbucks coffee shops in town, which leads me to
2- even though you are not working you should have in mind business like places for meetings in business areas because people who work will NEVER come all the way up to Harlem for a coffee in your local quiet Senegalese bakery. And you want to look like you are in charge and know the cool places.
3- Do not start talking about your résumé while looking for a coffee place because they are not listening!!! It is cold, it is early in the morning, they have caffeine withdrawal so you should really shut up…in fact the next rule is probably the most important
4- you have missed conversation with another adult, especially one that makes you feel that you are more than a breeding cow or a living exercauser but it is not a reason to start sharing every single detail about your life. Repeat after me: A HEAD HUNTER IS NOT YOUR BFF (Best Friend Forever). They don’t care about you not sleeping because your little brats wanted to watch TV at 3am. They do not care!
Anyway despite my verbal diarrhea the headhunter managed to pep talk me: strong résumé and logical career moves (the key word here being logical my friends). He told me to write down the top 5 companies I wanted to work for and he would check if he had any connections. He seemed confounded that I could not answer straight away but I am sure he would have struggled with my spontaneous list: Alexander Wang, the Ford Foundation, any big Women’s rights organizations, President Obama and myself…
Not sure where this meeting would lead me but it was worth doing this exercise if only to wear grown up clothing and get the free coffee.
Today is the second day of my job search. Considering that my first day of job search was three weeks ago it is becoming slightly pathetic. I had a horrible night since my 3 month old baby L woke up every hour and a half and I basically had to use my breasts as a ‘will you shut up?’ pacifier. Obviously my angel-demon is not sleep trained, feed trained, poop trained. He is not trained at all. He is basically ON DEMAND for every single basic function he has at his age.
I could however not postpone this whole thing anymore because:
1- my husband nudged me about finding a job twice in two days: ‘Oh you want to start a blog, what about your job search?’ and the next day even less subtle ‘hurry to find a job so we can buy our vacation home and pay the nanny next year’. The ‘paying the nanny’ business did the trick; I cannot live without her. When she arrives on Monday morning at 9am after a chaotic week end, the kids are barely alive and I am very close to kissing her feet. And I don’t mean this in a figurative way.
2- I had my child care covered: G & P my 18 (or is it 19) months old twins were with their trustworthy nanny and my 3 month old baby L was being taken care of by my British model like summer au pair/teenage niece Alice. And when you have your child care organized for the day you really have to make the most out of it…In my dreams that would mean going through my old Vogue and Grazzia magazines and cut out jumpsuits, dresses, boots, hats and more jumpsuits and caressing the pictures one by one. In reality that means paying my dentist bill, doing 7 wash loads, procrastinating about L’s birth announcement (considering I have never sent my thank you cards after my 2004 wedding, I still think I am on track for this one) and of course looking for a JOB. A JOB is financially remunerated as opposed to jobs, the ‘little things’ that stay at mums do for the survival of her progeny.
Plus I had a starting point. DH (aka Dear Husband) suggested ‘Go and get LinkedIn’ before leaving for his big bank job while I had my head under my pillow partly snoring with one breast still hanging from L’s mouth.
‘Go and get LinkedIn’. Said like this, it seems pretty easy right?
So what is this LinkedIn business about? It is social networking based on your professional identity so that bankers can smooch online with other bankers and head hunters can screen out zillions of profiles for the lucky candidates they think will be their next cash cows. As I start building my profile and network (almost feverishly I must admit) here’s what struck me:
1- From a quick glance I can see that not all vocations might be represented such as male prostitutes , burlesque dancers, surrogate mothers or stunt doubles etc. So really it is professional working for Messieurs and Mesdames SUITS, isn’t it? Oh dear… Since I am out of business school I never really branched out of ‘my crowd, have I? I am so conservative …or am I just a snob? By the way where is my skinny emotionally retarded childhood friend artist Jan on LinkedIn? Jan is my hip-o-meter; he once made holes in a t-shirt for me to wear because I was embarrassing him clubbing with my 9 to 5 ‘uniform’. I fear Jan would not approve of this LinkedIn business…
2- I had no idea I knew so many people with good jobs. Everyone seems to be so bright, successful, a specialist in something. The picture is the real deal. It says it all; that is probably why a lot don’t put pics at all. I struggle to recognize DH, he looks a little constipated. I should really mention this to him at some point.
Anyhow I started to ask peeps to get connected using 3 filters: my mates (so they know I am not completely procrastinating about my job search), the people who have jobs that make me jealous (e.g.Mr Artistic Director chez Christian Dior) and those who have jobs who make me look as if I had some sort of influence (Partners, MDs I am talking about you). As I completed my profile, I again looked at all my connections with these busy, employed, and perhaps very important people. I did feel this burst of pride in my chest almost as I was somehow doing a little bit of their day job. Pfff I am tired already. Oops I have just received a message from Mr Christian Dior in my inbox, wow this thing is as fast as Facebook!!!
The email says:
I just received your connection request but not sure if we know each other?’
I AM MORTIFIED!!!!!!!!!!!