Stepping into his office, I placed the requested file on his desk. He and his assistant had left for the day and I was asked to keep the office open and schedule appointments for later in the week.
This job was a dream come true for me. I had managed to finish high school and take classes at the junior college with two kids in tow. Now I had my first real job that was “professional”. My grandmother had encouraged me to become a secretary – in her cohort this was making it. “You’ll have your own money”, she’d beam. At the time it seemed an insurmountable goal but with long hours and many sacrifices, I had achieved the hardly possible odds of getting off of welfare and earning a paycheck. Success never seemed so sweet as the day I got the call back that I was hired to be the secretary/receptionist at the two person Orthotics Office. I knew my grandma would be proud.
That day, being a somewhat curious…okay, nosy person I looked around his desk. It was very neatly arranged except for the file I had just brought in. I’ll never know why, but I opened the small drawer on the right hand side where I assumed pencils and other tools would be kept. In it was a folded half-sheet of binder paper. I lifted the paper and unfolded it.
There were two columns with a line drawn down the middle. The top of one column was headed with clearly printed black letters: “Face” and the other column, “Body”. Women’s names including mine ran down the left hand side of the paper, each clearly printed in black pen. When I found my name I read across the columns: Face, A and Body, B. Each and every candidate was “graded” according to her physical attributes and obviously I had been valued highest. A flush of elation swept over me. I had never thought of myself as stunningly pretty, so this pronouncement was new to me. I thought, “wow! I won.”
But in the long aftermath of that euphoria, as I matured, I realized that day I had recognized on some level that all of my accomplishments and the position had been devalued. My success was nothing more than, tits, ass, and face to him. My knowledge mattered little. His probable fantasies had trumped every bit of scratching and clawing I had endured to achieve a better life for myself and my children. His sexism had defeated my accomplishment.
His end at the office was not a good one. The drama of it all never reached me except that I was there when he had to clean out his desk. And I got to meet his ex-wife, a very beautiful and kind woman.