I work in a rather male-dominated organisation, with a hierarchy which is pyramid-shaped rather than pear-shaped. We have a strict dress code and a high regard for formality which means everyone ends up looking the same. I quite like that – it saves me searching for my personal style, which is buried somewhere beneath three years of nappies and an expandable waistband.
This morning I had an appointment with The Big Boss so I brushed down my skirt and straightened my hair in preparation. I looked professional. A woman in a man’s world.
The meeting went well; I felt a glow of pride for my contribution to the working mother’s cause. Too often women in business are seen as too fragile, too frail, just too feminine – I like to show the guys I’m really no different to them.
As the meeting finished I stood up to leave, at which point I felt an alarming sensation around my right thigh. A band of elastic was peeling itself from my skin like a plaster in the bath, leaving an icy chill up my skirt. Rather like its wearer, my hold-up stocking was losing its grip.
I should never have bought them. I should have stopped my economy drive at own-brand beans and watered-down washing up liquid, and never extended it to lingerie. For the sake of a nail the horseshoe was lost; for the sake of the horse the battle was lost; for the sake of a high-quality hold-up my dignity and professional image was about destroyed. I simply had to get out of there with my stockings intact.
Fearing that a sudden knee bend might hasten the stocking’s descent, I shuffled towards the door without lifting my feet from the floor. I felt a crackle of static from the floor tiles and stopped, lest I set myself on fire. I wondered if perhaps I could create a diversion – shout “look over there!” and leg it when his back was turned. But the corridor stretches for miles; I’d never make it to the Ladies without being spotted. This called for caution. For s-l-o-w movements.
The Big Boss continued talking to me about this and that. I clamped my legs together like a child bursting for the loo, in an effort to stop the slow but unstoppable roll of nylon towards my knees. Perhaps he thought I had a bladder weakness problem. Was that better than allowing my stocking to fall round my ankle, I wonder?
I slipped a hand in my pocket. By wriggling slightly and stooping to one side as though suffering from a peculiarity of the spine, I was able to grasp the stocking top through my skirt lining. It wasn’t ideal, particularly when The Big Boss extended a hand to bid me farewell. There was a long pause, during which he looked at me curiously. I shook his hand awkwardly with my left one, and hunched out of the room, gripping my stocking firmly and dragging my leg slightly to avoid excess bend. It was with great restraint that I didn’t add “the bells, the bells…” as a parting shot.
Women in the workplace? We’re really no different to men.