Authors: Lisa Lim
I shook my head in polite disbelief and started toward the conference room.
“Sorry I’m late,” I said in a small voice and slipped into the empty chair next to Pamela. Hmm. The atmosphere became mighty frigid.
Oh what fresh hell!
My eyebrows almost collided with my bangs.
Mr. Corvette was standing in front of the conference room.
“Now!” he snapped. “Since some of you here are late to the meeting, allow me to properly introduce myself. My name is Carter Lockwood. Dick Jones has officially resigned and as of today, I am the new site director of this call center.” He continued his sordid soliloquy and began pacing the floor, moving with the easy rolling gait of a man who spends most of his time in the boardroom.
“Company dress code!” His deep voice carried across the room. “Why are we not enforcing it across the board?”
His question was met with silence. I shrank in my seat and didn’t dare glance at him for fear he’d put me on the spot. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him walk up to Pamela. “Please pass these out.” His tone was brisk as he handed her a stack of papers. Pamela took a copy and handed the stack over to me. I helped myself to a copy and passed the stack along to Jewel. Then I quietly skimmed the memo.
Unacceptable business attire:
* Miniskirts (skirts shorter than 3 inches above the knee)
* Underwear as outerwear
* Tank tops, tube tops, halter tops with spaghetti straps (straps must be at least 3 inches wide)
* Beach wear, and that includes flip flops
* Midriff length tops
* Provocative attire (lace or sheer clothing)
* Off-the-shoulder tops, sleeveless tops or dresses (worn without a cardigan or blazer)
* Workout clothes or shoes
* Evening wear
* Torn, dirty or frayed clothing
* Anything too short, too tight, or low-cut
Department managers and supervisors must enforce the Company Dress Code.
1. If an obvious policy violation occurs, the department supervisor will hold a discussion with the employee and ask the employee to go home and change his/her attire immediately.
2. Repeated policy violations will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
A sudden loud voice made me jump. “Karsynn Higginbotham! Pamela Pornero! Jewel De’Nyle!” Carter commanded to all and sundry, “The three of you, please come up to the front of the room.”
Pamela and I exchanged identical raised eyebrow expressions and traipsed to the front.
Jewel sidled up to me. “What’s going on?”
I shrugged weakly. “No idea.”
Carter stood before us and I tried to remain quiet and confident under his open appraisal. To avoid his glowering gaze, I found myself staring at his mouth. It was practically another presence in the room.
If loose lips sink ships, then Carter Lockwood’s lips would sink an entire fleet.
I summoned up a smile when I realized Carter’s eyes had rested on me.
“You’re Karsynn, right?” he asked, nostrils flaring.
“And you’re a supervisor, am I right?” There was an uncomfortable hard edge to his voice as he said this.
“Uh-huh.” I squared my shoulder blades.
“Then why are you dressed like
“Like what?” I stared at him nonplussed.
Was it wrong to dress like a surfer girl when I don’t actually surf?
!” he barked.
Humph. It’s a good thing he refrained from using any derogatory names. I’ve always wanted to say, “YOU BETTER LAWYER UP BECAUSE I’LL SEE YOU IN COURT!”
Not that I’d ever follow through with my threat. It just sounded so cool.
“What sort of example are you setting?” Carter demanded, making no effort to hide his smug contempt.
Under his scrutinizing gaze, my skin began to prickle and my confidence waned. He made me feel horribly self-conscious about my short skirt that was showing acres of bare thigh. How I longed for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.
“I-I . . .” It came out like a frog’s croak. I found myself become correspondingly more tongue tied.
Then Carter turned his attention to Pamela and Jewel. “And I understand that the two of you are team leads.”
“Yessssireee,” was their sassy reply.
“Then act and dress like you’re team leads!” Then he turned and fixed me with an eagle glare as if I was equally culpable for their decision to dress like hookers.
I was not.
If Pamela and Jewel wanted to dress like that, so be it.
Let it rest. That is the Buddhist way.
Yes. I am sometimes a Buddhist. And achieving Zen is no mean feat. It takes a
lot of effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have?
Nothing. Nada. Zilch. But that is the goal of enlightenment, I guess.
Taking a deep breath, I began silently meditating like a Tibetan monk.
OHM . . . OHM . . . OHM . . . SABBE . . . SATTA . . . SUKHI . . . HONTU . . .
It means: May all beings be happy.
It didn’t seem to be working. Carter was far from happy. Far, far, far from it. He wheeled around and addressed the entire room. “Everyone, listen up! This is a fine example of how you should
dress. And because Karsynn, Pamela and Jewel have clearly violated our company dress code . . .” He left a pause so dramatic everyone tensed. “I am sending them home to change.”
There was a collective snort of laughter and I found myself blushing in shame at being spoken to like that in public. I held my head up high and practically split my face into two, pretending that it didn’t faze me.
Face like thunder, Carter’s voice descended to a single ominous note. “
,” I replied through gritted teeth, taking a break from being Buddhist.
“Good.” Carter gave me a short, tight smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Forget all this attaining enlightenment! Forget all this pseudo-profound Zen teachings! I glared at Carter with blistering scorn, taking a silent inventory of the countless ways I could exact my revenge.
God and Gautama Buddha! How I hated this man.
His bluntness set me on edge.
What did he think we were? Cattle at a livestock auction?
“For now, the three of you can return to your seats.” His tone was harsh, an order rather than a request. “After this meeting, I expect you to go home and change into something more appropriate.”
Pamela and Jewel returned to their seats, giggling like a pair of giddy schoolgirls. Still reeling, I walked back to my chair and sat down with a huff. “Excuse me?” I raised my hand. “There seems to be a double standard here. How come you have a problem with how we’re dressed and yet it’s OK for men to swan around the office in their Spandex cycling shorts and Lycra bodysuits?”
Carter folded his arms across his chest. “You have a problem with that?”
Feeling rather like Wonder Woman, the purveyor of truth and justice, I bravely said, “I do.”
“Well,” I began, “the front view can be somewhat off-putting, but the back view with the butt padding . . .” I stopped myself just in time.
The back view made men look as if they were wearing Always Maxi Wings pads. Nonetheless, I didn’t think it was appropriate to discuss menstrual pads at a business meeting.
“Actually,” said Hillary with a note of faint-heartedness, “those Lycra cycling shorts scare the living daylights out of me. It forces me to look where I don’t want to . . . like at a bad car accident, know what I mean?”
“Yep.” I nodded energetically. “I know exactly what you mean. It’s hard to watch it but it’s impossible to pull your eyes away.”
Encouraged, Hillary continued, “Truthfully, those shorts leave little to the imagination. If you ask me, private parts should remain private.”
Hillary had a point. Those skintight spandexy shorts shrink-wrapped men’s genitalia, reducing them to store-bought, Saran-wrapped Concord grapes. What’s worse is some men take it to the extreme. Take for instance, Seymour Lewis, a fellow supervisor, who walks around in a full-bodied unitard—the sort of unitard that can only be purchased at a dance supply shop, likely intended for women only but labeled “unisex.”
Seriously? Grown men at the office all trussed up in shiny Technicolor Lycra unitards?
How sad is that?
Sensationally sad I tell you!
Carter surveyed the room. “Anyone else have a problem with Lycra cycling shorts?”
Seymour stood up with an air of defiance. “I don’t!”
I cast a swift glance at Seymour in his sad, sad, unitard. “Moose knuckles.” The word just slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it.
What the hell made me say that?
I had an unnerving talent for putting my foot in my mouth. And not just my foot, mind you, but my whole leg.
“What did you just say?” Seymour demanded.
How I wish my mouth had a ‘Backspace’ key. “Oh,” I said inanely, “nothing.”
“I heard you! Level with me, Kars!” Seymour sent me daggers. “Why did you just say moose knuckles?”
I smiled wanly with a turn of my head that indicated the topic was inappropriate, but Seymour simply refused to let it drop.
“Tell me!” His voice pitched higher.
“Well,” I said, “you know how some women have camel toes?” I coughed lightly. “Well . . . um . . . you have moose knuckles.”
“Hey, I don’t mind them.” Pamela smothered a giggle. “Let’s face it, once you’ve seen one set of turkey giblets, you’ve likely seen them all!”
On the far side of the room, a shy voice piped in. It was Chester, an ex-Humanities professor who had left academia years ago because he hadn’t been granted tenure. “Actually,” he said slowly, “camel toes and moose knuckles are the only reason why I go to yoga class.”
The table went deathly quiet. There was a moment of still silence as all heads swiveled toward Chester. Meanwhile, Seymour was still twitching about in his sad, sad unitard. “See!” Seymour was practically shouting. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Lycra!”
I blinked in
. This guy was clearly oblivious to the spectacle he represented.
“What’s so wrong if some of my lumps and bumps are present?” Seymour remained intentionally obtuse. “So what if my ‘boys’ are on display? C’mon, is this the Victorian age or something?”
“Well,” I said in a small voice, “can’t you wear cycling shorts that don’t actually make you look like Hulk Hogan at the Ice Capades?”
“First of all,” Seymour harrumphed loudly, “I was planning on changing after I’d checked my emails. And secondly, this suit enhances my performance. Trust me; baggy shorts don’t even come close to the performance of Lycra!”
“Are you in the Tour de France trying to shave tenths of a second off your personal best?” I fixed Seymour with a pointed look. “What? Was that a ‘No’? Then you don’t need Lycra.”
Hillary chimed in, “If you don’t have billboard ads all over your bodysuit, then you obviously don’t need Lycra.”
“Uh-huh.” Jewel did a zigzag finger snap. “Do you even bike fast enough for it to make a performance difference? And let’s be real, your ten mile commute is in no way equivalent to the rigors of a race. So really, there is no excuse for wearing Lycra!”
“You women don’t get it, do you?” Seymour hissed loudly. “It’s not just about shaving off seconds! It’s so that I’m not walking around bowlegged like a Dungeness crab all day. And it prevents chafing.”
“Ball burn,” was Seymour’s illuminating reply.
In a sudden moment of clarity, we collectively said, “Oh . . .”
“Look,” said Carter, taking charge of the meeting that had clearly spiraled out of control, “if you want to wear Lycra on your bike, by all means do. But please Seymour, once you come into work, go straight to the men’s room and get changed.”
“Yes, Seymour. Please do,” I added virtuously. “And none of this:
Oh, I’m just checking my emails
and the next thing you know is you’re at a meeting in a full blown unitard.”
“It’s a body suit!” Seymour shouted.
“All right guys, you’ve made your point. I think we’re all agreed then . . .” Carter glanced around the room. “No Lycra. I’ll be updating the Company Dress Code and moving forward, Lycra shorts and body suits will be considered unacceptable work attire. Now before I end this meeting . . .” He eyed me quickly. “Karsynn, Pamela and Jewel—after you’ve changed into some proper clothes, I expect you to report back to me.”