You know, it’s funny. I never understand why “vanilla” is considered boring. Vanilla has layers of flavor that dance and swoon and swirl where more showy flavors stick and lodge and need to be pried from taste buds. But whatever, who cares what other people think, right?
It’s the people who think they’re so wild that can’t take a joke anyway. Especially these guys, I guess. They’ve always called me “vanilla” and teased me about wearing prairie skirts and not going to happy hours with them. And then I make one little joke, and suddenly it’s all “Human Resources needs to speak with you” and “What the hell is wrong with you?” and whatever.
I mean, I guess I shouldn’t have said it. But it sounded funny and quirky and flirty in my head. I’m not used to getting dressed up and wearing make-up and feeling the weight of dangly earrings skim my shoulders. But I wouldn’t have said it without the gin & tonic. I’m sure I wouldn’t have said it.
The other secretaries – we’re now called Administrative Assistants – convinced me to “make an effort” which I guess means lipstick, not lip balm. And it means borrowing a too tight dress and pumps (the high heels didn’t work out) from Louise. Her daughter is spending another year in Tanzania with the Peace Corps, and the dress was supposed to fit. The zipper closed after three tries, so I guess it wasn’t so tight. Making an effort also means pushing glittery earrings through holes that I thought had closed. Seeing the dot of red on my thumb after working the metal through my ear lobe surprised me, just for a second.
When I passed myself, reflected in the hotel lobby mirror, I felt a quick leap of sympathy for the woman who had tried too hard. Then I realized it was me. Or I was she. Or whatever the correct phrase is. But before I could return to the coat check and make my escape, I was found by Louise and her bunch. They guided me forcefully into the ballroom. And that’s when the gin & tonic found me.
Anyway, yes, I went to the three times postponed office Christmas Party — they now call them Holiday Parties — in a tight dress and with coral lipstick on my lips and probably on my teeth. I felt stupid and clownish and awkward and dumb. So when my boss handed me the gin & tonic and said, “Cheers! Nice to see you here!” I drank it. Then I peeled the lime slice’s meat off the rind with my teeth. It was good. Tangy.
I think, I’m very sure, it must have been the gin & tonic that was to blame, on account of my father’s side of the family. I was trying to be social, and my head was warm. So when I saw some of the traders and guys from accounting, the ones who always say they want me to go to happy hours, I joined in the conversation. I laughed at stories I didn’t really hear, and I smiled when they jabbed elbows into each other’s ribs as they raised their eyebrows and smirked. They liked my dress. They asked if I had plans later.
I don’t know why I told them that stuff. Like I said, it sounded clever and cute and harmless in my head. What’d they call it? Raunchy? Raucous? Something with an R. Whatever. I mean, I don’t know why it’s such a big deal. I don’t know even the way to say it in French, and how come they’re suddenly so uptight? How come they can tease and joke, but they can’t take a silly comment about…well, you know.
Two weeks seems mean, don’t you think? Two weeks of pay for 14 years at a company seems like it’s not fair. I mean, I’m pretty sure it was the gin & tonic my boss gave me. I’d never talk like that otherwise. Two weeks then? Okay. Whatever.