Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Devil Buys $180 Secret-Santa Gifts

Anne Hathaway was on TV this morning, and even though I'm not a daytime-watcher, I did manage to catch her on both GMA and Live!. Just love that girl. First, I think she bears an enviable resemblance to Nigella Lawson. Second, Kelly Ripa (whom I find very tiring) was asking her dumb questions and she responded to them with a thoughtfulness and integrity that almost seemed out of place among the scads of mindless talking heads that usually appear for interviews. I am going to round up girlfriends and go see Becoming Jane.

Thinking about Anne makes me think about The Devil Wears Prada. I loved both the movie and the book. Show me a fledgling career-person in NYC who has not had that kind of job and I will show you a liar (or someone with a very rich Daddy). My first job in Manhattan was for a very large pharmaceutical advertising agency, based in Times Square. I didn't do the advertising - I got to work for the "medical education" department of this agency, which was FDA code for "Bribe-the-Doctors-with-Expensive-Lunch-and-Learns-and-
and-They-Will-Feel-Guilty-and-Prescribe-Our-Drug" department. I was working crazy hours with even crazier people and making slightly above minimum wage. The offices were always filled with an anxious, uncomfortable energy and the employees took out their frustrations on their subservients. Since I was literally the lowest rung on that nasty ladder, you can just imagine the hell.

My most vivid DWP moment was around Christmas time. We had drawn names for the office Christmas (er, Holiday) party and had capped the price at $20, but since I hardly had money for groceries that seemed like a total extravagance. I had umpteen supervisors (Pete would say "too many chiefs and not enough Indians"), mostly all flamingly gay, yet contrary to the population's reputation, completely void of any lusciousness. One such supervisor, I'll call him Dean, called me into his well-appointed office one day to ask me to accompany him during his shopping expedition for the holiday party. The request didn't make sense, as we weren't friends, but clearly I had no choice but to go.

I hated walking around NYC in the cold, and I hated being with that man. He marched me straight over to 5th Avenue, and preceded to very obviously drop $180 on a Secret-Santa gift! I was so young and cold and poor and bored that I didn't figure this out right away, but when I reminded him that the cap was $20, his MO became disgustingly clear: he just wanted to rub his wealth in my minimum-wage face. Even worse, he insomuch said so on the walk back to the office. Looking back on it, I should have felt angry with him or even sorry for him, but for some reason I just felt ashamed.

I quit the job 2 weeks later.

It was in the elevator of this office building where I met my sweet Peter. I saw the value of Dean's Secret-Santa gift and raised it. Exponentially.

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