The boss I loved and hated looked like Albert Einstein with a tan, thanks to Clinique bronzer.
I never really did hate him. I was just super upset 'cause he made me cry in front of the whole staff that one time. I don't cry easily, but he could be vicious. He reminded me of that nursery rhythme. You know. The one that says, "And when she was good she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was horrid." Change the she to he and you've got my old boss.
"That won't happen again," I said that morning as I put lipstick on my mad mouth. That incident taught me a valuable life lesson. Negative behavior without negative consequences will never stop.
So the next time he was mean, I was mean right back. In a respectful, passive aggressive way, of course. Within an hour, he brought me cocoa in a china cup. With marshmallows and Walker shortbreads.
When he went out for lunch that day, he came back with a white flag, 'cept it was black. It was a vintage purse that looked like a beaded shoe box. I reckon Miss Fran, of Miss Fran's What Not Shop 'round the corner, told him I'd had my eye on it. Apology accepted.
I think my boss started inviting me to all his social events because I was clever and had the knack of looking "just right" no matter what. I read Vogue and Elle on my lunch hours to make sure I'd get an approving nod, not an eyeroll, when he came downstairs every morning at nine.
He didn't bat an eye the Monday I came into the office with flaming red hair. I'd been a model in a hairshow over the weekend. The hairstylist--a cross between Edward Scissorhands and Conan the Barbarian--shaped my hair like a Christmas wreath right after he colored it the shade of a brake light. "Red hair is all the rage in Paris," I told my boss. He nodded like he knew it before I did.
My boss wasn't the only meanie in the office. His dog was a tyrant too. The beast weighed more than I did. He had a canine major in security training with a minor in dark-skinned men wearing hoods. In the three years I worked there, the dog bit every employee but me. I had the dog figured out though. Just like I had my boss. Whenever I heard the designers leave, I'd throw a Milk Bone in the back of his crate. He'd lumber in and I'd slide the lock shut with a yard stick.
Whenever my boss's picture was in the society pages, his dog was usually beside him. They were both local celebrities. The dog came to all my boss's parties. No one peeped when he sidled up to the buffet, turned his head sideways and inhaled an entire pate. Everyone tittered behind their fingers when he peed for five minutes straight, right there beside the baby grand piano. The pee ran downhill 'cause the townhouse was built in the early 1800's. Everyone just stepped to the side when the canine creek came their way.
After we made our peace, being the office manager in his interior design firm became my favorite job ever. My boss was the most brilliant and creative man I've ever known. Everywhere you looked in his townhouse, there was something beautiful, interesting or unique.
He'd make striped wallpaper go left, right instead of up, down. He covered the walls of his parlor with beautiful scarlet tablecloths he'd found on sale at Big Lots. He had us paint the bulbs on nine strands of red Christmas lights with purple nail polish to get the exact hue he was looking for. He taught me how to shine ivy leaves with mayonaise so they'd look pretty on a cheese tray. He turned me on to trash picking too. You can find some pretty neat stuff on the curb if you keep your eyes peeled.
At the end of my second year, he became generous with me. It was like he was the Grinch and I was Cindy Lou Who. He gave me boxes of old fabric samples--stuff that was worth a hundred dollars a yard. He asked me if I wanted his old Ralph Lauren sports coats, the ones from Saks Fifth Avenue, 'cause we were the same size. I still wear the black and red plaid one with suede elbow patches. It looks sharp with black skinny jeans.
My boss took my husband and me to our first opera. He smiled and handed me his handkerchief when I teared up over some aria. He invited us to our first ball. His eyes got big when my husband and me walked into the ballroom that he'd decorated to look like Egypt. I had on a sheer, black beaded dress from the '20's. It had a nude lining but if you glanced at me real quick, you'd think I was . . . Well, you know.
One time he gave us tickets to the ballet. I've never been back. Don't think it's my thing. I fell asleep actually. Might've had something to do with the fact that it was the ballet version of Anne Frank and all the dancers were wearing grey scrubs.
When I look around my house today, I see all kinds of stuff from my boss. Drapes, pillows, chairs, vases. My black beaded purse. Stuff he gave me for free and stuff he gave me at a really good price. He was German, after all.
When I called to tell him I was quitting to stay home with our first child, he told me I was doing the right thing. Threw me a baby shower too. Made the women promise not to talk about our girl parts though.
On my last day, he hugged me and told me he'd miss me. He did too. He kept having me come back in to train the new me's. They never lasted very long. I think it's 'cause they never learned to be mean back.