The boss I loved and hated looked like Albert Einstein with a tan, thanks to Clinique bronzer. Okay, so I didn’t actually hate him. I just never forgave him for the time he made me break down in front of the whole staff. 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.
"I won’t let it happen again," I told myself later in the day as I put lipstick on my mad mouth. That incident taught me a valuable life lesson. Nasty behavior without negative consequences will never stop.
The next time he was hateful, I was mean right back. In a respectful, passive aggressive way, of course. Within an hour, he presented me with cocoa. In a china cup. With tiny marshmallows and
Not long after, my boss started inviting me to all his social events. I'm pretty sure it was because I was clever and had the knack for 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 red hair instead of brown. 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
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 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. 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 stream ran downhill 'cause the floors of the early 1800's townhouse weren’t level. 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 made striped wallpaper go left, right instead of up, down. He covered the walls of his parlor with gorgeous patterned tablecloths he'd found at Big Lots. He paid me to 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 to shine ivy leaves with mayonnaise 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 nice now Grinch and I was Cindy Lou Who. He gave me boxes of old fabric samples-- some 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 me and my husband 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 I walked into the ballroom he'd decorated to look like
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.
Years later, 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 to train the new me's. They never lasted very long. I think it was because they never learned to be mean back.