My second post in a three-part series about a career in a man’s world, armadilloes and bones somewhat useful for talking.
Whenever I have to make a decision, I ask myself the following questions. What would be the dignified course? What can I do to avoid a confrontation? How can I be gracious? Elegant?
What can I say? I’m English.
When I ask myself these questions, ascertain the answers and act upon them, my life usually goes smoothly.
But sometimes, I don’t. And it doesn’t.
This day was one of those where I asked myself the questions.
And ignored the answers…
A year or two on from my early career success, I found myself the lone woman at an international sales conference in Austin, TX.
I’m sure you know the deal. The days are spent at speeches, launches and trainings, the evenings are spent in restaurants and bars, the nights in a nice, comfy bed at The Four Seasons with a mini-bar whose outrageous prices for packets of nuts I didn’t have to concern myself over.
By this time, the magazine, ‘Working Woman’ had died a natural death – there simply weren’t enough women like me looking forward to Christmas Eve scouting operations or wanting to know what to say at the coffee machine (can’t imagine why) and I had to fall back on my wits.
To help myself, I had three rules that I enforced rigidly, determinedly and without hesitation or equivocation. They were burned into my brain, ran through me like a stick of rock and recited every night before sleep. They were the keys to my professional reputation and, I believe, the keys to my success:
1. Don’t Date (people from work)
2. Don’t Get Drunk (with people from work)
3. Never EVER cry (in front of people from work, especially at work)
This last point was imperative.
I may be old school or just plain old but I do not get it when young women today do any of these things. It’s just plain unprofessional. Yes, some men do get drunk at company do’s and sometimes date co-workers and have it do no harm to their careers but double standards apply.
We can fight against the double standards (and lose – because it’s taken centuries to get even this far) or choose what is most important and take action accordingly. And if that important thing is your career, follow these rules, especially the last one.
I mean, have you ever come across a male manager that enjoys dealing with a woman who cries?
Most men would rather get branded with a big ‘X’ than sort out a weeping woman. They feel out of control, helpless, unable to fix the problem they’ve been training for millions of years to sort out. They never, ever think ‘Wow! Great! A woman crying in my office. Brilliant!’
(For the record, I haven’t ever known a man cry at work but I imagine it wouldn’t exactly light his career up in neon so I guess we’re together on that one.)
Anyway, back to the sales conference.
One afternoon, the event managers had organized some good ole’ Texan games.
They said it was team-building but really it was to keep a couple hundred or so men out of the bar, a fearsome prospect no doubt for the Austin community. I’m sure they have no idea about drunken men in Texas. Oh no.
These games had a Texan twist and, bizarrely, one of them (to me, anyway, perhaps the rest of Texas did this kind of thing every day of the week) involved racing armadilloes.
It didn’t seem all that dignified but I couldn’t see a way out of it without getting into a confrontation, and I didn’t want one of those being English and all, so reluctantly, I signed up for it and decided to show I was game.
Now, I had only seen armadilloes in the zoo to this point and it did seem like verging on animal cruelty certainly in the case of those poor armadillloes assigned to some of my rather more enthusiastic colleagues, but nevertheless, we were instructed to get these animals going by blowing up their behinds.
With our lungs, dear. Not dynamite. In case you were wondering.
Apparently, a breeze or wind from behind causes armadilloes to move away from the source so this is what we did, on our hands and knees, huffing and puffing with all our might as we attempted to get an animal that has hardly evolved over millions of years, to move.
It was a rather weird experience. Certainly not elegant. And I learned that armadilloes aren’t the brightest animals on earth, but guess, what? Alison’s Got Talent in that department.
I doubt Sharon would say I was fantastic or Howie consider me to have the ‘Wow’ factor, but Piers wouldn’t have buzzed me. Because I won my heat. Grace, elegance, dignity out the window. I had to do it all again in the final.
In Pt III, find out what happened when, and how, I broke my jaw and what on earth a wooden horse and an armadillo had to do with it.
I haven’t been the same since.
Neither has the armadillo. Or the horse.
Have you ever blown up an armadillo’s bum? Thought not. You can still leave a comment though, I dare ya!